historic and charming Romanian cities -- Sighisoara and Sibiu  http://www.offbeattravel.com/sighisoara-sibiu-transylvania-romania-world-heritage-cities.html

Historic Sighisoara and Sibiu: Two Romanian Cities that Charm

I walked through the gated entrance to the medieval town of Sighisoara and gasped. It was night, and the effect of the city was magic, like stepping back 500 years.

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If you're looking for totally charming and quaint historic town, head to Sighisoara. For bigger city differently delightful it's the Old Town in Sibiu -- cosmopolitan charm amid 16th century buildings.


The town glows with light, color, and life. Pale green buildings with yellow trim, yellow buildings with orange trim, basement souvenir shops and ground level cafes. Cobblestone streets lead from one interesting vantage to another.

Founded by German craftsmen and merchants in Transylvania, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Sighisoara is a beautiful example of a small, fortified medieval town and the walls are still largely intact. This separates the historic center from the burgeoning newer section of the city. Sighisoara offers watch towers, cobbled streets, actual houses and inns, plus ornate churches and a cemetery that winds its way down the hillside. Each of the towers of the town was built, maintained and defended by a craft guild. Although not open to the public, the towers mark the perimeter of the city. But most breath-taking of all is the striking confection – the Clock Tower that dominates the picturesque plaza.

The Clock Tower is the signature construction of Sighisoara. Although it dates back to 1280 the roof was replaced in 1894, and the two-faced clock was set into the tower at the beginning of the 17th century. These quibbles aside, it is strikingly beautiful. You'll want to photograph this confection day and night.

It is also home to three museums: the History Museum, Torture Room and Weapons Collection. The History Museum, located inside the Clock Tower sounds benign, but the Torture Room on the ground floor is actually the room where prisoners were tortured and confessions were extorted during the Middle Ages. The Weapons Collection is actually not in the tower, but in the Vlad Dracul house nearby. This is a brightly painted yellow building where the infamous Vlad the Impaler Dracula was born.

The rest of the city which offers plazas, shops, and outdoor cafes. The Stag House draws its name from the stag skull set on one of the corners of its fašade. Recent restorations revealed an external mural depicting the stag's body. Nowadays, the building houses a hotel, with a ground floor that doubles as a cellar bar.

historic and charming Romanian cities -- Sighisoara and Sibiu  http://www.offbeattravel.com/sighisoara-sibiu-transylvania-romania-world-heritage-cities.html
The Church on the Hill is reached by a covered wooden staircase known as the Scholars' Stairs or sometimes Students' Stairs. The number of steps is a bit daunting, but offers a lovely view from the top. There's also a cemetery which literally climbs alongside the hill.

On the last weekend in July, the city hosts the Sighisoara Medieval Festival with royalty galore and a sound and light show. I can't imagine a more perfect setting.


Sibiu is also is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Much larger than Sighisoara, Sibiu is divided into the lower and upper parts of the city and offers three spacious interlocking plazas, and a succession of smaller squares in the lower town. It welcomes with small interesting side streets, and passages that link the plazas. The architecture includes Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque buildings as well as examples from more modern times.

Start with Piata Mare which is the largest square in historic yet sophisticated Sibiu. There are medieval buildings, the Brukenthal Museum, City Hall and more. It's also the place to find a cafe and people-watch.

Behind it to the north is Piata Mica, the Small Square with more museums. One of the must-see places is the Museum of the History of Pharmacy at Piata Mica, 26 with over 6,000 exhibits from the 16th to 19th centuries. At the edge between Piata Mica, and Piata Huet is the Liar’s Bridge. Notable for being the first cast iron bridge (built in 1859) in present day Romania. It is also said that it squeaks when someone crossing it tells a lie and might someday collapse under the weight of untruths.

An afternoon in the city was insufficient for anything more than strolling, eating, and photography, but this is a city that you should spend time and savor. Its design, atmosphere, and spacious plazas make it a perfect venue for festivals and events, which fill the calendar.

If You Go

For more information on sights, attractions, hotels and more visit
Romania Tourism - Sighisoara
Romania Tourism - Sibiu
Read more about Romania

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Neala McCarten

Unless otherwise indicated, all photos by the author

Updated: August 23, 2016

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