London lifestyle & travels with kids and babies
Romania is still little known, especially for a close European destination; authentic in so many parts and great value for money. Here are our suggestions for a road trip Romania with kids or without, based on our extensive knowledge of the country and heritage, 20 years since we left have gone in a blink but much is close to our hearts! A 10 days Romania itinerary to make the most of Bucharest and Brasov and around – a collection of cultural gems, gastro delights and fun places.
Bucharest is a good starting point given how well connected is the airport and how poor the road infrastructure remains in the country. From London there’s a number of flights, European connections and timetables: BA and Tarom (Romanian airline) from Heathrow as well as few low costs: RyanAir, Blue Air (Romanian low cost) and Wizz Air (Hungarian low cost) from Luton and Stanstead. Bucharest in a nutshell: urban delights from gastronomy and vibrant nightlife, eclectic mix of architecture – beautiful houses French style that managed to survive the communism fury and dictatorship madness; orthodox churches, communist ugly blocks of flats for brutalism aficionados; the second largest building in the World after the Pentagon with the kitschiest mix of marble, grandeur and terrible history; old cobbled streets that used to be commercial centre and now host a myriad of cafes, pubs and restaurants; next door to old graceful buildings (like CEC / Romanian National Savings Bank).
2/3 days in Bucharest are a good introduction in any season, with late spring or early September best if one wants to avoid 30 and even 35 degrees in July and August. The perfect pied a terre in Bucharest is Athenee Palace Hilton, we wrote about in here.
Bucharest culinary scene is delightful and diverse. After a stroll on the cobbled streets of the Old City, head to Aria TNB just above Bucharest National Theatre – fantastic views from a very high 3rd floor and aperols, salmon tartars, foie gras and many other fine dishes. Kids were delighted to be taken along and play on its generous 1200sqm terrace !
For sushi addicts (like us!) head to Embassy Lahovari – a generous terrace and a fantastic young chef in the heart of Bucharest, a traditional Romanian mansion with playful tweaks, mouth watering and affordable cuisine satisfying the most demanding kids and adults.
Over the years Caru cu Bere remained an institution, with typical Romanian dishes in an atmospheric building with high ceilings, dark wooden stairs and stained glass. For more contemporary vibes and Romanian white wines by the Atheneum head to Caju (Joseph Hadad’s restaurant): dishes tuna tartar, octopus, calamari and few kids around even late and no one batting a lid. Or in Floreasca try Pot Stories: in here the calamari sing in crispy rhymes, the eggplant salad has a plot twist, the guacamole are opinonated, one yells OPA and sails to the Mediteranean with the mezzes, the salmon says a love haiku whilst the beignets go into dialectical debates. Sophisticated, fun and delicious!
A second day in Bucharest I’d recommend spending at National Village Museum – to soak in Romanian regional village culture, from houses to clothes and habits. Next door there’s Herastrau and Kiseleff: great parks for kids to run off some steam or simply relax in the greenery by the lake with a frappe (Romanian ice coffee with ice-cream and cream that I can not recommend enough).
A trip to Antipa (National History Museum) takes between 30 min to an hour and is educational; just go prepared with modest expectations for London based kids who regularly go to NHM of Kensington. On the other side of Herastrau, lunch at Il Calcio or Biutiful by the Lake; first with a play area, second next to the lake, playful and contemporary.
If you are in desperate need like us to relax and take a break from urban pace, Pescariu swimming pool is a great place – lunch by sunchairs and kids splashing just in front of you are a magic combo. It is rather expensive for Romania, on the other hand this keeps the crowds away at least during the week and makes it properly zen. Therme are another alternative but a bit further. Our dedicated Bucharest article with kids in the summer in here.
Aldovia isn’t real, but fear not the castle in A Christmas Prince is, so there’s still a chance at royal romance, right at Peles Castle. The Netflix viral hit of 2017 (and its sibbling Royal Baby movie) may be cheesy, but the movies does a good job in depicting the charm of Peles and winter lanscapes in Sinaia. And how funny it was, we even attended some of the filmings on one of our trips!
The infrastracture is rather poor, so do expect an average of 3 hours for 100km. Ioana hotel in Sinaia is a good base for the night, we dedicated an article earlier this year. We also discovered one week ago Castelul Cantacuzinilor for a delightful afternoon and dinner – amazing sunset over majestic Bucegi and the Heroes’ Cross.
Brasov is the next place on road trip Romania, we’d recommend 2 full days to enjoy it properly. Our dedicated article in here – for a 2 days trip I’d pick the City centre paired with Parc Aventura for one day and the other Poiana Brasov, a mountain trek and/ or horse riding.
If you get tired of packing and unpacking like me, you could chose Brasov as a base for the next 4 days and opt for daytrips. Dinoparc and Rasnov fortress will keep both kids and parents happy for the day!
Summer 2017& 2018 discoveries and delights have been Yaz (wakeboarding, SUP and kayaking) and Fish 4 Life 7/8 minutes further drive – both Harman based (20min drive from Brasov city centre) and delightful. Fish for life has next door a working farm – geese and ducks that our boys loved chasing; traction horses and a funny donkey, pigs, goats, sheep and chickens. Next door there are 2 trampolines and swings, a pond/ little lake and even boat – our kids have been so mesmerized and unwilling to leave even after 5 hours. The food is great – best tarama salad; trout baked in maize and fish soup – our never stay still 16 months old spent 30 minutes at the table eating solidly!
If you’re after more cultural gems, head to Zabola Estate: a gorgeous piece of royal Transylvania: our friends raved about its wine, ghosts and bears; we loved its authenticity, Sunday long lunch and stroll around its frozen lake.
For the last day and returning to Otopeni, one could opt for the road via Bran – Dracula castle – its stories are fascinating but the immediate surroundings a bit on the touristy side.
For lunch better off head to Fundata and after; landscapes are just amazing, with mountains both side with great Romanian cuisine . My personal favorite spot it’s been few years is Garden Resort; we also been recommended Cetatea Carului next door.
Romanian Carpati and their crisp air, the hay stacks and mountain flowers, the hills and the friendly people, the gorgeous heavy dishes will charm and delight; off the beaten track, still unspoilt and stunning – little known gems. For more suggestions on Brasov, check our dedicated article Top things to do in Brasov with kids.
Should you find an extra day in your Romania itinerary 10 days, our 2018 discovery has been Vinalia Conacul Ceptura, a mansion beautifully restored with love and care in the picturesque Romanian wine regions, where one could spend the night in one of the best Romanian wineries. We raved about extensively in here – it’s also conveniently just an hour drive from Otopeni and worlds apart Bucharest fast paced life.
Covid 19 adjustments and considerations: In the brave new world of 2021, Romania dropped 14 days mandatory quaranteeining for vaccinated travellers (with 2 doses) as well as ‘lucky’ travellers with positive COVID 19 tests more than 14 days and less than 90 days since the confirmation of the test results. We were in second ‘lucky’ cathegory in February 2021 and family circumstances required us spending 3 weeks in Romania, both Bucharest and Brasov. We found life close to normal and Police re-assuringly enforcing the masks everywhere in the public spaces, outside included. We made it safely to restaurants, theatre, skiing, hairdressers and even the spa! The cases have been under control for the last 6 months and Romania somehow managed to find a balanced and reasonable approach to keeping the economy open safely, with vaccins overall on track and rights and freedom relatively unscathed.