Curtea de Arges
In my opinion, Curtea de Arges, one of Wallachia’s former princely seats in the 14th century after being moved from Câmpulung Muscel, is the most under-rated tourist destination in Romania; it has an admirable collection of sites and great all-around accommodations value, which in itself was enough to make me want to hang around for a while.
The superb Episcopal cathedral (Manastirea Curtea de Arges) was built between 1514 and 1526 by Neagoe Basarab (ruled 1512-21) with marble and mosaic tiles from Constantinople and is unique for its chocolate-box architecture and the royal tombs it hides. The cathedral has a pretty amazing legend behind its construction and the stonemason who did the work, which I don’t want to reveal here (you’ll have to buy the book), but believe me, it’s a good one! The current edifice dates from 1875 when French architect André Lecomte du Nouy saved the monastery, which was all but falling apart.
The ruins of the Princely Court (Curtea Domneasca), which originally comprised a church and palace, sit right in the city center. Little remains of the palace ruins, but the church is almost completely intact. The church was built in the 14th century by Basarab I and is considered to be the oldest monument preserved in its original form in Wallachia and among the oldest in all of Romania. A statue of Basarab I is just outside the entrance to the court, in the square.
Also in the historic center is the County Museum (Muzeul Orasenesc) which has displays illustrating the history of the region. On a nearby hill are the ruins of the 14th-century Sân Nicoara Church (Biserica Sân Nicoara).
The historic town is a good staging area for the Fagaras Mountains and Poienari Citadel, the real Dracula’s Castle, not to mention a drive on the stunning Transfagaras Road, “the best road in the world” according to Top Gear. A spiritual day trip can be had at Cozia and Turnul Monasteries.