For visitors to Romania’s Transylvanian region, the medieval city of Sibiu is a destination one shouldn’t miss. Sitting in the heart of Transylvania and close to the centre of Romania as well, this city has played a key role throughout the region’s history, even being the capital of Transylvania for a while. As with much of the region nearby, it was settled by German settlers in the late Middle Ages. The city gets its name from Siebenbürgen, German for the seven Saxon fortified citadels in the area, further emphasising their role in Transylvania’s history.
Today, Sibiu is a shining example of Transylvanian architecture and history, boasting an impressive historical old town. The old town is divided into the Upper Town, which was once the citadel with its masterfully restored houses, and the Lower Town that lies beyond the citadel’s walls . While there is plenty to explore in this charming city, here are just some of the main places you should visit in a trip to Sibiu, Romania.
Lutheran Cathedral of Saint Mary
Fair to say that the Lutheran Cathedral would have to be the biggest landmark of Sibiu. Even standing in the Lower Town, it’s spire is clearly visible as its wonderfully vibrant tiled roof. This 14th century cathedral has some interesting elements, including the tombstones of important figures who were buried in the cathedral.
It is also possible to climb up to the cathedral’s roof and be rewarded with spectacular views of the city from each of the cathedral’s four turrets.
Bridge of Lies (Podul Minciunilor)
This picturesque bridge sits in the Piata Mica (Small Square) and is a popular photo spot for tourists. While the bridge dates from the 19th century, it sits where a tunnel into the city used to run historically. The bridge has several legends, one of which is that the bridge has ears and if a lie is told upon it, the bridge will collapse.
Grand Square (Piata Mare)
This large square is very much the centre of the the citadel and city, surrounded by beautifully restored buildings including Brukenthal Palace, City Hall and many houses.
The palace now hosts several art museums, with the Brukenthal Gallery said to be one of the best in Romania. Even if art isn’t your thing, it is worth popping into the palace to see its small courtyard, decked out in roses.
Strada Nicolae Bălcescu
This pedestrian street runs from the Grand Square through Upper Town with plenty shops, cafes and restaurants on it. Like the Grand Square, it has some beautiful buildings along it and some little alleyways that run off it.
City Walls & Park
While the city walls are plainly in sight between the Upper and Lower towns, you’ll appreciate the scale of the defences if you seek them out on the far side as well. Slightly removed from the main sights of the Upper Town, not much of the walls remain, but what is left gives you an idea of how well defended the city was. On Strada Cetatii you will find a stretch of wall bookended with two sentry towers.
If you head to the outer side of the wall, you’ll find yourself in peaceful Cetatii park that runs between the layers of the city’s old fortifications. This shady park seems popular with locals and even had a line of wedding parties waiting to have photos taken when I visited.
Passage of Steps (Pasajul Scarilor)
This passage joins the Lower and Upper towns, running along the stoic buttressed walls that surround the upper town. Here you can appreciate the brickwork, the arches and just the sheer scale of the city’s walls.
The Stairs Tower (Turnul Scarilor)
This tower get its name from the stairway it sits at the top of providing another means of getting between the Upper and Lower towns. From the top of the stairs, you have a splendid view across the traditional rooftops of the Lower town.
Unlike the Upper Town which has seen much restoration and renovation, the Lower Town is less refined. This makes it a great place to wander as you realise how much work has gone into the Upper Town. Of particular interest is the rooftops of the houses, all in a distinctly Transylvanian style that is hard to put your finger on.
Have you had the chance to visit the medieval city of Sibiu? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.