While cities like Bucharest or Braşov are well-known tourist destinations, the western part of Romania is often overlooked. A shame if you ask me because you’ll miss out on beautiful Sibiu – my favorite city in Romania. Another great example, and the focus for this blog post, is underrated Timişoara. A city located close to the Serbian border. With the title ‘European Cultural Capital 2021’ on its name, Timişoara truly deserves more attention. It offers everything for a perfect city break. A colorful historical center, lively squares, delicious food, and very affordable prices. Are you planning to visit Timişoara and are you looking for things to do? Then this blog post is the one you’re looking for!
Why I enjoyed Timişoara so much + great things to do
1. It is perfectly sized
Timişoara is a compact city. You can easily see it all in a day or two. All sights are located within walking distance of each other. And if you want to explore more outside the historical center, you can take the tram. Personally, I recommend everyone to take the tram at least once, because of its retro design. There are also modern ones, but they are not as pretty as the old-timers. It can be tricky however to purchase a tram ticket. You can buy tickets at the kiosk, but not every tram stop has a ticket booth. In this case, you can check if a minimart is selling them. It helps to remember the Romanian translation for ticket: bilet de tramvai.
Update 2021: lovely reader Andra informed me that you can now buy tram tickets with an app or by sending a message through your mobile phone.
2. Welcome to The ‘Little Vienna’ of Romania
Do you like Vienna? Then there’s a good chance that you will also like Timişoara. This city is often named ‘Little Vienna’, because of its architecture. The city center is designed by 19th-century Hungarian architects and most of them trained in Vienna. They brought Art Nouveau to Timişoara, an architectural style inspired by flower motives and flowy lines. One of the most beautiful Art Nouveau buildings is the Lloyd Palace at Victory square and Bruck House at Union square.
- Want to learn more about the history of Timişoara? Join this guided sightseeing walking tour.
3. Three beautiful squares in a row
Timişoara is all about the three squares. Neatly constructed in a row you’ll find Piaţa Victoriei (Victory Square), Piaţa Libertății (Freedom Square), and Piaţa Unirii (Union Square). The names refer to historical events that took place here. For example, Victory square was the place where the revolution started in 1989. Romania was one of the first countries to stand up against the communist regime. The most impressive square is undoubtedly Union Square. It didn’t matter how many times I visited this square, it kept on impressing me. Without exaggerating, I think I took about 20 photos of Bruck House. Tip: this city tour will guide you to all three squares along the most beautiful route.
4. A city of Summer terraces
Timişoara is not too big, not too small, and certainly not too busy. Even in peak season, you will not see overcrowded streets in this city. The atmosphere is very lively and in summer the streets and squares are filled with terraces. It looked so nice, even though personally I would much rather sit inside. Romania is hot in the summer!
- Join this Timişoara food tour and discover the cutest terraces and taste the most delicious Romanian food.
5. You’ll find One of the most interesting churches in Europe here
Plenty of churches to see in Timişoara, but there is one church you cannot miss. This is the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral. Not only striking due to its size, but also because of the style. By the way, the three squares tour I mentioned earlier also has a stop at this church. The grand exterior was precisely the goal of the architects who designed it. They wanted to build one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world. I doubt that this is the most beautiful church in the world, but it is certainly pretty unique. All building materials for the church come from the surrounding region and the patron on the roof is inspired by Romanian traditional clothing.
6. It is perfect for couples: Romance in the Rose Garden
‘Little Vienna’ is not the only nickname for Timişoara. This city is also called the ‘City of Roses’. In 1891 the Royal Rose Garden was opened in Timişoara. It was a huge park with more than 1200 roses. This garden was a project of Wilhelm Muhle, the royal florist for the Austro-Hungarian empire. Unfortunately, the garden was destroyed during World War I and II. In the 1950s, the communist government started reconstruction, which is why today we can still enjoy the sight of about 600 rose varieties.
7. Timişoara also has a quirky side
If you made it all the way here in this blog post, first of all: kudos! And secondly, time to explore the goofy side of Timişoara. What about a museum about Romanian households during the Soviet Union? That’s right, you can visit the odd Museum of the Communist Consumer to see what a household looked like in those days. Not in the mood for a museum? No worries. You can also check off all the odd statues on Timişoara’s streets. You have the Calling Boy, Superman with a tiny lady, and many more quirky statues.
8. There is street art!
Speaking about art, Timişoara also offers street art. I am a big fan of cities that allow artists to add a bit of color to otherwise boring walls. Street art tells a story, and often it’s linked to the local history and traditional culture. Here’s a list of addresses:
- Strada Sfantul Ioan, around the parking lot.
- Parcul Civic, on the walls of National Theater Hall 2.
- Iulius Town, in the traffic tunnel. Name: Underground Street Art Gallery.
- Along the Bega river, near Podul Mihai Viteazul and Porto Arte.
- Join this walking tour and explore the hidden gems of the city and see some great Timişoara street art.
9. Great base for day trips
Timişoara is located in the far west of the country, creating a perfect opportunity to use this city as a base to explore more of this region. The beautiful city of Arad is less than one hour away by train, and Oradea is three hours by train. Do you still have some time left? Organize a day trip to the Danube Gorge to see the massive stone sculpture of Decebalus (3 – 4 hours by car from Timişoara). Google it, it looks pretty impressive!
Vegan and vegetarian places to eat and drink in Timişoara
Not a reason why you should visit Timişoara, but a good-to-know tip. In general, Romania is a meat country, but there are plenty of places that cater to vegetarians and vegans. Tip: memorize the words ‘de post’ (= religious fasting) and you can turn any meal vegan. Here are some of the places we liked:
- Biofresh, at 2 Strada Francesco Griselini. Large menu for lunch and dinner.
- Tucano Coffee, at 2 Strada Emanoil Ungureanu. Ice coffees with plant-based milk.
- Suppa Bar, at Strada Emanoil Ungureanu. A simple menu of around five soups of which two or three vegan.
- Il Gelato di Bruno, at 4 Piața Victoriei. Very popular place, but they have vegan flavors.
Where to stay in Timişoara?
I stayed in an Airbnb (click here for a list of Airbnbs in Timişoara), but there are also plenty of hotel options to choose from. Stay at Hotel President (9,0 rating on Booking.com) or go for the budget-friendly InVerve Hostel (9,6 rating on Booking.com). Click here for an overview of the hotels in Timişoara.
And there you have it, why you should visit Timişoara, plus great things to do there. Do you want to visit this Romanian city?
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