If you had to pick one city in Transylvania, my suggestion would be to go with Sibiu. If you ask me, this is the most idyllic town in Romania. It almost looks a historical movie set, which is no surprise since Sibiu is one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe. Coming from Bucharest, it takes 6 to 8 hours by train to get here, and for most tourists that is too far. This means: no large tour groups and no overrun historical center (I am looking at you, pretty but touristy Brașov). Sibiu still has an authentic and charming feel. In this blog post, I will share 9 things to do in picturesque Sibiu.
Just like Brașov, Sibiu has a German-oriented history. It was part of the medieval Hungarian Kingdom, but was ruled by the Saxons (Germans). Their headquarters was based in Sibiu and therefore this city was the most German and richest city in Transylvania. In those times the city was called Hermannstadt, and Transylvania was called ‘Siebenburgen’ (the seven citadels). After World War I Sibiu became part of the Kingdom of Romania and after World War II most ethnic Germans emigrated to Germany or Austria. What they left was one of the most beautiful cities in Romania.
9 great things to do in Sibiu
1. Stare back at the Eyes of Sibiu
What has Sibiu that most other Romanian cities don’t have: the iconic houses with eyes. These are 19th-century houses with almond-shaped roof windows. Technically speaking, these windows are meant for ventilation for warm attics, but looking at it from the street side, they sure do look like eyes. They say that locals used to think that spies or traitors would watch people from the windows and tell on them.
2. Take a stroll on Strada Nicolae Balcescu
Sibiu is a super pedestrian-friendly town. Cars are not welcome in most places in the historical center which makes it perfect for strolling around. The main pedestrian street is Strada Nicolae Balcescu. You come here to eat, drink and shop, and to take a look at the colorful merchant houses. So don’t forget to look up to see the pastel-colored fronts and flowery balconies. Looking for a coffee place? I really liked Hug The Mug. Vegans: they have plant-based milk as an alternative for cow milk.
3. Take in all the details at Piata Mare
Piata Mare is the center of Sibiu. It means ‘Large Square’, and that is exactly how it feels. I liked this square far more than Piata Sfatului in Brasov. The one is Sibiu is bigger, less crowded, offers unblocked views, and no cars. Make sure to also visit the Biserica Sfânta Treime (Roman-Catholic church). From the outside, it doesn’t look that exciting, but the interior is beautiful.
4. Enjoy the view from Council tower
Next to the Roman-Catholic church, you will find the 16th-century Turnul Sfatului (Council Tower). For only 2 RON, you can enjoy an amazing view from the viewing deck over the Piata Mare, the glittering roof of the Lutheran Church and Piata Mica (Small Square). Unfortunately, the glass surrounding the deck is not super clean, so it might take some time to find a good spot. The entrance of the tower is located on the backside. Walk up the steps and you will see the ticket office.
Can’t get enough of these pretty views? It is also possible climb up the Lutheran Evangelic Church (8 RON admission fee).
5. Spot the liars on the Bridge of Lies
From the Council Tower, it is only a short walk via the beautiful Piata Mica to the iron Bridge of Lies. There are a number of legends behind this 19th-century bridge, but the best one must be the story of the lie detector. According to this legend, the bridge would creak if a person tells a lie on the bridge.
6. Look up and around you at Piata Huet
Piata Mare and Piata Mica are the popular squares in Sibiu, but there is also a third square that is worth a visit. This is Piata Huet, home base to the Lutheran Evangelic church. This church is truly massive and outshines everything else on the square. And yes, the church is impressive, but I personally enjoyed walking around this square as well. It’s small, tucked away and quiet.
7. Head down a Pasajul and walk around Orașul de Jos
The historical center of Sibiu is divided into two parts: Orașul de Sus (Upper Town) and Orașul de Jos (Lower Town). Upper Town was the area where the medieval rick Saxons lived. You can find here the three squares, Strada Nicolae Balcescu and the Council Tower. Lower Town was the living area for the common Romanian people. You can take the path down at the Bridge of Lies, but more fun are the Pasajuls. These are medieval staircases that connect Upper and Lower Town. The most beautiful staircase is the Pasajul Scarilor.
8. Take a look inside the orthodox Holy Trinity Church
Large seems to be the favorite adjective of Sibiu. A large square (Piata Mare) and large churches. I already mentioned the Lutheran church, but another ‘biggie’ is the orthodox Holy Trinity Church. Personally, I think this is the most beautiful church in Sibiu. The blue fresco paintings inside are stunning! Definitely worth taking a look inside.
- Tip for the ladies: bring a scarf to wrap around your legs or shoulders when entering the church.
9. Plan a little street art hunt
I love street art, and in Sibiu has some cool street art. I have to say that I liked the street art in Brasov and Bucharest better, but I still enjoyed the hunt. Sibiu has more than 60 street art works. Most of it is located in Hipodrom, in the area between Parcula Sub Arini and Kaufland Sibiu Selimbar. My favorites were:
- 2 Aleea Turnu Rosu: man watering his phone
- 1 Strada Octavian Goga: sports murals
- 34 Calea Dumbravii: astronaut on the side of the University Cultural Center
What do you think of Sibiu? Would you want to visit this city?