Being referred to as “Little Vienna” or the most cosmopolitan city of Romania, Timisoara is worldwide known for at least three reasons: the first city in Europe to use horse trams (1869), electricity on the street (1889), and the place where the Romanian anti-communism revolution has started (1989). It is already an interesting city to visit, and we can only expect a further development, since it has been recently named the 2021 European cultural capital. Timisoara welcomes its guests with an occidental atmosphere, 900 years of history and a vibrant cultural life, and it also represents a perfect gateway for exploring the fabulous Western Romania.
Timisoara International Airport is directly connected to a few European cities. Apart from that, it is easy to reach the city by car, since it is very close to the Hungarian or Serbian borders. Budapest for instance is only 3 hours away by car.
It is always a good idea to start exploring the city from Victoriei Square, the symbol of Romanian revolution in 1989 and the place where the majority of sights are to be found.
It is actually more than a square, rather a pedestrian street filled with astonishing old houses and monuments, plenty of restaurants or cafes, beautiful floral arrangements, seasonal events and, most importantly, people who make this city colorful and full of life.
As a Romanian, I am more than impressed with traces of the former revolution - one can easily imagine how thousands of courageous heroes stood in front of the communist army, while bullet holes are still to be seen on the building walls...
The square is guarded on its two sides by two face-to-face architectural masterpieces:
The Opera House - in front of which the Revolution has started, a history-filled place with a beautiful interior and interesting cultural events;
The Orthodox Cathedral - the 8th tallest Orthodox church in the world and the 1st outside Russia and Georgia; it is the highlight of the city, both impressing for the imposing height and the tranquility induced by the peaceful, beautifully decorated interior.
When leaving the area, use the Liberty Square to reach further places - in summer time, the street is covered by colorful umbrellas, while the recently rehabilitated statue of St Nepomuk is definitely not to be missed!
Next stop is in colorful Union Square - one of the most beautiful in Romania from my perspective! A cozy place, not so crowded like the Victory Square but still vibrant enough in summer, with lots of terraces to relax and beautiful buildings to admire!
For good reasons, Timisoara is also being called the city of parks - I am always amazed how so many gardens can offer a peaceful break so close from downtown!
Roses Park is a pheeric place, especially in the spring when trees are blooming, while The Botanical Garden behind Orthodox Cathedral is one of the most beautiful parks in the country: almost 10ha housing over 1600 species of plants and displaying a magnificent diversity of colors.
Bega river also offers a wide variety of activities: from simple strolls along the river to boat rides or kayaking on the canal, dinner in a boat restaurant or even biking out of the city towards the Serbian border, 35 km away.
In terms of entertainment, Timisoara is a major university center, and the city is very well adapted to its young generation: countless restaurants, bars, pubs, cafes, clubs for all tastes are to be seen all over the city; one of the biggest shopping center in Eastern Europe is located in the city, while there is almost no summer weekend without an event held in one of the city parks!
All the interesting places around Timisoara are to be reached by car - around 2-2.5 hours of driving. They may seem a little far, but are definitely worth at least a short visit if not a vacation of a few days:
Hunedoara is definitely a top tourist destination, since it houses some of the most important landmarks in Romania:
Sarmizegetusa Regia (1200 m), former capital of Dacia before the wars with the Roman Empire. It used to be the most important military, religious and political center for almost two centuries, before being conquered by Roman Emperor Trajan (106 A.D.).
The remains will probably remind you of Stonehenge, being divided in two: the circular defensive wall, and the sacred zone used for prayers and sacrifices. The ruins are surrounded by a beautiful rich forest, and the contrast between the grey of the stones and the green of the trees is truly amazing.
Corvin Castle – the most impressive medieval sight of the country. It is no wonder to have been named among the 10 castles of the world straight out of fairy tales (Huffington Post): crossing the suspended wooden bridge makes me feel transported directly to the Middle Ages!
Inside, you will witness a part of our medieval history and a number of fantastic stories which bring charm and glory to this astonishing settlement.
Lake Cincis - a perfect place for relaxation, within the most picturesque landscape. It has been arranged in 1962 in a valley around mountains, by relocating an entire village. Two churches and a cemetery have been engulfed in the process, and you can only imagine what kind of scary legends revolve around the so-called “cursed lake”.
Hateg Land Dinosaurs Geopark - an outstanding area around the small town of Hateg, where legends and mysteries are at home and activities are extremely diverse thanks to the trend of young entrepreneurs relocating to this area;
Arsenal Park - the only military theme park in Europe, built on a former military base and offering a wide variety of unique activities, such as workout, special missions, military training, airsoft and paintball, archery etc
and, my favorite part in Hunedoara...
...the Retezat Mountains - the first established national park in the country, encompassing 20 peaks over 2000 meters, 100 glacier lakes, tens of waterfalls, 1200 species of plant among which 100 unique in the whole world, and more than 30 mountain routes. It is the most peaceful place in Romania I can think of, where you can truly admire everything nature has to offer.
Another unexpectedly beautiful National Park, formed around a marvelous gorge, the longest of the country. You will be astounded by the beauty of this region, fortunately only discovered by true nature lovers, passionate about walks inside and towards marvelous landscapes.
You will be lucky to admire noble forests, colorful lakes, green waterfalls, caves, mountain routes, but first, let me tell you about the most beautiful waterfall in the world!
Precisely at the middle point between North Pole and Equator, Bigar Waterfall is indeed a rare beauty - a 7-meter high water flow over a cliff covered with green moss, forming a small rainbow when the sun shines directly to it.
Words cannot describe the scenery around Bigar, not even this photo does...
You have to go there to truly undestand the beauty of it!
Other landmarks in Nera:
Ochiul Beiului Lake - a karst, turquoise, crystal-clear lake surrounded by gigantic trees, staying unfrozen all year long;
Beusnita Waterfall - an incredibly green waterfall which is actually possible to be dry in summer, but still amazing thanks to the caverns dug by water in the vertical chalk
La Tunele – seven successive tunnels, to be crossed by foot in around 30 minutes, uncovering breathtaking views at the exit of each of them towards the beautiful Nera gorge.
Timisoara can be easily uncovered during 1 day.
One day road trip towards Hunedoara County can reveal Sarmizegetusa Regia, the Corvin Castle and a few places around Hateg. The whole Hateg Geopark, as well as the Arsenal Park, Lake Cincis or the Retezat Mountains can be properly discovered in approximately 2 days each.
With a little effort, a trip to the Nera Gorge can take a full long day, but you can relax your schedule with one night spent in the area if you wish to try rafting or other adventure sports.
The higher the location, the more convenient prices are for lodging and meals. They should range from 50 Euro per night in the city center, down to 10 Euro on top of the Retezat Mountains!
There you go, a nice opportunity to spend some valuable time in Timisoara and beyond. Although Timisoara is rather seen as an university or business center, if you follow my recommendations, you can enjoy a very nice vacation in the area!
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