Sibiu is one of the most romantic cities in Europe. Not only is it surrounded by a fortified wall including a section of beautifully restored double wall with turrets and a wooden walkway, but it has one of the largest percentages of walking streets out there. Pretty much the entire historic centre is car-free making it a very peaceful place for a stroll. The stunning churches and twisting cobblestone streets will make you fall in love with the city instantly.
What to do
The Ever Watching Eyes
Sibiu should be known as the city with the most surveillance. It seems like at least a third of the buildings have their eyes on you. Lucky its not with video cameras but the actual buildings themselves have eyes! Many of the buildings in the city have small windows on the roof that are very similar to the shape of an eye. In the past, the attics of many houses in Sibiu were used as food storage and drying rooms which needed proper ventilation while remaining quite dark. To achieve this, small circular windows were used with shingles wrapping around them thus creating the look of eyes! Take a walk around and find your favourite! (ours was above the Bridge of Lies)
Like many other cities throughout Romania, the constant threat of invasion caused a heavily fortified citadel to form. Built by the German Saxons who had immigrated into the area, it quickly became one of the 7 German Citadels that currently hold the UNESCO designation. A large section of the city walls can still be seen in Sibiu. Much of the wall that is still intact is along the eastern side of the city center including a section that is still being restored today! Along the east side is also an incredibly well-done restoration of a double city wall. This area, which is now a park, once held a main gate to the city and thus was an important section to protect. Make sure you check out this section as the backside of the interior wall is also complete with its covered wooden walkway.
Churches of Sibiu
While there are a number of churches that dot Sibiu, two, in particular, stand out. The first is hard to miss as it is adjacent to the Piaţă Mică ("small square") and has a spire that can be seen from many places in the city. The colourful tiled roof of the Lutheran Cathedral of Saint Mary topped with several spires and a steeple complete with four turrets not only is the staple of the city skyline but was also a warning to others letting them know the death penalty was used in the city. This church has been going through extensive renovations so the interior is not open to the public (updated June 2019).
Only a couple minutes walk away is the Holy Trinity Cathedral which is the second-largest Orthodox Cathedral in Romania! This incredible building has one of the most beautiful interiors that we have ever seen. The extensive murals and massive gold chandelier make this church a must see. Across the street is the covered driveway into the Theology University which is also covered in spectacular murals.
Towers of Sibiu
The city centre has two towers that can give you a birds-eye view of the entire town. The first is the massive steeple at the Lutheran Cathedral of Saint Mary. Though the church interior is under renovations, you can still climb to the top during set hours of the day.
The easier tower to climb is quite a bit smaller but offers a gorgeous view over the central plaza. The Council Tower was originally built in the 12th century but with a turbulent history, the tower has been rebuilt several times.
Bridge of Lies
Connecting the Lower and Upper town is Romania's oldest cast-iron bridge built in the mid-1800s. The beautiful designs make for a gorgeous spot to visit for anyone in love. It is also said that the bridge has "ears" and creaks when anyone tells a lie. Because of this, many people flock to it to test their love as it is Sibiu's version of a lie detector!
Covid Conscious Activities
With Covid-19 being such a huge factor in daily life, it is important to take steps towards a safer holiday like trying to limit your daily contact with others. Keep up to date with the latest local advisories and information.
Sibiu's eyes make it a great city to explore without much purpose. Wander through the narrow streets and under the bridges attempting not to be seen by the hundred of eyes that adorn the buildings. Each set has a unique look and history so make sure you keep your eyes peeled! Try taking a self guided walking tour or an exploration game to learn more about the city while staying socially distant from others. Once you have had your fill inside town, try to make your way out to the Astra Open Air Art Gallery for one of the largest outside art galleries in Romania.
Where to Stay
The city is pretty small so there isn't really a bad area to stay in. We stayed at two different places each with their advantages but neither really had any disadvantages. I suggest that you try not to stray too far from the city centre as the cost of accommodations on Airbnb and booking.com is already reasonable. With the main train station being just a 10-minute walk from the old town it should be easy to get to your central accommodations.
How to get there and around
The city is quite small so it can be explored mostly by foot. After about 10 minutes of walking down the main road from the train station, you hit the historic centre which is lined with shops and restaurants. As long as you are staying around this area, you shouldn’t need any buses or taxis to get around. There is a city bus system but without a need to head out of the centre, a tourist will likely not need to use it.
Getting to Sibiu is a little more challenging than most like. While it does have a train station, it is not super well connected to the main cities around. Cluj to the north is anywhere from 5-8 hours with at least one change depending on the trains you take. If time permits, taking the regional trains are about half the cost for only an extra hour or two on the train. The train from Brasov is 3 hours with the IC trains while the regional train takes about 4. Lastly, the train from Bucharest is over 5 hours direct on the IC train and quite a bit longer on the regional trains. You can also take buses between any of these cities, but we found the train system was reliable, quite comfortable and could be booked online.
With Sibiu being quite a small city, we wouldn’t recommend using it as a base and doing day trips. If you have a car, then you could make it to Sighisoara in a day but it would still be over 3 hours of driving which limits the amount of time in Sighisoara. If you were wanting to head out of the city, we would suggest to hike in the surrounding mountains or visit the Astra Open Air Art Gallery.
While day trips are a little tough from Sibiu, it is a great spot to rent a car as prices are low and there are some fantastic sites in the surrounding areas. We have set up a 6-day loop tour HERE but if you don’t have the time make sure to check out the Transalpina or Transfăgărășan highway.