Central Romania encompasses what is popularly known as Transylvania – a place that immediately brings to mind the legend of Count Dracula. While the legend is certainly intriguing and a genuine tourist attraction, the region has much more to offer. Some of Europe’s best-preserved medieval towns, most notably Sighisoara, Brasov and Sibiu, are located here.
Visitors can marvel at Transylvania’s unique architectural treasures, such as castles, fortified churches and centuries-old houses, while exploring sites where more than 900 years ago Saxon craftsmen and merchants established powerful and rich citadels.
During the middle of the 12th century Saxons came to the area from the Luxembourg, Lorraine, Moselle, Rhine and Wallonia regions of northwestern Europe. They called their new home ‘Siebenburgen’ (Seven Fortresses – in Latin Septem Castra) after the seven major walled towns they built here:
Bistrita (Bistritz) , Brasov (Kronstadt), Cluj Napoca (Klausenburg), Medias (Mediasch), Sebes (Seh besh’), Sibiu (Hermannstadt), Sighisoara (Schassburg)
Sighisoara is a must see destination in Romania. Part of the UNESCO World Heritage program, it is one of the nicest and well preserved Medieval Cities in Romania, and even Europe.
It was founded by German craftsmen who were invited by the king of Hungary to settle in Transylvania to defend the borders. Of course they got special rights for it. In 1280 is dated the first document that atested the settlement that was lived by the Germans, named locally like Sasi (sash).
To defend against the invaders, people made the first city wall that has around 1 km, started from 1350. First, the wall had 4-5 meters high, but then was over-raised up with another 3-4 meters. Even Vlad Dracul, the father of Prince Vlad the Impaler (known as Dracula) lived here in exile.
In present remained 9 craftsmen’ towers and 3 defense towers. Every craft had its own tower, where, when they were attacked, they hid the women and children and their valuables as the men started to defend the city. The most spectacular of all is the Clock Tower of 64 meters high, which you have to visit, as it is a museum and has even a terrace from where you can see the city from above. Another thing that I love there is the covered staircase (the Pupil’s Stairs) made entirely in wood in 1642 and which has 175 steps. On the top of the staicase you will find the Hill School and the Hill Evangelic Church with the cemetery, where the famous city pople were buried. Of course you can visit the weaponry museum and the torture chamber.
Every year, in the last weekend in June, there is a Medieval Festival here. The city is crowded with people dressed in medieval clothes that are playing theatre, are fighting in the streets and are singing, and, of course, with thousands of tourists.
In Southern Transylvania is the beautiful town of Sibiu. The historic centre of the city has undergone major revamp and looks amazing. Sibiu is also popular as one of the most important cultural and historic centre of Romania. The medieval charm of the city attracts several travellers every year.
Known in German as Hermannstadt and in Hungarian as Nagyszeben, Sibiu has always been the centre of Romania’s German minority since medieval times. Even today, it contains Romania’s largest German community, and due to initiatives by the local government, the Germanic feel of the area has been maintained. Sibiu also has a significant Hungarian minority, remnants of Transylvania’s past as part of the Hungarian Empire and, later, Austria-Hungary. Despite this, Sibiu is also distinctly Romanian (95% of the population are ethnic Romanians) and manages to fuse these three cultures, as well as smaller minorities of Roma, Slovaks and Ukrainians into a city that is as wonderful as it is vibrant.
Today, Sibiu is one of Romania’s cultural and tourism capitals, attracting tourists due to its wonderful medieval charm, excellent views of the surrounding landscapes, great food, and stunning parkland. Sibiu today is also doing excellently economically, having an income per capita higher than the Romanian average.
Much of the city has been reconstructed due to it being the European Capital of Culture in 2007 and has benefited greatly from the funds made available. The people in Sibiu are much more relaxed and friendly than in Bucharest, and much of the city is pedestrian-friendly.
The main attraction of Sibiu is the medieval town. The streets are wonderful line with beautiful buildings, churches and coffee houses. The old town of the city is divided into two sections the Upper Town and the Lower Town. The Upper Town houses all the historic attractions of the city and the Lower Town is comprised of cobbled squares and beautiful buildings.
The Citadel of Sibiu is one of the best preserved forts in the country. The entire citadel is excellent to explore. The Brukenthal Museum is counted among the best museums of Romania and houses over 1000 paintings. The museum also features the collection of Governor Brukenthal from the 15th-18th centuries. The “ASTRA” Museum of Traditional Folk Civilization is one of the biggest open air museums in Europe. It spans over an area of one square kilometre and has over 300 buildings depicting the local lifestyle.
Sibiu also has some wonderful natural attractions. There are wonderful parks and green spaces in the city where you can relax and have fun. About 50Km from Sibiu is the Balea Lake a glacier lake which is good to visit on a day trip. You can also enjoy hiking the Fagaras Mountains and Cindrel Mountains.
Brașov, known as Kronstadt in German or Brassó in Hungarian is the 7th largest city in Romania. It is located almost in the centre of the country and surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains. The city provides a mix of wonderful mountain scenery in the nearby Poiana Braşov and medieval history with German influences in the old town.
Braşov boasts everything from dynamic modern city life to old world charm and fascinating scenery. Also, it’s pleasant to have some of the extras as well, including some of the best cleanliness records in the country, great transport and great food. Even though it’s a bit overpriced for Romanian standards, especially in the high season, Braşov is definitely worth it. As some people say, “Why bother coming to Romania if you’re not going to see Braşov?”
Stroll around the old Town Hall Square (Piata Sfatului) where you can admire colorfully painted and ornately trimmed baroque structures. Take a peek inside the Black Church (Biserica Neagra), the largest gothic church in Romania. Its name derives from damage caused by the Great Fire of 1689, when flames and smoke blackened its walls. The interior is impressive and well-kept and houses one of the largest organs in Eastern Europe.
Nearby are towering mountains, rolling fields, thick forests and villages with fortified churches.
The Braşov county is one of the most visited by tourists. Other than Braşov city and its immediate attractions, the resorts of Poiana Braşov (12 km west) and Predeal (27 km south), are also well worth visiting. Other places and tourist attractions of the county: Bran, Moeciu, Râşnov, Făgăraş, Prejmer, Zărneşti, Sâmbăta (at the foot of the Făgăraş mountains).