Sighisoara is one of those cities unchanged by the years. You almost expect a horse and carriage to pass you along the cobblestone streets while you stand beside a young Vlad Tepes. Probably the most famous of the Saxon Citadels due to its authentic feel and size, the city is perfect for an overnight stay. Do not go overboard spending a week as it is a small area, but the back streets and seemingly unchanged towers make you feel like you have gone back centuries.
What to do
The main attraction of Sighisoara is its famous 12th-century citadel. Built on a hill with a commanding view, it is perfect to wander through. Narrow cobblestone streets, colourful houses, defense towers, and more history than you can imagine make Sighisorara Citadel the top spot to visit. It has even gained the UNESCO World Heritage status due to its representation of German Saxon culture and architectural styles
Did you know :
Of the 14 towers originally built to protect the city, 9 of them still remain. Each was built as an individual fortress allowing it to fail while keeping the fortress as a whole protected. This has allowed them to survive for so long
Overlooking the citadel is the Church on the Hill and one of the most spectacular cemeteries you will ever visit. Started in the late 1300s the German Saxon cemetery not only has beautiful views over the city but also some of the nicest gravestones. Saxons were very proud of their heritage and occupations and carried that passion into the ground with them. Built into the side of the mountain the twisting alleys take you past some of the most beautiful graves, complete with full gardens and ornate tombstones often detailing the individual's occupation or position in life. Spend some time wandering around and transport yourself back in history.
Transylvania and Dracula (both the real and fictional one) are closely tied together. This is very evident in Sighisoara as you will pass dozens of souvenir shops hawking any sort of Dracula inspired gifts. Unlike most other cities, Sighisoara at least has some legitimate tie to the legends of Dracula. During the 1300's Vlad the Impaler's father, Vlad Dracul, was forced into exile and settled in Sighisoara. Not long after, his wife became pregnant and gave birth to the infamous leader. Very close to one of the entrances of the citadel is a yellow house in which they lived. It is now a restaurant and a small museum.
Running from the Citadel up to the church is a covered staircase dating back to 1642. When it was originally constructed, it was over 300 steps but in the late 1800s, it was shortened to its current length of 175. One of the few cities in Romania to have a wooden staircase, it has now become home to many street musicians who entertain you on your way up to the Church on the Hill.
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.
Sighisoara is pretty much just all one amazing attraction. Making your way up the hill to pass through one of the many gates takes you back in time. The tough part is that so many people want to visit the citadel during the summer months, that it may not always be a very Covid friendly city to enjoy. If you happen to be travelling during the Winter, spring or fall, then you will likely have much more space to be socially distant then if you were to be there during July and August. If you are travelling through the summer, try to stick to some of the side streets as they have some cute colourful homes and fairytale cobblestone streets.
Where to Stay
As Sighisoara is probably tied with Alba Iulia as the most famous fortified cities in Romania, it should come as no surprise that you should try to stay either within the walls (if you have a high budget) or somewhere surrounding it. Running along one side of the base of the fortress is Strada 1 Decembrie 1918, a major thoroughfare of the city that has lots of accommodations branching off the street. As the town is quite small with lots of tourism, cheap Airbnbs are hard to find so try checking alternative guest houses or hotels. We stayed at Casa Sighisoreana which is in a series of converted houses facing an interior courtyard. The staff was amazing and the accommodations were comfortable.
How to get there and around
Like many of the other tourist areas in Romania, the tourist section of Sighisoara is quite compact and easily walkable. You shouldn’t need anything other than a pair of good shoes to get around Sighisoara once you are settled. The train station is on the opposite side of the river which means it is a little bit of a walk away. While it is only about 1 KM away from the centre of town, the fortified city is up on a hilltop surrounded by cobblestone streets so it can be very tiring to carry your bags to your accommodations.
Sighisoara is very well connected to the surrounding cities by both train and bus. You have regional and IC trains to Bucharest, Brasov, Cluj, and Sibiu. It is also along a well-established highway allowing for easy access to the city. While some people believe it can be done as a day trip based on its connections through the train systems, the nearest cities are still over 2 hours away by train which limits its ability for a day trip. Do yourself a favour and stay the night so that you can peacefully explore the city.
The top day trip from Sighisoara is to the Fortified Church of Biertan. Spread across all of Transylvania, you find churches that have been heavily fortified in order to provide a safe haven during the many centuries of unrest. Some of these are small, some are intricate, and some can be so fortified they don’t even resemble a church anymore. Most of them were built by German Saxons who had settled in the area leading to the architectural wonders to be inducted into the UNESCO World Heritage List. Biertan is a fantastic, triple-walled fortified church set in a small town in the centre of a valley. You can enter for a very reasonable 10 Lei and/or take a hike to get a gorgeous viewpoint. Two interior features make this site specifically important. The first is Romania's largest multi-paneled wooden altar, while the second is a door with 15 bolts that can be simultaneously activated with just one key. This is an absolute marvel of historic technology.