This is our insider guide to some of best things to do in Sibiu, one of the most beautiful cities in Romania, a Cultural European Capital in 2007 and a constant presence in tops featuring Europe’s best places to live. In fact, a visit to Transylvania is not complete without a stay in Sibiu, one of the seven fortified citadels built by the Transylvanian Saxons back in the Medieval Ages. One weekend is a good start to give you an idea of the city’s diverse attractions, although you’ll definitely want to stay more.
Our top 10 places to see and things to do in Sibiu includes the very best of the historical attractions as well as a few travel tips on its main events and must-see surroundings. But first, leave your car behind. Sibiu is ultimately a destination to explore on foot. Take a map and discover everything at your own pace.
The squares of the old city are hard to miss. They reunite most of the historical monuments from the old part of Sibiu, and they are fully-packed with cafes and restaurants making them a popular stop for tourists.
First mentioned in 1411, the Large Square is, however, older, dating from the mid-14th century when the third fortification belt of the city was built. Along centuries, the Large Square witnessed the main events of the cities, from public meetings to executions. The main attractions of the Large Square are Brukenthal Palace, the Blue House, the Haller House and the Catholic Church.
In the Small Square, you’ll find more iconic attractions: the Council Tower, the Bridge of Lies, Hermes House or the Fresco Hall. The buildings from this square date from the 14th to the 16th century and were mainly craftsmen shops. Smaller than the first two, the Huet, the Goldsmiths’ and the Arms squares complete the list.
Sibiu is a top destination when it comes to museums. It has the oldest museum in Romania and also one of the largest open-air exhibitions in the country. The Brukenthal Museum, hosted in the imposing Baroque-style Brukenthal Palace, was opened to the public in 1817, making it the first museum in Romania. It has one of the most important art collections in the country, a real treat for art enthusiasts.
If you’re looking for a different type of exhibits, visit the Pharmacy Museum situated in the Small Square in a Gothic building dating from 1856. Coincidence or not, the first pharmacy in the country was opened in Sibiu in 1494.
Sibiu offers a rare chance to see three major churches of different confessions, all of them emblematic for the multicultural heritage of the region. Located in Huet Square, the Evangelical Church dates from the 14th century and is one of the main attractions of Sibiu. Its 73 meters high tower is the tallest in Transylvania, its four corner towers indicating the city’s right to apply the death penalty centuries ago. The church has a rich collection of precious objects and impressive interiors, including a rare collection of funeral stones and a rare mural painting. Be sure to go up to the tower for a panoramic view of the city.
Sibiu is also an important Orthodox center in Romania and the Orthodox Cathedral, built between 1902 and 1904, is one of the city’s main religious edifices. The architecture is inspired by the Cathedral Saint Sofia from Istanbul while its interior paintings were done in a Neo-Byzantine style by Octavian Smigelschi. The initiative of building the cathedral appeared earlier, in 1857, promoted by bishop Andrei Saguna, and marked an important moment in the fight for political rights of the Romanians from Transylvania in the 19th century.
A symbol of another fight, this time between the Habsburg Catholic domination and the local Protestant communities is the Catholic Church from the Large Square. Built in 1733, the edifice blocked the view of the Evangelical Church, in the time when Transylvania was incorporated into the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. No Catholic church had been active in Sibiu for more than one century until that moment.
Walk the 141 steps of the Council Tower, and enjoy a great view of the city. Built in the 14th century, the tower had from the beginning a defensive function. It was modified several times over the centuries, only the ground floor and the first two levels are part of the original construction as its current look dates from 1824-1826. The tower is open for visitors.
The Council Tower is not the only construction of this type still preserved in Sibiu. The Stairs’ Tower, at least its ground floor, is the oldest monument in the city, connecting the Lower and the Upper City. The fourth line of fortifications includes the Thick Tower that is today the location of the local Philharmonic Orchestra, the Carpenters’ Tower, the Potters’ Tower and the Arquebusiers’ Tower.
Take a walk on the Bridge of Lies, one of the symbols of the city, as this is no doubt one of the top things to do in Sibiu. Built in 1859 by Friedrich Hutte on the place of an older wooden bridge, this is the first forged iron bridge in Romania and the second of Europe. The bridge has many legends, the most famous saying that it will collapse if those standing on it are telling lies. The coat of arms of the city, the name of the constructor and the year 1859 are visible on its two sides.
If you have more time to spend in Sibiu, then go local and explore some of the oldest streets in the city. Be sure to have your camera with you, you’ll find plenty of photogenic attractions. Try streets like General Magheru, Centumvirilor, Ioan Lupas, Alexandru Odobescu, Timotei Popovici, Selarilor, Xenopol or the street 9 Mai, known in the past as Elisabeta, the oldest street in Sibiu.
Sibiu has one of the busiest cultural calendars in Romania and each season you have the chance to see great spectacles, exhibitions, fairs and festivals. One of the most important events is the International Theatre Festival that takes place each year in June. If you decide to go, be sure to book your tickets in advance. It’s no secret that attending this festival is one of the best things to do in Sibiu and tickets sell fast.
A multicultural heritage often translates to delicious food and the varied and mouth-watering gastronomic delights of Sibiu are no exception. Local cuisine was deeply influenced along time by Saxons and Hungarians, making it a must-try of any trip here. Plus, Sibiu will be the Gastronomic Capital of Europe in 2019, all the more reasons to try its top dishes.
Add two more days to your visit if you want to explore the cultural and natural attractions around Sibiu, especially the rich ethnographic villages known as Marginimea Sibiului. Visit the fortified churches around Sibiu: Cisnadie (9 km), Cisnadioara (11km), Valea Viilor (48 km) or Bazna (65 km) and Biertan (70 km). Or drive the 20 km to the Cistercian Monastery of Carta. For hikes and nature trips, try Cindrel or Fagaras Mountains. You can also go skiing in the mountain resort Paltinis.
If you don’t want to go too far away, just 4 km from the city, you’ll find one of the largest open-air museums in Romanian and Europe, the Astra Museum of Folkloric Traditional Civilization. The museum is open all year long and is unquestionably one of the top attractions in Sibiu.
Sibiu has one of the best Christmas markets in Romania and this annual tradition is one of the main winter events of the city. If you happen to be in Sibiu from the end of November until the 26th of December, be prepared to be entertained. Besides the themed decorations and traditional Christmas objects for sale, this major event also means concerts and lots of family fun.
We hope our first time visitor guide of the best things to do in Sibiu will help you plan your stay. We know you’ll enjoy it as much as we do as Sibiu is the ultimate urban destination in Transylvania, a magical place you’ll want to see every time you’re in Romania.