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.
Id like to do a bicycle tour of Romania. Are the cities as bicycle friendly as other european countries? are their any kinds of shoulders on the roads between cities?
One if the most awe inspiring churches in all of Romania can be found in Sibiu. Be sure to check out the Evangelical Cathedral. It’s over 600 years old and is also the final resting place of a few distinguished citizens.
I’m actually pleased to see you hinting at Oradea as being a lovely town too. It is largely neglected by visitors in Romania, probably because it’s far away of the rest (not if you enter from Hungary) and also it has never made any top of Romanian places to visit.
I hope the last LP guide did some justice to Oradea.
Leif, perhaps you find this as a good suggestion – why not write a short post about Oradea and other less known places in Romania.
PS: Yes, Sibiu is perhaps one of the few normal cities in Romania. People are normal, food is normal, services are normal, the air is normal, the landscapes nearby are normal, the smiles are normal. It’s place where you can think about enjoying life.
I want to go to there!
First, naturewise, Romania is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe for cycling, trekking etc.
But, ‘bicycle friendly’ is a word that doesn’t exist in any dictionary around here. Certainly, efforts are being made (like in Sibiu, and in Bucharest sector 1 / city centre), but I can only give you one good advice: have eyes in the back of your head and be vigilant, very vigilant. Never assume that a driver is actually going to stop for a red sign or is looking out for pedestrians or cyclists, because that’s simply not the case. Apart from that: totally worth making that trip!
Good luck from an experienced driver AND cyclist in Bucharest.
P.S. You’ll share the roads between cities with said maniac drivers, old Dacia’s, international transport trucks, the occasional horse with cart etc. Make sure you’re very visible and have a spare tyre with you in case you’re taking the country roads.
@Jerod – Like Dina said, biking is still a bit dangerous in Romania. Some drivers are slightly more aware/sympathetic to bikers now than just a few years ago, but mostly they’ll drive by you at 130 KPH without a care in the world as you fly into the ditch. There are shoulders on the roads, but like most roads, the should has a lot of debris/sand/glass/etc, so it’s not very pleasant. Some areas are better than others and as the roads are fixed, perhaps things will improve. For now, it’s still a bit risky.
@J Rife – Do you know if they have finished the renovations at the Evangelical Cathedral? The first time I visited, some visiting religious group closed the church for their meeting. It’s been covered in scaffolding ever since. I’ve never seen the inside without scaffolding!
@Baiat – Yes, Oradea is in the LP guide. We make it sound divine. :)
What about vice? And other late night options?…If we’re talking great city status.
@Leif I do not know. And though there is nothing like seeing it in person, I might have some pictures on my hard drive from 2005. I can be contacted through my website if you are looking for any pics of Sibiu/Sighisoara and various other places including Snagov (www.jrife.net). Its been too long since I’ve been there and can’t wait for an opportunity to go back!
Thanks for the posts on Romania month. You have made me interested in returning to Europe again.
Wow looks really nice from the photo. Is that the shot on every postcard or does the whole city look like that?
I will soon be visiting Romania on business and expect to be visiting the area quite frequently as we will be dealing with contamination issues. It will be nice to mix culture with business.
Your site is great, really helpful! How is transportation from Bucharest to Sibiu? What would be the best way to go? We’re thinking of renting a car and driving – about how long would that take? Looking forward to hearing from you. Sorry about your recent misadventures. I’m sure it will all seem hilarious… someday.
Renting a car isn’t a bad idea, especially if you plan to get out to the villages around Sibiu. If you go the “fast” way (through Pitesti and Ramnicu Valcea) it’ll take you 6-7 hours to drive from Buch to Sibiu. If you go through Brasov, at least eight hours.
For those who want to do a bicycle tour, keep in mind that there might be some idiots, like this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5StgiuymCjk&feature=related
@Radu – Holy hell! I fully expected that video to end with the truck careening into the oncoming traffic.
Good post on Sibiu, one of my favorite cities in Romania. I have done a bit of biking around Romania and I will attest that the drivers indeed are thoughtless, but the biggest potential obstacle to enjoying a ride in the countryside or the city are the dogs. While the feral dog population is declining and the dogs don’t usually pose a threat to walkers, they can be lethal to cyclists … My worst cycling run-in with dogs came on a stretch of fairly empty road just north of Mamaia one night returning to my hotel from a beach cook-out. I never pedaled so fast in my life …
I love your style, it’s so hilarious (especially your About pages). I’m an expatriate from Romania, currently residing in California and I’ll be in Sibiu next month. I’m very curious how it will all seem to me after 30 years of living on the other side of the planet.