Alba Iulia or ‘the other capital’ is one of the most interesting travel destinations in Romania. Its wonderful citadel has enough attractions to keep you occupied a full day, and the entire Alba county is a labyrinth of ancient and medieval monuments, caves and mountains, beautiful villages and endless options for having fun.
Our guide to the best things to do in Alba Iulia and around the city will help you explore this beautiful land from Transylvania. It includes the most iconic attractions and the best activities you can do in the area, so start reading and planning your next vacation.
It goes without saying that the citadel is the heart of Alba Iulia, its main and must-see attraction. It’s such an amazing place that for sure you’ll want to spend as much time as possible here.
We recommend one full day if you want to cover the entire citadel and its most famous landmarks: the Baroque gates, the Catholic Cathedral, the Orthodox Cathedral, the Union Museum and the Union Hall, the ancient and medieval fortifications. Of course, you can’t miss the change of guards that takes place every day at 12 pm in front of the third gate.
The best option to cover the citadel is on foot, but you can also rent bikes and even take horseback riding lessons. Try the delicious lemonades and pies for sale at the food trucks.
Tasting new dishes is one of the best parts of traveling and for sure one of the top things to do in Alba Iulia also. If you can’t resist sweets, we recommend you try the cakes and pastry from Byron, a small cake shop just a few minutes away from the citadel, on Decembrie 1 Boulevard. Indulge yourself in the mouthwatering home-made style ice cream, tiramisu cups and exquisite cakes. You can always tour the citadel again to burn all the calories.
In Alba Iulia, you can see a unique contemporary church in Romania. Its architecture is distinct from any other, bold and outside the box for an Orthodox church. Also known as Noah’s Ark, the monument was inaugurated in 2015 and its daring architecture is a modern interpretation of the most important Orthodox styles and their evolution in time. While the city itself is small, driving is the best way to get to the church that’s located in the neighborhood Micesti, on Vidra street.
If you’re looking to spend one afternoon wine tasting, you can visit the winery from Jidvei, one of the most important in Romania. The tasting takes place in the Renaissance style Bethlen Castle, also known as Haller Castle after the name of one of its many owners. The monument dates from the end of the 16th century, but was modified between 1615 and 1624 to resemble French castle Chambord, and is located 60 km from Alba Iulia
You need to book your wine tasting visit in advance.
For more information, check www.jidvei.ro
The fortified church from Calnic, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Romania, is one of the main historical and cultural monuments of Alba county. Only a 30 km drive from the city, this landmark dates from the second part of the 13th century when it was originally built as a residence for the family of Count Chyl of Kelling.
The monument was later bought by the Saxon villagers who transformed into in a veritable fortification with two rows of walls, a donjon tower, a gate tower and a defense tower. The chapel still preserves original fresco fragments. A visit here is definitely one of the best things to do in Alba Iulia.
If you’re planning a more active getaway, then Alba Iulia is a great starting point. You have several hiking options in Trascaului Mountains, all you have to do is decide which one or how many itineraries you want to do. The first option is Piatra Craivii, a massif with a maximum altitude of 1,083 meters. You have various marked trail options, and on average it should take you around 5 hours for the complete tour.
The second option is Piatra Secuiului, the iconic cliff from Rimetea, the museum village with white houses and green windows. One of the best-known images of the region, Piatra Secuiului is easy to reach on the trails that depart from the village. For the complete experience, hike the entire trail until Coltesti.
The third option comes also from Trascaului Mountains and is a great fit for more intense adventure seekers who get to cross Rametului Gorges following the blue triangle or blue cross trails. These are difficult routes that involve rock climbing and crossing waist-deep water.
The nearby Apuseni Mountains are the best place in Romania for cave exploration. On a one day trip from Alba Iulia you can visit the famous Scarisoara Cave where you’ll see a 4,000 years old glacier, the largest in Europe. The cave can be reached on foot from the beautiful village Garda de Sus located 110 km away from Alba Iulia. Departing from the same location you can visit the cave Ionele.
You can also opt for a day of complete relaxation in some of the most beautiful villages in Alba County. Rimetea is maybe the best example, but don’t miss Coltesti, Garda de Sus, Sagagea, Zapodie or Ocolis.
Photo by Laurentiu Pop
On your way to Rimetea, stop for one hour in Aiud to visit the medieval fortress located right in the city center. Built by the Saxon colonists in the early 13th century, the fortress is a large medieval monument with nine towers, enclosing walls, parapets and bastions, a 15th-century Gothic style Reformed church, a Romanesque style Evangelical Church from the 14th century plus a former royal palace, now the Museum of History.
If you’re interested in seeing more historical monuments, include on your list Coltesti Fortress, the ruins of Teleki Castle from Vioara de Sus, Wesselenyi from Obreja, Bethlen Castle from Sanmiclaus and the medieval fortress from Garbova.
We hope our list of the best things to do in Alba Iulia and around the city will help plan a great vacation. Just remember to book your accommodation in time as Alba Iulia is a popular destination Plan at least one weekend break to explore the city and its nearby attractions.