15 Things To Do in Sibiu Like a Local
How to explore this unique & beautiful Romanian Saxon medieval city.
When visiting Romania, Sibiu undeniably has to be on the top of your bucket list. It is one of the oldest existing Saxon villages in the country (and in all of Europe), and it still looks as if the Middle Ages has never ended.
Narrow cobblestone streets, century old buildings, landscapes that look like they’re straight from a fantasy movie. We collected the most important spots to visit in Sibiu, for you. The list speaks for itself, so without further ado, here are 15 things to do in Sibiu like a local.
1. Start your tour from the Grand Square (Piata Mare).
This is the heart of the city, the centre to which everything is connected. Sit down at the open terrace of La Taifas restaurant and sip a glass of wine. Try the traditional Romanian pretzel called covrigi, sold on basically every street corner. Relax, look around you, take the whole place in, and get mentally prepared for the journey ahead. You’re in Sibiu, a medieval Saxon town, European Capital of Culture in 2007.
2. Take that perfect Instagram photo at Stairs Passage.
After all, we modern travellers need to find those perfect Instagram spots, don’t we? This is possibly Sibiu’s most aesthetic spot for a photo. Standing on the stairs, with a gorgeous medieval view as a background, you will look like you just walked in on a fantasy movie set or travelled back in time. Other than looking romantic and aesthetic, these stairs also have historical importance, as they connect Upper Town and Lower Town.
3. Spot the differences between Upper Town and Lower Town.
Upper Town used to be the wealthier part of town where the well-off people lived. The buildings are more majestic, the streets are wider. Lower Town was the place for the poorer, working-class people: merchants, cobblers, blacksmiths, carpenters.
The streets here are narrower, the buildings more traditional, this is where loud and busy food markets were located, this is where the essence of the town was to be found. Wander through these different parts of town, carefully noticing the difference in the buildings, the streets, the atmosphere and imagine what everyday life must’ve been like back in those medieval times.
4.Quiet your soul in centuries old cathedrals.
You don’t need to be a religious or spiritual person to appreciate churches. Especially old, historical ones. You can be the biggest atheist in the world but still find the interior of churches undeniably peaceful.
The grand and majestic walls, the art, paintings, sculptures, pipe organs, the warm atmosphere created by the candles, the architecture that was so modern at the time and so wonderfully historical right now. And just knowing that everything you see here existed for centuries and will exist for centuries more.
The walls around you have seen the lives of so many generations before you, you’re breathing in history just by walking among these walls. If only they could talk, you’d listen to them for days. These are Sibiu’s most beautiful and historical churches you should not miss:
- Lutheran Cathedral of St Mary. A gorgeous, 73.34m gothic style church, built in the 14th century. Opening hours: 10am-6pm during the summer and 11am-4pm for the rest of the year.
- Holy Trinity Orthodox cathedral. This is a relatively young church (built in 1904), but definitely not one to miss, for its artistic and colorful exterior. Opening hours: 8am-8pm.
- Jesuit Church. This 18th century baroque church might not be as majestic as the previously mentioned two, but it has a very cosy and tranquil exterior, perfect for a moment of peace.
Opening hours: 6am-7pm (Mo-Fr), 8.30am-7pm (Sun).
- The Synagogue. Built in the 19th century, this richly decorated neoclassical church is listed as a historic building. It can only be visited on request. Here’s their email address: [email protected]
5. Walk off your feet and enjoy the medieval Saxon architecture.
You need to explore this town by foot. Or at least the central old part that still looks medieval. That is non-negotiable. You cannot rush through town with a car or bus if you truly want to experience its atmosphere, the details of the buildings, mixed with the noises of the street. Here are a few places you could easily miss but shouldn’t:
- Hermes house
- Old city walls
- Carpenter’s tower
- Gunsmith’s tower
- Potter’s tower
- Citadel street
- Huet square
- Houses with eyes
- Small Square
Sibiu is brimming with medieval and saxon architecture all around town: eye shaped windows on the roof of the houses, red tile roofs, narrow cobblestone streets, traditional French shutters, multi-pane windows, large squares, fortified citadels, old protective walls around the old part of town.
6. Learn a bit about the town’s history.
Sibiu, or on its German name, Hermannstadt, is one of the many fortified German Saxon towns in Transylvania. It was founded in the early 1000s by Hungarian king Geza II, and it was an important trade centre and cultural hub during the Middle Ages.
After WWI, when the Austrio-Hungarian empire was demolished, Transylvania (hence Sibiu also) became part of Romania. While previously the majority of the population was German saxon, it didn’t take many years for the new Romanian population to surpass them.
During the communist years under dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, the saxons were allowed to emigrate to Germany (Romania receiving a good sum of money for that agreement). Sadly there’s barely any ethnically saxons left now in Sibiu (around 2000). One of them is Klaus Johannis, who was the 5th president of Romania, elected in 2014.
Today, the city of Sibiu is part of the Seven Wonders of Romania.
7. Indulge in the wonderful culinary world of Sibiu.
Sibiu might look like a charming medieval town trapped in time, this cannot be said about its culinary world. It is as diverse as any other modern European city, giving plenty of options for travellers with different tastes.
If you prefer to give traditional Romanian food a go, you can do that at Crama Sibiul Vechi, which also has rural, traditional interior design.
For more familiar European dishes, try Kulinarium.
There is no shortage of atmospheric coffee places such as Jules, Espressee, Cafe Wien, Pardon cafe.
At Atrium cafe, you can enjoy live piano concerts while sipping wine, during spring and summer.
Max is considered to be one of the town’s best Italian wine places.
Other lovely bars and pubs you might add to your list are Nod Pub, Music Pub bar, Weinkeller, La Taifas.
8. Spend an afternoon exploring the Astra Museum of traditional folk civilization.
Just a short 5km away from the centre of Sibiu, there’s a unique place called ASTRA National Museum Complex. We guarantee it’s nothing that you’ve ever experienced before. If you thought you were walking in the past wandering through medieval Sibiu, wait till you get to ASTRA Museum.
It is an open-air museum, one of the biggest in Central Europe. It was designed to show you how a rural, traditional Romanian village looked like in the pre-industrial ages (before 1750).
It is an astonishing whole village spread along with a 10km long land. It contains 300 houses, a forest, two artificial lakes, windmills, pottery workshops, houses of simple village people like farmers, shepherds, potters, a church, a working inn and pub. All looking exactly how a Romanian village looked like before 1750. Idyllic beyond imagination.
9. Tell the truth on Bridge of Lies.
This is probably the most known and visited landmark in Sibiu among tourists. This is no surprise – places that have their legends attached to them always seem more fascinating to us curious humans. The Bridge of Lies is an old pedestrian bridge built in 1859.
The myth says this bridge has the magical power to sense if somebody standing on it is lying, and makes strange noises as if it was about to collapse under the liar. (The bridge is made of first-cast iron, which explains the noises).
The myth has many different backgrounds behind it that involve men making false promises to women they were dating, brides being thrown off the bridge in case they lied about their virginity, and traders standing on the bridge making deals with each other.
No one knows exactly where the legend originated from – but as they say, some things are better left unknown. Let’s leave some cheeky mystery in the world, shall we?
10. Climb the Council Tower to see the whole city.
Sibiu’s iconic Council Tower, built in the 12th century, is located between the Small Square and the Grand Square. It was originally used as an observation building to guard the City Hall of Sibiu. Nowadays it is open for visitors between 10 am and 8 pm every day. The view from the top of the tower is astonishing as you can see the whole preserved old town with its red tiled roofs and houses with watchful eyes.
11. Experience the cultural heritage of the town.
Brukenthal National Museum consists of six different museums, which are located in different parts of Sibiu.
The Brukenthal Palace was built in the 18th century for Samuel von Brukenthal, Habsburg governor of Transylvania. Inside the Palace, you can visit the Brukenthal Library, which contains around 300,000 manuscripts and old and rare books, and the Art Galleries with more than a thousand European paintings. Entrance to the palace is free for all visitors on each year 24th of July, as it celebrates the anniversary of Samuel von Brukenthal.
Other museums belonging to it are the Pharmaceutical Museum (where the country’s oldest pharmacy was located), the Museum of History, the Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of Arms and Hunting Trophies.
12. Participate in the many events of Sibiu throughout all seasons.
- Sibiu Jazz Festival
- Sibfest International Theatre Festival
Anniversary of the nobleman Samuel von Brukenthal
Artmania Rock Festival
Transylvanian Citadels Medieval Festival
Sibiu Fashion Days
Feeric Fashion Week
Sibiu Cycling Tour
CibinFEST (music festival inspired by the original German Oktoberfest but in Sibiu’s own style)
International Astra Film Festival
Organ concerts in the Evangelical Church
Opera Music Festival
Sibiu Open (tennis tournament)
13. Support local businesses & buy organic products for cheap at the local markets.
What’s nicer than bringing home local products for our loved ones from places we travelled to, while also supporting local producers? Street markets are very common and popular all over Romania, where locals are selling home-produced foods like cheese, sausages, vegetables, bread, and other products like decoration, clothing, home supplies.
Head to the following markets: Cibin market, Huet Square market, Ecological Products’ Fair, Gossip Tree clothing shop, Christmas market during December (one of the country’s most beautiful Christmas markets).
14. Arena Platos Paltinis ski resort.
In case you stay in Sibiu during winter and you love to ski, Arena Platos ski resort, located 26 km from the city, is a very affordable and popular winter destination. It has all that any other European ski resort has to offer: majestic mountains covered in thick snow, restaurants where you can rest, eat and drink, ski and snowboard courses, and lots of fun people sliding down the hillside.
15. Get out of town for a day.
In case you’re staying for many days and already explored everything on this list, consider getting outside of Sibiu and discover the Fagaras mountains nearby, the ‘’Alps of Transylvania’’. This mountain group has the highest peaks in Romania (2500m). You’re allowed to cook or do BBQ at most of the outdoor places.
You can try to cook gulyas outdoors to have the most authentic experience. You can also go hiking and wandering through the many forests. Although beware of bumping into any bear. Make sure to laugh and talk and be as loud as you can be, and they’ll keep away. You might spot other, less dangerous animals such as foxes, rabbits, deers, hawks, wild goats.
If you’re craving to see even more astonishing saxon buildings, visit the fortified village of Biertan, 80 km from Sibiu. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, built around the 13th century, surrounded by vineyards and hills, looking like it’s still magically trapped in time.
You will no doubt feel like you’re in medieval times. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country, especially its fortified church. Want to make the whole experience even more spooky? There’s an annual Horror and Fantasy Film Festival called ‘’Luna Plina’’ (Full Moon) held every summer in this village.
Other medieval saxon villages in the area that you might wanna consider visiting: Alma Vii, Viscri, Malancrav, Copsa Mare, Crit, Cisnadioara, Mesendorf, Saschiz, Bunesti.