If you’ve read any of my earlier articles, you’d realize that Romania is one of my favorite countries to explore. During my stay in Romania, Timisoara was a city often recommended by locals. First, I stayed in Budapest to serve the visa requirements of 90 days out of the country. I had 4-5 days left on my visa for Romania and Timisoara was only a 5-hour train ride from Budapest. We booked a train and hop on over to Timisoara, the little Vienna of Europe.
We searched for accommodation online and found one with decent price and reviews. It was on the outskirts of town and deep into the residential part of the city. We chose not to book online since it’s generally cheaper to just show up at the reception and at least have a comparison price (online vs reception) before booking.
Walking through the residential part of the city, I was beginning to think Timisoara was the ugliest city in Romania. It could become another subject of a Skip this article, but, based on unfortunate circumstances, that wasn’t the case.
We arrived at the location where we needed to book our accommodation (Arthouse Lucrezia) and there was no one in sight. No doors, no entrance, and no office. There was a gate of sorts and a fence with a mailbox that had tiny written address that implied we were at the right place. We knocked, yelled, circled the compound a few times trying to find somebody to no avail. It’s funny because you can book the place online but you can’t book it in person.
A BEAUTIFUL CITY
After several futile attempts to book and find somebody we gave up and took a taxi to the city to find a hotel in the center and that turned out to be a great decision. We ended up experiencing the city for what it is, beautiful and vibrant city full of amazing picturesque architecture that rivals any top city in the Western Europe.
But first, let’s get into historical context about Timisoara before we get into the meat of how it’s another awesome Romanian destination.
Timisoara was built around an ancient Roman fortress and throughout the decades, various other migrating or conquering cultures made its influence on the city. The Turks, Tatars, Austrians, Germans, and even Serbs have left their mark in the Timisoara and you can see throughout the city’s architecture.
There’s distinct architectural style and personality that makes Timisoara charming. Timisoara was the first city to use electricity to light up the streets in Europe and it’s second, after New York, to do so in the world. It’s also a vibrant cultural center in Romania that is often referred to as “Little Vienna.”
I don’t know if the “Little Vienna” moniker implies flattery. I’ve been to Vienna and I’ll take Timisoara over Vienna any day.
A city full of squares
Just a quick stroll over to Union Square (Piața Unirii) and you’ll find out why. There are various distinctive and picturesque architecture in all the four intersections with historical significance.
You’ll see simplified WWI designs contrasted with Byzantine influence marked with growing modernist style. Here you’ll observe a Romano-Catholic and Serbian Orthodox churches on opposite sides showing the various historical marks the city has endured throughout history.
Timisoara is easy to explore on foot but it has fast and frequent public tram if you’re too lazy to walk. You’re bound to discover something awesome and worth seeing so I don’t know why, if you’re able, you wouldn’t want to stroll down the city’s amazing and rustic alleyways.
There’s the majestic Romanian Orthodox Cathedral (Catedrala Mitropolitană) that dominates the landscape in Victory Square.
There’re also several crayon-hued buildings in the Piața Libertății (Freedom Square), another notable square in the city that has different styles of architecture (Secessionist).
Food and drinks? Just take a stroll up and down the Piata Victoriei. Circle the Piata Unirii and take your pick of the many restaurants and cafes. I recommend Bistro Stradivarius in Piata Unirii (Union Square) for good food and excellent atmosphere.
Just one day?
One day in the wonderful city of Timisoara is probably not enough to experience all that it offers. But if that’s all you got. I recommend you start from Piata Victoriei which has the best angle to take pictures of the Metropolitan Cathedral. There is a historic statue and a fountain worth checking out. Once done go inside check out the interior of the Cathedral. There’s also a park next to it worth checking out if you’re not pressed for time. Next, you can walk straight to Strada Alba Iulia, all the way to Piata Libertatii. After that, you should spend a good chunk of your time in Piata Unirii and marvel at the amazing architecture.
You should be able to cover the three major squares in the city and see most of its acclaimed landmarks. Check out the map I’ve compiled below with the Downtown Hostel (if you’re solo) and Hotel Central (if you have company) as places to stay at for convenience.
A DAY IN BREAKDOWN:
- Train from Budapest to Timisoara – $17 (per person)
- Hotel in the center of the city – $22 (per person, $40 a night)
- Breakfast at Hotel – Free (included)
- Lunch Timisoarana Restaurant & Brewery – $5 (per person)
- Dinner at Bistro Stradivarius Restaurant – $8 (per person, splurged on wine)
- TOTAL: $52 (per person)