Journeys, Travel Guides

Things to do in Sibiu, from a local perspective [Guide and Tips]

Roofs are watching your steps onto the cobbled streets and hidden passages of the medieval Sibiu, inviting you to slow wanderings. You’re in Transylvania after all, the very definition of slow living.

This old citadel instantly takes you back to the Middle Ages, when guilds use to practice their craft around the city’s defense towers, and invite you to gather around the colorful marching bands and street performances that take over Sibiu for 9 days, during the International Theatre Festival!

You haven’t quite been to Sibiu until you’ve seen Faust, the emblematic play by Silviu Purcărete that will most certainly redefine the way you see theater. This director creates mind swirling stories that speak without words, born from water, fire and tens of people whose expressive gestures captivate and stay with you long after the curtain drops.

Visit Sibiu and explore another side of Transylvania!

Council-Tower-Sibiu---view-from-Liars-Bridge


Why you should visit Sibiu

Nested in the heart of Transylvania, Sibiu is an idyllic medieval town and a former European Capital of Culture (2007).

Sibiu’s Old Town is a jewel, offering the traveler a number of opportunities for slow wanderings on the many narrow cobblestone streets leading to colorful houses, charming squares and cafés, and picturesque passages.

Wherever your feet may take you, Sibiu’s eye shaped windows will smile upon you from the rooftops, thus adding to the city’s charisma. These almond-shaped windows give you a strong sense that the roofs are watching you, and you should know that they’re unique in the world.

Considering Sibiu is a medieval town (12th century) and also a former Saxon city, the architecture is simply enchanting!

It combines the colorful houses of Hungarian and German influence with imposing Gothic buildings such as the Lutheran Evangelical Cathedral in Huet Square.

Sibiu is also one of the best-kept fortified citadels in Romania.

While strolling the many cobbled streets in the old town, you’ll most certainly find some well-preserved brick towers. There used to be 39 defense towers, but only 4 of them are still standing: Carpenters’ Tower, Harquebusiers’ Tower, Potters’ Tower, and the Great Tower – all named after the guilds that used to inhabit the area around them.

The old city landscape is comprised of the Upper Town and the Lower Town, both rewarding the slow traveler with architectural gems, colorful squares, and hidden passages.

In Sibiu, the roofs are watching you


Cultural Events in Sibiu – Sibiu International Theatre Festival

There are many cultural events going on in Sibiu, but the most important one is Sibiu International Theatre Festival (SITF / FITS). Each year, mid-June (9-18), the city comes to life during this festival, gathering a few thousands cultural travelers from around the world.

Hundreds of people fill the street at any hour of the day and until midnight, mostly watching the colorful marching bands and street performance groups.

Festival weekends are the best because of the spectacular night shows. During the day, hundreds of young volunteers help to make this huge cultural event possible, and that adds an international good vibe to the city.

Sibiu has one of the best theaters in Romania – “Radu Stanca Theater”, and here you’ll find the most interesting plays in town.

If you’re planning your trip to Sibiu well ahead (March-April), I recommend you see a play by the exceptional Silviu Purcărete. “Faust” would be the greatest of them all, so you need to book your tickets well in advance (3 months) because it’s always full, even if it’s played tens of times each year.


Things to do in Sibiu, Romania

The very best thing you can do in Sibiu is to aimlessly wander its many colorful streets and charming old squares. But if you want to find the best ones, read on to discover the most beautiful spots in Sibiu.

The Most Beautiful Street in Sibiu – Str. Cetății

The most beautiful street in Sibiu has a darling medieval vibe and a long row of colorful houses that would please any architecture lover. A few years back, craftsmen from all around Europe would gather around the old tower and its defense wall to hold workshops and demonstrations on medieval arts and crafts.

It’s here that you’ll find Thalia Theatre Hall and Pardon Restaurant, which also serves as the gathering place for actors and theatre lovers during the International Theatre Festival.


Council Tower of Sibiu / Turnul Sfatului

Visit the tower to see Sibiu from above and get a panoramic view of the two main squares of the old town.

Council-Tower-Sibiu---view-from-Liars-Bridge

Brukenthal National Museum

 

The Big Square Sibiu / Piața Mare


The Little Square Sibiu / Piața Mică Sibiu

Little-Square-Sibiu---Council-Tower-view


Lutheran Evangelical Cathedral Sibiu (Saint Mary)

Lutheran-Evangelical-Cathedral-and-Tower,-Sibiu


Nicolae Bălcescu Pedestrian Street

Nicolae Bălcescu is one of the most picturesque streets in Sibiu because of its stunning old houses. During the Festival, the street performances and marching bands pass through it, so spend some time here to enjoy the shows. The street is filled with coffee shops and restaurants, so you can enjoy a coffee or a lunch here, watching people stride by.

Balcescu-Pedestrian-Street-in-Sibiu,-Romania

Liars’ Bridge/ Podul Minciunilor and its lovely staircase

Roman Catholic Church (Big Square Sibiu)

Catholic-Church-Sibiu---Big-Square

Orthodox Cathedral

Lower Town Sibiu

Tower-Street-Passage-and-the-Lower-Town-of-Sibiu


The Carpenter’s Tower / Turnul Dulgherilor

colorful-houses-and-defense-tower-on-the-most-beautiful-street-in-Sibiu

Altemberger House – Sibiu’s History Museum is nestled in a beautiful architectural complex, typical of the Civic Gothic style with Renaissance influences. It houses a medieval arms exhibition, a numismatic collection, and other historical items.

Franz Binder World Ethnographic Museum – This museum houses the world’s 2nd largest collection of objects from South Sudan (500 items), a 2,000 years old Egyptian mummy and many traditional objects from around the world. They belonged to Franz Binder, the 19th-century explorer, and merchant.


Hidden Gems in Sibiu

Sibiu is a picturesque city, but there are some spots I really love, hidden gems that deserve exploring, even if they’re not on the top attractions list. Let me share with you my favorite corners of this medieval city.

Goldsmiths’ Square / Piața Aurarilor

These old pink stairs with green architectural details are my favorite of all the passages in Sibiu. They lead to the Lower Town of Sibiu and rows of colorful old houses that remind the traveler of simpler times.

Goldsmiths-Square---Pink-Hidden-Passage-Sibiu


Passage of Stairs / Pasajul Scărilor

This isn’t really a hidden spot, but it’s a gem nonetheless. The cobbled street and imposing arches of this passage have a particular medieval charm about them; a walk here feels like time traveling.

Sibiu-Passage-of-Stairs---Pasajul-Scarilor


Tower Street / Str. Turnului

This lovely passage in Sibiu leading to the Lower Town and surrounded by cute and colorful houses is another favorite of mine. There are a few cute cafes and shops that sell wonderful traditional or handmade souvenirs.

Tower-Street---Green-Passage-in-Sibiu,-Transylvania


Huet Square / Piața Huet

If you let yourself be dazzled by the imposing Gothic Church here, you’ll probably miss the beautiful Huet Square, as it happened to me plenty of times.

Just behind the great structure, there are a few colorful houses with Venetian blinds reminding of the Italian ones – a delightful peculiarity in Sibiu’s architecture. Make sure not to miss them and do take a walk around the Gothic Church.


The Pharmacy Museum

The first documented apothecary (1494), home to a collection of 6.600 pieces telling of the evolution of pharmaceutical techniques for three and a half centuries (*via).

House with Caryatids

It’s an otherwise ordinary house in Sibiu, but the door guarded by two impressive caryatides breaks the architectural style of Sibiu. It’s on your way to the Orthodox Cathedral, so be sure not to miss it.


Best Places to Eat in Sibiu & Top Foods to try

Hermania – Must taste dishes: Trout Tartar

Pardon Café – Their menu changes each year, but I love their food

Crama Sibiană – Do try: Beans Soup with smoked pork served in bread, Goulash soup and taste a Romanian Rosé Wine from Cramele Recaș.

Good coffee shop in Sibiu: Hug The Mug (Nicolae Bălcescu Street)

Good terrace for lazy afternoons: Crama Sibiană

Wine-and-dine-in-Sibiu---Houses-in-a-wine-glass


Day Trips from Sibiu, Romania

There are lots of beautiful places to visit around Sibiu: Cisnădie (beautiful little town), Cisnădioara Citadel, Brukenthal Palace in Avrig, Transfăgărășan and Bâlea Lake, Păltiniș mountain resort, to name just a few.

But if you only have a day to spend outside the city, here are the top 3 places to visit around Sibiu: Astra Village Museum, Cârța Cistercian Abbey and the Clay Castle of the Fairies’ Valley. You can see these three in a day trip from Sibiu.

Clay Castle of the Fairies’ Valley, near Sibiu (Porumbacu de Sus)

The Clay Castle is one of the most photogenic places around Sibiu, and it’s not a castle per say but a hotel still in construction.

Don’t know if they opened yet, but they do charge a small fee to visit these idyllic houses and enjoy the garden and its spring. If you want to go, my advice is to take it slow because the roads aren’t exactly the best ones in the area. Also, it’s wise to avoid visiting the Clay Castle when before, during, or after the rain, as the whole area gets pretty muddy.

Clay-Castle-of-the-Fairies-Valley,-Romania


Cârța – the only Cistercian Abbey in Romania

Carta---Cistercian-Abbey-near-Sibiu,-Romania


Astra Village Museum Sibiu, Romania


Travel Tips for visiting Sibiu, Transylvania

When to visit Sibiu

The best time to visit Sibiu is mid-June (28-30ºC), when the city comes to life thanks to Sibiu International Theatre Festival (SITF / FITS). It’s a great time to be in Sibiu as the city’s vibrant streets will delight you with street performances and night shows during the two weekends of the Festival.

Where to Stay in Sibiu

Style Residence Sibiu, Continental Hotel and Ibis Hotel are the best accommodation options in Sibiu because they’re near the old city center. Style Residence was our recent choice, but you need to book ahead if you’re planning to visit Sibiu during the festival.

How to get around Sibiu

If you choose your accommodation downtown, every attraction will be within walking distance. When I’m staying in the new parts of town, I usually take a cab because it’s quick and affordable. But if you want to take a day trip outside Sibiu, renting a car is the best option.

How much time do you need to visit Sibiu

Visiting Sibiu’s main attractions might take 3 days, but it will be nice to add an extra day for visiting the beautiful places around Sibiu. If you want to visit Sibiu during the theatre festival (and I highly recommend it), make sure you include a weekend during your trip because that’s the best time to visit Sibiu.

Souvenirs from Sibiu

The dearest things I got from Sibiu are two traditional Romanian blouses called “ia”. They’re handmade from white linen and embroidered with colorful motifs. You’ll find them all over Transylvania and in Bucharest, but the ones I bought from Astra Village Museum near Sibiu are the most affordable – around 25€ each (they usually go for 80-150€).

Ana-Matei-at-Clay-Castle-of-the-Fairie-s-Valley--Porumbacu-de-Sus

Wearing IA – Traditional Romanian blouse


That’s it! If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below.


Transylvania, my love: Sibiu, Viscri, Brașov | All Photography: ©Ana Matei > Instagram: @MateiAna | Photos & videos from my latest trips to Sibiu: June 2016 & May 2017


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Ana
Last updated: November 1, 2018
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