Unlike its culturally and architecturally confused sibling Bucharest, Sibiu,Romania offers visitors a rare glimpse into what Romania truly was and is. Sibiu is the next great destination in Eastern Europe. As the cultural center of Transylvania you’ll be greeted with original architecture (as in 700 years old), accommodating locals, and interesting cuisine that are all sure to make your visit to Romania a memorable one.
Located in southern Romania, about 280kms from Bucharest, Sibiu has long been a fixture in Romanian culture and history. With its first official record being from 1191, Sibiu has managed to combine it’s Romanian, Hungarian, and Austrian (having been part of each) past into one thriving city. Also having the largest ethnic German community in Romania (their mayor is actually German. Klaus Werner Johannis). Sibiu is the official capital of Sibiu county, and unofficially the capital of Transylvania in my opinion. The former European Culture Capital (2007) embraces it’s role and largely endorses the significant part Romanians, particularly ones from the area, have played in history. For example, the rocket was invented in Sibiu Romania.
Where to Stay
The best way to experience Sibiu is by staying in a guesthouse in the “old city”. This is where all the ambiance of Sibiu is. Now you can stay outside in some pretty nice digs but I have to advocate for staying near Sibiu’s historic squares. Generally speaking, staying in Sibiu,Romania is CHEAP. You can get a four star room for around 50 Euro.
Luxury: Hilton Sibiu or Hotel Golden Tulip Ana Tower
Mid Range: Ibis Hotel or Galeria Grafit apartments SIBIU
Budget: Old Town Hostel (above club so noisy but great location if you’re out), Sibiu Travelers Hostel, or Welt Hostel
Where to Eat
Sibiu offers EXCELLENT food fare for not much money. If you spend more than $10 Euro for a meal you are truly splurging. Sibiu takes keys from Austrian, Romania, Hungarian, and German cuisine. Creating a goulash if you will, of culinary options that will have you constantly searching for the next hidden gem. One thing you must do is TRY THE PORK. Romanian has some of the most delicious pork i’ve tasted anywhere in the world.
TIP: Do not leave this city without trying Palinka. A Carpathian fruit brandy generally made by locals at home. STRONG as in 75% + so be careful.
– Cafe Wien: For Austrian delicacies. Great beers on tap and stunning views of the countryside and lower town. Visit during sunset. Smoking is allowed inside so if your sensitive to smoke like myself, stay outside.
– Atrium Cafe Bistro: This is one of the best places in Sibiu to grab a cup of coffee and hear some local musicians. The crowd is a bit younger and it has a “hip” vibe. the cocktail list is damn impressive and not bad on the wallet. For example, a Mojito will run you about 4Euro.
– Pardon Cafe and Bistro: My favorite place in Sibiu to grab a bite. Not only is the menu extensive, inexpensive, and delicious, but the place is just cool as hell. The wait staff is accommodating and decor unique. Never seen anything like it overall.
– Hermania: A German restaurant in the center of town. Formerly an opera house, this restaurant has wait staff dressed in traditional clothing serving hearty dishes of Romanian, Hungarian, and German decent.
What to Do
While in Sibiu I was a guest of AIOS. An organization that represents the best Sibiu has to offer. They organized a wonderful itinerary for me that I would recommend to anyone. CONTACT AIOS for tour and guide information. Their team is made up of some of the most intelligent and accomplished young Romanians you could meet. All of whom are damn good tour guides ESPECIALLY Anca who put together an outstanding weapons exhibit at the Brukenthal Museum.
–Visit the Brukenthal Museums: The first museum opened in present day Romania, Brukenthal is divided between the art and history museums. Both are definitely worth a visit. The Brukenthal was once home to Baron Samuel Brukenthal. Upon his death he decreed his fantastic home and art collection become a museum for the people of Sibiu.
–People watch in the Squares: Grand Square, the Lesser Square and Huet Square: Each square has a significant history but from a tourist stand point, people watch. Each are lined with cafes and restaurants that add to the ambiance without significantly increasing traffic.
–ASTRA Museum: The Museum of Traditional Folk Civilization in Sibiu. ASTRA celebrates and presents the village lifestyle of Romanian civilization down to the wood planks of homes and stones of churches. Covering over 230 Acres of land, it’s the largest open air ethnographic museum in Europe. The museum is broken up into six sections, each dedicated to a “skill” important to Romanian life such as mining and clothing manufacturing.
This place really surprised me. About 30 minutes from the city center, on the outskirts of Sibiu. Traditional Romanian homesteads have been expertly preserved and recreated. Some were removed from their original locations and moved here.
–Făgăraș Mountains day trip: These are the highest mountains in the southern Carpathian range and highest in Romania. Plainly put, they are huge. AKA the Transylvanian Alps. Located about 4 hours from Sibiu but well worth the trip.
–Culture/Festival Touring: Sibiu offers everything from fashion to theater. I visited the Raduca Stanca National Theater Sibiu for rehearsals and was blown away by their talent. The theater is of western standards and well designed. I was told that a new theatre was in the planning stages. Sibiu also has several International festivals, mainly in the summer months. Here are a few:
Sibiu Jazz Festival-May
Huet,Urban Festival- May
Sibiu International Music Festival – May
International Theatre Festival in Sibiu-June
Sibiu International Film Festival-June
Feeric Fashion Days- June
Sibiu Cycling Tour – July
Red Bull Romaniacs (the hardest enduro rally in Europe) – July
Artmania Rock Festival- August
Sibiu Open – ATP Challenger Tour – september
CibinFest (Sibiu Octoberfest) – september
Sibiu Rally – Romania FIA ERC – october
ASTRA Film Festival- October/November
Christmas Market- December
If you’re looking for a party scene then you’ve come to the wrong place. Just not something that’s big in Sibiu. And it shouldn’t be. Would take away from the charm. There are several options for you to have a nice drink and enjoy yourself.
– Oldies Pub: A traditional pub in the Irish vein. Great place to have a pint with some friends. I stumbled into this place one evening and had a blast. Really cool crowd of Romanians and a couple ex-pats.
– Liquid The Club: One of the more “upscale” and mainstream clubs. Think NYC meets Romania. Beautiful crowd with a good music mix. Western European Vibe. A bit pricier than other places but if you’re looking for that
douchebag Euro crowd, here it is.
Although a fairly private community, I found my interaction with the Roma community to be largely positive. In Bucharest, Brasov, and Cluj I found them to be quite aggressive but not so much in Sibiu. I had the opportunity to meet one of their “Kings” which opened my eyes to not only who the Roma people are but how they are treated by (traditional) Romanians. It’s an interesting thing to observe. The interaction between Roma and Romanians. Ask Romanians their views and you’ll receive some interesting and tempered responses ranging from full on contempt to sympathetic apprehension. My opportunity was a rare one.
Observing this reminds me of how Native Americans are treated in the U.S. and Aboriginals are treated in Australia. Stuck between marginalization and discrimination, while ironically being judged for it.
This was my first visit to Romania and it was one to remember. Sibiu is the perfect starting point for anyone wanting to know what true Romanian culture is like. Bucharest has been lost to its communist past while Sibiu, and the rest of Transylvania, have actively preserved Romanian culture. Gracious and hospitable people, delicious food, and a vibrant history make for a perfect introduction for anyone visiting Romania.
1. in sibiu it was invented the rocket
2.sibiu has 3 different names german – hermannstadt, hugarian – nagyszeben and romanian – sibiu
3. it was never conquered for 600 years
4. it is the Romanian capital of premieres…first hospital, first school, first zoo, etc…
5. it was European Cultural Capital in 2007
#MySibiu is a project implemented by AIOS (www.aios.ro) and financed by Sibiu Town Hall (www.turism.sibiu.ro). In association with Partners Grafit Gallery Apartments (booking.com/grafitapartmentssibiu), Cafe Wien (www.cafewien.ro), Brukenthal National Museum (brukenthalmuseum.ro), ASTRA museum (www.muzeulastra.ro), and Radu Stanca National Museum (www.tnrs.ro)
Visit http://mysibiu.eu/ for more information.