If you’re planning to visit Sibiu, you’re in for one of the best travel experiences in Romania as for many this small city is the most beautiful in Transylvania. Sibiu simply fascinates with its unique mix of well-conserved architecture that makes you feel like you landed directly in Central Europe, medieval fortifications, monumental churches of different confessions, boutique shops, and narrow streets.
It’s a must-see if you want to experience the magic of Transylvania and a great destination no matter the season. If you’re planning a longer trip, Fagaras Mountains are only a few kilometers away and so are many traditional villages where you can enjoy typical rural life.
The city was founded around 1150 under the Latin name ‘Villa Hermani’, around the area of today’s Lower Town, extending to the Upper Town once the construction of the Evangelical Church began. The German colonists who settled in the south-east of Transylvania starting with the 12th century had a primordial role in developing the city, making it one of the richest and most powerful in the region. Commerce and craftsmen guilds flourished and the wealth of the city was soon protected by four layers of fortifications that were built between the 13th and 15th centuries.
Sibiu was also a powerful political center as it subordinated all the lands inhabited by the colonists. It was the headquarters of the Evangelical Church and of the Saxon University, the central judicial and administrative institution of the Saxons of Transylvania.
The 16th century marked a temporary downfall of the city, in a regional context of prolonged conflicts and fights for power and control of the region between the Hungarian Kingdom and the Ottoman Empire. Sibiu only recovered its status at the end of the following century when Transylvania became an imperial province of the Habsburg Empire. The German affinity and loyalty of the city were key to obtaining new privileges. The governor, the highest representative of the Empire, was based in Sibiu as well as the treasury and the general commander.
During the Habsburg domination, the Catholic Church made quite a comeback in the city. The authorities even built a tall Catholic Church to purposely block the view from the Large Square of the Evangelical Church. Even so, the German community who represented the majority remained Evangelical.
At the end of the First World War, Transylvania united with Romania, back then a kingdom. But, overall, the 20th century remained a darker chapter in the history of the local German community. The communists sent many of them to forced labor camps in Siberia, confiscated their goods and properties. In the end, the descendants of the colonists that once founded and created one of the most powerful cities in Transylvania migrated massively abroad in the last decades of the past century.
Before you visit Sibiu, check our guide to the best things to do and places to see. Remember to book your accommodation in time, there are plenty of events taking place in the city, and sometimes it’s difficult to find a nice place on short notice.
You should reserve a full weekend if you’re planning to include museum visits in your itinerary. After all, Sibiu has great museums, but then again the city has so much to offer that you might find yourself doing something completely different than your original plan.
Don’t forget to book your accommodation in advance as Sibiu is a very popular destination. If you’re looking for a guest house right in the heart of the Old Town, we recommend Rosen Villa Sibiu, Maison Elysee, Cetatea Medievala, or Casa Timpuri Vechi. If you prefer to rent an apartment, try Casa Hermani, Apartament Piata Mica, Hermannstadt House, or Central Parc Studios.
Take a peek at the charming interior courts from the historical center. At number 12 on Nicolae Balcescu, in the court of the house that belonged centuries ago to Michael von Brukenthal, you’ll see his coat of arms and also his wife’s, Countess Christina Teleki. On Avram Iancu, at number 8, step inside to see a large court with columns and vine.
Go inside the former Jesuit college, the building between the Council Tower and the Catholic Church, to see the statue of Saint Nepomuk, moved here from the Large Square after the communists came to power.
Don’t forget to take photos on Aurarilor Stairs that start from the Small Square. The colorful and decrepit facades make dazzling backgrounds.
The souvenir shop from the House of Arts has reasonably priced authentic hand-made objects, from traditional blouses to pottery.