I must confess that before visiting Oradea, Romania I didn’t know much about the city: no history, no things to do in Oradea, nothing. I only remembered it is very near the border between Romania and Hungary.
When I was looking for a day trip from Cluj-Napoca, Oradea popped up in my mind as not the most obvious but definitely doable choice (it’s only a bit over 2 hours by train away). A few minutes into reading about the city I was sure this is one of the best places to visit in Romania. Suddenly I wanted to visit Oradea really badly.
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Short history of Oradea, Romania
Oradea (under its Latin name Varadinum) was located in this area already in the 11th century. The city was granted the diocese which significantly increased its importance in the region, and has been a burial place for numerous Hungarian kinds until the mid-15th century.
In the past Oradea belonged to the Kingdom of Hungary, Principality of Transylvania, the Ottoman Empire, the Habsburg Monarchy and eventually Romania.
The city developed and bloomed in the 18th century when the Viennese architect Franz Anton Hillebrandt rebuilt the city in the neo-Baroque style. Then, and in the upcoming years most of Oradea attractions were built.
In the past, the city was inhabited by Romanians, Hungarians, Jews, Slovaks, Germans, Italians, Gypsies, and more nationalities. This created a unique multicultural blend that you can still see and feel in Oradea.
Art nouveau in Oradea
Oradea is one of the most significant art nouveau cities in Europe and that’s actually one of the main reasons why I’ve decided to visit Oradea. The art nouveau heritage is so big that the city was included in the Art Nouveau European Route, together with cities like Subotica, Riga, Budapest or Tbilisi.
When walking around Oradea you will find lots of beautiful art nouveau buildings. But the most stunning one and one of the biggest Oradea highlights is “Vulturul Negru” Palace (“Black Eagle” Complex).
It was built at the beginning of the 20th century and consists of two symmetrical parts and beautiful passage in the middle – don’t miss walking through it, this is such a gem!
Other Oradea attractions
But you will find many more interesting spots in Oradea: baroque and eclectic architecture, a hundred churches, synagogues, parks… Oradea is also a home to the important fortress – the current look dates back to the 16th century.
The city and its attractions will definitely keep you busy for a day or two!
I wish I had more than just a few hours in Oradea. The city is really full of attractions, beautiful architecture, the old time’s charm and this great vibe that makes you want to stay there longer.
I was surprised that there were almost no tourists around during my trip to Oradea. It seems like the city is very much overlooked and under the shadow of its more popular Romanian destinations, like Sibiu, Brasov or Timisoara.
I’m sure that during my next trip to Romania I will include Oradea in my itinerary again – I really want to get to know the city better! And I’m sure more tourists will discover Oradea soon too, it’s hard to keep this gem a secret.
But today let me show you a few pictures that will hopefully make you want to visit Oradea too!
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