Mamaia – the Pearl on the Romanian Black Sea Coast
Long sandy beaches, crystal clear water, and restaurants, bars, and stores as far as the eye can see… No, we’re not talking about any generic summer destinations you may be thinking of right now. This article is about Mamaia, a district of Constanța and both the oldest and the most popular resort on the Romanian Black Sea. We’ll show you all there is to see and do in this hidden treasure of a vacation spot. But first, we’ll share some general information about Mamaia.
Mamaia in a Nutshell
Mamaia lies on a strip of land that’s only 8 km in length and 300 m in width, directly between the Black Sea and Lake Siutghiol. As a consequence, most hotels, especially those in the northern part, are close to the beach. Hotels are available at all price points, from mediocre accommodations to top-notch four- and five-star establishments. For those of you who prefer camping, there’s a campground in the north. The coast at Mamaia is made up of bright, fine sand. Here, the beaches slope gently into the sea, making them a favorite among families with children. Next to the beaches, there is a promenade with various restaurants, cafés, ice-cream parlors, and other stores, as well as banks, post offices, and pharmacies.
The district of Mamaia is characterized by a humid subtropical climate, resulting in cool winters and warm summers that rarely exceed 32 °C. Consequently, the water also stays warm until at least mid-autumn. Bathing season lasts from June to the end of August. During this period, the average daily temperatures range from 25 to 30 °C. The season usually ends in the beginning of September; at this point, recreational activities decrease noticeably as well. There is no post season, and most restaurants, bars, and stores are only open during the aforementioned peak season.
Mamaia experienced its heyday in the 1960s to the 1980s. For tourists from Eastern Europe, the Romanian Black Sea coast was one of the few opportunities to experience a summer vacation by the seaside with consistently warm weather and good bathing possibilities. Because of its relatively low prices, Mamaia was also discovered by Western tour operators and offered as a package holiday resort starting in the mid-1960s. Unfortunately, this period of prosperity didn’t last long, neither for Mamaia nor the entire tourism industry as a whole. After the Romanian Revolution of 1989, the number of tourists from abroad declined rapidly, and so did the money that would have been needed to further develop this region. Nowadays, more than 90% of the tourists here are Romanians.
Sights and Activities in Mamaia
If you travel to Mamaia, you won’t have to compete with many other tourists from abroad for the best sunbed, that’s for sure! It also means that you’ll be spoiled for choice in terms of sights and activities, respectively. Without further ado, let’s look at the highlights in and around Mamaia.
Hotel “Internațional“, a.k.a. “Rex”
This once luxurious hotel was one of the first buildings to be erected in Mamaia. In 1936, the King of Romania, Carol II, commissioned the architect, George Matei Cantacuzino, to build him a royal residence. Later on, it was converted into a hotel by the name of “International.” After the Revolution of 1989, it was privatized and renamed “Rex” to show its historical significance. It was a hotel par excellence, with golden interior decorations, bellhops, luxury restaurants, and its own private beach. Unfortunately, a fire completely destroyed the building in 2011, and it has been in need of renovation ever since. Thus, it perfectly represents Mamaia – and Romania as a whole. A beautiful place full of potential that isn’t utilized fully, if at all, due to corruption, incompetence, and sheer bad luck.
Telegondola in Mamaia
In our opinion, there is no better way to view the beaches of Mamaia and Lake Siutghiol than from a gondola. This modern cable car was opened in 2004, connecting the water park Aqua Magic with the central part of the Mamaia resort. The route is 2.2 km long and runs at an altitude of 50 m. It usually takes about 10 minutes for the trip. However, it’s quite expensive with 20 RON per ride. Then again, you can’t put a price on spectacular views and memorable experiences.
Mamaia Beach and Lake Siutghiol
As mentioned before, the vast sandy beaches are perfect for families with children. There are showers, toilets, and changing rooms. You can rent sunbeds and umbrellas, and there are many beach bars offering both drinks and snacks. In summer, lifeguards watch over the beach. Additionally, there are numerous sports and recreational opportunities in Mamaia. Of course, these include typical water sports such as windsurfing, jet skiing, waterskiing, and diving, but playing tennis and paragliding are also possible here.
In the east, the side facing away from the Black Sea, is the Lake Siutghiol. It is about 7.5 kilometers long and 2.5 kilometers wide. Since there is no swell, the lake is ideal for various water sports (except surfing, of course). You can go waterskiing or try windsurfing, especially if you are a beginner, as it isn’t as difficult as out on the open sea.
The Exiled Poet
According to legend, the Roman Emperor Augustus banished the Roman poet Publius Ovidius Naso to an island in the middle of Lake Siutghiol in the year 8 A.D. The cause of his banishment was a poem by the name of Ars amatoria. The poem was a thorn in the sight of Augustus, who was very concerned with the restoration of the traditional Roman notions of marriage and family. In a different text, Ovid hints at another reason for his banishment: He had “seen something that he was not allowed to see”. Most researchers assume that he was a confidant in the adulterous affair of Augustus’ granddaughter, Iulia. However, the real reason is still unknown. Nowadays, there is a statue of him in Constanța, where he spent the last eight years of his life.
This modern water park was opened in 2003 and is located at the southern entrance of Mamaia. There are several thematic zones for you to splash around in. A large water playground with slides, numerous smaller pools, and bubble baths await children. Adults can enjoy larger swimming pools, a jacuzzi, a 50-meter-long river, and long slides with funny names such as Mega Pipe, Twister, Kamikaze, Turbo Slide, or Black Hole. Throughout the day, the park’s staff will entertain you with music, shows, and competitions. The park boasts numerous terraces, bars, and restaurants where you can enjoy a variety of drinks, ice cream, snacks, sweets, and meals. On certain days of the week, the fun doesn’t end even after the sun has gone down. Well-known Romanian artists perform concerts, the terraces are open non-stop, and the water installations run late into the night.
“Satul de Vacanţă“ and Luna Park
Originally, Satul de Vacanţă (Holiday Village) was a complex of restaurants that would bring together the culinary specialties of Romania’s provinces. Over time, a lot of other restaurants, terraces, shopping galleries, and souvenir stalls of all kinds were added. Thus, Satul de Vacanţă has become a multipurpose, colorful place where tourists can stroll, shop, or eat various dishes. One of the most popular dishes is fried anchovies complemented by a pint of beer.
The main attraction of Satul de Vacanţă is Luna Park, an amusement park with colorful lights and games. Plenty of rides will take you on an adrenaline-filled adventure. There are trains and carousels for the little ones, but also thrilling rides for grown-ups. This amusement park offers attractions such as a roller coaster, a gravity tower, a bowling alley, and a miniature golf course. There is also a shooting range and a driving simulator. If you like to admire the surroundings from high up, there is a Ferris wheel, granting you an amazing view of Mamaia and Constanța.
You definitely have to visit this place full of joy when you are in Mamaia.
Whether you’re looking for relaxation, watery fun, or party and adventure, you’ll absolutely get your money’s worth in Mamaia. It may have lost its splendor of the past, but it’s still the perfect place for travelers, no matter if you’re a local or from abroad, to spend a wonderful summer vacation.
It’s true that Mamaia is the most popular seaside resort, but it’s only a small part of the Romanian Black Sea coast. Read our article about Constanța – Romania’s Gateway to the Black Sea to learn more about this diverse city. What are you waiting for? Pack your suitcase and set out for Mamaia!