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Bucharest, Romania

Best Places to Visit in Romania for Christmas Cheer

By Betsy Burlingame

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Summary: Plan a day trip or weekend getaway to get some holiday cheer. This article highlights the best places to visit in Romania for Christmas cheer.

As the festive season approaches, Romania transforms into a winter wonderland, offering expats and digital nomads a unique blend of traditional charm and vibrant holiday celebrations. From bustling Christmas markets to quaint towns adorned with lights, there's a multitude of places to visit in December to get into the holiday spirit. Here are some of the best destinations in Romania where you can immerse yourself in the joy and warmth of the Christmas season.

Bucharest's Old Town

Bucharest's Old Town, known as Centrul Vechi, becomes a hub of festive activity during December. The Christmas Market, typically located in the iconic Pia?a Universit??ii, is a must-visit, with its array of traditional Romanian crafts, warm clothing, and holiday decorations. The scent of mulled wine and sweet treats like cozonac (a traditional Romanian sweet bread) fills the air, while twinkling lights and Christmas carols add to the magical atmosphere. The market usually opens in late November and runs until after New Year's, offering plenty of time to explore and enjoy the festivities.

We Recommend: Don't miss the chance to try sarmale (cabbage rolls) paired with m?m?lig? (polenta), a Romanian delicacy that's especially popular during the holiday season. Wash it down with a cup of steaming mulled wine, known locally as vin fiert.

Sibiu's Christmas Market

Sibiu, with its Germanic heritage, hosts one of the most renowned Christmas markets in Romania, set in the picturesque Grand Square (Pia?a Mare). The market is known for its extensive selection of handcrafted gifts, ornaments, and an impressive Christmas tree that towers over the square. Visitors can indulge in traditional foods like kürt?skalács (chimney cake) and enjoy live performances. The market typically starts in late November and continues until the first week of January, with the exact dates varying each year.

We Recommend: Be sure to sample some of the local Transylvanian cheeses and cured meats available at the market. The hot chocolate here is also exceptionally rich and a favorite among visitors.

Bra?ov's Christmas Market

The mountain-surrounded city of Bra?ov offers a charming Christmas market in its Council Square (Pia?a Sfatului), right in front of the old Town Hall. The wooden stalls, festive lights, and the backdrop of the Black Church create a storybook setting. Artisans sell everything from hand-painted glass ornaments to cozy woolen goods. The market usually runs from the end of November until after the New Year, with the exact dates subject to annual changes.

We Recommend: Try the local variety of mulled wine with added rum, known as "?uic? fiart?," for a warming experience. Also, look out for the gingerbread cookies, which are a hit among both locals and visitors.

Cluj-Napoca's Christmas Market

Cluj-Napoca's Christmas Market, often held in Unirii Square, is a vibrant mix of cultural events, artisanal crafts, and gastronomic delights. The market is known for its live concerts and entertainment, which bring a lively atmosphere to the heart of Transylvania. The market typically opens in late November and lasts until the end of December, offering a festive experience for all who visit.

We Recommend: Enjoy the traditional "colinde" (Christmas carols) performed by local choirs and don't leave without trying "papanasi," a delicious Romanian dessert similar to doughnuts, served with sour cream and jam.

Timi?oara's Victory Square

In Timi?oara, Victory Square (Pia?a Victoriei) is transformed into a festive paradise with its own Christmas market. The city, known for its multicultural heritage, offers a diverse range of products and foods, reflecting the influences of Romanian, Hungarian, and Serbian cultures. The market usually starts in early December and continues until just after Christmas, providing a cozy holiday atmosphere amidst the city's historic architecture.

We Recommend: Indulge in some "langos," a Hungarian-inspired fried bread that's a favorite at the market. It's often served with cheese, sour cream, or garlic butter.

Alba Iulia's Cetatea Alba Carolina

The fortress of Alba Iulia, Cetatea Alba Carolina, offers a unique setting for its Christmas market. Set within the walls of this historic citadel, the market is a blend of history and holiday cheer. Visitors can explore the fortress while enjoying the Christmas stalls and activities. The market typically runs from the beginning of December until Christmas Eve.

We Recommend: Look out for the traditional Romanian "?uic?," a plum brandy that's sure to keep you warm on a cold December night. The market also features a variety of handmade wooden toys and crafts that make for perfect gifts.

Constan?a's Ovid Square

The coastal city of Constan?a brings holiday spirit to the shores of the Black Sea with its Christmas market in Ovid Square (Pia?a Ovidiu). The market is smaller compared to others in Romania but offers a unique charm with its seaside location. Visitors can enjoy traditional Romanian foods, shop for gifts, and take in the festive decorations. The market typically opens in early December and runs until the end of the year.

We Recommend: Seafood lovers should try the local fish dishes, which are given a festive twist during the holiday season. Also, the hot apple cider available at the market is a delightful treat on a chilly evening.

Râ?nov's Christmas Market

The small town of Râ?nov, nestled in the Carpathian Mountains, hosts a quaint Christmas market that offers a more intimate holiday experience. Set against the backdrop of the Râ?nov Fortress, the market features local artisans, traditional food, and plenty of holiday cheer. The market usually starts in early December and lasts until Christmas, providing a peaceful retreat from the larger city markets.

We Recommend: Don't miss the homemade fruit preserves and syrups, which are a specialty of the region. They make for a sweet souvenir or a tasty addition to your holiday breakfast.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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