beyond the church spires and cobbled streets to find an
Eastern European city bursting with creative and entrepreneurial
From afar, Sibiu’s rust-coloured roofs and shooting church
spires look like many other storybook Eastern European cities – it
could be Prague, Budapest
or Krakow. But then you realise this medieval city cocooned at the
foothills of the Cindrel Mountains in southern
Transylvania exudes a pioneering and creative energy that
pushes it to the forefront of Romania’s cultural scene.
A city best explored on foot, stroll through the art-nouveau
Upper Town that once housed aristocrats and the religious elite and
then the more ramshackle Lower Town, once the home of merchants and
craftsmen. Nip between the Stairs Passage – a winding slope built
for oxcarts in the 13th century – for the best views of the city,
then cross the Lying Bridge, the city’s emblem. Pass by the houses
decorated with watchful eyes, which locals once believed were used
by Communists to spy on them. Then tick off Romania’s lists of
firsts: the first hospital, school, library and pharmacy were all
built within Sibiu’s medieval walls.
Creatives will feel at home here. It’s once-prolific history as
a trade centre lives on through the many glass, wood and ceramic
workshops that line the labyrinth of alleyways. As does its fierce
bohemian spirit; artists and buskers dance through the streets,
artisan coffee shops are concealed within the citadel walls and
some of the city’s top wine bars are buried beneath elaborately
decorated homes that once belonged to Sibiu’s elite. Come
summertime, the cobbled paths pave the way to al-fresco theatre
productions and jazz bands pitching up in secret courtyards.
Where to stay?
Bed down at Artisans Boutique Villa. Located
in the former goldsmiths district, the 17th-century neoclassical
building pays homage to the city’s artistic past with its
Where to go for dinner…
Reserve a table at 8PM at Hermania Restaurant. Dig into
classic Romania dishes such as steak with forest sauce (a fruity,
boozy upgrade on the humble peppercorn), mustard-crusted trout
fillet and tripe soup (much more pleasant than it sounds). All
produce comes from the restaurant’s neighbouring farms and is
available to purchase should you want to show off your culinary
skills back home. Although you should probably pass on packing the
And for a drink…
The surrounding countryside is awash with family-run vineyards.
Sample some of Romania’s grapes – accompanied by a cheese platter
stacked with locally sourced sheep and buffalo cheeses – at
Weinkeller. Steal a spot in the vine-covered courtyard
when the weather allows.
What about on a Sunday morning?
Sibiu has a thing for doughnuts – the avant-garde kind. Pick
them up from Donutartie and head to the lake at the centre of
Dumbrava Sibiului Natural Park to hire a rowing boat. Afterwards,
pass by the mills, villages and farms of the Museum of Traditional
Folk Civilisations, which hosts the largest open-air ethnographic
exhibition in Europe.
Who to take with you
Your friend who lets you borrow their gallery membership at the
weekend. They’ll appreciate the city’s art-nouveau architecture and
won’t mind nipping in and out of the artisan
workshops-cum-galleries with you.
When to go
The city is resplendent in summer. Depending on your likes,
coincide trips around the Sibiu International Theatre Festival
(12-21 June) or the ARTmania Festival (24-25 July).
Essentials to pack
A good pair of blister-busting kicks. These Nike React Element 55‘s should
keep you on your feet all day.
How to get there
Fly to Bucharest, then get a four-hour bus to Sibiu. Don’t
worry, the buses are of high standard and the drive is a scenic