The fortress is situated in the city Alba Iulia and has become a symbol of the city and of Romanian history. Alba Iulia is a wonderful combination between new and old, between tradition and modernity. Only recently renovated, the fortress will take you through the major milestones of Romanian history.
How to get there
When should you visit?
In this case, it’s not so much about the season, but rather the time. You should arrive at the citadel before 12 o’clock, if possible, so you can witness the change of the guards. On Saturday the change of the guards is accompanied by 3 cannon shots. Excited?
A little bit of history
The citadel was built in the 18th century and it is one the biggest fortresses in Eastern Europe. It was constructed in Vauban style, and was used by the Habsburgs as a strategic fortress to protect against the Ottoman Empire. The current fortification was built on the ruins of a roman fortress (106 BC) and later a medieval fortress, called Balgrad (16th century). This city is also considered “the second capital” because of its significance in major historical events. The city has witnessed two unification, one in 1600, by Mihai Viteaza between Valachia, Moldova and Transylvania (indeed this one didn’t last too long), and the second one in 1918, on December 1st, when Transylvania and Banat officially united with the Romanian Kingdom. In order to symbolically solidify the union, the king and Queen Ferdinand and Maria were crowned king of Greater Romania in 1922 inside the citadel.
What should you visit?
The fortress is quite big, so you can start wondering around the beautiful restored streets, where will witness the watchmen riding around on horses. The citadel provides a very authentic feeling, so let yourself be taken in by the very unique atmosphere surrounding you.
There are many important monuments that you can see inside the fortress.
Visit the Gates
There are 3 gates that offered access to the fortress. The gates, constructed in baroque style, are beautifully decorated with statues, depicting ancient heroes and heroic fights from the Austrian-Ottoman wars.
The Unification Muzeum
This is one of the most important historic, archaeological and ethnographic museums in Romania. It was opened in 1988 and contains two important buildings: one is the Babilon building and the second one “Sala Unirii” (Unification Hall), where the declaration of Union between Transylvania and Romania, was signed. The resolution of the union is engraved into the walls of the Hall.
It was founded in 1798 and was originally a monastery. Its Thesaurus is represented by the original collection of its founder, the catholic bishop Batthyany Ignac.
The Orthodox Cathedral “Holy Trinity”
This cathedral is a symbol of the Romanian nation. Although recently constructed (1922) it has hosted the coronation of the first king and queen of Romania, Ferdinand and Maria.
The catholic Cathedral “Mihai Viteazu”
This is maybe the most valuable monument inside of the citadel. This Cathedral was built between 1247-1291. It hosts elements of Gothic, renascence and baroque architecture. Inside,you can find the tomb of a Transylvanian Governor, Iancu de Hunedoara (1456).
In addition to the above mentioned sights, you can admire other small monuments along your walk through the citadel:
- Obelisk of Horia, Closca and Crisan (memorial of the 1848 revolution), the spot offers alsoa beautiful view over the city
- Statue of Mihai Viteaza (by Oscar Han, dating from 1968)
- Excavation of the roman ruins, legion 13 Germina
If you need a bite to eat…
If all that waking around has made you hungry, you’re in luck, there are some pretty great traditional restaurants inside the citadel. The prices are modest and the settings are nice. Most of the restaurants want to preserve the authentic spirit of the fortress. I can recommend PUB 13 Medieval Restaurant. I somehow manage to eat there every time I visit Alba Iulia. The restaurant is situated close to the 3ed Gate,next to Horia, Closca and Crisan Obelisk. It has a medieval setting, good beer and wine and authentic decorations that would please even a critical eye. If you want to have a nice cold drink for those hot summer days, then grab a beer at the many teases inside the citadel (the prices are kind off all the same anyways).
I hope you will enjoy your journey and let me know your thoughts and questions in the comment box below. In case you are curious what else you can visit in Transylvania, than read my article on the best things to do and see around here!