I remember how much I was freaking out before my first trip to Romania, in 2010. It was the fear of the unknown as back then I didn’t know all that much about the country that for some reason didn’t have a good reputation anyway. I fell for the stereotype as well but within first few hours I changed my mind drastically and enjoyed every place I’ve visited (maybe except of Bran castle, that was already too artificial and touristy).
One of the places I’ve liked the most during that trip was Sibiu. I liked it so much that during my recent trip to Romania I’ve decided to visit Sibiu again to remind myself how amazing the city was. And this time I liked it even more!
Table of contents
- 1 Short history of Sibiu, Romania
- 2 Arriving to Sibiu
- 3 Sibiu – one of the most charming places you will ever see
- 4 Things to do in Sibiu
- 5 Is it worth to visit Sibiu?
- 6 Pictures of Sibiu, Romania
Short history of Sibiu, Romania
The town was founded in the 12th century as the home for German settlers in Transylvania. Already two centuries later it was an important trade center with 19 guilds. It quickly became the main German city in Transylvania, known as the Eastern-most place with the Western European culture.
The Romanian population became important here in 18th century, with numerous institution and Metropolitan seat operating in the city. After the World War 1 and collapse of Austria-Hungary Sibiu became part of Romania, still with a big German and Hungarian population. Even the current president of Romania, Klaus Johannis, is one of the Transylvanian Germans from Sibiu!
Arriving to Sibiu
During my recent trip to Romania I used Cluj Napoca as the transportation hub. This main city in Transylvania is served by few good airlines from numerous destinations all over Europe and chances you will find a very good deal there are really high. I flew from Bratislava, Slovakia and back to Berlin, Germany for only 10€/one way.
From Cluj Napoca you can choose either a bus or train to travel to Sibiu, both take around 4 hours but there are many more buses to choose from. Now don’t make my mistake and if possible get your ticket for the journey beforehand. I was blissfully stupid (or maybe it was due to the early morning flight?) and I didn’t think that the bus on Friday at 12:30 before the long weekend might be sold out.
What happened after I arrived to the bus station was a huge mess that I didn’t really follow: tens of people trying to squeeze in the small room were two ticket offices were located and then trying to push their way to the ticket window. Once I somehow manage to get to the window, 2 minutes before the bus departure time, I calmly asked for the ticket to Sibiu.
The girl looked at me with the amused face but told me to wait and run somewhere. Few moments later she was back, sold me the ticket quickly and told me to run to the bus as it’s just departing. I didn’t have time to put my backpack in the luggage space, I took the last available seat just behind the driver and we left for the trip to Sibiu.
4 hours by bus is a bit but with my panoramic view through the front widow I enjoyed it to the fullest. The Romanian countryside is the prettiest, with rolling hills, picturesque villages and fortified towns, such as Alba Iulia.
Sibiu – one of the most charming places you will ever see
From the train and bus stations that are located next to each other it’s only a short walk to the center. Very quickly you will understand why Sibiu was named the 8th most idyllic place to live in Europe.
Sibiu looks like taken straight from the fairy tale and is also among the prettiest, cutest and most charming towns I’ve ever seen (and yes, I know I shouldn’t say a town about a place of some 150.000 inhabitants but that’s how the Sibiu feels).
Things to do in Sibiu
Houses with eyes
I bet few minutes into walking you might feel a bit uncomfortable, like someone is constantly watching you. Look up and you will see why.
Sibiu is known as the city where houses have eyes. The peculiar mix of German and Hungarian influence in Sibiu resulted in the special kind of architecture where there is a small window built at the attic, for cooling purposes. Some of these houses were built even in the 15th century!
The result is terrific, like the house is alive and is looking at you. Some sources say they were make like that to make people feel fear. After a while you get used to that feeling and will actually appreciate this quirky style that makes Sibiu so special.
Wandering around Sibiu’s upper and lower town
Sibiu is a perfect place to wander around. The colorful houses and the winding lanes make it so pleasant to walk purposelessly and even get lost from time to time. That’s how I spent the majority of my time when visiting Sibiu. I just walked and walked and walked, here and there, taking random streets left or right and falling for every single corner.
The city is divided into upper and lower town and while similar I found them to be also slightly different, especially when it comes to vibe. The upper town with the central Piata Mare is more neat and well-organized while the lower town has this edgy vibe.
If you compare it to Prague it would be like the Old Town and Zizkov. Both parts are equally great and it takes only a short walk via stairs on Strada Turnului or Pasajul Scalirol to experience both places yourself.
Piata Mare – the heart of Sibiu
Piata Mare is the heart of the city with numerous cafes and restaurants where, on a warm day, you can sit outside and watch people go by (or watch pretty houses that watch people).
That’s also where you can find Brukenthal Museum – the oldest museum in Romania with over a thousand paintings by some well known artists. During my visit the square hosted a botanical market so it was busier than usual but that made it even more interesting.
But Piata Mare isn’t the only important square in the center of Sibiu. Actually there are two more, just few steps away, both located next to each other.
Piata Huet is where you will find the Evangelical Lutheran Cathedral, one of the main sights in the city. While you’re there be sure to go inside as it’s really beautiful! You can also go to the tower to admire the view of the city and surroundings – unfortunately I didn’t do it as when I reached the cathedral ready to climb all these stairs they were closing it earlier, ready to prepare it for the concert later that day.
Piata Mica – my fave square in Sibiu
Of all the Sibiu squares I enjoyed the third one, Piata Mica, the most. Piata Mare might be a bit too busy, Piata Huet is overwhelming by the cathedral and Piata Mica feels just perfect.
It’s not too big but also not too small, it’s surrounded by even more colorful houses with the eyes and even if it has some cafes and restaurants around, always full of people, it still doesn’t feel like too much. The place is simply cozy and welcoming, perfect to relax a bit after all the walking around.
You can get a glimpse of the square, the red rooftops, the rest of the city and beyond from the Council Tower, connecting Piata Mica with Piata Mare (the entrance is from the side of the smaller square). It’s not too high but enough to get you out of breath when going up. Fortunately the view is worth it! On the downside – you admire the city and the landscape around through the window that might not be the cleanest…
Another place you shouldn’t miss on Piata Mica is the Liar’s Bridge – the first iron bridge that has ever been built in Romania (in 1859, you can see the date written on the bridge). There are three legends connected to the bridge’s name, all of them involve it either as a lie detector or the death place for liars. To be on the safe side: don’t say any lies when crossing the bridge!
Cafe culture in Sibiu
Like any other city with a strong Austria-Hungary legacy, to my utter joy, Sibiu is big on the cafe scene.
The most typical place, resembling the old times, is Cafe Wien. It looks like moved here straight from Vienna and is a cousin of the famous Cafe Hawelka, with small round tables, classic wooden chairs and plushy sofas. If this didn’t convince you to visit then the view should. While the place is big but rather claustrophobic inside the outdoors terrace offers amazing view of the lower town.
But Sibiu has some more modern cafes to visit too! My faves were The Refresh, Pardon Cafe and Hug the Mug but there are so many more options to choose from!
Hidden yards of Sibiu
But the real reason why Sibiu has stole my heart were yards, hidden from the looks of passers-by. Only a gate divides these two world that often couldn’t be any more different.
While the main streets are busy with crowds walking by the life in the yards goes slowly. Some of them hide houses that you enter through a balcony or small gardens the locals made for themselves, others host bars and restaurants. Each yard seems to have a soul and a different story behind it.
As the person who has a soft spot for yards I couldn’t help my curiosity and I walked through every single gate I saw open. Seeing these charming microcosm was when I changed my perception of Sibiu.
It’s not only one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe, kind of like the living open-air museum. It’s the actual, authentic city, so beautiful it hurts.
ASTRA – the largest open-air museum in Europe
Speaking of open-air museums – there’s one in Sibiu, located some 3kms away from the center. It’s called ASTRA and it’s known as one of the largest museums of that kind in Europe. I heard only good things about it but I can say nothing about it as I’ve never made it there, even if I planned too. The colorful center just sucked me in too much…
Is it worth to visit Sibiu?
You can visit Sibiu in one afternoon only – that’s what I did when I was in the city for the first time. That should be enough to see all the attractions of Sibiu.
But you can as well spend some more time there, just like I did the second time, and enjoy Sibiu – one of the best cities in Romania – to the fullest. Wander aimlessly around at the slow pace, walk not only the main streets but also some random lanes in the back, sit down for a coffee or three, relax and feel the vibrant atmosphere of the city.
After visiting Sibiu and getting to know the city better I really see why it was named one of the top idyllic places to live in. It’s simply too good and too pretty to be true! If you’re looking for charming yet vibrant and beautiful yet fascinating place to visit Sibiu is your answer!
Pictures of Sibiu, Romania
And if I haven’t convinced you enough here are more pictures proving how beautiful Sibiu is!
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