This is part 2 of our Romanian road trip.
After crossing the mountains on the spectacular Transfăgărășan road, we headed west again, this time towards Sibiu. In 2007, Sibiu was the European Capital of Culture, becoming the first city in South-Eastern Europe to receive this title.
It was founded over 900 years ago by German settlers and soon evolved into an important medieval centre. As a fortress, Sibiu proved to be invincible in front of the ottomans and surpassed numerous military conflicts and was at some point even the capital of Transylvania. It was here that the first hospital, the first library, the first school, the first pharmacy and the first book store in Romania were opened.
The architecture of the old town clearly reflects the Germanic influences. We discovered colourful two-storey houses with tall roofs and gates opening passages to inner courtyards, narrows streets and medieval fortifications. If you have just a few hours to spend here, then simply go on a walk through the old town and enjoy the sights and the absolutely delicious foods. But if you have more time, here is what you should visit in one day in Sibiu.
The Astra Museum
Start you day just outside the city, at the Astra Museum of Folkloric Traditional Civilization. This is an open air museum that showcases buildings and monuments representative for the values of the Romanian village. It stretches over 96 hectares with an exhibition circuit of about 10 km in length. Our favourites were the old windmills that were reflecting beautifully in the lake. We could have easily spend the entire day here, but since we had many other things on our ‘must see’ list, we only stayed for about 3 hours.
The Stairs Passage and St Mary’s Cathedral
Return to the city and get to the intersection between the streets Faurului and Turnului. From here you will walk through the medieval Stairs Passage and then climb to Huet square where the Lutheran St Mary’s cathedral is. Whit colored-glazed rooftops and beautifully decorated interiors, this cathedral is an architectural jewel of Sibiu. Its main tower is open to visitors and offers spectacular views of the city and nearby mountains. Just make sure you are fit for the climb; there are 192 steps, some on wooden lathers, and the tower is over 70 m high.
Liars Bridge and Lesser Square
Continue to walk towards the Liars Bridge, and you will find yourself in the Lesser Square (Small Square). Stop for lunch at any of the restaurants here and ask the waiters for some Romanian traditional foods and drinks.
Museum of Pharmacy
The Museum’s collections comprise over 6600 pieces, that will take you on a journey through three and a half centuries of evolution of medication and pharmaceutical techniques. You will see mortars and pestles, distillation devices, glass and metallic recipients, vials filled with homeopathic remedies, old microscopes and many other instruments that help to illustrate the complexity of the process of elaborating medicines.
The Council Tower
This tower is located between the Lesser Square and the Grand Square. It had various uses over time, from a granary to an observation deck for fires, a location for temporary arrest and even a museum of natural sciences. Today, the Council Tower is one of the most famous monuments of Sibiu and can be visited daily between 10 a.m. – 8 p.m, meaning you get to climb some more stairs to enjoy the view from the top.
The Brukenthal Palace and the Grand Square
This baroque building was the home of the Governor of Transylvania, then became one of the first museums in Europe. It now hosts over 1,200 works belonging to the main European schools of painting, from the 15th to the 18th century. The Brukenthal Museum also includes collections of engravings, numismatics and over 300,000 books and manuscripts in the Library. The Palace is located in Sibiu’s Grand Square and can be visited between 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. If you spend too much time at the other museums you will not get here before closing time, so you must decide which of the museums you want to visit.
We ended our day with a stroll along the Nicloae Balcescu street, did some shopping and enjoyed an excellent dinner. In the morning we left Sibu and continued our road trip, excited to discover one of the most beautiful medieval castles in Europe.
To get from Bucharest to Sibiu via the Transfăgărășan it takes about 5h.
Read more about our road trip in Romania by following the posts in the ‘Romania’ category.