I propose to you a different weekend trip, this time: an escape to the medieval town of Sibiu, in the heart of Transylvania. Sibiu is a small town, not overcrowded with tourists, where you can enjoy a quite walk through history. You can visit Sibiu on your own, without a guide, and you would need probably one day for it. However its surroundings are very impressive as well and would require of you a couple of additional days. If you enjoy agro-tourism, then this is the place to be!
Stroll along the narrow, medieval streets, discover hidden passages, the oldest restaurant in Romania, the guild towers, the glaring ‘eyes’ of the old houses and the bridge of lies. Are you intrigued? I can guide you through this beautiful city.
A little bit of history…
Sibiu was one of the 7 fortresses (in German : Sieben Stuhle) of Transylvania. The current German name of Transylvania is ‘Siebenburgen’, which indicates the original medieval administration system of the Transylvanian Saxons. During the medieval times, Sibiu was organized in guilds, which where contributing to the socio-economic development of the region. Originally there where 13 active guilds(professions), which grow over time to 29 guilds in the 16th century. A lot of the current street names, kept the original connotation of the names of the guilds (‘Strada Croitorilor’ – ‘Tailor street’ , ‘Strada Macelarilor’ – ‘Butchers street’).
How to get to Sibiu
Sibiu has an international airport, so you can choose to flight in. However the airport is quite small and a bit expensive, hence the cost of tickets might be high. A better option would be to flight in to Cluj- Napoca, take the chance to see another beautiful Romanian city in Transylvania, rent a car and drive to Sibiu. In Romania, renting a car is your best option, as the trains are not so efficient. A car also helps you to get out of the cities more easily and explore the breathtaking surroundings, which should be half the reason why you are there. You can rent a car here and choose in which city you want to return it. There is no need that the pick-up city matches the return city.
Another option to get from Cluj-Napoca to Sibiu (or Bucharest to Sibiu) is by bus. Usually the bus from Cluj-Napoca takes about 3 hours to get to Sibiu which is quite reasonable. There are multiple bus lines that offer this journey and you can heck them out here. Bucharest Sibiu bus line is a different story: it can go as fast as 5 hours, or if you are unlucky with the traffic, then it can last much much longer. You can check bus schedules here, and decide for yourself.
Price/quality wise, I would advise renting a car, you will definitely need it in one form or another.
Best time to visit Sibiu
Sibiu has it’s particularities all year round! My favorite time is spring, summer and autumn, as you have so much nature around and you can take bike trips, or walks outside of Sibiu, in the beautiful surroundings. If you want to combine pleasure with exercise I would recommend these bike routes. You will see a lot of unique places with virtually no cost. In the summer Sibiu hosts also the international theater festival and the medieval festival, when the streets are filled with spectacle and music. You will definitely enjoy it!
In winter you can see the city come to live with beautiful Christmas decoration, There is a very nice Christmas market in Sibiu, which is inspired by the traditional Viennese Christmas Markets, but without the crowds.
What should you visit in Sibiu?
You can easily spend here 2-3 hours and add maybe one hour lunch, at a traditional Romanian restaurant.
This museum is one of the largest open air museum in Romania. Stretched over 96 hectares, it is a living ode to Romanian tradition and culture. The museum is home to traditional houses from all regions of Romania. The houses are constructed in conformity to their original architecture and using original materials. It is also a beautiful nature walk, as the museum is located in a small forest at the outskirts of Sibiu, called ‘Dumbrava’ forest. Within the museum there is also a lake where you can take a boat ride, when the whether is nice. The museum is open from 9:00-17:00 and the cost of a ticket is 17 Lei ( 3.6 EUR). You can find more information here.
If you decided to spend the whole morning there (who can blame you, because it’s really beautiful!), you can also enjoy some traditional Romanian food, served with joy at one of the two restaurants in the museum premises:
- Craciuma din Batrani : this is a restaurant for warmer days, as the setting is outside. The pavilion is beautiful and the food is very good (the traditional appetizer plate is very good!). If it is crowded, the service can be sometimes slow. The prices are decent.
- Hanul din Tulghes: This rustic restaurant serves amazing the food and has great service. The prices are moderate, but well worth it and the spare ribs are cooked after a traditional recipe, and taste like nothing you have eaten before.
After an enjoyable walk through the Astra museum, let’s return to the city center. The ‘Large Square’ – Piata Mare, is the best known spot in Sibiu. The square dates back to 1366, and was designated as an architectural monument by UNESCO. Historically the square was used as an assembly place and a trading place. Even some executions used to happen in the ‘large Square’. The square is surrounded by old historic buildings, including the Old town Hall, the Catholic Church ‘Holy Trinity’ (dating back to the 18th century), the Brukenthal museum and the Tower of the Council, are the most important ones.
The Tower of the Council (Turnul Sfatului)
The tower dates back to the 18th century and played different roles in history. It was used as an entry gate, as corn warehouse, as an observation tower, even as a prison and later as a museum of natural history, in the 19th century. Today it houses varies art exhibitions and can be used also as a panoramic viewing point over the whole city of Sibiu.
The Brukenthal museum
The Brukenthal museum is the first museum that opened, in Central and Eastern Europe. The museum unites under his wing an art gallery and a library, housing one of the most valuable collection of Barroc painting from Center and Eastern Europe. The museum is closed on both Monday and Tuesday, on any other day it is open between 9:00- 17:00. The entry price is 20 Lei (4.2 EUR).
There is also a possibility to buy a combo ticket for 45 Lei (10 EUR), which encompasses an entry to Brukenthal Museum, the History Museum, the Natural history museum, the Pharmacy Museum and the Modern Art museum.
The Small Square
The small Square is the a popular place for going out and enjoying nightlife in Sibiu. It is also filled with nice terraces, where you can sip a coffee or a white spritzer during warm summer days. You can also take a walk over the ‘Bridge of Lies’, but you have to tell the truth! Legend has it, that the bridge will bring every liar to his knees, so I wouldn’t take a chance… (Should have made my ex cross that bridge, but I’m afraid it would have collapsed 😀 …).
The stairs passage (Pasajul Scarilor)
The stairs passage was built in the 14th century and was a passage that connected the downside of the town, with the upper part of the town. It was part of the fortification belt of Sibiu, in the medieval times. It’s an idyllic place, where paved with terraces and small shops. You will enjoy the walk there.
The main attraction of the Square is the Evangelic Cathedral, constructed in Gothic style between the years 1371 – 1520. You can walk up the tower of the church (which is much higher than the Tower of Council) and enjoy a beautiful panoramic view over the city and its surroundings. In the church yard houses one of the oldest school in Romania, the national colleague Samuel von Brukenthal, which was founded in the 13th– 14th century, first time mentioned in 1380.
Orthodox Cathedral ‘Holy Trinity’
This beautiful church is constructed in a miniature scale of the St Sofia Cathedral from Constantinople (Istanbul). The church has beautiful colored paintings inside, vibrant in color, typical of the orthodox style cathedrals.
Parcul Sub Arini
The park measures 22 hectares and is home to 61 species of trees, the oldest dating back 150 years. The park is prefect for an afternoon walk.
Oldest restaurant in Romania
After a full day, you must be for sure hungry. If you want to combine a traditional Romanian meal with a bit of history then Butoiul de Aur Restaurant is the perfect place for this. The building is constructed in 1542 with tick stoned walls and decorated in medieval style of the 14th century.
The oldest hotel-restaurant is also located in Sibiu. ‘Imparatul Romanilor’ (‘Beim römischem Kaiser’) has received along the years numerous well known guests, including the emperor of Austria Josef II, Johann Strauss. Ferdinand, prince of Romania, Princess Maria, Mihai Eminescu, our national poet.
I hope that you will fall in love with this beautiful city from Transylvania, because I also have a personal attachment to it. But your journey is not yet concluded. You cannot miss these beautiful surrounding of Sibiu. You can also combine activity and adventure with sightseeing and travel sustainable through this amazing regions. Let me know in the comments if this article was helpful.