Things To Do In Tulcea, Romania
Written by Stella Jane from Around the World in 24 Hours.
Tulcea, Romania, is one of the oldest cities in the country. It was founded back in the 7th century BC, even before the Romans arrived. In the pre-Roman days, the city was called Aegyssus. Some ruins from the ancient days are still hidden in Tulcea’s hills.
Tulcea (pronounced tool-cha) is also the biggest city in the Danube Delta, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the best-preserved river delta in all of Europe. So Tulcea just might be the most fantastic destination in all of Romania for nature lovers. You can see an astonishing variety of fish, birds, and plants in your time here.
It is easy to get to Tulcea from Romania’s capital, Bucharest, by either bus or train. The trip from Bucharest takes between four and five hours. Tulcea is also reachable by bus or train from Constanta, a famous Romanian city on the Black Sea. Tulcea is not easily reachable by airplane.
Many group tours of Romania stop in Tulcea for one or two nights, but you can definitely explore the city on your own. Any traveler to eastern Romania will enjoy spending two or three days in Tulcea, exploring the city and the gorgeous surrounding natural beauty of the Danube Delta. This list will help you focus on the very best things to do in and around Tulcea.
Danube Delta Cruise
The number one thing any traveler to Tulcea has to do is take a boat trip around the Danube Delta, which are the wetlands formed by the Danube River merging with the Black Sea. Companies like Rolandia and Discover Danube Delta offer cruises through this stunning and unique ecosystem.
It is better to book a cruise in advance, or you run the risk of them being sold out when you visit. The cruises can last for a morning or all day, depending on your timeframe. You will usually leave in the morning on a boat from Tulcea and enjoy the majesty of the Danube Delta.
There are a few tips to be aware of when you go on a Danube Delta Cruise. It can be rainy in Tulcea, and most tours leave rain or shine, so pack a poncho and umbrella. If you are lucky, your boat will have a cover that keeps out the rain. Also, it is unlikely there will be a restroom on the boat, so plan accordingly!
The most exciting sight in the Danube Delta is the many bird species that call the region home. After all, the Danube Delta has the third-highest biodiversity in the world. Only the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Galapagos Archipelago have more. That means you could explore the Danube Delta for days and still not see all the plants and animals in the wetlands.
But the birds of the Danube Delta are the most famous creatures. There are over 330 species of birds in this ecosystem! That’s almost one bird for every day of the year.
Some of the most special birds in the Danube Delta include the red-breasted goose, which is likely to become endangered, the giant Dalmatian pelican, and the pygmy cormorant. You will enjoy the tour of the Danube Delta more with a knowledgeable guide who can recognize these birds and point them out to you.
But even if you don’t see these treasures on your cruise, you will spot many pelicans, egrets, herons, and other beautiful creatures. And if you’re lucky, your boat driver will give you a little Romanian brandy to sip while you try to spy the birds.
Walk Along The Saint George Branch Of The Danube
If you are looking for something relaxing to do after a day of touring the Danube Delta or visiting museums, go for a walk along the Saint George Branch of the Danube. This is one of the busiest areas of Tulcea. Locals and tourists alike can often be found strolling along here. Don’t miss this chance to appreciate one of the most famous rivers in the world.
If the weather is warm, get a scoop of salted caramel or chocolate ice cream from Fabrica De Inghetata, and enjoy it and the views of the Danube River at the same time. This is a relaxing way to end any day in Tulcea!
Mila 23 is a small and culturally important village, just a short boat ride away from Tulcea. In fact, it’s not possible to get to Mila 23 without a boat. Many tours of the Danube Delta from Tulcea include a stop in Mila 23. But you can also get to Mila 23 from Tulcea by ferry. The price is very affordable.
If you do take a tour that stops in Mila 23, you’ll usually get a lunch that includes local fish like catfish. This can be prepared in a variety of ways, like fried or in a soup. There aren’t really any restaurants in Mila 23, but there are several guesthouses like Pensiunea Vanessa, and many of them serve lunch.
You might hear some Russian-sounding names when you are in Mila 23. That’s because many people in Mila 23 are Lipovans, ethnic Russians who moved to Romania centuries ago. The Lipovan houses are also traditionally painted blue, and it’s charming to walk around and see the blue homes and churches in the village.
The most famous Lipovan is probably Ivan Patzaichin, a Romanian Olympic canoeing champion. You’ll see a sign honoring Patzaichin and other great canoers from the area when you visit Mila 23.
Tulcea is a city with seven hills, just like Rome, which means that there are many great places in Tulcea from which you can see the sunset. But one of the best is the north-eastern hill with the massive Monumentul Eroilor (Independence Monument).
The Independence Monument is dedicated to Romanians who fought for independence against the Ottoman Empire back in the 19th century. The monument has been restored because it was severely damaged during World War I. The structure is made out of granite and decorated with bronze sculptures of a soldier and a vulture.
From here, you can see almost all of Tulcea. After the sun sets, enjoy the lights sparkling around the Saint George branch of the Danube River that runs through Tulcea. You’ll understand why this is one of the best picture-taking spots in all of the city.
Central Eco-Tourism Museum Of The Danube Delta
Tulcea is home to several excellent museums, but the most important is probably the museum dedicated to the Danube Delta. One floor shows exhibits about the region’s history and way of life, and another floor is an aquarium.
The museum contains many stuffed birds from the Danube Delta, so you’ll be able to see some of the animals, like the mute swan, that you might have missed on the cruise. There are also models of Danube Delta fishermen that show how people in this community have traditionally made a living. You can see all of their techniques for catching and preparing fish.
The aquarium has live fish from the Danube Delta as well as the rest of the world. One of the most interesting local fish in the aquarium is the sturgeon. This is one of the most valuable fish in the Danube Delta because of its caviar. As a result, sturgeon have been overfished, so fishing sturgeon is now restricted.
You can also see smaller, cuter fish than the sturgeon, like the round Chinese goldfish. Any children in the group will be delighted with these shimmery gold creatures and want to take one home.
Tulcea has been an important fishing port for thousands of years. In fact, there are more than 45 different kinds of freshwater fish in the Danube Delta. The area is home to sturgeon, pike, catfish, mackerel, carp, and more! So when you come to Tulcea, you have to try some of the local seafood!
One of the best seafood restaurants in Tulcea is Ivan Pescar. In fact, this restaurant is owned by the Romanian canoeing champion, Ivan Patzaichin. Ivan Pescar serves local and fresh seafood. Plus it has excellent views of the Danube River.
You can get the traditional local fish soup, or you can try something more experimental like pasta with black sea snails. Don’t miss the chance to eat some of the pike roe! It’s much more affordable than the sturgeon caviar. The pike roe is served in a salty spread that tastes a bit like the Greek taramasalata.
Museum Of Fine Arts
The most famous Romanian fine artist is probably the sculptor Constantin Brancusi. But there are many other incredible Romanian artists, and you can see some of their works at Tulcea’s Museum of Fine Arts. It is located in one of the most interesting buildings in the city. This is a neoclassical structure that was an administrative building when the Ottoman Empire controlled Tulcea. (Back then, it was called The Pasha’s Manor House.) So the building itself is an official Romanian historical monument.
Perhaps the most important Romanian artist featured at the Museum of Fine Arts is Victor Brauner. He was a Romanian Jewish surrealist artist who studied with legends like Brancusi. His works have been shown in world-famous museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And the Museum of Fine Arts is home to 14 of his pieces!
The Museum of Fine Arts is also famous for its collection of over 800 icons. Romania is a majority Orthodox country, and icons are important religious images in the Orthodox church. Many museums in Romania contain icons. But what makes the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Tulcea special is that they have so many Lipovan icons, showing the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church. You won’t be able to see icons like this in most other places in Romania!
The Avramide House
The Avramide House is run by the same cultural organization that runs the Museum of Fine Arts. So one affordable price will get you admission to both the Avramide House and the Museum. The Avramide House was originally owned by a man named Alexe Avramide. He lived in Romania, but he was born in Greece, and two Italian master builders constructed the house itself. So this one building shows the many different cultural influences you can find in Tulcea.
The Avramide House has been a museum since the 1950s, but the exhibits inside have changed. Now it is a museum of life in Tulcea that tells the story of the wealthy Avramide Family and how they lived in the first half of the 20th century in this house. The Avramide House also hosts cultural events from time to time.
Romanians love going to the park! It can be a little harder to find the beautiful parks of Tulcea than it is in Bucharest, but the parks are still there. One of the nicest parks in the city is Parcul Ciuperca. It’s right on an artificial lake that was built under the Communist regime. There’s even a small artificial beach.
Locals come here to go for a jog or ride their bikes. There are also playgrounds for kids to play in, and there is ice skating during the winter months. Parcul Ciuperca also has restaurants and bars, so you can just relax outside with a drink and enjoy the views of the water.
History And Archaeology Museum
This museum is located about one kilometer east of the city center, but it is well worth the trip. It is located where the ancient fortress of the city of Aegyssus stood before the Romans came to Romania. Many residents of Tulcea are proud of living in such an old city, much older than Bucharest. You can even see the name Aegyssus on some signs in Tulcea, and now you will know what it means!
In most museums, the ancient Roman artifacts would be some of the oldest artifacts in the museum. This is not true in Tulcea. The Roman artifacts are the newer objects in this museum. The older ones are from the pre-Roman period when Celtic people lived in the region. The museum contains every kind of ancient object, from coins to bowls to equipment used for horses. English signs are available in the museum as well. Because the History and Archaeology Museum is so close to the Independence Monument, many people visit them on the same itinerary.
So tell us, what things in Tulcea will you do first?