Oradea is one of the most beautiful hidden gems in Romania and Eastern Europe. It’s a small city in the North-West of Romania with a population of about 200,000 people, located very close to the Hungarian border. 

Oradea is the Art Nouveau capital of Romania. The city hall has recently renovated all Art Nouveau buildings and the city looks incredibly beautiful and colorful. Most people think of cities in Western Europe like Madrid or Paris when it comes to stunning architecture. But there are so many places in Eastern Europe that rival them! Oradea is one of them.

Oradea is starting to get discovered internationally and, thus, there are more tourists visiting from all over the world every year. It’s a great destination for a city break! Oradea won 6th place in the 2022 competition of Best European Destinations, surpassing cities like London, Rome and Vienna. Starting summer 2024 there will be direct flights to Oradea from London and Warsaw, besides Bucharest. This will make visiting Oradea even easier and I’m so happy to see how this city is developing.

Why do I love Oradea so much? That’s because I was born and raised in Oradea. Since I know the city so well I wanted to share with you the top 10 things to do in Oradea. If you like exploring off the beaten path destinations I promise you will fall in love with Oradea.

1. Republicii Avenuerepublicii avenue in oradea

Republicii Avenue, or Calea Republicii in Romanian, is Oradea’s main avenue. It is a pedestrian avenue and it has lots of colorful Art Nouveau buildings, shops, and cafes. It’s a popular spot for taking a stroll. And it’s also where both locals and tourists like to meet up to have coffee.

If you didn’t know, Romania has a strong coffee culture. It’s similar to the coffee culture of other countries in Europe, so you’ll mostly find espresso-based drinks. There are cafes along the entire length of Republicii Avenue. One would think that there’s too many of them, but all of them have customers and are thriving, so that shows how much we love our coffee.

2. Unirii SquareUnirii Square in Oradea

Union Square, or Piața Unirii in Romanian, is Oradea’s main square. New Year’s Eve celebrations, the Christmas Market, concerts, and other celebrations are all hosted here. It has a beautiful collection of Art Nouveau buildings, churches, the city hall, and a few more cafes (I told you we love our coffee!). There are two unique buildings in Unirii Square I’ll tell you more about in the next sections: The Black Eagle Palace and The Moon Church.

3. Black Eagle PalaceBlack Eagle Palace in Oradea

The Black Eagle Palace is one of the most spectacular secession-style buildings in Romania. It is located in Unirii Square and its history starts in 1714 when it used to be a small, one-story inn called the Eagle Inn.

It was rebuilt in 1807 and another floor was added. In 1835 it became one of the most important hotels in Oradea, the Eagle Hotel.

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In 1903 the city hall started the reconstruction of the Eagle Hotel which was completed in 1908. During the reconstruction two buildings on two intersecting streets were connected by a passageway with stained glass. This feature was inspired by the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan. The stained glass in the middle of the passageway has a black eagle on it, a symbol of the name and history of this important building in Oradea.

Both buildings united by the passageway were expanded to 4 floors, and 35 shops and cafes were opened in the gallery. The complex was also home to a hotel, two cinemas, ballrooms, a casino, and a bank.

The Black Eagle was recently restored, and the beautiful architecture looks as impressive as it did back in the day. Nowadays the passageway has multiple cafes and bars and is open 24/7 to the public.

4. Moon churchMoon Church in Oradea

The Moon Church is a Romanian-Orthodox church built between 1784-1790. It got this name because of a unique mechanism in Europe, located on the church tower.

The mechanism sets in motion a sphere with a diameter of 1 meter, in the shape of the moon, painted half in black, half in gold. This sphere moves according to the rotational movement of the Moon around the Earth and shows all the moon phases. Make sure to look up when you visit so you can spot the moon phase on the church.

5. Mushroom Hillview of oradea from ciuperca hill

Mushroom Hill, or Dealul Ciuperca in Romanian, is a public garden and panoramic viewpoint of Oradea. To get to the viewpoint you can hike or you can drive, but I highly recommend the hike. It’s an easy trail and it should only take you about 15 minutes to get to the top. 

There are benches along the trail so you can rest and take in the view if you get tired. There are also multiple other viewpoints along the trail so you can take pictures or just enjoy the view. Once you get to the top of the hill there is a restaurant and cafe so you can get a drink or grab a bite.

6. Oradea Fortressoradea fortress

The Fortress is the first urban settlement in Oradea and it has a rich history. It was first built at the end of the 11th century, and it has a star shape. In 1619, the Transylvanian prince Gabriel Bethlen decided to build a palace within the fortress, parallel to its walls. The construction was completed in 1650 in a late Renaissance style.

The trench of the fortress used to be filled with a mix of thermal water from the Peța River and cold water from the Crișul Repede river. This combination prevented the water from freezing, which could have led to the Fortress being conquered during winter.

The fortress was restored in 2015 and nowadays it houses museums, restaurants, and craftsman’s workshops. It’s also a place where the city hosts fairs and medieval reenactments.

7. City hall towerLandscape of Oradea from the city hall tower

The city hall, located in Unirii Square, was built between 1902-1903. The building has a tower that’s about 50 meters tall and it is open to the public. There are no elevators, so you’ll have to climb stairs to reach the top.

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There are 4 levels during the climb to the top. The first level has the city hall clock mechanism. This clock plays the song “The March of Avram Iancu” every hour on the hour. It’s one of my favorite things about Oradea. You always know when the hour changes if you’re in the city center because of this song.

The other 3 levels offer panoramic viewpoints so you can see the city from different heights. If you’re not afraid of heights and are able to climb stairs, this is a great activity.

A ticket costs 10 Lei, which is the equivalent of about 2 euros. The tower is open Tuesday – Sunday from 10am to 6pm.

8. Baroque complex

The Baroque Complex consists of three buildings: the Baroque Palace, the Roman Catholic Basilica, and Sirul Canonicilor.

The Baroque PalaceBaroque Palace in Oradea

The Baroque Palace was built between 1762-1777 and is one of the most grandiose examples of Baroque architecture in Romania. It has 100 rooms and 365 windows, one for each day of the year.

It was designed by Viennese architect Franz Anton Hillebrandt as a sister palace to Belvedere in Vienna.

There is an English-style landscaped garden in front of the palace, and a baroque style garden behind the Western facade of the palace. The building and gardens were recently restored.

The palace used to house the Țării Crișurilor Museum from 1971 until 2016, when it was restituted to the Roman Catholic Diocese.

The Roman Catholic BasilicaRoman Catholic Basilica in Oradea

The cathedral was built between 1752 and 1780 and it is one of the largest Baroque-style churches in Romania. The church is still functional today and it is open to the public. Entrance is free.

Sirul Canonicilorsirul canonicilor in oradea

Sirul Canonicilor is an architectural complex consisting of 57 arches that link 10 consecutive buildings. It was built in several stages over 100 years, between 1750-1875. It is the perfect place to take some amazing photos!

9. Țării Crișurilor Museumtarii crisurilor museum in oradea

The Țării Crișurilor Museum is the largest museum in Oradea and it has over 450,000 articles on display. It is divided into five sections: history, archeology, art, science, ethnography.

It was opened in 1971 and until 2006 it was located in the Baroque Palace. In 2006 it moved to a new building.

A ticket costs 15 Lei, which is the equivalent of 3 euros. The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10 am – 6 pm between April 1 – October 31, and 9 am – 5 pm from November 1 – March 31.

10. Darvas-La Roche HouseDarvas-La Roche House in Oradea

Darvas-La Roche House is the first Art Nouveau Museum in Romania. The house was built between 1909-1912 in the Art Nouveau Secession style.

It was recently restored by the city hall and it opened its doors to the public in 2020. The house is decorated with stained glass windows, neo-rococo style furniture, and a mirror wall made of Venetian crystal.

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Darvas-La Roche house also organizes different events for the public such as serving high tea in the house’s rooms, or learning about nature from an exhibit with flowers and birds.

A ticket costs 15 Lei, which is the equivalent of 3 euros. It is open Tuesday – Sunday from 10am to 6pm.

Guest Author: Ioana was born and raised in Romania and has been living in NYC for over 13 years. She started to travel solo once she turned 30, visited 18 countries so far, and loves to share her travel adventures and tips on her blog and Instagram

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