In this destination guide, we visit the village of Viscri in the region of Transylvania in Romania where King Charles owns a traditional farmhouse.
A visit to Viscri
Having visited the beautiful extinct volcano of Racoș, it was time to continue my road trip through Transylvania.
The next destination on my journey would be the village of Viscri (called Deutsch-Weisskirch in German), one of the many traditional Saxon villages in this part of Transylvania.
I’ve been to Viscri before and it’s without doubt a gorgeous village with an impressive Saxon fortified church well-worth a visit.
However, Viscri does have one major downside: King Charles III owns a house in the village.
Now don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against King Charles.
On the contrary, we both share the same passion for Romania, a country which was already close to King Charles’ heart when he was still the Prince of Wales and his mother Elizabeth II was the Queen of the United Kingdom.
King Charles has multiple properties in Romania, among which a gorgeous country estate in the Zalán Valley as well as the traditional farmhouse in Viscri.
The Zalán estate even has a guesthouse where visitors can stay the night, which used to be possible at the farmhouse of King Charles in Viscri too.
However, this traditional house built in 1753 – which King Charles acquired in the year 2006 – has now been converted into a traditional crafts centre.
During his first visit to this part of Transylvania over two decades ago, King Charles fell in love with the nature and authentic culture and traditions of the region and has since invested quite some effort into the preservation of it.
Although that is of course laudable, King Charles’ presence in Viscri has been a mixed bag for the village.
Road to Viscri
Although Viscri might still be an unknown destination internationally, that isn’t exactly the case anymore in Romania where almost everyone knows that King Charles owns a house in this village.
This resulted in a growing number of Romanians discovering the beauty of Viscri after all the media attention about King Charles visiting the place aroused their curiosity.
This in turn led to smart tourism entrepreneurs from out of town buying property in Viscri as well, which they developed into guesthouses, B&B’s and other tourist facilities.
It signalled the birth of Viscri as a prime ecotourism destination in Romania.
A few years ago the BBC even wrote an article titled “Romanian tourists swamp village loved by Prince Charles” – and you can imagine that the crowds are only likely to increase now that Charles has become King of the United Kingdom.
Especially on summer weekends Viscri can get swarmed by huge numbers of domestic tourists, turning the quaint village into a parking lot full of noise and traffic.
On my drive to Viscri it indeed became clear that it has changed quite a bit in the last couple of years as a brand new road now connects the village with the DN13, the main provincial road.
During my last visit, this was still an unpaved road full of potholes on which I even ruined one of the tyres on my car.
Arriving in Viscri
The new tarmac road abruptly ends at the entrance of Viscri where it gives way to the original, unpaved road.
Although I have mixed feelings about the construction of this new road (it’s a better drive for sure, but it did contribute to the overcrowding) it was at least good to see that they protected the old looks of the village and retained the original dirt road.
As Viscri is small and everything is walkable, there is absolutely no need to drive your car all the way into the village heart to park it somewhere central.
You do yourself (and the locals!) a big favour if you park your car right at the edge of the village as this allows you to enjoy the quaint surroundings much more.
Driving by car is currently the only way to reach Viscri as there are no public transport options as far as I’m aware.
I’ve seen pictures of Viscri on summer weekends when both sides of the dirt road running through town are blocked with parked cars, making it feel more like a city street in Bucharest than a traditional village.
Fortunately, that wasn’t the case during my visit to Viscri on a weekday in autumn.
In fact, it looked like I was the only tourist in town at that very moment.
Apart from a few locals on a tractor and a couple of chickens and geese roaming around there wasn’t anyone else to be seen.
The village certainly looked as delightful as I remembered how it was a couple of years back.
Viscri has a typical layout which is similar to many other villages in Transylvania.
Instead of conglomerating around a central point and spreading out in each direction from there, Transylvanian villages traditionally grew along a single main axis.
That means that Transylvanian villages like Viscri can often be a few kilometres in length while they might only be a few dozen metres wide.
As a result, most houses have deep but at times narrow plots of land behind them.
Charms of Viscri
Most of Viscri’s charms can be found in its traditional character.
It’s simply relaxing to walk through the village streets and see the old countryside life.
Whether it’s the livestock roaming around freely, the old hay carts and machinery in the streets or the magnificent farmsteads, Viscri just has has an amazingly authentic atmosphere.
Although there are plenty of other places in Romania where you can see all of this as well, Viscri’s village character and its well-maintained houses and streets does set it apart, making it one of Transylvania’s most picturesque destinations.
I’ll let the pictures below do the talking.
Although during my visit Viscri looked exactly the same as it did the last time I was around, I knew that in reality this wasn’t the case.
Thanks to King Charles and the surge in tourism, house prices have exploded in Viscri.
While a house in this small Transylvanian village might have set you back only €25,000 a decade ago, some farmhouses are now sold for around €100,000.
Needless to say, it does have an impact on the village, as a gradual shift from farming and other traditional livelihoods to tourism is taking place.
Although most of Viscri’s charms can be found in the traditional rural character of the village, it has one other major card up its sleeve.
Viscri has a magnificent Saxon fortified church, one of the best you can visit in all of Transylvania.
As there is a lot to tell about the Saxon fortified church in Viscri, I will detail the experience of my visit in the next chapter of this trip report.
With its Saxon fortified church, beautiful farmsteads and traditional village life, Viscri is one of Transylvania’s most picturesque destinations.
King Charles, who owns a house in the village, was the unlikely person who firmly put Viscri on the Romanian tourism map.
His connection to the village was both a blessing and a curse, as it brought lots of money and investment to Viscri but also crowds and gentrification.
Bit by bit, the authentic character of the village is moving away from farming towards (eco)-tourism and whether that’s a good or bad thing depends on your view.
Your visiting experience may depend entirely on the moment you choose.
Visit Viscri on a weekend in summer and you will be there with thousands of others, but visit on a weekday out of season and the authentic and quiet rural atmosphere of the village will still be intact.
Personally, I still very much love Viscri and can highly recommend it to anyone visiting Romania.
Trip report index
This article is part of the ‘Visiting the Saxon Fortified Churches of Transylvania‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:
1. The Fortified Church of Harman (Honigberg), Brasov County
2. The Fortified Church of Prejmer (Tartlau), Brasov County
3. The Fortified Church of Feldioara (Marienburg), Brasov County
4. A Visit to Rupea Fortress
5. The Fortified Church of Homorod (Hamruden), Brasov County
6. Racoș: Exploring an Extinct Volcano and Abandoned Castle
7. In the Footsteps of King Charles: A Visit to Viscri, Romania (current chapter)
8. A Visit to the Fortified Church of Viscri, Brasov County
9. A Night Walk Around the Citadel and Old Town of Sighisoara
10. Review: Hotel Casa Wagner, Sighisoara, Romania
11. The Fortified Church of Saschiz (Keisd), Mureș County
12. The Fortified Church of Cloasterf (Klosdorf), Mureș County
13. The Fortified Church of Mesendorf (Meschendorf), Brasov County
14. The Fortified Church of Crit (Deutsch-Kreuz), Brasov County
15. The Fortified Church of Biertan (Birthälm), Sibiu County
16. The Fortified Church of Hosman (Holzmengen), Sibiu County
17. Review: Brukenthal Palace Hotel, Avrig
18. A Visit to Sambata de Sus and the Brancoveanu Monastery
19. Into the Carpathians: A Beautiful Drive to Moieciu de Sus