Travel planner: Sinaia, the pearl of the Carpathians
Sinaia is more than a mountain resort where travelers flock during winter time. It's a place filled with history and stories, a week-end destination all year round. Discover some of these stories below. You can read more in the recent Bucharest, Romania and Beyond Guide published by City Compass - how to get the guide, here.
Sinaia is known as the Pearl of the Carpathians. Unmatched in history, the former summer residence of the Royal Family has the largest number of monuments per capita, it is a must-see for those living in Romania.
Sinaia was a town that grew like a fairytale. When the first king of Romania, Carol I visited the country for the first time, he fell in love with his surroundings and decided to establish his summer residence in the area. At that time, the Monastery of Sinaia was all the area had, and where the city got its name (after the biblical Mount Sinai).
King Carol I appointed an architect to develop the plans for what would become one of Europe’s most impressive castles: Castle Peles (in picture). Not surprisingly, and at almost the same time, everyone in high society, including politicians and wealthy families, also decided to build their own residences in Sinaia. At the beginning of the 20th century, Sinaia was the place to be: an elegant, cultural city that was full of life. Needless to say, Sinaia is a very beautiful city, full of history, architecture and jaw-dropping landscapes, but, as communism left its marks over the city, sometimes its architectural treasures are hidden behind massive hotels or blocks of flats. I recommend you take an organized tour of Sinaia to make sure you see the real stuff.
How to get there
Until the current railway modernization is finished, unless you enjoy long train rides, it is best to go by car. Now, with the ring road around Ploiesti, and if you manage to avoid departing from Bucharest on Friday late afternoon it should take about 1.5 hours.
Where to stay
Recommendation: Vila Piatra Soimului- I would recommend this small place especially for families with kids. Check for special weekend deals.
++ George Enescu St., cartier Cumpatu, +40 244 31 03 02, www.piatrasoimului.ro; The place is very clean and they serve good, fresh & tasty food.
Your stay in Sinaia
My advice would be to stay at least 2-3 days to really feel the city, to breathe great fresh air and enjoy the beautiful landscape. In winter you can ski; and in spring, summer, and autumn you can visit museums, go hiking, enjoy parks or swimming pools, and make it your hub for daily trips in the area: Bran, Sighisoara, etc!
What to do
Take a Tour of Sinaia organized by the Asociatia Redescopera Sinaia . Together with a team of researchers from the Muzeul Taranului Roman (MTR), we have a tour like no other. They will help you
discover great places, architecture, monuments, and history you couldn’t get elsewhere. It is also full of short stories that are some of the best kept and untold secrets from elderly inhabitants, and arcane history. For more info, contact email@example.com to see when they organize the next tour! You should also take the time to visit Peles Castle inside. Peles is one of the best preserved castles in Europe and the mix of eclectic styles in the different rooms is a great joy for any visitor.
Another must-see is the park of Sinaia with its beautiful Casino, which holds a permanent paintings exhibition. The park is well maintained and is a great experience for adults and kids alike, as well as for couples looking for a romantic escape. You can also enjoy a good tea or coffee at Cafeneua Parcului, where they have a nice pictures collection of the old houses from Sinaia.
You will also be glad to have visited Casa George Enescu – located in the Cumpatu Quarter – which is on the opposite mountain to the city center – it is a beautiful, quiet and elegant residential area of Sinaia. Enescu’s former residence, which the great composer designed himself, was recently renovated offers entry tickets and audio guides at a very small price.
Families with Kids
You can have a good time at the Model Railway Exhibition located in the Sinaia’s beautiful, but not properly maintained Railway station. Kids will enjoy the small trains, the diorama and the entire family can enjoy a hot chocolate.
Sinaia Park offers playgrounds for different ages and a “Tyrolienne” experience when the weather allows it. On rainy days, you can take the kids to Carmen Sylva Cultural Center, where they can read and paint. Check up on the schedule as sometimes they organize guitar lessons on Saturdays.
Going up to the mountain with the Gondola you can make two stops: one at 1400m, and the next to 2000m. On top the view is great from that altitude. Between May and September, you can enjoy a long or short hike and from December to April or even May, you can go skiing. New ski lifts need to be built at the top to manage the high weekend demand, but during the week it is quite nice.
Also up to the mountains, but by car (pretty bad road – almost 1 hour drive) is Stana Regala. It is a hard drive, but once there is great for kids. This summer they even had ponies and other animals. At the top, don’t miss the view from Frantz Iosif Stone – if the sky is clear you should see the entire Prahova Valley, a breathtaking view. Finally, you can take the family bowling at Hotel International Sinaia. Be aware that when the weather is bad it can be full on Friday and Saturday afternoons so you might need to book it in advance.
Restaurants need to improve both in terms of services and food, but you can have some nice experiences especially with small private businesses.
Restaurant Tirol, ++ 1, Avram Iancu St., +40 244 31 38 51, www.restaurant-tirol.ro; Good food but pretty expensive; great fondue and kranz cake.
Ioana Enache is President & Board Member of the Asociatia Redescopera Sinaia which aims to revitalize the town of Sinaia and re-establish it as an elegant, charming and “green” city with a good quality of life and rich cultural offers. Ioana also manages the consultancy company Excellero, which specializes in marketing, communications and change management.