In the southern part of the country, the former Principality of Wallachia is today divided into two historical regions: Muntenia and Oltenia. In the eastern half lies Muntenia, which boasts a unique mix of historical and natural attractions. From Romania’s capital, Bucharest, to some of the most popular winter resorts in the country and marvellous sceneries, Muntenia’s landmarks can astonish any traveller.
A brimming metropolis with an effervescent ambience, Bucharest is a mosaic of places and cultures. Once in town, wander in the Old Centre, the Lipscani neighbourhood, filled with shops, terraces and restaurants, including one of the best traditional dining establishments, Caru cu Bere. Don’t miss the monumental building of the Parliament Palace, one of the largest buildings in the world.
North of it is Cișmigu Park, which will delight those who like long walks, while the National Museum of Art will enchant art lovers with its exhibits featuring Romanian artists such sculptor Constantin Brâncuși, painters Nicolae Grigorescu and Ștefan Luchian and international artists such as Rubens, Rembrandt and Tintoretto. Nearby is the Romanian Athenaeum, an architectural pearl of the 19th century and home to the George Enescu Festival, paying tribute to Romania’s most appreciated music composer.
The former capital of Wallachia and an economic, politic and military centre, Târgoviște is a place of history. The medieval Princely Court served as a residence for the Wallachian princes. Well preserved, the Chindiei defence tower was built during the rule of Vlad the Impaler. Sitting next to it is the Princely Church, an Orthodox church and outstanding example of Muntenia’s architecture.
History buffs will take delight in the Museum of Printing and Old Romanian Books, where they can see the 1521 manuscript believed to be one of the earliest texts written in Romanian.
For the Culture Lover
Beautiful palaces and legendary monasteries entice architecture enthusiasts and history buffs to Romania. In Sinaia, the former summer residence of King Carol I of Romania is one of the best preserved royal edifices in Europe. The charming Peleș Castle exhibits extraordinary Neo-Renaissance architecture and 170 rooms decorated in both western and eastern styles.
In Bușteni, the Cantacuzino Castle is a hidden gem depicting Neo-Romanian architecture. Erected in the 20th century by Gheorghe Cantacuzino, former prime minister of the country, the castle showcases an amazing collection of the family’s coat of arms. Today, classy events take place inside, such as the Prahova Classic Nights, a great celebration featuring opera singers.
A mix of legends and history with a royal touch, the Curtea de Argeș Monastery is a magnificent Orthodox monument built in the Byzantine style in the 16th century. Over time, the members of Romania’s royal family were buried there. But what’s whimsical about the place is the legend of the Master Manole; the story goes that every night during the church’s construction, the walls were crumbling, making the day’s work futile. The chief architect of the monastery, Manole, had a vision telling him that he had to place a loved one inside the walls so that the building would stay in one piece. Unfortunately, the one chosen was his wife, Ana.
For the Nature Lover
Scattered around the region, winter resorts, awe-inspiring views and odd landforms amaze even seasoned travellers.
In Prahova Valley, mountain resorts attract winter sports lovers from all over the world. The most popular mountain resort, Predeal, features 8.5 kilometres (5.3 miles) of ski runs, including the well-liked Clăbucet slope, with a two-kilometre (1.2-mile) descent. Another favourite is Azuga, less crowded but ideal for a laid-back day in the mountains while skiing on its two slopes. Sinaia is not only home to Peleș Castle but also to an all-levels slope where amateurs and professionals can ski all day long.
Overlooking Prahova Valley, the Bucegi Mountains rise majestically, featuring near-vertical cliffs, glacial circle valleys and some natural wonders. A look-alike Egyptian Sphinx and two old ladies, Babele, modelled in stone by Mother Nature, are two of Romania’s marvels and are accessible by cable car from Bușteni. You can reach Bucegi’s highest point, Omu Peak, by following a path that will take you to the height of 2,514 metres (8,248 ft), where spectacular views open before your eyes.
The winding paths of Transfăgărășan, the second highest paved road in Romania, cuts through the country’s highest mountains, the Făgăraș Mountains. The road, which stretches over 90 kilometres (55 miles), is characterised by hairpin turns and sharp descents. At the top, Balea Lake and Balea Waterfall offer some breathtaking views.
A peculiar landform, the Mud Volcanoes are quite a unique natural wonder. The eruption of mud as a result of natural gases or hot water mixing with subterranean mineral deposits gave birth to the Mud Volcanoes, depicting a moon-like landscape that will startle curious travellers.
For the Ghost Hunters
Bran Castle is famous for its Dracula stories and myths, and Vlad the Impaler – the historic character with whom Dracula is associated – had his strategic fortress, the Poenari Citadel, built on a cliff. Considered one of the most haunted places in Romania, the Poenari Citadel was originally built in the 13th century by the Wallachian rulers. In order to reach the structure, you have to climb 1,462 steps.
For the Wine Lovers
Muntenia boasts a rich wine heritage, with red wines similar to Bordeaux’s varieties. The best area for the cultivation of red grapes, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, as well as Romanian grape varieties, including Fetească Neagră, is in Dealu Mare. Many wine cellars – Lacerta Winery, Basilescu Winery or Ceptura Winery, for instance – open their gates to reveal winemaking mysteries.
From soups to main dishes to dessert, Muntenia’s specialities are mouth-watering. Deliciously baked pies, vegetable stew, nourishing soups and fish dishes are cooked with a lot of love. Some of the traditional recipes include sour soups prepared with borsch, including giblet sour soup, tripe soup, and meatball soup. For the main dish, stuffed luce or grilled fish in pickle sauce and served with polenta are a delight.
Some dishes are common in both Muntenia and Dobrogea, such as Plachie de crap, cooked with onions and oil, and Saramură de crap, usually prepared with big pieces of carp boiled on the stove and served with polenta and garlic sauce.
For dessert, the locals bake a delicious apple or sweet cheese pies.