Maybe Sibiu’s German name – Hermannstadt – doesn’t sound romantic, this cute Romanian city could be easily listed as a place to spend your anniversary in. Whether you wander the lower town, with its pink, pastel walls and romantic, medieval arches, or you soak up some sun on one of the dynamic squares in upper town, Sibiu is good livin’!
Sibiu was founded in the 12th century by the Saxons and lies in the heart of Transylvania. Just like Brasov and other important Romanian cities in this region at the time, Sibiu was owned by these German immigrants and only some Romanians could live there under strict circumstances. Contrary to the tight laws on religion in other cities, the people of Sibiu were considered to be quite liberal and tolerant towards other religions. The town stayed mostly German until the end of the second World War, when most Germans moved out or because of deportations. Nowadays the German schools and shops still exist, although they are mostly run by Romanian citizens.
Fun fact: Romanian president Klaus Iohannis is from Sibiu. He was the city mayor for 4 terms and people admired him for reestablishing the economy for German and Austrian companies in Romania.
I came to Sibiu thinking I had already seen the important cities of Transylvania. I was wrong and I ended up staying longer than I had prepared for. The city has the allure of a modern day tourist attraction, yet I found it to be very quiet in mid-July. With a popular beach volley tournament going on, I often found myself almost alone sipping on a cocktail at one of the main terraces.
Being recently renovated Sibiu has everything a culture lover could ask for. Many museums and historic buildings, without the crowds and overpriced entrance fees. Below I’ve made a list for you to explore – and love – Sibiu as I did. Enjoy!
What to do in Sibiu
Although I would advise you just to get lost and explore Sibiu yourself, I’ve put together a list of must-see attractions in the city. Do yourself a favor and schedule in some wandering-around-time, the charm of Sibiu lies not in everything you can do there but life and the city itself.
The fun starts the moment you step off the train. A lot of train stations in Romania have open air train museum and almost every time it’s worth to pay it a short visit. This one on Sibiu station is no difference. Suitable for children and adults who like to explore old locomotives.
Tunnels, tunnels, tunnels
It’s easy to get lost in Sibiu. Especially when you take one of the many tunnels leading to squares or hidden streets. No problem, as the city is small enough to get back where you need to be in no time! Remember that famous saying? ‘Not all of those who wander are lost.’ So wander away!
Main square (Piata Mare)
Every medieval city has one: a large council square. Sit down at one of the many terraces for a refreshing lemonade or admire the beautiful buildings up close by walking all around it. In summer many activities are organized here, such as concerts, festivals and even sporting events.
The Astra Museum
A little outside of the town, but nonetheless very much worth visiting! The Astra museum – or village museum – hosts an incredible amount of old buildings where you can see how life was lived the in old days. The museum has an impressive amount of windmills and is located on a beautiful piece of land, forest included!
The small square (Piata Mica)
According to many locals, this is the place to be for great food and events! When I was there, I got a glimpse of Sibiu Sands, a beach volley tournament. I sat down at one of the many restaurants and enjoyed a morning of fresh coffee and sweaty men. Delicious!
Tip: Use the tunnels to get to the main square. Some might go to hidden places 😉
The Lower Town
The thing I love most about Sibiu is its romantic lower town where you can wander around for ages without seeing the same thing twice. And if you do, you just marvel at it from a different perspective. Photographers will love the arched paths around the citadel and the old wooden doors and windows of the narrow streets. The Lower Town is probably the best way to spend your evening, watching kids playing soccer or getting lost in a maze of historic houses.
The Bridge of Lies
A visit to Sibiu cannot be done without crossing the bridge of lies. The bridge connects the two sides of the small square and makes it possible to go from the lower side to the upper side of town. It’s also one of the most romantic places of Sibiu.
Different than the other museums in Sibiu and hosting a smaller exhibition, nonetheless it’s worth paying the pharmacy museum a visit! The first pharmacy was opened in Sibiu with many, many more to come.
Climb up the Council Tower
It takes you 141 steps to walk up the Council Tower but the view is worth it! From here you can see all over Sibiu and its surroundings. The tower itself was built in the 14th century and was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 1585 to be rebuild in the years following.
The arches in the lower town.
Named after the man responsible for bringing his huge collection of paintings – Samuel von Brukentahl – this museum now hosts an incredible collection of art. Brukentahl’s collection consists of many works from famous European painters, such as some of the Dutch and Flemish masters from the 15th to the 18th century. The museum also has a stamp cabinet, a Romanian art gallery and the Brukentahl library.
Lutheran Cathedral of Saint Mary
The most famous Gothic-style church in Sibiu and with its 73 meters, the tallest tower in Transylvania. The church was built in the 14th century, on the location of another, wooden church, built in the 12th century. This church is definitely one of the most impressive buildings in Sibiu. The little square around it hosts little farmers markets, perfect to buy regional products or chat with the friendly locals.
A simple, yet beautiful park in central Sibiu. Walk along the old walls and marvel at the historic towers you’ll pass on your route. Romanians love the park so be sure to relax on a bench and watch life go by.
Lutheran Cathedral of Saint Mary.
Where to eat in Sibiu
In Sibiu it’s all about location. Dine outside at the Atrium Classic Café, located on top of the Liars Bridge. Atrium has it all: excellent food, great staff and that romantic atmosphere you were looking for. This restaurant fills up completely during the evening, so be sure to claim your spot in time.
Piata Mica 16
Tango, located on top of the small square (Piata Mica), is the best way to overlook the entire square while nibbling on their delicious bruschetta.
Piata Mica 23
Hidden in the streets of the lower town you’ll find Old Lisbon, a great place for fresh seafood and everything you love from the Portuguese kitchen.
Strada Targul Pestelui 4
Dinner at Max is modern and very Romanian at the same time. They have everything a great grill restaurant should have, yet people are still smoking inside.
Strada Ocnei 22
Crama Sibiul Vechi is typically a restaurant to visit when craving ‘traditional’ Romanian food and they do it well! The portions are huge, so keep that in mind when ordering.
A.Papiu Ilarian 3
Where to sleep in Sibiu
€€€ Pensiunea Chic
€€€€ The Council*
I loved the garden at Pensiunea Chic.
How to get to Sibiu
Sibiu has its own airport, which is great when you have money to spend. Depending on the location of your departure (Germany would be great!), it’s not exactly cheap to fly there. But it is possible!
Daily trains go from Bucharest, Brasov, Cluj-Napoca (although no direct train available) and other cities in Romania. Not all trains are as comfortable. Especially the R-trains – which take ages and are very cheap – can get hot, hot, hot!
Estimated travel times
Brasov – Sibiu 2,5h (IR) to 4 (R)
Bucharest – Sibiu 5,5h (IR) to 8 (R)
Check out the timetables here.
Brasov – Sibiu 2,5 hours
Bucharest – Sibiu 4,5 hours
Cluj-Napoca – Sibiu 3 hours*
*estimated times are calculated by Google Maps. You should always check the current traffic situation.
Sibiu has great bus connections with Bucharest and Cluj-Napoca. From Cluj buses depart hourly and bus travel in Romania is usually comfortable and cheap.
Day trips from Sibiu
Although it will be hard at first, leaving Sibiu – for a short – while is one of the best things you can do! Here’s some inspiration for day trips and other kind of excursions.
The Transfagarasan highway is named the best road in the world by Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson. Last year I was lucky enough to see twice and since then I have been talking nonstop about it. A must go when you like mountains, spectacular views and scary heights!
On the way from Brasov to Sibiu, you’ll pass the town of Fagaras. Here you can explore the old citadel or admire the newer – bright golden – church located right next door. Hop back on the train when you’re done exploring, it’s that simple.
Read: A day in Fagaras
Another Saxon town, yet a lot smaller than Sibiu. Definitely fun for a day trip as it is wonderfully quiet and clean. The church area is especially interesting to see, even at night.
Read: A day in Mediaş
Source: Horia Varlan
A great historic town located in the depths of Transylvania. Alba Iulia isn’t usually a town you’d end up – there’s simply too much to see in Romania – but I’d advise to go and take a look when in the neighborhood. It’s not less beautiful than cities as Brasov or Mediaş.
Loved by many as it is one of the oldest towns in Transylvania, Sighisoara is definitely a must on your Romania travel itinerary!
Want to visit Sibiu?
Leave a comment below if you have any questions or recommendations! Have you been to Sibiu? Make sure to tag me in your travel photos on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook!
source top image: Andrew Colin
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