Suceava Romania + Painted Monasteries of Bucovina

Suceava is a city in Northern Romania which is close to the border with Moldova and The Ukraine.  Suceava Romania is the perfect base for a day trip to the Painted Monasteries of Bucovina including;

  • Voronet Monastery
  • Abore Monastery
  • Moldovita Monastery
  • Sucevița Monastery
  • Humor Monastery
  • Putna Monastery

Suceava is a small town but has a decent amount of good value hotels.  In order to visit the Churches of Moldavia you need to organize a day trip from Suceava (or hire a car).  I did this by asking at the hotel and they set me up with a tour for the next day.

The Churches of Moldavia

The monasteries you’ll see on a tour are both painted on the interior and exterior.  They are unique, in fact, I’ve never seen anything like this anywhere else in the world.  Your tour guide will tell you what every painting on each church means.  The paintings are fresco style as used by Michelangelo and Raphael.  They don’t have the same quality or detail as the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City but they are impressive nonetheless.  Finally, the Sucevita, Humor, Voronet, Moldovita, Patrauti and Probota monasteries are very well preserved.

Voronet Monastery

Suceava Romania - Voronet Monastery exterior painted wall

Stephen the Great (Stephan III) would build churches to celebrate victories in battles or to honor lost soldiers.  As a matter of fact, he ordered the construction of Voronet to celebrate victory over the Ottomans.  Founded in 1487, Voronet is the most famous of the monasteries of Bucovina.  The shade of blue used to paint the monastery is know as Voronet blue.

Suceava Romania - Voronet Monastery Interior, Suceava

The Voronet monastery is often referred to as the Sistine Chapel of the East.  This is because of the way the walls, roof and dome have been painted in a similar style.  It took 4 months to build the monastery in 1487 but the frescoes weren’t added until 1547.  If you are interested in biblical stories, you’ll love studying the walls.  There is an interesting Tree of Jesus fresco which features Aristotle and Plato.  Does this refer to the Sycamore Tree in Jericho or the Tree of Life in Bahrain?

Abore Monastery

One of the smallest painted monasteries is the Abore Monastery.  Abore got its name from its founder, Luca Arbore who built it in 1503.  Luca Arbore was an adviser to Stephen the Great.  Genesis is the most interesting frescoe in this monastery.

Moldovita Monastery

Suceava Romania - Moldovita Monastery built by Petru Rares

The Moldovita Monastery is very similar in design to the Voronet Monastery.  It was built in 1532 by Petru Rares (Peter IV).  The frescoes were painted in 1537 and are Voronet blue and gold colors.  There is a large fresco of the Fall of Constantinople which of course, is modern day Istanbul in Turkey.

Sucevita Monastery

Suceava Romania - Sucevita Monastery

Sucevita Monastery is fortified because not only is it a monastery but also a residence of royalty.  It was built in 1581 by Gheorghe Movila the Bishop.  The monastery is very similar to both the Voronet and Moldovita Monasteries.  Interesting frescoes on this monastery are, ‘The Ladder of Divine Ascent’, ‘Tree of Jesse’ and ‘Hymn to the Virgin’.

Sucevita Monastery Fortress

Suceava Romania - Sucevita Monastery defensive walls

The high defensive walls and towers of the Sucevita Monastery make you feel as if you are walking into an ancient city.  Today however, inside the thick walls of the fortress is a museum showing historical paintings and local artwork.  Furthermore, there are a couple of other notable fortified monasteries in the area.  Southeast of Suceava there is a monastery called Probota Monastery and in the north is Dragomirna.

Humor Monastery

Built in 1530, Humor Monastery is like a miniature version of the Sucevita monastery.  It does not have a steeple because it wasn’t built by royalty.  The frescoes are slightly faded but you can still identify them.  Notably, there’s an interesting ‘Parable of the Prodigal Son’ fresco.

Putna Monastery

Suceava Romania - Putna Monastery

The Putna Monastery is another monastery built by Peter the Great.  It took 3 years to build and was finished in 1669.  It’s believed that the location for the monastery was chosen after shooting an arrow from a nearby hill.  Wherever the arrow landed is where the monastery would be built.  In 1654 it was demolished as it was believed there was gold in the walls.  Today, the only remaining part of the original church is the tower.  It was rebuilt in 1662 and has been refurbished several times.  This is not a painted monastery but still worth a visit as it’s in the area.

Suceava City

Romanian Painted Easter Eggs

If you haven’t seen enough monasteries or Orthodox churches on the tour then you must visit Saint John the New Monastery in Suceava.  The fortress of Suceava, Bucovina Village museum and St. George Church Mirauti are other notable points of interest of Suceava.  You’ll also find lots of restaurants, souvenir stores as well as supermarkets in Suceava Romania.

Suceava to Brasov by bus

Suceava gypsy

From Suceava I took a direct bus to Brasov which left at 8 am and took 8 hours.  The bus company I used was Transtin, there is another company called Tarsin.  You should go to the bus station the day before you leave to check the timetable and buy your ticket.  As well as the bus there are minivans which go direct to Brasov.  In addition, it’s also possible to take a share taxi over the border to Chernivtsi in the Ukraine.

Brasov to Chisinau

2019-01-02T19:15:51+00:00August 22nd, 2017|Eastern Europe, Romania|25 Comments


  1. Fiona Mai August 23, 2017 at 8:28 pm - Reply

    Such beautiful photos! The interior of Voronet Monastery looks amazing. Moldovita Monastery and Sucevita Monastery also have very unique architecture. I’ve never thought of visiting this part of Europe before, but now I am seriously considering it after reading about your trips here!

  2. Abigail Sinsona August 24, 2017 at 1:39 am - Reply

    I love learning about the UNESCO sites in the world! This looks like such an interesting site to explore. I love visiting old buildings and churches in particular, because of their elaborate art and architectural details. These monasteries definitely deserved its UNESCO recognition!

  3. Lisa August 24, 2017 at 7:20 am - Reply

    Wow, the Moldavia churches are beautiful. I can imagine how you must have felt upon seeing those stunning buildings and colours. The monastery is equally striking; I’d like to visit this myself one day. Thanks James for always bringing new places to light!

  4. Aditi Shukla August 24, 2017 at 9:25 am - Reply

    Oh, these UNESCO sites are breath-taking. The pictures are so beautiful. I would love to head there someday. Most of all, Suceava City looks particularly interesting. Cheers!!

  5. Deni August 24, 2017 at 4:08 pm - Reply

    I am seriously loving the amount of frescoes these UNESCO heritage sites have! It’s always such a marvel to see how well-kept these beautiful buildings are! I’d really love to see Churches of Moldavia in person, as well as the Moldavia Monastery. Both look absolutely stunning and have an incredible amount of detail that I feel would be impossible to capture in a single photograph!

  6. Shibani August 24, 2017 at 5:43 pm - Reply

    I’ve never seen such beautifully carved monasteries despite being so many in India itself. What a delight to see these UNESCO heritage sites in person. You’ve clicked such gorgeous pictures that they enhance the beauty of these monasteries.

  7. Tracey Kifford August 24, 2017 at 6:07 pm - Reply

    Wow, what beautiful photos of beautiful monasteries. I’ve never thought about visiting this part of the world, but it looks lovely.

  8. Christie Sultemeier August 24, 2017 at 6:18 pm - Reply

    That many monasteries in one small town!? Wow. I think the Voronet Monastery is my favorite, judging by the photos at least. I love how colorful the shot is and the blue backdrop of the painting. Can’t say no to good value hotels, either!

  9. Suzanne August 24, 2017 at 6:27 pm - Reply

    I have never heard about this place but I am intrigued. Those painted monasteries are gorgeous! I think I may have to take a trip to Romania to appreciate them properly.

  10. Leah August 24, 2017 at 9:11 pm - Reply

    I always love to find UNESCO sites when I travel, always feels like such a special experience. There’s so many of these lovely monasteries too 🙂 I love colorful spots so these are definitely going on my bucket list.

  11. Anete August 25, 2017 at 4:48 am - Reply

    I’ve always been impressed with this region. It’s so amazing with those small towns surrounded with painted monasteries. This is a very good route from Suceava to Brasov and some very colourful photos of the orthadox churches. I feel like I might do this Romania trip soon!

  12. Umberta August 25, 2017 at 7:30 am - Reply

    I never saw something like this neither! the monasteries are incredible with all the paintings on the outside walls! So colorful! I particularly like the bright blue of the Voronet monastery! Now I wanna visit one day. It’s weird this is not a better know place..

  13. Sabrina August 25, 2017 at 7:45 am - Reply

    The Putna monastery looks so beautiful! I haven’t been to that part of the world, but I am planning to visit in the near future so I will check on your blog for other detailed posts to plan my itineary. Cheers!

  14. Janiel Green August 25, 2017 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    Your pictures are gorgeous! You are a cutie as well 😉 I feel like I have seen a lot of these monasteries in movies/film somewhere, except for Sucevita Monastery. Sucevita Monastery looks so colorful and almost like Moorish architecture. What a beautiful trip!

  15. Juliette Marguerite August 25, 2017 at 10:56 pm - Reply

    What gorgeous artworks! I love the designs, the bright colours and intricate detail. Quite amazing how a culture can be portrayed through its artwork. And I love the story of how the location of the Putna Monastery was chosen with an arrow! That’s a cool story. It gets even better when I read about the hidden gold in the walls! Fascinating.

  16. kathy August 26, 2017 at 10:46 am - Reply

    I love the colourful photos in this post. I would love to see the fresco style churches and I am keen to visit Romania. It is a shame that the Putna Monastery was partly destroyed due to the rumour of gold but I love the story about how the location was chosen.

  17. Mia August 28, 2017 at 9:31 am - Reply

    I love frescoes! Those painted monastries are just breathtaking! Thanks for the tip about hiring a tour guide, so we can know what each painting means. This was painted hardly a couple decades after Sistine! Interesting!! How are they protecting the paintings on the exteriors from sun & rain?!!

  18. Jitaditya Narzary August 28, 2017 at 12:54 pm - Reply

    This was something totally unique. I don’t expect such artwork in a church. They do have their own art but this style is something I’d expect in some Himalayan Buddhist monastery or even some cave complexes in India. It seems like a place where both worlds meet. I wish you’d posted more close-ups of the artwork.

  19. Cat September 16, 2017 at 12:52 am - Reply

    These are amazing pictures. Make me want to see them for myself!! Great post 🙂

  20. Lolo September 16, 2017 at 8:15 am - Reply

    Wow I love all of these painted monasteries!! I also bought one of those eggs while in Romania!

  21. Shona September 17, 2017 at 1:02 pm - Reply

    How cool. I was in the fashion industry for a million years and am sure pantone have voronet in their colour pallet. It looks beautiful on the monastry wall. What an incredible group of artistic monastries. I would love to see them IRL.

  22. Scarlett Begonias September 19, 2017 at 9:04 pm - Reply

    I’d love to check out the Putna Monastery one day, but they are all so magical looking! Amazing post 🙂

  23. Angie September 22, 2017 at 6:53 am - Reply

    What an incredible amount of beauty here, I would love to see first hand the Tree of Jesus fresco, what stories it must tell. Love your photos and for showing how much there is to do in Moldova.

  24. Tracy September 24, 2017 at 5:27 am - Reply

    How many UNESCO sites have you visited so far James? The painted monasteries definitely look like they are worth a visit! Beautiful photographs!

    • James Smith September 24, 2017 at 7:52 am - Reply

      I have visited so many UNESCO sites now, I’ve even visited sites I didn’t know were UNESCO until after I visited!

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