Ever wanted to experience Transylvania? See the well-kept medieval cities, surrounded from all sides by mountains and forests? Well, what great place to start your adventure other than Sibiu, Romania. From my conversations with different people, I believe that many want to visit this eastern-European gem. Somehow, I can tell that they think it’s something almost exotic to visit Transylvania – known as the house of Dracula. Even though Dracula doesn’t really live there, or exist to be honest, the atmosphere that Transylvania emanates offers a feeling of the supernatural. And I guess that’s how Bram Stoker got his inspiration. Anyway, going back to Sibiu, I want to offer you some inspiring reasons to why you should start your Transylvanian adventure here, in a city at the gates of Transylvania.
Interesting facts about Sibiu:
1292: The first Romanian hospital is built
1380: The first Romanian school opens
1494: The inauguration of the first Romanian pharmacy
1717: The first Romanian beer factory
1989: The second city in Romania that stood up against communism
2007: European Capital of Culture
So many reasons to visit Sibiu!
Yep, there are. And what I love about exploring different cities is that some of the reasons are never the same. In Malmö for example, we find science fiction architecture combined with a taste of multiculturalism. And in Sibiu, there are these amazing reasons that will make you take the first plane and visit this bohemian town!
Check out these other interesting activities in and around Sibiu:
1. Medieval Town
You know, some cities modernise their appearance as time goes by. But Sibiu still holds on to its medieval look even today. When I walk on the small streets that make up the old town, explore the ruins of an old stronghold and enjoy watching tired houses still standing, I feel like I am back in the Middle Ages.
Former Guild houses have been carefully restored and their coat of arms remains a symbol of their past value. And in the middle of all stands the gorgeous Lutheran Cathedral, with its impressive gothic architecture.
Even though Sibiu has expanded considerably over the years, its kernel remains the same as it was hundreds of years ago. Ok, well, plus some nice terraces & restaurants to enjoy the view. But who’s gonna mind, when they see the beauty of a former Transylvanian citadel still lasting.
2. Architecture with eyes!
Have you ever seen houses with eyes? Me either. Or at least not until I visited Sibiu for the very first time.
This peculiar architectural style has its roots from the Middle Ages, when people couldn’t leave their goods in the basement due to the high moisture. And what did people think: well, why not move the food in the attic? So, experienced carpenters carved these roof elements and integrated them in each house. They were like the “lungs” of houses, breathing in fresh air from the outside in order to keep fresh goods.
Nowadays, these eyes are the symbol of the city and it is a MUST see when visiting Sibiu. And be seen by them. Kinda creepy, right?
3. 2007 European Capital of Culture
I believe that for a long time, Eastern-Europe has been perceived as a no-touristic place for travellers. But everything changed after the 2007 European Capital of Culture Elections, that chose Sibiu together with Luxembourg as the two cities bearing this title. It was for the first time in history when a city in Eastern Europe received such a title.
It brought Sibiu the necessary funds and acknowledgements to finally be on tourist destinations. I was so happy that finally people started noticing Romania on the map and perhaps change their perception of this culturally rich country. It gave Sibiu the incentive it needed to transform into the fairytale city it is today.
Yep, Sibiu has LOTS of them. And as a traveller, I love experiencing the city’s culture, life & traditions in this way. And it is thanks to the above mentioned 2007 European Capital of Culture honorific title. Since then, Festivals around & in Sibiu boomed. And to be fair, I haven’t seen so many things going on in other small cities such as Sibiu.
Let’s see. The most popular and also my favourite festival of them: The International Theatre Festival. This one brings together a lot of Romanian & international groups that over a period of around 2 weeks in the month of June keep Sibiu alive with their performances. Just look at these pictures taken by a good friend of mine Alvaro Tellez. He also has a blog and you can check him out here and on instagram as @alvaro.jpg. So thanks again for letting me share your gorgeous pics!
And another festival I’ve been to had to do with gastronomy! FOOD! More precise: traditional FOOD. You know those street food festivals, where you buy only fast food for extremely high prices? At this festival, you could eat only traditionally cooked food at extremely low prices. 2 € and you got yourself a tasty meal!
And for the pottery lovers, here is another event: the annual pottery market. This one takes place in the first weekend of September, where a lot of talented, creative pottery-makers fill up the big square in the old town of Sibiu. Here you can get to look at their peculiar creations, while at the same time find yourself a souvenir to pack for your way back home. Have you ever seen such amazing creations?
5. ASTRA: Ethnocultural open-air museum
Last but not least, if you are a history nerd and love experiencing the way people used to live back in the days, ASTRA museum is a pretty good reason for you to visit Sibiu. When one thinks about a museum one thinks of an inside space filled with relics and other objects. What makes ASTRA museum stand out is the fact that it combines a huge park with numerous lanes that lead you to different century old houses. It is almost like walking through a long-forgotten village of the 17th-19th century.
These houses are open for visitors and keep an atmosphere similar to the time they were constructed. Remember the article about von Echstedtska manor, where I described it as a place where you can go back in time? These houses offer you a similar experience, however they show you a different side of the story. Whereas von Echstedtska shows how rich people used to live, these houses show you how normal people, mostly peasants, endured their daily life. No fancy beds or kitchen filled with different utensils. Only basic, plain objects that could help them survive another day.
Also, ASTRA museum is one of the biggest open-air museums in Romania, which houses around 400 types of historical dwellings, gathered from all regions of the country. One thing I really like about this place is that it is all the time lively, having different events going on throughout the year. One of them is the gastronomical festival I told you about in the previous paragraphs. Perhaps you will encounter one of these as well when you’ll visit!
When to visit Sibiu?
I think Sibiu is beautiful no matter the season, but as in all other places, the best time to be here is during summer or winter. As I mentioned above, a lot of these festivals happen during summertime, while in winter Sibiu transforms into Santa Claus’s home.
BUT, I would definitely recommend the off-season period as well, as there are not so many tourists around to overcrowd the city. Finally no-people-in-pictures time!
I absolutely love this city; its people, architecture and life. In its own uniqueness, it has succeeded into being European Capital of Culture in 2007, making Romania more visible on the world map. And what I find incredible is that even after so many years, Sibiu still kept a lot of its medieval elements & atmosphere alive. And above all, who would get bored living in a continuous festival? Now, do you need more reasons to visit? I guess not.