Sun, sea and beautiful beaches, you could be thinking we’re talking about Punta Cana or Playa del Carmen, Cancun however, no. We’re referring to Romania’s top Riviera Resort – Mamaia.
Believe it or not, Romania, like other Black Sea countries has a wide range of sea side resorts amongst which Mamaia. Discover below why you should consider visiting this resort and what can you do here.
Mamaia used to be a village inhabited by Turks, Tatars and Lipovans. It used to be a typical fisherman’s village where the local economy consisted of selling fish and raising Tatar horses.
The name comes from the local owner of the land, a Tatar by the name of Mamai.
With Romania taking over the historical province of Dobrogea from the Turks, the area started to catch shape after 1906. To encourage more tourists to come, the authorities even built a railway from Constanta all the way to Mamaia.
The first proper hotel was built in 1936, Hotel Rex, accommodating wealthier tourists with subsequent hotels being built the following years. The Casino also enhanced the experience and night life followed by the Royal family also taking a prime spot villa right next to it.
During communist days, the resort saw even more hotels being built to accommodate more tourists. The peak of the resort was during these days where many foreigners would come to Romania to spend their summer holidays.
It’s said that the French communist leader would often come here to spend his summer holidays. Whether it was due to reduced costs when compared to Western resorts or just curiosity, many came similarly to spend their holidays here.
Nowadays, Mamaia can be found on the outskirts of the Constanta city within the county of Constanta. Although its glory days may be behind, it still is considered the crown jewel of the Romanian Riviera with many choosing to holiday here.
The resort is nested between Siutghiol and Tabacariei Lagoons and the Black Sea to the East. Siutghiol Lake also hosts many water sports clubs and recreational activities.
Temperatures reach to around 35° C and the fine sand and smooth entrance in the water make it a pleasure to bathe in the sea.
Travel to Mamaia
In terms of travel, Mamaia is accessible by all means of transport. Tourists can fly to Constanta’s airport Mihail Kogalniceanu (CND) situated in the town with the same name. Flights tend to be mostly domestic but there are some flights from London and Rome.
To check the best rates and how to secure good value fare flights we encourage you to read our article here on how to find cheap flights.
Most flights are seasonal and depend on the high and low seasons passenger influx. Most airlines are charter airlines working for travel agencies.
Alternatively, you can fly to Bucharest and then either drive or take a train. If you do consider taking a train then the closest station will be Constanta Train Station. From there to get to the resort you can take a taxi or busses.
Constanta, like Varna in Bulgaria, acts like a central hub for the Romanian coastline and you will find plenty of transport, including ferries, options available for all budgets.
Where to Stay in Mamaia
What you will find in Mamaia, is that the resort is a little bit old school. What I mean by this is that everything is fairly modular.
Hotel/ accommodation, amenities, sun beds etc. they tend to be provided by separate owners and hence the idea of a Turkish all-inclusive offering is fairly rare which means everything is sold separately.
Here we suggest you research the market and see whether a packaged holiday or booking the trip independently might make more sense for you.
Hotels range from bed and breakfast to all inclusive anything from Guest Houses to Hotels. The resort hosts 60 hotels which can accommodate 30 000 guests simultaneously.
Whatever you choose, make sure you understand what your hotel will offer as some hotels may charge for access to the pool or even their sunbeds.
On this occasion we chose to book things independently using Booking.com. We planned the holiday ourselves and here we share our top tips on how to plan your holiday.
We stood at Hotel Malibu and really enjoyed our mini holiday there. If you would like to read more about the hotel and our experience, read more about Hotel Malibu here.
We had a few days to spare and came by train from Bucharest. The train ride was fine and air conditioned although do be aware sometimes the AC on trains might not work.
From Constanta Train Station we got a taxi to the hotel which was no more than 20 minutes drive. All felt very smooth and easy.
Things to do in Mamaia
First and foremost – relax. It’s your holiday after all. We propose you first check your hotel’s amenities as that can be a good place to start.
The Mamaia beach is blessed with fine sand. Unlike our experience in Paphos, Cyprus, where one does need aqua shoes here you will get fine sand throughout.
After you’ve made yourself comfortable in your hotel you might be left wondering – fine but where do I go and what else do I do?
Mamaia Cable Car
The Cable Car was inaugurated in 2004 following a 3.5 million euros investment. It runs from Perla Hotel to the Mamaia Casino.
Similar to the cable cars you see in Bansko and other ski resorts, it goes up to a hight of 50 m and stretches across 2.1 kilometres.
The journey itself isn’t long, it took us under 10 minutes. However, the views are very nice and cover both the sea and Siutghiol lake.
We went during dusk and it was serene and enjoyable to see the sun paint the water in bright orange.
The Mamaia Casino area is an interwar style building overlooking the sea. It offers a nice square with fountains and ample space for seasonal performances.
Here you will see plenty of restaurants, some offer live music as well.
We sat down here and had an ice cream whilst we eavesdropped on some music from a nearby Greek themed taverna.
A fairly enjoyable experience to watch tourists go up and down the promenade.
This was the Palace built in 1926 by the Romanian Royal Family. Unlike Peles Castle, the villa is somewhat more modest but imposing nonetheless.
Nowadays it is owned by the Romanian Government, however much of the place is left in abandonment.
A moment for a few photos and a mental note that you’ve been here.
Like what you are reading? Why not join us for other journeys by subscribing to our newsletter:
Aqua Magic Water Park
This is the most modern aqua park on the Black Sea. It offers a surface of over 27 000 sqm with plenty of amenities from fast food stands to cafes and plenty of attractions and rides.
This is for sure is a winner with any family looking for a great day out.
Luna Parc Mamaia
This Luna Park / Amusement Park is a must for anyone coming to Mamaia with kids. It has plenty of rides anything from roller coasters to carousels, this place has it all.
Ride a Bike on the Promenade
Another exciting thing you can do is go for a bike ride on the main promenade. The promenade also offers a dedicated bike lane with most pedestrians being aware of it (most times).
Our hotel Malibu offered free bikes and we took the opportunity to ride all the way to North Mamaia to one of the cocktail bars and then head back.
We did have to switch to the main Mamaia Boulevard closer to the north side of Mamaia as the bike lane and pedestrian paths finished but not for long.
The ride was excellent and ample space for you to manoeuvre. It did feel a little bit tight in the Casino area but overall nothing to complain.
A Day Out in Constanta
Being so close to the city of Constanta, it’s also a great opportunity to explore it. Constanta used to be a Greek colony by the name of Tomis. It later was assimilated by the Dacians and then the Romans within the province of Moesia.
It is Romania’s oldest city and has a history spanning over 2 millennia.
The Casino was built by King Carol I of Romania right after the handover of the region from the Turks. The defunct Casino is situated not far from the docks of Constanta alongside the promenade on the coastline.
It offers splendid architecture and stunning views, although at the time of our visit it was under renovation.
The Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul
is the seat of the Romanian Orthodox Archbishop of Tomis, as well as a monastery. Situated between Ovid Square and the Black Sea in front of the Archbishop’s Palace this Greco-Roman style cathedral offers great views towards the sea and stunning Orthodox paintings inside.
In terms of size, it can be comparable to Sinaia Monastery. When comparing the inner paintings one can draw many similarities amongst the two but also with other Orthodox churches and monasteries.
The Grand Mosque of Constanta
On the same street with the St. Paul and Peter Cathedral you can find the centre of Islam in Romania represented by the Grand Mosque. The Mosque itself wasn’t as impressive as the one in Sharm El-Sheikh but something to glance at nonetheless.
Statue of Ovid in front of the Museum of National History and the Adjacent Square
Ever since the Roman emperor exiled roman poet Ovid, he has retreated to the shores of Tomis, nowadays Constanta. He has then written many works of art describing the beauty of these lands.
A statue of him was erected in the square in the late 1800s which was demolished by the Bulgarians in the first world war was later rebuilt by the Germans.
In the square with the same name we also suggest you sit down in the old city centre for a lemonade. There are plenty of places with outdoors seating to cool off from the hot summer sun.
Food and Drink Highlights
One can easily gain a few kilos when visiting this place. The culinary scenery is fairly diverse and offers tourists a great variety of Eastern European foods as well as a blend of international and local foods from the Dobrogea region.
Mamaia also offers plenty of budget friendly options with plenty of canteens spread throughout, some rivalling some of the more established terraces.
However, what’s typical is what’s known as a “Cherhana”, not to be confused with the Bulgarian “Mehana”. These are fish and seafood specialised cuisines that serve traditional plates.
Some of the things to look out for when reviewing menus would be:
- Fish soups – They typically are a broth with your choice of fish. Some of these soups can also be slightly sour by introducing what’s known as Bors. Bors is a fermented cold beverage from grain and cornmeal.
- Mamaliga – you might know it as polenta or cornmeal however, this staple of Romanian cuisine has stood the test of time. Served as a side dish or the main event, mamaliga should be eaten with sour cream, white cheese (feta style) and hot pepper.
- Fish dishes – anything from fried fish to baked dishes. You will notice that the Romanian “Fish & Chips” is actually your choice of fried fish (typically carp) coated with cornmeal for extra crispiness and “mamaliga” or wider known as polenta.
- Mujdei – is another typical garlic sauce you’ll notice served with most dishes. It’s a watered down version of an aioli but just as intense. It goes well with cooked meats including fish.
Some places we recommend you consider are the following:
Cherhana Pontica is great if you want to eat on the beach. It offers a beach sitting area and also boarded terrace and indoors seating.
The staff are great offering good service. The food was great, traditional and felt fresh.
What’s great about this place is that it’s situated by the Fish Market which makes one believe freshness is the word du jour.
We liked it so much we went twice. I opted for taramasalata for starters and mussels in white sauce with a portion of home made fries. Second time I also tried the fried carp which didn’t disappoint.
The fish was well cooked and crispy and the flour and cornmeal coating did add to the extra crunch. Yum!
Hristina, had a grilled fish and second time she tried the seafood pasta which seemed to come with more seafood than pasta. What a problem to have!
Blue Acqua Restaurant
Blue Acqua Restaurant is part of a wider chain. The great thing about these type of restaurants is economy of scale and of scope which translate to a better experience for the customer.
Although still fairly full from lunch, I went for the fried carp with mamaliga which came with an amazing mujdei sauce. Again, fried beautifully crisp that a vampire could chip their fangs.
Hristina, having, seen my mussels earlier she opted for a portion. She was wise to have it on its own noticing my overkill with fries at lunch time.
All good and delicious.
IpaNera Restaurant & Cocktail Bar
You know you’ve come to a good restaurant when the waiter looks down on you with a slight sceptical look.
IpaNera Restaurant & Cocktail Bar offers a good international menu with what it looked well executed dishes. As this is also a cocktail bar we also went for the latter.
I opted for a quattro fromage pizza which came with, interestingly enough, grapes and walnuts toppings. I stand here to write – it worked!
Hristina chose the Prosciutto pizza with salad topping – decent amount of ham and fairly tasty.
However, the cocktail were amazing. They were perfectly balanced and had no residual burn from the alcohol. Make no mistake, after two cocktails we did feel a little bit more jolly.
Overall, do make the effort to come here even if your hotel is in south Mamaia as the pizzas rival those from Italy and the cocktails are splendid.
Have you tried ice cream? No, I don’t think you have. Do yourself a favour and go to this place. A gelateria that makes the smoothest, nicest ice cream one can think of.
No gimmicks, no funny flavours. Just really good ice cream. This is what you find at Gioelia Cremeria. You can also find one of these in Bucharest if you’ve missed it.
The photos don’t make justice for this ice cream.
Mamaia is a great opportunity to explore the Romanian seaside. We think a 5 night stay might be the sweet spot for a good stay. This will provide ample time to explore the nearby attractions and also enjoy the amenities this place has to offer.
Good hotels, plenty of food choices and huge variety of themed beach bars Mamaia has something to offer for all.
With easy access from Bucharest of even flights into Constanta, the Romanian Riviera has never been easier to explore. Safe for families and plenty of nightlife options for solo travellers and couples, Mamaia is something for sure for you to consider when in Romania.
Ready to book? Below are some recommendations to get your trip started:
- Flights – we use flight aggregators such as Skyscanner and Google flights to find the best options. You can find more information about finding cheap flights here.
- Flight compensation – Compensair or AirHelp for flight delays and cancellations.
- Accommodation – would recommend booking your accommodation through an aggregator such as Booking.com or Agoda to get the best rates. We also use TripAdvisor to read reviews.
- Transport – consider Rentalcars.com for car renting or if you rely on public transport, you can use Omio for trains, coaches, ferries, airport transfers and even flights.
- Activities – a great option is GetYourGuide or Viator for tours, excursions, experiences and tickets to many tourist attractions.
- Travel money – we have Starling Bank accounts (UK residents only) with 0% fees on FX and a good Mastercard exchange rate. Revolut is another good option.
- Internet abroad – with Airalo you can access a wide range of eSIMs (digital SIM cards) available for different countries and regions.
- Luggage storage – if you need to store your bags whilst exploring the destination, you can use Radical Storage to find your closest luggage storage and enjoy your journey until the very end.
As an Amazon Associate and member of various other affiliate programmes, some of the links in this article are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Like what you’ve read? Subscribe to our blog by adding your email address below. You’ll be the first to hear about new destinations and articles we publish!
Are you interested in travelling? Check out our Facebook page and other social media for regular tips and recommendations on how to travel and where to go!