Sibiu will always hold a special spot in my heart, long after I leave – for it is in Sibiu where I find myself living during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. A charming city in Transilvania, once under the rule of Saxon Germans, Sibiu is an alluring place to spend a relaxing holiday. In 2007, it was voted Cultural Capital of Europe, and in 2008, Forbes’ voted this one of the most Idyllic Places to Live in Europe. There has been substantial development since then, but the city’s old town still boasts quaint pastel-hued buildings, winding stair passages, and hidden tunnels that are as whimsical as they are mysterious. Enjoy this compilation of some of the most noteworthy things to do in Sibiu.
Thinking about moving here? I’ve compiled this list of things you should know before moving to Romania.
Table of Contents
Exploring the City
Also known as ‘The Great Square,’ Piața Mare serves as the focal point of Old Town. Although the original marketplace in Sibiu was in nearby Piața Huet, the Great Square was home to markets, fairs, and executions since its inception in the 13th century. Lined with cotton-candy-colored buildings in a myriad of architectural styles, come to Piața Mare to sit on a bench and people-watch for a while or enjoy a chimney cake.
Also known as ‘The Small Square,’ Piața Mică is divided into two distinct parts, Strada Ocnei and the Bridge of Lies. A former craftsman’s market, the square is home to a number of restaurants and the entryway to the Council Tower. It’s filled with charming narrow passages and stairways that connect it to Piața Mare, Piața Huet, and Piața Aurarilor. Perusing the souvenir stalls that line the square is one of the best things to do in Sibiu on sunny weekends.
Turnul Sfatului – Council Tower
Generally considered to be Sibiu’s most iconic structure, the Turnul Sfatului was originally built in the 12th century. It has served various functions since then, including wheat storage and observation point. Today, tourists flock to the tower for its impressive vistas overlooking the red roofs of the city.
Be sure to look out for the slightly eerie ‘eyes’ that are found on the Sibiu rooftops. Local legend says that the ‘eyes’ were to frighten the townspeople into proper behavior by making them feel as though they were being watched. In truth, they are simply ventilation structures found in most attics.
Huet Square was the original market square in Sibiu, dating back to the end of the 12th century. You can find the Stairs Tower in Huet Square, and stair passages offering impressive medieval views of the city. Also, be sure to check out Restaurant Weinkeller!
Strada Nicolae Bălcescu
Dating from the first quarter of the 14th century, the street connected the Cisnadian Gate (demolished in the late 1800s) with Piața Mare. The street is usually lined with souvenir stalls. Here you can find trinkets and fresh flowers, as well as a number of tourist-oriented restaurants. This photo was taken during the global pandemic, so the streets are understandably empty. You can also find the iconic, creamy white Hotel Împăratul Romanilor hotel on Strada Nicolae Bălcescu.
Orașul de jos – Lower Town
In Sibiu’s Lower Town, you’ll find winding cobblestone streets lined with colorful artisan and merchant houses. While Sibiu’s wealthier population generally resided in the Upper Town, the Lower Town exudes a charm that money simply cannot buy.
Podul Minciunilor – Bridge of Lies
Many different narratives surround Romania’s first cast-iron bridge, erected in 1859. Dare to tell a lie from Podul Minciunilor, and one local legend has it that the bridge will start to ‘talk,’ making strange noises as though collapse is imminent. The two other legends associated with the bridge have to do with couples’ lying to each other. Young men would declare their love and grandiose promises to women on the bridge, with no intention of staying true to their word. And the young women, vying for a husband, would declare their virginity. If, on their wedding night, it turned out they were lying, they’d be thrown from the bridge.
Should you use the sidewalk underneath the bridge, consider yourself warned – look out for pigeon poop. You will slip and fall on your ass. Definitely did NOT happen to me…. twice.
Pasajul Scărilor – Stairs Passage
Also known as the ‘Wall with Needles,’ Stairs’ Passage was built in the 14th century. Its primary purpose was to connect the upper and lower towns of Sibiu. Be prepared for a steep climb if you want to go the entire length of the passage. It runs from the old City Hall (today the Museum of History) to the intersection of Odobescu and Tower Gate.
Parcul Sub Arini
Founded in 1856, Parcul Sub Arini (Park Under the Aldertrees) is one of the oldest in Transilvania. Spread over 22 hectares, the park boasts 68 tree species (30 of which are exotic, 38 local) and 95 species of birds! A tranquil escape from the city, come here to jog, play with the family, or simply bask in the green surroundings. If you’re more inclined toward green surroundings and being in nature, this is certainly one of the best things to do in Sibiu, regardless of the season.
Pasajul Piața Aurarilor – Goldsmith’s Square Passage
A stunning passage of steps linking Piața Mică and Piața Aurarilor, connecting the upper town and the lower town. This evocative and inspiring passageway oozes character. It takes little to no effort to imagine what life was like here when the city was governed by Saxon Germans.
Zidul Cetății – City Walls
An integral part of Sibiu’s history, the old city walls separate the Old Town from the modernized areas of Sibiu. The city walls were once used as medieval defense fortifications and protected the city from potential invaders.
Sibiu Walk of Fame
The city launched the Sibiu Walk of Fame in 2013. It is situated in a pedestrian zone in between the first and second guard walls. Each year, a new name is added to it in the areas of theatre, dance, and art.
Museums & Events
The State Philharmonics Sibiu
Filarmonica de Stat, at the Sala Thalia, is the local Philharmonic orchestra. The philharmonic has been awarded various distinctions over the years and is located in a cultural edifice of national importance. Next time you are visiting, check out the schedule of performances.
Astra Film Festival
The Astra Film Festival in Sibiu is a major event in the film industry in Europe. Astra specializes in documentaries and is well worth a visit if you’re looking for things to do in Sibiu. Rainy days are fairly frequent in the Carpathian basin – it’s good to have a backup plan. The festival normally takes place during late summer/early fall.
Come to Sibiu during the holiday season and explore the renowned Christmas markets that fill the many squares. If I am still here in December, I’ll be sure to upload some photos!
Museum of Natural History
The Muzeul de Istorie Naturală has a dinosaur garden. Need I say more? It also boasts an impressive gem and mineral collection for fellow rock lovers.
Brukenthal National Museum
If you’re looking to admire some Romanian art while visiting Sibiu, look no further than the Brukenthal. The museum was built in the late 18th century and is housed in the former palace of Samuel von Brukenthal, the Habsburg governor of Transilvania.
Museum of Pharmacy
Fun fact: Sibiu was home to the first pharmacy in Romania. So, it only makes sense that it should be home to a museum dedicated to the history of pharmacy as well. You can find this museum on the Eastern side of Piața Mică.
Museum of Steam Locomotives
This railway museum opened in 1994. It is home to a large collection of steam locomotives and engines. Not my personal cup of tea, but if steam engines are your thing, check it out!
Astra National Museum Complex
No article listing ‘things to do in Sibiu’ would be complete without the inclusion of the Astra complex. One of the best parts of this place is that it’s an open-air museum! It paints a vivid picture of what life was like in traditional Romanian villages. The museum is just 4km outside of the city in the Dumbrava Forest. This allows for not only a great museum experience, but also an escape from the hustle and bustle of small-city living.
Museum of Saxon Ethnography
The Emil Sigerus Museum of Saxon Ethnography is located on the Eastern side of Piața Mică. It is a rather small museum, home to antique furniture, original textiles, traditional clothing and costumes, among other things. Expect to pay extra if you want to take photos!
Casa Altemberger – Sibiu History Museum
Casa Altemberger is located at what was once, for 400 years, the old Town Hall. The Sibiu History Museum takes you through time, from the Paleolithic age up to the modern day. Here you’ll find interesting artifacts, silverware, pottery, and other things exclusive to this area of southern Transilvania.
Churches & Cathedrals
Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral
The second largest Orthodox cathedral in Romania, this church is a stunning example of Orthodox Byzantine architecture. It is the first Orthodox cathedral I’ve ever visited, and, let me tell you, its splendor completely blew me away. The vivid frescoes and ominous tones of Romanians hymns will evoke feelings never before experienced, even for the least religious of the bunch.
The Lutheran Evangelical Church of St. Mary is one of the most famous buildings in Sibiu. Its imposing spire can be seen from most points in the city. The church dominates Huet Square and offers impressive city vistas for those willing to ascend the steep tower steps.
Saint Ursula Roman Catholic Church
Relatively lesser known in comparison to other churches in Sibiu, this building catches my eye each time I pass by. My apartment is located on an intersecting street, so I pass this building every day. The city built the church in the late 13th century as a home for Dominican monks. The monks eventually abandoned the church when the Lutheran religion dominated the area. During the darkest days of Romanian communism, the church was nationalized. However, following the revolution in the early 1990s, it has held Greek Catholic services.
Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church
When Austrian troops arrived in Sibiu in the late 17th century, they brought the Jesuit monks for the journey. The need for a church followed, and one was consecrated in Piața Mare in the 18th century. The church is renowned for its Viennese Baroque style, nestled amid its Gothic and Art Deco neighbors in the Grand Square.
Sibiu has no shortage of amazing food options to choose from – here is an ever-evolving list of where to eat in Sibiu.
And there you have it! Some of the best things to do in Sibiu, Romania. Did I miss something? Leave me a note in the comments! Have you been to Sibiu? What’s your take?