I thought a lot about the topic of my first post and I’ve decided that the most appropriate is Sibiu. This is the city I’ve wished to visit as a teenager (as well as Cluj-Napoca and Sighisoara), but which I finally saw the first time only for about one hour. Since then I came back about 10 times. Sibiu became also the city where I used to meet my boyfriend “halfway” (as he is from Satu Mare and I lived in Bucharest back then, about 600 km away) and the city where we now stop gladly for a few hours or over night when we go to Satu Mare. Each time it surprises us with its colorful houses, legends, narrow or wide streets, tasty food and festivals.
What is it about Sibiu?
Sibiu is a bohemian city with narrow, tortuous streets, small or imposing houses with eye-shaped windows on their roofs, large squares, towers and defending walls that surround not only houses, but also a great history, dreams and legends.
The city of Hermann
Sibiu was attested in 1366, after the arrival of several German speaking craftsmen that formed the guilds. There are several legends related to the birth of Sibiu. The most common one is the story of Hermann, a clever shoemaker that asked from the local chief for a piece of land for a small village. The chief did not want to refuse him directly and said that he would give him as much land as he can surround with the leather from one of his boots. The shoemaker cut the boot in very thin strips and surrounded a greater surface than anyone would have imagined. The chief kept his word and Hermann brought here his friends and family to forge the “town of Hermann” (Hermannstadt).
Things to see in Sibiu
If you do make it to Sibiu, here are a seven places that I recommend you include in your itinerary:
The Big Square
In medieval times people sold here cereals and products made by the guilds of the town, held public meetings, feasts and trials. Depending on the gravity of the deed, the ones found guilty were also punished here. In the middle of the square stood The Pillar of the Infamy with the statue of Roland on its top. This was the dreaded place where witches, thieves and criminals were sentenced to death. The ones whose mistakes weren’t that big, like noise makers and brawlers were exposed to the public in The Cage of the Crazy People. Today it is a popular place for meeting people, attending concerts or fairs.
The Council Tower
Through the passage under the tower you can walk from The Big Square into The Small Square. It was used as gate tower, watch tower, cereals deposit, prison, and now view point. Built during the first part of the 13th century, at the same time with the second row of walls, it suffered severe damage during an earthquake and was rebuilt in 1558. For 2 RON (50 cents) you can climb in the tower between 8 am and 8 pm. On your way up, you will admire photos and paintings of Sibiu. If you are intrigued by the mechanism of the original clock made by a Swiss company in 1494, you can check it at the 6th floor. From the 7th floor you will have a nice panoramic view over the entire city.
The Small Square
The square is home to nice bars and cafes, museums and historic houses. Ocnei Street passes under the Bridge of Lies and divides the square in two. Around the tower stands the Old Town Hall and several houses with beautiful loggias from the 16th and 17th centuries. Today they host cafes and restaurants. Here you can visit also the History of Pharmacy Museum and The House of Arts, which hosts the Museum of Saxon Ethnography.
The Bridge of Lies
There are no less than four legends behind the oldest cast-iron bridge in Romania that date back to the wooden one it replaced in 1859.
The first of them says that it was used to say if people were telling the truth or not, because it started moving and making weird noises whenever somebody said a lie while on it.
The second one is related to the merchants caught cheating on their customers in the square nearby and thrown off the bridge in front of all their colleagues and customers.
The third one regards young girls that used to meet their future husbands here and swear they were virgins. If in the wedding night they were caught lying, they were thrown off the bridge the next day.
The latter is also a romantic one, but this time the liars were the boys. They studied at the nearby military school and used to meet here innocent girls and seduce them, just to disappear afterwards.
The Evangelical Church
Its construction began in 1320, on the ruins of an older roman basilica. The tower has seven levels and four little towers, which indicates had the right to pronounce a death sentence. From the tower you can have an wonderful view of the city and think about its legend.
It is said that the Saxons from Sibiu were very proud of their city. When they were building the church, they wanted the highest tower in the entire Transylvania. Finding out that the highest tower was in Bistrița, they sent two masters to measure it. The masters secretly climbed in the tower and let go down a rope to see how high it was. After that, in the evening they stopped at an inn on their way home. The good wine made them talk about their mission and when they had fallen asleep, the people from Bistrița cut about two metres from their rope. This is why the evangelical tower from Sibiu has a little more than 73 m and the one in Bistrița remained the highest church tower in Transylvania with its 75 m.
Astra Village Museum
This museum seeks to preserve centuries-old traditions. Set around a huge lake, it hosts over 300 houses, churches, water mills, windmills, stables and workshops. Here are shown off the skills of the Romanian peasant. You can even enter in some of the exhibits or attend one of the regular Romanian folklore festivals and demonstrations of craftsmanship to explore more in depth the Romanian culture. The entrance fee is 17 RON (4 euro). If you are hungry you can order a delicious smoked hock with beans at the traditional restaurant. This is both one of the best I’ve ever eaten and big enough for two.
Casa Calfelor – The house of journeymen
In Huet Square, between the Evangelical Church and the Stairs Tower, you will find the residence of the journeymen that continue the tradition of the old guilds from Sibiu. It is located there since 2002. The journeymen are young people that travel the world in order to learn a craft. Their journey will set them in the end among the skilled craftsmen. The journeymen wear a special costume: flaring pants, vest and coat in the colors of his guild, white shirt with collar and hat. The costume is called “kluft”.
In order to become a journeymen, one has to be under 30 years old, should not be married or have children, obligations or debts. The young people leave their homes with one coin in their pocket that they will have to return in the end. For three years and one day they are not allowed to come closer than 50 km to their birthplace. They have to respect the rules and the traditions of their guild. Before leaving the house, each journeyman has to leave in the strange stock at the entrance a nail or an object that belonged to him. According to the tradition, this will bring him luck while he continues his journey.
How to get in Sibiu?
You can get here by plane from Munich, Dortmund, Köln, Nürnberg, Stuttgart, Wien, London, Madrid, Memmingen, Milan. You can even take advantage of low fares from BlueAir or WizzAir. The airport is approximately 6 km from the city center and from there you can take a taxi ( for about 15 RON – 3.5 euro ) or a bus to the city center. Don’t worry about the ticket as you can buy it at the bus station Airport 1. You need to get here anyway if you want a ride to the center. Any bus you take from here: 11, 112, 116, 117 or 118 will take you to Hotel Continental, which is in the center.
If you want to go there by car, you can follow E68 from Brașov. From Bucharest, you just have to follow E70 to Pitești and then E81 to get to Sibiu.
By train or by bus
You can also get there by train or by bus. For example, from Bucharest to Sibiu you will make about 5 hours. From Brașov to Sibiu you will make 3-4 hours, depending on the train. If you decide to go by bus, the bus station is right next to the train station and they are both pretty close to the center. From here you can either walk or take a bus like 5, 13, 15 or 17. The bus ticket is just 1.5 RON (35 cents).
Things that could make your trip happier
There are a lot of accommodation possibilities in Sibiu. You can use booking or turistinfo. This is a Romanian site, but I’ll teach you in a later post how to use it. You’ll have to call the owners, however a lot of them speak at least basic English, so this shouldn’t be an issue. Just pick a room you like, check the grade and call. I’ve stayed in several places, but one that I would really recommend is an one-room apartment, Garsoniera Studio Confort. The only drawback is that it is not that close to the center.
There are so many beautiful places left for you to discover that you will want to use comfortable shoes. Strolling though Sibiu is not an appropriate activity for high heels or too tight shoes.
You can park your car at the entrance in the center of Sibiu, close to Dumbrava Shop and the Continental Hotel. From here you can walk on the main pedestrian street, Nicolae Bălcescu and get into The Big Square. Parking costs 1 RON (20 cents)/hour and you don’t need to pay in advance. You’ll pay at the kiosk before you exit, depending on how long you left your car there.
While walking on the pedestrian street, you can grab one of the huge pretzels baked in the local shops. Why not check if besides huge, they are not also tasty?
If you get here during the period before Christmas or Easter, you can also attend the fairs that take place in The Big Square. This implies attending concerts, dancing shows, tasting delicious local food and drinks. Sibiu also boasts the most beautiful lighting show in Romania during the winter season and the Christmas market here is far more beautiful and complex than the one in Bucharest. You can find more ideas for a city break in Romania here.