Former European cultural capital, Sibiu should be a top priority for any tourist planning a trip to Romania! It is the living proof of Transylvania's medieval architecture, and in the same time is a vibrant, modern city, proudly carrying its German heritage. Without a doubt, Sibiu is comparable with any other landmark in Europe, being listed as the 8th most idyllic place in the world by Forbes Magazine. As for me, 2017 is already the fifth consecutive year I travel to Sibiu, so I kind of have a good back-up when I say this: it is definitely among the best cities to visit in Europe!
Before getting to know this fabulous city, you have to understand a little bit about its 900-year history.
It has been settled at the end of the 12th century by a group of German colonists. It quickly became the most important economic center of Transylvania.
Sibiu is the first city in all Romanian territories to open a hospital, a pharmacy, a library, a museum, a restaurant, a beer factory, a bank with 100% Romanian capital, and many more.
It was the European cultural capital in 2007. The city was already nice, but what has been done to prepare this international event is absolutely amazing: one of the most beautiful city in Romania turned into a top European destination!
Take my word for it: Barcelona, Vienna, Prague, Rome, Florence, Budapest, Lisbon and... Sibiu! So do read further if you resonate with my list of top cities in Europe!
Sibiu International Airport directly connects the city with a few airports in Italy and Germany, as well as London, Vienna or Madrid. There is no flight from Bucharest yet, but for me that's no issue.
I always happily drive on the 250-km road between Bucharest and Sibiu. If I'm in hurry, I go straight and need maximum 4 hours. If not, I love stopping from time to time, especially on the Olt Valley - a 1-line road guarded by tall mountains on one side and the old, beautiful Olt river on the other. Landscapes and nature in this area are too gorgeous not to see them, at least once in a lifetime...
Up until today, Sibiu has kept its medieval charm, with literally every single sqm of the city center reminding of the German legacy:
The Great Square, established in 1366, where main outdoor events always took place - from political gatherings to public executions and nowadays fairs, exhibitions and concerts.
The cozier Little Square (1370), where craftsmen used to expose their merchandise - a habit still preserved today at the many traditional events held in Sibiu throughout one year.
The Bridge of Lies - Romania's first iron bridge. According to the legend, the bridge should move when someone lies and break when the lie is too big. It is also said that merchants who cheated their customers were publicly humiliated under the bridge.
Huet Square - the most "German" place in the city, where the first fortifications were built by 1200 A.D.
The Stairs' Passage connecting the Upper Town described above to the Lower Town - a fine network of narrow streets and small squares, where more crafts used to be developed.
The Fortress Street - astonishing for the old, beautifully colored houses on one side, and the fortress towers on the other side still standing tall today.
The Council Tower in the Great Square - Sibiu's iconic symbol and the tallest site, ofering a lovely 360-panorama over the city and Fagaras Mountains in the background.
The Brukenthal Museum, also in the Great Square - the oldest in the country and one of the first opened in Europe, by 1817; it houses over 1200 works from the main European schools of painting between 15th and 18th century, making it the second best museum of Romania.
The Evangelical Cathedral (Huet Square) - another opportunity to climb on the roof of Sibiu, this time on a much complicated, challenging way up.
The Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral - the 2nd largest of the country, inspired by the famous Hagia Sophia from Istanbul.
Museum of Natural History - the most visited of the city, containing over one million objects from all over the world (plants and animals from different eras and families).
Pharmacy Museum - housed in the oldest pharmacy of the country (opened in 1494), it displays a collection of 6600 items used during the development of this domain throughout the entire country.
Cultural life in Sibiu is probably the most diversified in our country! The atmosphere created by locals is exactly why Sibiu is such a sought after destination. Apart from the outstanding landmarks, they have put together a string of events nowhere else to be seen in Romania! 2017 offers no exception:
4 nice day trips are available starting from Sibiu:
Visit ASTRA Museum of Traditional Folk Civilization - the 2nd largest open-air museum in the world, the perfect opportunity to see typical buildings from all over the country, in merely 3 hours, all in one place.
Drive through Marginimea Sibiului - 18 fabulous villages or small towns, very close to Sibiu, each of them with its unique set of customs and traditions still preserved nowadays. Most of these revolve around sheperding, but that's not all: it is one of the fewest places in Romania where locals still wear traditional costumes on a daily basis! A few museums, churches, citadels and memorial houses are worth to explore, the most interesting being the one dedicated to glass-painted icons in Sibiel.
I recommend the following road trip:
Sibiu - Brezoi (70 km, 1h15min), at the middle of the Olt Valley
Brezoi - Obarsia Lotrului (76 km, 1h30min) - one of the most picturesque roads of Romania, following the Lotru river from its source (Obarsia) to the overflow near Brezoi; although the road itself is a little broken, the effort is worth it thanks to the spectacular landscape and the wild Vidra Lake surrounded by mountains.
Obarsia Lotrului - Sebes (86 km, 1h30min) - the second part of the famous Transalpina road, the highlight of the day, where almost every kilometer is worth a beautiful photo: don't be surprised if you spend another 2 hours admiring a landscape, surrounding a lake or barrage or having lunch on the side of the road with the most beautiful mountains in your sight!
Sebes - Sibiu (60 km, 45 min)
Medias, one of the seven cities that gave the German name for Transylvania (Siebenburgen) - to walk for 1 hour through the historical city center, one of the best preserved in Romania.
Biertan - a representative village of Saxon medieval life, housing the most impressive fortified church in Transylvania; it is famous for the custom of locking couples looking for divorce for two weeks in a small room, and it is said only one time the divorce went on afterwards, in more than 400 years of history.
I have already shown you here what's to see on the road between Sibiu and Brasov. Just a quick teaser - the 2nd most beautiful castle in the world, and the best road in the world!
Also, on my latest trip to Sibiu, I have discovered two more great places very close to the city, also on this road towards Brasov.
Remember my list above with the most beautiful cities in Europe? Sibiu may not be the biggest, the best, the most famous, but it's surely the cheapest!
You will find lodging in Sibiu in excellent conditiions: this year I had a room in the Great Square with 40 Euro for a double room, plus 8 Euro breakfast per person. Last year, we stayed in an apartment accross the Orthodox Cathedral - 35 Euro per night!
And the food? Well, having a meal anywhere in the city shouldn't cost more than 25 Euro for two. Any beer is maximum 2 Euro - a total bargain for the unique experience you're gonna have!
This is Sibiu, where every building shares a story and every terrace, bar or event venue opens the door towards the fascinating life of its people. With such an impressive display, I hope you understand why I consider Sibiu among the best cities to visit in Europe!
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