We travel to a town once rated by Forbes as Europe’s eighth most idyllic place
Most people who visit Romania don’t come back without visiting Bucharest, the capital. But since our first stop was Cluj-Napoca and we were warned by the locals there about the capital city being famous for its notorious tourist traps, we decided to head to a quieter little city called Sibiu instead, about 160 km – a two-hour drive – away.
Forbes magazine had once rated Sibiu as “Europe’s eighth most idyllic place to live” and the fact that the city was surrounded by mountains, instantly, gave us an inviting vibe. So, without even bothering to make hotel bookings, we rented a car and set out to Sibiu. Trust Lonely Planet to scout out the best places to stay. There’s something for every budget starting from two euros a night for a bed to four-star luxury for about 200 euros.
After dumping our bags at Vila Andra, a reasonably priced three-star villa that charged us about 80 euros per room, we set out to see the town. In winter, you could head 35 km southwest to Paltinis, the resort in the Cindrel Mountains, a popular skiing destination. But during summer, there’s just the town and the museums to see.
The best place to start exploring any European town is from the town centre that usually has a square. Sibiu has three of them, with a car park at the town centre for tourists to leave their wheels behind and stroll around to soak in the romance of Sibiu.
From the centre, you can see the picturesque rooftops of the houses in the Lower Town. The three squares are a part of the Upper Town. As you make your way from the Piata Unirii (Town Centre) you find a row of beer bars dotting the cobblestone walkway with shops and markets on either side.
Since only walking and cycling is allowed, it’s the perfect stretch to slower your pace and look around for souvenirs and curios.
A 10-minute walk later, we are at Piata Mare (Grand Square) that houses the Brukenthal Palace, and all around are similar Baroque-styled buildings. The evening lighting just makes it all the more romantic with park benches scattered throughout and the remains of a medieval fountain at the heart of the square protected by a cage. The square is grand indeed, with the majestic structures decking up the landscape that no matter where you keep your camera, you are sure to get a picture perfect frame.
As you walk further, you enter the Piata Mica (Small Square) that is packed with restaurants, bars and pizzerias. It’s almost like the whole town got together for a party. Grab a chair, order a drink and a meal, unwind and you will see the Liars Bridge at one end of the square that connects it to the Lower town. Before you know it, the sun has set and slowly the shops around too shut down. The third square in the area is the gothic Huet Square that’s home to the Evangelical Lutheran Cathedral.
The next morning we set out to the ASTRA open-air ethnography museum that stretches to 96 hectares of land by the Sibiu forest. It’s like time travel as you enter the Traditional Folk Civilization museum. The means of transport is a horse carriage. There are windmills at the other end of the lake and visitors fishing at one end. An amphitheatre by the lake seems to be the perfect venue for an evening of live music. There are statues, structures of Romanian houses, sculptures and water mills as you walk deeper into the park – or the museum, as they call it.
If you are a museum lover, there’s a lot to explore in Sibiu. But since we are not, we hit the road again, off to explore yet another side of Transilvania. Time for castle-spotting!
Keywords: Romania tourism