If you’re wondering if Romania in winter is a good idea… we’re here to convince you that yes, it is!
We’ve seen this country dusted with snow and let me tell you, it makes the candy-colored houses and mysterious castles of Transylvania just that much more enchanting.
And since Bucharest is full of cozy cafés, fantastic bookstores, hidden bars, and other great things to do in Bucharest in winter, even the country’s capital makes a fantastic winter Romania getaway — provided you pack appropriately, that is!
So, let’s get into it – here’s why you shouldn’t discount a vacation to Romania in winter!
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The 11 Best Things to Do in Romania in Winter
Stay in a luxury ice hotel in Bâlea
Thought ice hotels were only for the Arctic? Think again! The beautiful Lake Bâlea in Romania has an ice hotel that is open each winter.
Deep in the Făgăraş Mountains, right on the banks of Bâlea Lake, the lake hotel is made by local craftsmen who carve blocks of ice from the nearby lake to create a real hotel you can sleep and stay in. The beds are literally carved by hand from ice, and on top, you can stay warm with reindeer-fur blankets and thermal blankets to provide extra warmth. There’s even an ice church!
Accessible only by cable car, Ice Hotel Bâlea is a romantic getaway that will have you feeling like the rest of the world is miles and miles away. There’s a well-reviewed restaurant on-site (which is good… seeing as you’re a lengthy cable car ride away from civilization) plus buffet breakfast, as well as a bar which serves drinks – in glasses made of ice, no less!
I haven’t gotten the chance to stay here yet, but trust me, it’s on my winter in Romania bucket list! Check out prices and availability here, if you’re curious!
Check out the seriously adorable Bucharest Christmas market
Bucharest’s Christmas Market is one of the best in the Balkans, with cute log-cabin themed kiosks full of handcrafted wintry souvenirs, traditional Romanian Christmas food, as well as your Christmas market standards like roasted sausages, mulled wine, and hot punch.
The big Christmas market is located in front of the Palace of the Parliament and the festivities should start on December 1st. For more information, read here.
Or peruse one of the smaller but equally cute Christmas markets elsewhere in Romania
Bucharest isn’t the only Romanian city that seriously delivers on the Christmas market cuteness.
Sibiu has one of the most adorable Christmas markets in Romania, which takes up the bulk of the buzzing Piata Mare (Big Square) and is lit up to the nines in the winter.
Brasov also has an adorable Christmas market, which is called Christkindlmarkt, which sells local Romanian food products, hand-crafted souvenirs and decorations, and other traditional gifts.
Cluj-Napoca also has an excellent Christmas market modeled after the market in Sibiu, lit up beautifully and with a stunning backdrop of the gorgeous Gothic-style cathedral.
Hide from the cold in the largest spa complex in Europe
Therme is perhaps the best thing about Bucharest, and since it’s located just a short Uber away from the Otopeni airport, it’s a must on either end of your stay if you are flying into Bucharest.
Therme Bucharest costs 100-109 lei for an adult ticket depending on when you visit, about $24 USD. It’s not the cheapest way to spend a day in Bucharest in winter… but it may just be the warmest!
… or stay in a thermal resort town!
I freaking love thermal springs, and there are a few towns in Romania which are well-known for their hot springs which have been enjoyed since the days of the Romans.
The best-known resort town built on thermal springs in Romania is Băile Herculane (we recommend Afrodita Resort for a mid-range budget and Grand Hotel Minerva for a more luxury experience). It’s quite a distance from Bucharest, but it’s about 2.5 hours from Timisoara, so it’s good if that’s one of the places on your Romania winter itinerary.
Other well-known thermal resorts are located in Băile Felix close to Oradea (which has an airport) and about 2.5 hours from Cluj-Napoca, as well as Vatra Dornei in Bucovina – our favorite region of Romania – which is home to ski slopes as well as mineral springs which spas have been built around.
Tour Bucharest with a twist
In the summer, I love to just aimlessly walk down streets in unfamiliar cities, finding street art to gawk at, buildings to lust over, and cafés to rest my feet in. But in the winter? Get me from A to B as fast as possible, unless I have a plan.
I actually really enjoy doing walking tours in the winter because it forces me to have an objective yet still get outside and see a lot of the city. Luckily, Bucharest has a ton of themed tours that run even into the winter, so you can pick the best tour for your interests.
Whether you’re morbidly curious about Bucharest’s dark history tour, fascinated by a foray into the past with a communist history tour, want to wander street art and hidden bars with a local on a hidden gems tour, or want to warm up Romanian-style on a craft beer tour — there’s an option for you, and it’ll keep you warm and moving with purpose even in the winter.
Spend the day chilling in a salt mine
Stephanie and I are big salt tourists. Before you laugh, it’s a thing, okay? Salt mines are amazing and if you’ve never been in one before, prepare for a treat: you are about to breathe like you’ve never breathed before.
Being in a salt cave basically drains all the mucus you never knew you had from your face, allowing you to breathe like you’re a kid again. And in the Romania in winter, where smog can really be a damper on winter days, a salt mine is the perfect antidote to a stuffy nose and blocked sinuses.
The largest salt mine in all of Europe, Slanic Prahova Salt Mine, is located not too far from Bucharest, so you can easily visit it on a day trip.
If you’re planning to head to Cluj-Napoca in northern Translyvania on your trip, the Salina Turda is also an excellent choice and an easy day trip from Cluj.
The one Romanian salt mine we can’t recommend (told you guys we’re salt people) is Praid Salt Mine near Targu Mures, also in Transylvania. It’s basically a child free-for-all with amusement park rides, lines, and chaos galore — it may be fine for families, but if you’re looking to relax and clear your lungs, it’s not the place to go.
Ski (or just spa) in snow-covered Poiana Brasov
Just 30 minutes’ outside of Brasov, Transylvania’s most charming city, Poiana Brasov is our personal favorite place to spend winter in Romania.
While we wish we could say it’s because we’re Balkan ski connoisseurs… the reality is that we just really, really love the spas there, especially the one at Téléferic Grand Hotel.
We recommend booking a room for a few days if you can to really soak in those mountain views (check prices and availability here), but a day pass to the spa is also a great option if you don’t have the time or funds to stay. The restaurant is also fantastic!
Warm up with some tasty Romanian wine
Your mind probably doesn’t go instantly to Romania when you’re thinking of wine – but what a shame that is, because Romanian wine is tasty! And since Romania produces stellar red wines (basically, all I want to drink in winter), it’s the perfect drink to consume inside a toasty warm room or by a fire on a cold Romanian winter day.
If you’re basing yourself in Bucharest, you can go on a wine tour of the city if you’re curious to learn more about Romanian wine (as it’s really hard to get outside of the country – it’s rarely exported). Otherwise, if you prefer to go independently, there are a handful of wine bars around the city wh ere you can sample wine at your leisure (I like Industry Wine Bar on Strada Șepcari).
If you want to get out of the city, there are winery tours near Bucharest that are a great way to warm up on a wintry day. The first winery tour covers 10 different kinds of wine across two beloved wine cellars; check more details here. A similar but slightly different winery tour includes two wine cellars, two wine museums, a traditional lunch, and several tastings; check more details and itinerary here.
Basing yourself in Brasov? Check out winery tours from Brasov or check out the chic Le Sommelier wine bar on Strada Diaconu Coresi 6.
Sample hearty Romanian food
There are also some food tours which will give you a look at the gastronomic scene of Romania.
This bohemian food and culture tour covers markets, street food, and a local side to Bucharest (through your stomach), and this budget-friendly food tour mashes up a walking tour with a delicious three-course Romanian lunch and plenty of drinks to wash all that learning down with.
If you’re spending winter in Romania this year for a special occasion, this private food and wine tour is more upscale and private and caters more to couples and luxury travelers. It includes a sommelier-led wine and cheese pairing that allows you to try five of the best Romanian wines in production!
If you’ll be in Brasov, you can try a local cooking class or explore the city’s best restaurants. Sibiu is also a fine place for foodies, as it was a former Gastronomic Capital of Europe!
See Romania’s most beautiful castles covered in snow
I was lucky enough to see Bran Castle under a dusting of early winter snow in 2017 and it was even more magical than it would have been any other time of year.
If you’re basing yourself in Bucharest for your winter in Romania trip, there’s a fantastic day tour that covers both Bran Castle and Peles Castle – two of the most beautiful castles in all of Romania. Check out the tour here.
You can also add on a third castle, Rasnov Fortress, as well on the day trip as it’s not too far from Bran and Peles – this is the three-castle tour from Bucharest.
Quick note: be aware of the different inclusions when comparing prices, as some tours include entrance fees and some don’t, which can easily make something that looks cheaper on paper be more expensive on the ground.
However, as Bran is really close to Brasov, it’s much better to tour the castles of Transylvania if you’re basing yourself in Bran as you’ll spend a lot fewer hours on the road. Check out tours leaving from Brasov here (includes Rasnov, Peles, and Bran).
What is the Weather in Romania in Winter?
Romania is a large and mountainous country, and the weather depends where you’ll be spending your days!
Generally, though, winter temperatures in Bucharest are the following:
December: average lows of 28° F and average highs of 39° F (-2° C to 4 °C)
January: average lows of 28° F and average highs of 37° F (-2° C to 3 °C)
February: average lows of 29°F and average highs of 44° F (-2° C to 7° C)
Lows in Brasov, Sibiu, Cluj, and other Transylvanian cities are markedly colder. Throughout the winter, we’re talking average lows of 20° F and average highs of 36° C, give or take a few degrees depending on the city (-7° C to 2°C).
However, it can easily dip to -20° C (-4° F) on some of the coldest nights — so be prepared and pack appropriately for winter in Romania. This goes doubly if you’ll be spending time in mountain resorts like Balea or Poiana Brasov, where the altitude will not do you any favors!
What to Pack for Romania in Winter
We have a full Romania packing list, but in case you just want the quick version, here are a few essentials you shouldn’t forget to pack!
A good guidebook: While travel blogs are great, we still think a good guidebook is always handy. We own and recommend Lonely Planet Romania & Bulgaria for travel in Romania and beyond!
One or two swimsuits: While swimsuits may not come to mind for winter, if you’re staying in a resort with a sauna, indoor pool, or steam room — or just visiting Bucharest’s epic Therme spa — you’ll likely want one! We suggest bringing two so you never have to put a cold wet one back on. We love this one.
Plenty of winter clothing: You can check our packing list above for our full winter packing suggestions for men and women. At a minimum, you’ll want to bring a warm winter jacket (I love this North Face parka), cozy snow boots, warm wool socks, touch-screen friendly gloves, a scarf, and a winter hat.
Any ski equipment and clothing, if needed: We’re not skiers ourselves, so we don’t have specific ski gear equipment, but special ski clothes — waterproof pants and jackets, goggles, etc. — and ski gear obviously should be on your packing list, unless you have decided to rent it all when you arrive at your Serbia ski resort.
Moisturizer: Travel will beat your skin up in the best of times — and winter travel in addition to skiing will really do a number on it! If you use a moisturizer at home, bring it. If you’ve never used a moisturizer before, you really should start. You’ll be happy to give your face a boost before heading outside in the cold all day.
Sunscreen: We strongly suggest wearing sunscreen when you spend time outdoors, no matter the weather outside — especially if you’re skiing! The higher altitudes combined with the reflection of the sun off the snow can lead to unexpected sunburns. I love this solid Neutrogena sunscreen – it’s mess-free, works well in carry-ons, is ultra-protective, and blends in well.
More Romania Resources
If you’re going to Romania, we have a goldmine of resources for you to take advantage of! First, check out this guide to planning a trip to Romania. It’s a good starting point for planning your trip.
We also have a specific winter guide to Bucharest already published, and guides to Brasov and Sibiu on the way!
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!
I’m sure you’re aware that travel insurance is a good idea for traveling in Romania (or really, any part of the world)! Stephanie and I have both been paying customers of World Nomads for the last three years. We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption.
While Romania is perfectly safe to travel around, there’s always a risk inherent in everyday travel – especially winter travel! – so it’s better to play it safe rather than chance having your vacation ruined by a lapse of judgment.
If you’re planning to do winter sports, be sure to check that your specific policy covers ski or snowboard accidents or if you require a higher level of coverage. For example, with World Nomads, ski and snowboarding coverage is only provided on the higher-tier Explorer plan, so be sure to consider that when deciding what insurance plan to purchase if you’re doing winter sports.
Originally from California, Allison has been living in Bulgaria for the last two years and is obsessed with traveling around the Balkans. She has been published in National Geographic, CNN Arabic, Matador Network, and the Huffington Post. She loves befriending dogs, drinking coffee, geeking out about wine, and cooking food from around the world.