Hike up to Braşov Fortress Work off the extra loa

first_imgHike up to Braşov FortressWork off the extra load from lunch and head north through Parc Central towards the hilltop citadel, Braşov Fortress, for a 360-degree panorama. It’s a relatively easy 1.2km (or 20-minute) uphill walk from Old Town Braşov, with evocative stone ruins and thick oak forest as you get close to the top. The castle dates back to 1524 and has been occupied by several imperial armies throughout Braşov’s history before becoming a prison, although it’s purpose nowadays is somewhat less forbidding – it’s home to the Cetate Restaurant, decked with original shields, weapons and painted wood furniture. Order tea or a snack to nose around the old artefacts. Visit the Black ChurchAt one corner of the Piaţa Sfatului square, you’ll find the Biserica Neagră or Black Church (open everyday except Monday). This massive Gothic church took almost 100 years to build, between 1383 and 1480, and was named for its exterior which took on a blackish colour after a fire in 1689. Watch out for the scrape marks outside the church — some locals swear they are from soldiers’ sharpened swords more than a century ago. Walk along ‘Europe’s Narrowest Street’Weave your way in to the small alleys behind the Black Church and hold your breath for one of the tiniest alleyways you’ll ever see. Strada Sforii, or ‘Rope Street’, measures between 44 and 53 inches in width. Originally built as a corridor for firemen, this narrow street was first recorded in seventeenth century documents and offers a fascinating – if claustrophobic – peek at Medieval life. Catch the Trumpeter’s Tower ShowBefore your stomach starts to rumble, hightail it back to the Piaţa Sfatului to catch the city’s oldest show. Towering over the centre of the square is the 1420 Casa Sfatului or Council House, topped by the Trumpeter’s Tower, originally a watchtower to spy on approaching barbarians. At noon everyday, musicians dressed in traditional costumes trumpet songs from the top of the tower like figures in a Swiss clock. EVENINGShop at Strada RepubliciiWalk or ride back down the mountain and head back towards the city centre to hit the shops along the pedestrianised street of Strada Republicii. This is the liveliest thoroughfare in the city and the best place to pick up any souvenirs, local produce or antiques that take your fancy. The boulevard is packed to the brim with European highstreet brands, but veer off to a side alley and you’ll find charming little second-hand stores and bookshops just begging to be browsed. Take the cable car up Mount TampaBy this time, you can’t have failed to notice the bulk of Mount Tampa looming overhead. If you’ve had enough walking for one day, jump on the cable car south of the Old Town at Brediceanu Alley and you’ll be at the 3,000 metre-high peak in five minutes (under £3 for a return trip; closed on Mondays). This was the location of the original defensive citadel, but it was destroyed when the ferocious prince Vlad The Impaler (aka the closest thing to a real-life Dracula) attacked Braşov in the fifteenth century. From the upper cable car station, walk five minutes along the hiking trail to the back of the Braşov ‘Hollywood sign’ (yep, there is one) and drink in the best views of the city. Brasov made our top ten things to do in Romania – check out the list to visit Dracula’s Castle and more! Check in at Bella MuzicaReady to hit the hay? Unwind at the elegant Bella Muzica hotel (Piata Sfatului 19), within flopping distance just across the street from the main square. 400-year-old Neoclassical design, wooden-beam ceilings and terracotta floors all add to the ambiance but even if you’re not spending the night, come over and check out the restaurant/bar tucked underground in a candlelit wine cellar; there are plenty of plush, high-backed chairs to sink into with a nightcap. Room rates start from £47 a night.center_img Dinner at SergianaEnd the day with a bang at the local’s favourite, Restaurant Sergiana (Mureşenilor 28). With its exposed brick vaults and wooden paneling, this underground restaurant stays true to its Saxon roots and boasts an equally medieval emphasis on meat, serving massive portions of sirloin steak, pork ribs and wild boar. Don’t forget to try local staple, ciorba ardeleneasca, Transylvanian sour soup with tarragon. Pair that with a big mug of Ursus beer and you’ll be singing along with the waiters well past dinnertime! AFTERNOONLunch at Restaurant GustariFor a taste of traditional Romanian fare, head on to Restaurant Gustari (Piata Sfatului 14) just off the main square and looking over to the Council House. Try the unofficial national dish, sarmale or cabbage rolls, but leave room for clatite brasovene, savoury crisped pancakes wrapped around minced veal and sour cream, a Braşov speciality. Wash it all down with a shot of pálinka, traditional Romanian fruit brandy commonly drank throughout the Carpathian region. MORNINGBreakfast at Bistro de l’ArteFuel up your body with a hefty breakfast at one of the best cafés in town, Bistro de l’Arte(Piața George Enescu 11Bis, off Strada Republicii). This boho joint is tucked down a quiet side street, in a shabby old building — but don’t be fooled by its appearance. The European menu offers refined cuisine and a variety of breakfast combos. Treat yourself to their signature Bistro de l’Arte breakfast set with a full range of pastries, eggs, ham, salami and champagne for 35 leu (just over £6).People-watch on Piaţa SfatuluiAfter the energy boost, head around the corner on to Piaţa Sfatului, or Council Square, to start your walking tour of the city in the centre of the Old Town. What is now an energetic area, fringed by cafés, souvenir shops and restaurants, actually has an interesting – and dark – history. This square supposedly played host to the last witch burning in Europe. These days, it’s a great place to people-watch, especially so in summer when outdoor cafés spill out onto the square. Nellie travelled to Braşov via Bucharest, in partnership with Lonely Planet and using Skyscanner’s Everywhere search tool. Read more about her adventures in Romania on her travel blog, Wild Junket.All images (except header) by Nellie Huang.Intrigued by Eastern Europe? Try these lesser-visited spots in the former Eastern bloc:Incredible but unheard of: Europe’s secret destinationsIf Prague is a bit passé, then how about trying out an unsung eastern European city? 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