I decided to dedicate my first Romania post to Sibiu (or Hermannstadt). This city is not only famous for his houses with eyes but one of the bigger towns in Transylvania.
It was not the first stop on our Romania trip, but for sure, one of the most significant. My mom was born here and grew up here. My family from my mother’s side is from all over Transylvania. Still, my grandparents and my mom lived in Sibiu until they left Romania to move to Germany. They left their mark on this city, and it for sure left its mark on them. And since Sibiu is also a common tourist area and a good starting point for a trip around Transylvania.
The city of Sibiu or Hermannstadt in German was founded back in the 12th century. It grew to be the capital of Transylvania or Siebenbürgen (seven fortresses in German). It was founded by German settlers who came to the area that was empty in the middle ages to look for a better fortune. Sibiu quickly grew into a wealthy merchant city, and in the 14th century, it was already an important trading center. Then in the 18th and 19th centuries, the city became the second- and later the first-most important center of Transylvania for both Saxons and Romanians. After the first World War, Sibiu formed officially part of Romania (before the area belonged to the ottoman and then the Austrian Hungarian Empire. During Socialist Romania, a lot of the Germans left Sibu.
I will create a separate post about the Transylvanian Saxons and the German Minorities in Romania. At the moment, there are about 15,000 Saxons left; most of them live in Sibiu and Brasov, and some that emigrated to Germany move back to the city now. So, the influence is still noticeable in Sibiu, especially in architecture, and many things are bilingual in the area.
Now the city is a great starting point for a trip through Romania and Transylvania. It also offers excellent restaurants and tasty food. And believe me: Food might be the most essential thing in Romania…
How to get to Sibiu?
One of the advantages of Sibiu has the airport. It is not big but connects the city to other European countries and especially German cities like Nuremberg, Munich or Stuttgart. They also have direct flights to London, Vienna or Madrid.
You can also reach it by train or bus from Budapest or Bucharest or by car, of course. The train from Bucharest takes around five hours, and there is a direct one every day.
Where to stay in Sibiu?
Sibiu is not very big so even if you stay a bit outside of the city center it is walkable and easy to get to the historic part of the city. I do recommend staying in the city center however and leave your car in front of the Gong Theatre. There are a lot of guest houses, a hostel, and Airbnbs in the city. There are apartments you can rent from about 30 € a night; some of them even have two rooms. We stayed at the Conrad Haas Apartment with my parents, and it was quite good and so close to the city center.
Our highlight was the Lumiere House my mom booked for the last two nights we stayed in the city. It is very modern, has a great design and the most comfortable beds ever.
There are many options for any kind of traveler in the city. What I loved about the Lumiere house (apart from the beds and the design) was that other people visiting family in Sibiu also stayed there, and the hosts were really caring.
What to do in Sibiu?
There are many things to do in this small city that reaches from culture and history to a visit in Nature or a stroll around the open-air museum and zoo. The city is also holding a lot of festivals and different events, so I recommend to download the Sibiu City App, so you do not miss out on any of the events. The city is lovely to wander around in and has some great museums about the history and there are theatres and a lot of nice parks. Not to mention the location, which is perfect for day trips.
A stroll around the city and Sibiu Landmarks
While wandering around the city, you should also visit the Lutheran and Orthodox Cathedral.
Both cathedrals are worth visiting. The Lutheran one is being restored at the moment, but you can still visit with a guided tour and climb up the bell tower. If you go up while the bells are ringing, the whole platform will shake. The Orthodox Cathedral was opened in 1904 but is no less stunning. If you visit on a Saturday, you will get the chance to be a witness to many wedding ceremonies.
You should also go up to the Council Tower to get a great view of the whole city and surroundings. The tower was used for defense and stall goods back in the middle ages, but now there are exhibitions from local artists on every floor. From there, the Piata Mica (small square) and the Bridge of lies are just a minute away. The bridge is called bridge of lies because lying vendors from the market held at the square where thrown down from it. Also, cheating lovers encountered the same destiny. It is more of a scare, though, since the bridge is not really high.
Not a historical highlight, but a little dive into socialist Romania is the shopping center Drum Brava just outside of the city wall. A stroll around the market is also fun and a great way to eat some local treats for a small price.
Another highlight and a bit of an adventure is the flea market outside of the city on the Piața Obor. It is definitely off the beaten path. You have to pay 1 Leu for entering. There you can buy anything from traditional clothes, over fake jeans to fishing supplies and chicken or geese. This is definitely a very local experience. Don’t forget to haggle, though!
Discover Transylvanian Saxon history
You can discover the city and its rich history by a little walking tour and/or a visit to one of the museums. The city museum, also called the Bruckenthal Museum, is really worth visiting and very informative, it is also a beautiful building.
If you are interested in the Transylvanian Saxons and the German history in Romania, I highly recommend visiting the Schiller bookstore right at the Plata Mare. They have interesting books about the history of Germans in Romania, Sibiu, the culture mix, and many other topics that deal with Socialism in Romania and the culture in general. Oh, and they have fantastic recipe books (did I mention the significance of food in Romania yet?). They offer books in German, English, and Romanian; also, the staff speaks all three languages.
This was definitely a highlight for me. I always loved those open-air museums, and this one is really nice. According to my mom, it always was beautiful and used by locals as a park. She would come here and hang out with her friends. I can see why. The Astra Park is a giant museum of typical Romanian houses and traditions, not only form Transylvania but everywhere in Romania. Although we visited during the off-season, there were some activities, and we could visit most of the houses. They even integrate the German and Hungarian minorities in the exhibition.
Amazing Day Trips from Sibiu
The location of the city makes it a perfect starting point for some day trips into the Transylvanian mountains and other lovely areas. Here are just a few of my favorite things to do in the area of Sibiu.
The Ocna Sibiului is an area of different salt lakes that are open just in the summer. The lakes can be visited, and you can swim there. Each lake has a different size, amount of salt, and temperature, which leads to various health benefits. The area was turned into a little resort, so, unfortunately, they are just open in the Summer.
The resort is easy to reach by car or train, and it is just 14km away from Sibiu.
Păltiniș (Hohe Rinne)
Another lovely day trip is a drive to the mountains. The Ski, bike, and hike resort Păltiniș is just a 35km drive away from the city and offers a little escape into the mountains and the Transylvanian landscape. Just be aware that the season takes a short pause from the end of September until December 1st, as they give the cable cars and hotels the maintenance they need. In the winter, the place is open for skiers and snowboarders, and in the summer, you can hike, mountain bike, or visit their high rope park Arka Park. There is also a summer bob slope and other activities for kids and grown-ups alike. And of course, there is food, so you should visit a cabana (mountain restaurant) for some Mititei (Romanian sausages) and Mamaliga.
You can get to the Păltiniș by car or by Bus through the village Rășinari.
Between Brasov and Sibiu, there is a beautiful mountain line with a waterfall and a stunning lake. The Bâlea lake can be reached by car on a 35km longs mountain road or via an old cable car that runs from the Bâlea Cascada to the top.
The Cable car takes you from 1200m to 2034 right to the lake. They charge 35 Lei each way (up and down) and take you right to the top just by the lake. From there, you can either go on a hike to the top of the highest mountain in Romania, have lunch in one of the cabins, admire the lake or start a hike through the Romanian Carpathians. During the winter you also have the option to stay at an Ice Hotel at the top. The hotel is made entirely out of ice and opens in late September.
You might also just kick back and admire the view. Bâlea Lake can be reached by car from Sibiu, or you can take a train to Fagaras and then keep going by bus. In that case, you might want to start early.
The whole Fagaras valley is gorgeous, by the way, and you might want to stop at the Castelul de Lut, an elf-like Clay house built by a couple of artists. They also serve food in their garden right by the river and created a peaceful place for locals and visitors.
Where to eat in Sibiu?
Sibiu is the heart of Transylvania and a hub for delicious food. Even though my grandma does not live there anymore ;). Although it has a lot to offer for hungry visitors, there are some tourists traps and overrated restaurants. That might disappoint in service, they might still have good food, but there are better options. So without further to do, here is a list of my favorite eateries in the city.
A crama is a traditional restaurant that is usually located in an old wine cellar. In general, you cannot go wrong with eating in one, just make sure that it is not a tourist trap like the Crama Crama Sibiul Vechi.
The Ileana one is definitely a little hidden gem in Sibiu. This restaurant is highly frequented by locals and offers the best Transylvanian dishes outside of my grandma’s house. Their Sarmale taste home-made and the portions are enormous, even a bit bigger than in other Romanian restaurants (and believe me that means something). They also have a lot of great and hearty Romanian soups. My favorites are the Ciorba cu Perisoare (sour soup with meatballs) or Ciorba cu Legume (sour soup with vegetables). One of those soups and a dessert will fill you up, well, unless you have a Romanian stomach. Still, you might want to try the Sarmale (traditional cabbage rolls) here, they are the best!
The restaurant is cozy and decorated in a rustic traditional way. I love that some tables are set apart from the others like booths, so you will have a lot of privacy and feel comfortable during your meal.
The Crama Ileana is located here:
Strada Berăriei 2,
(right outside the former city wall and behind the basketball training gym)
Hofmeister is a lovely modern restaurant not far from the main square and the historic city center. They put a twist on traditional dishes and serve seasonal treats with local and natural ingredients. Meat lovers and vegetarians will love it likewise as they offer tender meat but also shine with many vegetarian dishes. They also serve very good Papanasi, so you won’t have to sacrifice this Romanian treat. For Vegetarians, I can highly recommend the Galuste cu Ciuperci (A dish with dried tomatoes, Spinach, fresh local mushrooms, and Gnocchi-like dumplings). Meat-eaters will love the duck or slow-cooked pork.
The address is:
Strada Timotei Popovici 9,
This place is an institution in the city, and I recommend it for soup and platters. The little butcher and cheese shop next door is an excellent spot for lunch and offers lovely platters with a local organic spread. So does the Hermania, they also have a lot of different meat dishes and tasty soups. I highly recommend cumin soup and goulash. They also serve a gigantic portion of Mamaliga cu Branza (Polenta with cheese and sour cream). This a great place to visit with a group as they have big tables and a lot of space. You might have to make a reservation on the weekends.
The address is:
Strada Filarmonicii 2,
And where to get dessert in Sibiu?
Cake lovers will also thrive in Sibiu as there are many bakeries with Romanian sweets and calorie bombs that are so worth it, though. On the main pedestrian road, there are a lot of bakeries, and Hungarian Gogosi stands. My personal recommendations are the salty one with Telemea (a hearty feta-like cheese) or the sweet one with Visine (a sour cherry marmalade). Close to the Piata Mare, there is also a little bakery selling home-made cakes and treats like Salam de Biscuit. Also, do not forget to try Baumstriezel or Kürtőskalács, a Hungarian spit cake with different toppings such as sugar, walnuts, or coconut. In Sibiu, you can get great ones right behind the Council Tower on the Piata Mica.
My blogpost for further guidance with Romanian traditional dishes and treats will be up soon.
****the links to the accommodations are affiliate links, which will not raise your price when booking but help me to get a tiny commission. Other than no one paid me to write this and all of the places are on the list because I liked them and/or considered them important****