Jewish Heritage Tour of Romania
Genealogy & family roots search included
This Jewish Heritage Tour of Romania will bring you to the most important Jewish sites in Bucharest and the wider Transylvania and Maramures regions. But it will also give you a taste of the Romanian culture and its rich and ethnically diverse heritage. This Romania tour can be easily changed to include places from where your family comes from or to include other places of interest or activities.
The presence of Jews in Romania dates from early Roman Empire times but during the centuries their population increased, immigrants gradually fleeing from the restriction and persecution of other countries, settled on these lands hoping to live a peaceful life. The Jewish population reached its peak before World War II, but due to the deportations that followed and the immigration to other countries after the WWII, many of them left the country, leaving behind a rich and very well-preserved heritage. You will tour Romania in search of this lost heritage, visiting beautiful synagogues, interesting Jewish cemeteries and learning about the fascinating stories of the Romanian Jews.
Day 1 Arrival in Bucharest
Day 2 Choral Temple, Great Synagogue and other Jewish heritage sites in Bucharest
Day 3 Peles Castle, Neolog Synagogue and Jewish canteen in Brasov
Day 4 Bear sanctuary, Bran Castle and Viscri village
Day 5 Sighisoara medieval town, Sibiu and the Great Synagogue
Day 6 Timisoara: Synagogue from the Citadel and Fabric Synagogue
Day 7 Oradea: Zion Neological Syangogue, Orthodox Synagogue and Jewish cemetery
Day 8 Holocaust Memorial Museum, Jewish cemeteries and Breb village
Day 9 Elie Wiesel Memorial House, Vijniter Klau Temple in Sighet and Merry Cemetery
Day 10 Budesti wooden church, Dej synagogue and Temple of Deported in Cluj-Napoca
Day 11 Departure from Cluj-Napoca
Upon your arrival in Bucharest and depending on the time that you have left you can have dinner and relax or start to explore the city. Once called “the little Paris”, the Old Town of Bucharest is a lively place with many interesting buildings, museums, shops and good restaurants.
Accommodation in Bucharest.
Starting with the mid-19th century, a thriving Jewish population began to rise in Bucharest due to the emigration from Russian territories. The peak was reached in the 1930s when the Jews represented over 10% of Bucharest’s population though the Jewish population sporadically decreased due to the anti-Semitic policies and persecution. The capital boasts now with some of the most beautiful remains of Jewish heritage in Romania.
Therefore, you will start the Jewish heritage tour in Romania by visiting the Great Synagogue which has a beautiful interior design mixing the baroque and rococo style and also holds an exhibition dedicated to the Jewish martyrs. The Choral Temple is the main working synagogue in the city and a stunning building decorated with lavish furniture and lightening. The introduction into the Jewish capital’s heritage will be completed with a visit to the State Jewish Theatre and the Jewish History Museum housed in the beautiful Holy Union synagogue.
At the midday you can have a kosher lunch at Joseph’s, a famous restaurant held by an Israeli.
Optional: On the second part of the day in this Romanian tour, you can choose to explore the Old Town of Bucharest or to discover more of the Jewish heritage by visiting the Yeshua Tova synagogue, the Holocaust Memorial or one of the three Jewish cemeteries.
Accommodation in Bucharest.
Drive time: 1h
Today you will visit one of the most emblematic buildings of Romania, the Peles castle. Located in a beautiful setting, surrounded by forest, the castle takes you to a land of fairy tales with its royal atmosphere and the 170 unique rooms sumptuously decorated in Florentine, Turkish, Moorish, French, and Imperial styles.
From Peles castle you will travel to Brasov where you will visit the Neolog synagogue, built in the early 20th century in a charming Spanish style. Here you will also meet a member of the Jewish community of the town which will introduce you to the history of the local Jews. Near the synagogue there is a Jewish canteen where you can have a lunch cooked only with kosher ingredients.
In the afternoon you will continue your Jewish heritage tour in Romania with a guided walking tour of medieval Brasov, visiting the historic center, some of the town’s defensive walls and towers and the impressive Gothic Black Church.
Optional: For a wonderful panorama of the town you can go up to the nearby Tampa Mountain. To get there you will need to take the cable car or if you are up for a hike, to walk for about 2 hours roundtrip through the forest.
Accommodation in Brasov.
Drive time: 3h
In the morning you will visit the Libearty Bear Sanctuary where more than 80 bears are now living in a natural and safe habitat. They were rescued from cages where they were kept in improper conditions and you will also find out some of the bear’s interesting stories.
The next stop will be the famous Romanian Bran castle, an impressive building dating from 13th century but restored and decorated in a charming style in the early ’20 by our queen Maria and used as a royal residence.
Viscri is one of Romania’s most authentic and charming German-Saxon villages. You will explore the village by walking through its unpaved streets, admiring the vividly colored houses and visiting the beautiful fortified church which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Accommodation in Viscri.
Drive time: 2-3h
You will start the 5th morning of the Jewish heritage tour in Romania by traveling to Sighisoara, one of the most remarkable medieval towns in Europe. It has narrow cobbled streets, colorful old buildings, a Clock Tower, churches and museums. Many of the centuries old historic buildings are very well preserved, people still living in the old quarter.
Sibiu is another beautiful medieval town and a landmark regarding the culture of Romania, being chosen European Capital of Culture in 2007. You will have a guided walking tour of the Old Town so you can admire its historic buildings with eye-catching roofs and defensive walls and towers and learn about the strong influence of German-Saxons in Sibiu and surroundings. The tour will also include a visit to the Great Synagogue, an important and fascinating building of Jewish heritage in Romania due to its rich history and Renaissance appearance.
Optional: You can choose to do a small detour and visit Biertan, a village close to Sibiu and located in a wonderful rural setting. Here you will visit the fortified church, an imposing building watching the village from a little hill.
Accommodation in Sibiu.
Drive time: 2-3h
On this day you will discover Timisoara, an important city in the west part of the country and elected European Capital of Culture for 2021. You will roam the Old Town which features impressive palaces with Secession architecture, beautiful squares with colorful Baroque buildings and unique churches. You will see two of the synagogues of the city, the synagogue of the citadel and the Fabric synagogue. The first one is built in an interesting Oriental style, being one of the most beautiful in Eastern Europe while the second one features a charming Moorish style and is one of the most beautiful buildings in Tmisoara.
The Jews inhabited Timisoara and Banat region since 2nd century AD but their presence begin to be more noticeable in the early 18th century, after the Turkish army surrounded the town which was under Austrian domination at that time. Even if they had some restrictions, generally the Jews were tolerated in the town and few of them faced severe anti-Semitic actions. Their evolution as Jewish population mixed well with the rest of the population and they had important roles in the political and commercial life of Timisoara.
Accommodation in Timisoara.
Drive time: 3-4h
Oradea was another town with a thriving Jewish population, in 1910 becoming the second-largest Jewish community in the Hungarian Empire after Budapest. That fact and also because they had crucial roles in the commerce and industry of the town, many of Oradea’s important buildings and heritage are related to Jews.
To better understand the history of the town, today you will have a guided walking tour through its center. You will learn about the Secession and Baroque palaces of the town, the fortress of Oradea and you will visit two of the synagogues of the town. The Zion Neological Syangogue is an imposing Neo-Moorish building having a very-well preserved design and a huge cupola while the Orthodox Synagogue is the only synagogue still functioning in the town and features a beautiful eclectic style with strong Moorish influence. At the end of the day you will also visit the Jewish cemetery of the town.
Optional: If want to spend a relaxing afternoon you can enjoy the thermal waters of Baile Felix, the largest health resort in Romania.
Accommodation in Oradea.
Drive time: 3h
In the first part of the day you will travel to Simleu Silvaniei, another important center of the Jewish community of Romania. Here you will visit the Holocaust Memorial Museum, founded in the old Jewish synagogue of the town, and you will learn about the tough times that Jews endured and the turbulent history of the Jewish population in northern Transylvania.
Before continuing your way to Maramures region, you will visit the Jewish cemetery, where almost every gravestone is written only with Hebrew characters.
In the second part of the day you will travel to Breb, a small village in the bucolic Maramures region. You will explore the village walking through its streets so you can learn about the quaint life and unique traditions of the locals. The village has also a small Jewish cemetery which is very interesting to see.
Accommodation in Vadu Izei.
Drive time: 5h
Sighetu-Marmatiei has some important landmarks for the Jewish heritage of the country. Here you will visit the Vijniter Klau Temple, a Reinassence-Moorish synagogue that served over 40% of the town’s population before WWII, the Jewish cemetery, the Monument of the Soap, a memorial for the people killed in Auschwitz and Elie Wiesel Memorial house, the birthplace of the Noble Peace Prize winner, Elie Wiesel.
Then, you will travel to Sapanta where you will visit the Christian Merry Cemetery, unique in the world as its funerary crosses are lively decorated with paintings and poems about the life of the deceased. Sapanta is also the town from where the Spinka Hasidic group originates.
Accommodation in Vadu Izei.
Drive time: 1h
Maramures is often called “the land of wooden churches” as here skilled craftsmen still make elaborated objects, decorate their gates but also build houses and churches. You will visit one of the wooden churches, built entirely with oak and featuring beautiful interior paintings, located in Budesti village.
From Budesti you will travel to Cluj-Napoca, but on your way you can stop at Dej to visit one of the most interesting synagogues in Transylvania.
Cluj-Napoca (named Klausenburg in German) is one of the most vibrant cities of Romania, featuring a wide variety of gardens and art galleries. The Klausenburg or Sanz-Klausenburg Hasidic dynasty originates from this city. You can be introduced to the Jewish part of the city by having a kosher lunch at the Jewish canteen. Then you will have a guided walking tour of the city which will include a visit to the Memorial Temple of Deported, a superb synagogue built in Moorish style and still officiating services for the remaining Jews of the city.
Accommodation in Cluj-Napoca.
Drive time: 3h
We have planned 11 days for this Jewish Heritage tour of Romania and to focus mainly on Bucharest, the central, western and north-western parts of the country. But it can be easily extended to the eastern region of Moldova which had a very significant Jewish population. For example the city of Iasi in Moldova region is home to the oldest synagogue in the country, in the 1930s 34% of the population was Jewish, there were 127 synagogues and the first Yiddish newspaper and theater were established here.
From Cluj there are direct flights to Israel and there are many direct connections with cities in Europe through which you can connect to North America or other parts of the world. So the tour can end in Cluj or it can be extended. Generally the tour is subject to change and adaptation depending on your interest.
Suggested Itinerary Viewed On Map
Bella Muzica 3* – Brasov
Ardelean Rural Guesthouse 3* – Vadu Izei
Hotel Beyfin 4* – Cluj-Napoca
Casa del Sole 4* – Timisoara
Casa Luxemburg 3* – Sibiu
Viscri 125 – Viscri
Hotel Capitol 3* – Bucharest
Included services in the Jewish heritage tour
- Trip planning and assistance before, during and after the tour
- Certified English speaking tour guide (accommodation, relocation and meals are included)
- Accommodation for 10 Nights in standard double or twin room, breakfast included
- Private transfer on the above itinerary by car (Dacia Logan or similar for a group of 1-4 persons, Renault Traffic or similar for a group of 5-8 persons; fuel, taxes and parking fees are included)
- 1 dinner in Viscri (set menus, home cooked traditional food)
Price per person – EUR
Price per person – USD
Aviram & Zahava (and 3 more couples) from Israel
“We are a group of four couples of friends that greatly enjoyed the guide’s ample knowledge of Romania, its people, history, life and sites. The itinerary of 10 days Jewish heritage tour started in Cluj and covered main beautiful and interesting sites of Transylvania’s land of Mures, Alba, Sibiu, Brasov and toward Bucharest, cities, colorful villages, exuberant nature, magic castles and fortresses. Our guide suggested and coordinated with us in advance the itinerary and diligently and gently dealt with all logistic matters. Summarizing, we have enjoyed very much our tour and the guide deserves our highest esteem.”