I realize before I say this that a guidebook writer shouldn’t be so vocal about favoring one city above all others in his research area, but when it comes to Sibiu, Romania, I simply cannot control myself in the face of its all-encompassing awesomeness. So, here it is: Sibiu is hands-down the best city in Romania. In fact, it’s one of my favorite cities in the world. Let us tally the awesome…
The city itself is a walker’s dream. Other city centers in Romania are nearly as pretty (Oradea for example), but the main difference is that Sibiu has three interlocking central squares, making it one of the very few Romanian city centers that are pedestrian-only (Timisoara is another, though less serene). One can stroll happily along without worrying about when/if they’ll be mowed down by a swarm of cars being driven at high speeds by total a$$holes who have a love affair with their horns.
The museums are first rate. Being named a Europe “Capital of Culture” in 2007, the city was thoroughly restored and/or beautified to its Saxon-licious greatness. Many of the museums enjoyed a good touch-up, especially the History Museum, which was completely redone, with swanky displays and moodily lit corridors. Outside of town is the sprawling, open-air Museum of Folk Civilization, with 120 traditional dwellings, mills and churches brought from around the country and set among two small lakes and a tiny zoological garden.
They love their culture. Excellent events take place all year long, including the International Theatre Festival (May and June) and the Sibiu Jazz Festival (May).
Accommodations: Over the course of only three years, Sibiu went from having one moribund hostel to having four hostels that are so excellent, it pains me that I can’t sleep at all of them every year. I’m speaking of Flying Time Hostel, Chess Hostel, Felinarul Hostel, and Roth Hostel. There’s also a large variety of great B&Bs and mid-range hotels.
Restaurants: Most cities only have one, maybe two (but often zero) really good restaurants. Sibiu is packed with them. There’s Grand Plaza, one of the best no nonsense Romanian restaurants in the country. There’s La Trattoria, one of the precious few Italian restaurants in Romania that knows what they’re doing. There’s La Piazzetta, serving some of the tastiest pizza in the country on what is easily the best terrace area in Romania (NOTE: I heard a rumor that this place closed down due to a bureaucratic eff up. Anyone know if it ever re-opened?). There’s Crama Sibiul Vechi, serving ciorba (soup) to die for and really good meat dishes. There’s more, but you get the idea.
And if, by some miracle, you get your fill of Sibiu, there’s also a wide variety of worthwhile nearby villages that can cumulatively fill several day-trips, like Cisnadie, Rasinari and Paltinis.
I love other cities around the country for a variety of different reasons, but Sibiu does it all and they do it extremely well.