No visit to Romania would be complete without seeing the beautiful city of Sibiu, the jewel of Transylvania. There are quite a few colorful sites and historical landmarks in this town, so in this post I’ll give you a list of the best things to do in Sibiu, as well as a few tips on where to stay and eat.
Sibiu has one of the most authentic and perfectly preserved historic centers in Europe, therefore you should plan on spending at least a couple of days here in order to properly explore it. But first let me tell you a few things about this town, which is one of Romania’s most beautiful places.
- About Sibiu
- Best Things to Do in Sibiu
- Where to Stay in Sibiu
- Best Places to Eat in Sibiu
Also known as Hermannstadt (in German), Sibiu was one of the seven fortified citadels built by the Transylvanian Saxons back in the Middle Ages. At that time Sibiu was a very powerful city, surrounded by the fortified walls and 39 defense towers, some of which still exist today.
The city’s population was predominantly German even after Transylvania became part of Romania. In fact, Sibiu was for a long time the center of Romania’s German minority. However, the German population started decreasing after World War II and the process continued during the Communist Era.
After the collapse of Ceausescu’s Regime in 1989, over half a million Germans fled to Germany. Today less than 2% of Sibiu’s population are Germans, about 3% Hungarians and the remaining 95% are ethnic Romanians.
From a touristic perspective, Sibiu is one of the most underrated cities in Europe. We visited the city on a road trip to Transylvania from Bucharest. After visiting the Medieval Citadel of Sighisoara I thought nothing can top it off. But I was wrong. Sibiu seemed even more beautiful.
The historic center was recently renovated and it looks absolutely spectacular, with an ensemble of squares surrounded by Gothic and Baroque buildings.
Best Things to Do in Sibiu
1. Stroll Through the Squares of the Historic Center
The squares of the Old Town are impossible to miss, as most of the Sibiu’s great churches and historic monuments are in this area. The squares abound with boutiques, souvenir shops, restaurants and cafés, which make them popular with locals and tourists as well.
The Large Square (Piata Mare) is paved with granite tiles and surrounded by some important medieval edifices, like the Brukenthal Palace, the Catholic Church, the Generals’ House and Haller House. During the Middle Ages the Square served as the place for important events, public gatherings and executions.
The Small Square (Piata Mica) is divided into two parts separated by Ocnei Street. The second part descends under the Bridge of Lies towards the Lower Town. The buildings in the Small Square were mainly craftsmen shops where the the merchants displayed their merchandise.
Huet Square is the smallest of the squares that make up the historic center. Here you can see the Evangelic Church, the Bruckenthal High School and the Parish House. Some days there is an open market here where you can buy fresh produce, lard and some tasty local cheeses.
2. Visit the Churches in the Historic Center
There are three major churches of different confessions in the Old Town Sibiu that you shouldn’t miss. All of them are quite beautiful and very representative for the multicultural heritage of the Transylvania.
The Evangelical Church located in Huet Square dates from the 14th century. Its 73 meters high tower is the tallest in Transylvania. One particularly interesting thing about this church are its four corner towers. In the old times, they were an indication of the city’s right to apply the death penalty.
The Catholic Church in the Large Square dates back to 1733. Don’t let the simple and unassuming exterior of this church deceive you. Take time to see the beautiful interior of this historic landmark.
The Orthodox Cathedral in Sibiu is one of the one of the most impressive churches in Romania. The cathedral is newer (1902-1904) and its architecture was inspired by the Cathedral Saint Sofia in Istanbul.
3. Walk Up (or Down) the Goldsmiths’ Stairway
A very picturesque corner of the Square is the Goldsmiths’ Stairway, which connects the lower with the upper town. The wealthier Saxons lived in the upper town, in big houses with their large courtyards, while the peasants lived in the lower part of town in small, colorful houses.
4. Climb the 141 Steps of the Council Tower
Built in the 14th century, the Council Tower had the function to defend one of the entrance gates of the city. Over the centuries, the tower suffered different modifications. Only the ground floor and the first two levels are part of the original construction.
You can visit the Council Tower for a small fee. On the first platform of the tower there is a beautiful exhibition of photography featuring old Romanian costumes and traditions.
If you climb all the way up its 141 steps, you’ll be rewarded with great panoramic views.From the top you can see all the landmarks of the historic area, so I would recommend starting your tour here because you can use the view as a tour guide.
5. Cross the Bridge of Lies
One of the most beloved attractions in Sibiu is the Bridge of Lies, which is surrounded by many fascinating legends. The original bridge was made of wood and replaced 200 years later, in 1859, with a cast iron one.
According to one legend, the wooden bridge could tell if a person crossing it was telling the truth or not. If the bridge ‘heard’ a small lie, it began shaking, but if it heard a big one it could even collapse. For this reason, most people would avoid lying while crossing it. Today’s iron bridge is the oldest of its kind in Romania, and the second oldest in Europe.
6. Keep an Eye on the Building With “Eyes”
Are some of the buildings in the Old Town actually watching you, or you are just paranoid? If you lift up your eyes you’ll notice some very funny looking attic windows on the rooftops. They look a lot like sleepy eyes, watching you secretly.
Throughout history and in times of political strife, locals truly believed they were being watched by the authorities through the “eyes” of these buildings.
Where to Stay in Sibiu
Romanians are famous for their hospitality and friendliness. They will go a long way to please you and make you feel at home. Like many other cities in Transylvania, Sibiu is not short of great accommodations, ranging from hotels, hostels, to inns and bed and breakfasts. Rooms are clean and nicely furnished and prices are very reasonable, ranging from $30 to $95/night.
We stayed in a Bed and Breakfast right in the middle of the Historic Center. The rooms were simple but impeccably clean and comfortable, with modern bathrooms and plenty of towels and toiletries.
Breakfast was also very tasty, with very diverse food. The room costed only 100 RON/night (about $32) and staff was also extremely friendly. They offered to stay up late and wait for us to return from dinner, in case we had trouble opening the gate to park our car.
Best Places to Eat in Sibiu
There is a big range of restaurants, pubs and cafés in the historic center of Sibiu where you can enjoy some of the best Romanian dishes. One of the most famous restaurants in the Old Town is Crama Sibiul Vechi, that serves excellent traditional food at very good prices.
The restaurant is located in a cellar and features live music. The restaurant is relatively small and always crowded, so you need reservations. There are plenty of other excellent restaurants in the Old Town where you can enjoy good food and good service. You almost can’t go wrong anywhere in Sibiu.
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Taking a trip to Romania? You may be interested in these articles:
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