15 Best things to do in Suceava (Romania)

A city full of history and culture, Suceava was the throne of the medieval principality of Moldavia until 1565. You can walk into the church where the princes were crowned and see the impregnable fortresses they built to repel the Ottoman Empire.

Suceava is also the starting point for a tour of the Painted Monastery in Bukovina. These are eight UNESCO World Heritage churches with Byzantine architecture and beautiful frescoes on their façades. One is right in Suceava, while the others require a car. But even if you stay in Suceava, there’s more to see, like a quaint outdoor country museum that opens a window into life in the Bucovina region.

Let’s explore the best things to do in Suceava:

1. Suceava Fortress

Suceava Fort

When the Ottoman threat grew in the 14th century, a series of forts were built across Moldavia.

The man who built them was Prince Petru II of Moldavia, and his successors fortified the fortress of Suceava in the following centuries.

Stephen III added the moat and the now indomitable defensive walls, which withstood the onslaught of the 15th century conqueror Muhammad.

But the reason the Suceava fortress is in the phase of destruction is that it finally succumbed to the Ottoman Empire in 1675, when the Polish Cossack garrison was flooded and the complex was quickly blown up.

It is located high on the plateau, a symbol of the Moldavian resistance, with damaged but sinister walls and visible remains of the prince’s apartment, storeroom, chapel and the hall of the prince’s assembly.

2. The Painted Monastery in Bukovina

voroney temple

A collection of Romanian cultural treasures is scattered across Suceava County.

Most require a car, but the distance is no more than 60 kilometers.

What they all have in common is a striking Byzantine building and façade with frescoes that have remained alive since the 16th century.

All eight are worth your time and can be done on your own or on a specially arranged tour.

But if I had to pick one, it would be Voronei Temple, 30 kilometers southwest.

Paintings from the monastery still come to life today, reminiscent of scenes such as The Last Judgment and St. John’s Staircase made in 1547.

3. Muzeul Satului Bucovinean (Bucovina Village Museum)

Bucovina Village Museum

You don’t have to leave Suceava to experience rural life in the Bucovina region in an open-air museum with plenty of authentic historical buildings.

These were transplanted from the villages around Bukovina and included houses of various styles, as well as blacksmiths, water mills and farms.

Perhaps the most beautiful sight is a wooden church in the village of Varma, built in 1783. Along with a separate bell tower, it was brought here in 2001 and fully restored in 2009. That water mill is also a pleasure, originated at Humorului Temple in 1870, using a fully functional wheel and grinding mechanism to make wheat and corn flour.

4. Mănăstirea Sfântul Ioan cel Nou (New Monastery of St. John)

New Monastery of St. John, Suceava

Part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, this church is located in the center of Suceava and was the metropolitan cathedral of Moldavia from its completion in 1522 to 1677.

It is topped by a bell tower with a semicircular blind arch, begun by the one-eyed prince Bogdan III and then completed by his son Stephen IV. The patron saint of the monastery is a 14th-century Romanian saint whose remains are kept in a gleaming silver reliquary adorned with scenes from his life.

The frescoes painted in 1534 have weathered the storm but are still visible and the exterior walls are still covered with these frescoes.

And it doesn’t take an art historian to decipher these paintings of the Tree of Jesse and the Prodigal Son.

5. Dragomirna Monastery

Dragomirna Monastery

Built after a painted monastery in the early 17th century, this church, 15 km from Suceava, has a more serious and militant side.

Embedded in a hill of oaks and conifers, the Dragomirna was built at a time when Ottoman raids were commonplace, which explains its buttresses and high, modest defensive walls topped with arrow rings.

These are the highest fortifications in the Bukovina region, and their hidden churches feature Byzantine and Gothic architecture.

The outer walls have the same semicircular blind arches as the painted temples, and the interior has Western-style rib vaults.

The frescoes are inside, in the nave and altar, while there is a museum with splendid medieval ceremonial treasures.

6. Mănăstirea Zamca

Mănăstirea Zamca

Armenians have existed since the Middle Ages, after Suceava was forced to flee their homeland during the Mongol invasion in the 13th century.

Known for their commercial prowess, Armenians also received tax exemptions in the 14th century to encourage them to settle in the Principality of Moldavia.

The Armenian monastery on the plateau on the western edge of the city was built in 1606. Within the complex are the original church, two chapels and a bell tower, all protected by earthworks and a system of rectangular walls.

The church retains all the coats of arms of Armenian places of worship, with Armenian crosses on textiles.

There are traces of frescoes on the walls of the nave, and there are exquisite and complex stone carvings at the entrance.

7. Muzeul de Isterie (Bukovina History Museum)

history museum

In a neoclassical building on Strada Ștefan cel Mare 33, the History Museum opened in July 2016 with a new layout. The exhibition focuses on the period when Suceava was the capital of the Principality of Moldavia between 1388 and 1565, when it lost the privilege of the city of Iasi.

From this period, you can browse armor, weapons, coins and ceramics.

But in the 27 rooms are also a complete chronology of the area, from Neolithic and Bronze Age statues and pottery to reconstructed 19th-century bourgeois home interiors and 20th-century shops.

8. Biserica Mirăuşi (St. George’s Church)

St. George's Church, Suceava

This Orthodox church was founded in 1375 by order of the Governor (Prince) Petrus I of Moldavia.

From then until 1522 it was the coronation church of Moldavia, during which time it was also the Metropolitan Cathedral.

This status was lost when the building was sacked, and the newly built New Abbey of St. John took on this role.

It took another 100 years for full reconstruction, followed by a more comprehensive renovation at the end of the 19th century.

This is the time to paint the current saint frescoes and biblical scenes, while a glass panel on the floor allows you to peek into the basement.

9. Hanul Domnesc (Princely Inn)

Hanul Domnesk

The oldest secular building in Suceava still exists, the hotel dates back to the 1600s.

Hanul Domnesc was originally the property of Moldavian lord Miron Barnovschi, who donated it as an inn for court members, distinguished merchants and foreign dignitaries.

After Moldavia was annexed by the Habsburg Empire in 1775, the building became a hunting lodge for members of the royal family and court.

If you’re still interested in the area’s rural history, the inn houses the Bucovina Ethnographic Museum since the 1980s.

10. Muzeul de Științele Naturi (Museum of Natural Sciences)

Natural Science Museum, Suceava

Right at Parcul Central, Suceava’s Natural History Museum opened in 1977 and features exhibits on a wide range of subjects, from botany to entomology.

But the most accessible displays are dioramas revealing the natural world of Suceava and Moldavia.

If you’re ok with taxidermy, these include wild boar, deer, wolves and brown bears, complete with audio equipment and screens for a more in-depth look at the plants and animals on display.

Another attraction is the Crystal Room, which houses a variety of quartz, calcite and fossils.

11. Curtea Domnească (Royal House)

Curtea Domnească, Suceava

Amateur archaeologists may be interested in this site on Bulevardul Ana Ipătescu.

From the 14th to the 17th century, this was the palace of the province of Moldavia.

The two rulers associated with the building were Stephen III, who renovated the courthouse after a fire in the 15th century, and Vasily Lupp, who enlarged it in the mid-17th century.

But the palace was abandoned and allowed to disintegrate shortly after Vasily Lupu’s death.

More than 350 years later, you can piece together the remains of the palace, tower, main entrance and annex, all built on 14th and 15th century foundations.

12. Add synagogue

Gah Synagogue, Suceava

Suceava was inhabited by Jews as early as 1473, and at the beginning of the 20th century the city had 18 synagogues and a smaller Hasidic prayer room.

All but one of these were lost during World War II and the communist period that followed.

The Gah Synagogue dates back to 1870 and continues to be used for services.

The best decoration is the frescoes representing the twelve tribes of Israel.

In keeping with the Jewish theme, Suceava has two cemeteries.

The old cemetery is known for the high craftsmanship of its tombs, dating back to the 1500s, while the new cemetery has graves from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

13. Planetariul din Suceava (Suceava Planetarium)

Suceava Observatory

The city’s planetarium, established by the Bucovina Museum and now run by the university, is the place to bring young astronomers on rainy days.

The main hall features a ZEISS ZKP top projector showing 6,000 stars, and side projectors showing moving objects such as the Galileo satellites, Comet Donati and meteors.

On clear nights, there is a live stargazing show from the dome on top of the building’s tower, during which you can observe Saturn’s rings, get a detailed view of the moon’s surface and observe nebulae.

14. Kasika Salt Mine

Kasika Salt Mine

For something a little different, head 40 kilometers west to Cacica, where the best salt in Romania is mined.

The salt here is recrystallized from brine and recovered along a tunnel first dug by hand in 1791. This massive site has a total of 8,200 tunnels, some of which are open to the public on 2-3 hour tours.

It can be a little disconcerting to know that there are miners hard at work nearly 100 meters below your feet.

But things are even stranger when no one is around: you can still go downstairs and look around the Orthodox church, the Roman Catholic church, the small man-made lake, and most surprisingly, a ballroom with balconies straight from the salt.

15. Margin

Potter of Marginea Village

You can plan an hour or two in the village as you hop around the monasteries around Bukovina.

Famous for its black clay pottery, Marginea is located a few kilometers northeast of the Suchevita Monastery.

This technique of firing clay pottery is said to have been handed down from the Getto-Dacian tribe 2,000 years ago.

Marginea first hit the map in the 16th century for its ceramics, and bounced back when possession of a potter’s wheel became illegal during the communist era.

If you’re lucky, you’ll see the potters in Marginea doing their craft and try making a clay pot with your own hands.

Where to Stay: The Best Hotels in Suceava, Romania
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