Travel without a guide book. That’s always been how I’ve approached travel. The excitement of discovering a place through firsthand information is what motivates me to explore. Sibiu is one such discovery. I learned later that it’s the 2007 European Capital of Culture marking it as one of the most popular destinations within Romania and for good reason.
What To See In Sibiu?
Sibiu has a unique architecture of medieval towers and walls with strange windows on rooftops that resemble human eyes make it an appealing place for tourists. The city is unmistakably German (Saxon) in origin and its old name, Hermannstadt, dates back to the 12th century.
The German population decreased after World War 2 and eventually displaced after the communist regime took over. Today only 2% make up Sibiu’s population. The rest are ethnic Romanians and Hungarians. In the middle ages, Sibiu was an important hub for trade and commerce as well as a fortress to repel the Ottoman Turks.
What’s in Sibiu?
Sibiu is surrounded by thick fortified walls and towers that you can still see today just on the outskirts of the main square and is one of the highlights of the city. The Piatra Mare (Main Square) is undoubtedly it’s most important historical highlight that existed since 1366. You can spend half a day here just watching the beautiful architecture and watching people go by or watching children hopping on and off the ground fountain wondering when the next squirt of water might come up next.
What To Do In Sibiu?
There’s a little square across the way with various restaurants and cafes with brightly colored walls. There are two beautiful clock towers and one of which you can climb to the top for a great view of the city, all for $1. You can also get a similar, but better, view and the adjacent cathedral for $2.50.
There’s several museums in Sibiu and apparently some of the most important in Europe. Unfortunately, I’m not into museums so I didn’t put any effort and time exploring any of them. Thinking back on it, I should have at least explored the Astra Ethnographic Museum which is one of the biggest open-air museums in Europe.
Sibiu has lower and upper town. Historically the lower town is where the poorer or peasant population lived while the upper town served as a place for the nobility or the wealthy. The peasants weren’t allowed in the upper town. You can still see the remnants of this divide today and it’s only separated by the stairs by the medieval passageway.
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Sibiu’s close proximity to the Transfagarassan makes it an ideal launching spot for Romania’s high country. I and two other hostel mates chartered a taxi for 35 Euros for a trip up to Balea Lake and back. There are also buses that go up if that suits your fancy.
Where To Stay In Sibiu?
Smart Hostel, where I stayed, is located directly below these stairs and has an easy direct access to the upper town and the main square while being located in the lower town. There are several other hostels in the area but Smart Hostel was recommended the most. Outside the door from this hostel, there’s the historic passageway and stairs. Climb up the stairs and there’s the cathedral to your left.
Go past this cathedral and you’re in the Piatra Mare (big square). Go to the left through the passageway and up the stairs in front and there are the little square and historic bridge. The hostel is in a very convenient location, albeit hard to find at first. Included breakfast, friendly informative staff, and excellent location deserve its high recommendations. You do have other options, but I recommend this one for the aforementioned reasons.
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Located right in the heart of Transylvania, Romania, access to Sibiu is straightforward. There are trains and buses coming in from Bucharest, Brasov, and Cluj-Napoca. Next, to Brasov, Sibiu would make a great base for all your Transylvanian excursions. A day in Sibiu should be sufficient to soak in what the city is all about but adding another wouldn’t hurt.
Where Or What To Eat In Sibiu?
For food, check out Delis for authentic Romanian cuisine. I ate at the Uruguay restaurant in the main square but it was expensive and the food mediocre so you can skip this one. Most restaurants in the historic center are German, which makes sense since Sibiu was historically a German city. For drinks, check out the Music Pub which has a few craft beers.
I’ve included some interesting points on this MAP worth checking out if you had a day in Sibiu. The Council Tower is worth climbing but glass windows cover your view of the city. The Cathedral tower has a better 360 panoramic view but I think both is worth climbing up. But as always, “Dude, get lost.” I recommend you explore without a map and get lost to discover new things you wouldn’t otherwise.
Where And How To Get To Sibiu?
Sibiu is right at the heart of Transylvania and is in between two major Romanian cities, Cluj-Napoca and Bucharest. It’s a simple 3.5 hour bus ride or if you like the slow but comfortable ride via train.
A DAY IN BREAKDOWN:
- Train from Brasov to Sibiu – $8 (32 RON)
- Smart Hostel in Lower Town – $13.50 (a night)
- Breakfast at Hostel – Free (included)
- A la carte lunch from Billa – $3
- Dinner at Delis restaurant – $5
- Drinks at Music Pub – $2 (a beer)
- Entrance to Cathedral tower and Council Tower – $3.50
- TOTAL: $35
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