Sighisoara citadel is one of seven Saxon walled cities in Romania built by the Saxons in the 12th-century. Romania is home to many beautiful medieval towns, like Brasov, Cluj, Târgu Mures, and Sibiu. But perhaps the most charming one of them is the old town of Sighisoara, a perfectly intact 16th century gem.
- A Brief History of the Citadel of Sighisoara, Romania
- 7 Amusing Things to Do in the Sighisoara Citadel
- Cultural Events Hosted in the Sighisoara Citadel
- How to Get to Sighisoara, Romania
A Brief History of the Citadel of Sighisoara, Romania
The origin of Sighisoara goes back to Roman times. During the 1st Century AD, the Dacians (a population that Romanians consider their ancestors) built here a fortification called Sandava.
During the 12th century King Béla IV of Hungary invited the Saxons –a Germanic people– to settle in Transylvania and defend the frontier of his realm. The Transylvanian Saxons built a new settlement on the ruins of the former fortress and named it Schäßburg (Sighisoara, in Romanian.)
The construction of the citadel of Sighisoara began in the 1100s and continued through the 1500s. Because of its strategical position – up on the City Hill – Sighisoara acted as protection against Tatars and other invaders. The citadel was a strong defensive construction, with towers, bastions and guns overlooking the valley and controlling the main gateway to the town.
7 Amusing Things to Do in the Sighisoara Citadel
Visiting the Sighisoara citadel is one of the best things to do in Transylvania, Romania. It’s not difficult to fall in love with this medieval town. Its old strategic towers, cobbled streets, colorful buildings and ornate churches look like from the pages of story book.
1. Stroll the Streets of the Historic Town
One of the most fun thinks to do in Sighisoara is walking through the historic town. This charming place will take your imagination back to the Middle Ages.
The historic center of Sighisoara still maintains its original medieval layout, with narrow streets and closely aligned rows of houses. Most of the houses are simple homes of craftsmen, built from stone or brick, covered in colored plaster and topped with tiled roofs.
The citadel itself is tiny, just a handful of streets with a very authentic atmosphere.
The lovely citadel square that seems so peaceful today, used to be the place where they had trials and public executions in the old times.
2. Visit the Defense Walls and Guild Towers
The Transylvanian Saxons who erected the citadel of Sighisoara were craftsmen and merchants. They organized themselves in powerful guilds and each guild was responsible for the construction of a tower and its defense.
The towers were named after the crafts, like the Tailor’s Tower, or the Boot-maker’s Tower. Out of the 14 original towers only 9 survive, along with 2 bastions.
Of the 9 towers that survived, only one is still inhabited today – the Rope-maker’s Tower.
3. Climb Atop the Clock Tower
The most impressive of all towers in the citadel is the Clock Tower, which dominates the three squares of the historic center. The sixty four meters tall building was once the meeting place of the town’s council.
The clock has two big dials (one on each facade of the tower). Each dial has a group of wooden figurines that move with the clock’s mechanism.
As you spiral up the clock tower’s steep staircase, you’ll come across various displays with interesting exhibits belonging to the Sighisoara History Museum. As you climb further you’ll see the clock mechanisms as well as the tower’s famous figurines.
Today the tower plays a special role as the symbol of Sighisoara.
4. Visit the Birth Place of Vlad the Impaler
An important attraction Sighisoara is the house of Vlad Dracul, the father of Vlad Tepes (also known as Vlad the Impaler), ruler of the province of Walachia from 1456 to 1462. Vlad Dracul was a knight of the Order of the Dragon, thus being given the name Dracul (which means “Devil” in Romanian).
Today, as you walk by the house, you can still see the dragon (symbol of the Order of the Dragon) hanging above the house entrance. Allegedly in this house Vlad the Impaler (Dracula) was born.
The house, now hosting a restaurant and a small museum, is located in the Citadel Square, close to the Clock Tower.
5. Climb the Covered Scholars’ Stairs
I found particularly interesting the long covered wooden staircase that leads up to the Church on the Hill. The Scholars’ Stairs, as it is also called, was built to cover schoolchildren and churchgoers from the rain. The staircase has 175 steps.
6. Visit the Torture Museum
There are a few really good museums related to the town’s history. Those include the museum in the Clock Tower and the Torture Museum, right next to it.
Before visiting this place, I have not fully realised the degree of cruelty people excercised against each other in the medieval times. Just seeing the stiff armchair padded with sharp nails and a few other pain-inflicting gadgets gave me the chills!
7. Visit the Church on the Hill
As you climb up the covered Scholars’ Stairs towards the School Hill, don’t miss visiting evocative Church on the Hill. This late-Gothic, triple-naved church was originally a 13th-century Romanesque basilica, later restored in Gothic style.
Sighisoara still stands today as one of the most beautiful and best-preserved medieval towns in Europe. In 1999 the town became part of the UNESCO world heritage.
Cultural Events Hosted in the Sighisoara Citadel
All throughout the year, the citadel hosts numerous art festivals. Such events include:
March: International Blues Festival;
May: International Arts and Film Festival with vampire themes;
July: Sighisoara Medieval Festival, an event reenacting medieval battles;
November / December: Night of Lights (Lanternennacht), a German-inspired festival.
How to Get to Sighisoara, Romania
Sighisoara is a small city in the region of Transylvania. There are both trains and buses connecting Sighisoara with other towns and cities in Romania.
The town is within 2 hours distance from several cities in Transylvania, like Cluj, Tirgu Mures, Sibiu and Brasov.
There are direct train connections between these cities and Sighisoara, so visiting the town as a day trip is entirely possible. Getting to Sighisoara from Bucharest takes a little longer (about 4.5 hours by car).
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