If you’ve read any of my earlier articles. You would soon realize that Romania is one of my favorite countries to explore. During my time in the country, I often hear locals recommend I visit Timisoara. I was staying in Budapest after I have almost used up 90-day Schengen Visa limit of stay in Romania. However, I had 4 days left on the visa and Timisoara is just 5-hour train ride away from Budapest. It was a simple decision. My girlfriend and I planned a little adventure to check out Timisoara and hitchhike our way to Belgrade in Serbia.
Where to stay in Timisoara?
We first searched for accommodation online and found one in the outskirts of the city with decent price and reviews. Walking around in the residential are didn’t give a very good first impression of Timisoara. It’s like a scene from a 70s movie. Old but not ancient enough to be cool. Luckily, unfortunate events lead us out of the suburbs and into the heart of the city.
We arrived the guest house we booked (Arthouse Lucrezia) online but 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. We spent almost an hour trying to find somebody or a way in and finally gave up.
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A Beautiful City
We decided to take a taxi to the city to find another hotel in the center called Central Hotel in downtown Timisoara. It turned out to be a great decision. The location was very centralized and we had access to the coolest spots in the city. And boy what city. Beautiful, vibrant, and full of amazing picturesque architecture that rivals any top cities in Western Europe.
What is Timisoara famous for?
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 is 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 Romano-Catholic and Serbian Orthodox churches on opposite sides showing the various historical marks the city has endured throughout history.
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What To Do In Timisoara?
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.
Why Visit Timisoara?
One day in the wonderful city of Timisoara is probably not enough to experience all that it offers. I recommend you start from Piata Victoriei which has the best angle to take pictures of the Metropolitan Cathedral. There are a historic statue and a fountain worth checking out.
Once done, you can go inside check out the interior of the Cathedral. The park next to the cathedral is also 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.
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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.
When To Visit Timisoara?
The summer is the best time to visit but any season is good too. There’s plenty of festivals in the Summer and there are nearby locations for outdoor activities.
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)