Sibiu is one of the best-known cities in Romania, not only for its mesmerizing and history-packed attractions, but also because it is the largest and wealthiest city build by the Saxons (German settlers) in the 12th century. And today we’re talking about the best things to do and see in Sibiu this year.
Hermannstadt’s (as it was initially called) impressive sights will make you believe you are in a medieval and yet modern city in the heart of Transylvania.
By visiting a few landmarks, which I will talk about in a minute, you will experience a part of Romania’s beautiful, yet complicated and harsh history.
There is no surprise that in 2007 it was given the name of the European Capital of Culture – and this was the moment that Sibiu was basically put on the map, becoming the touristic attraction it is today and one of the top cities in Romania.
Sibiu is also the hometown of Romania’s current President and the city holds some must-see sights. So let’s waste no time and instead let’s check out below some of the best things to see or do in Sibiu!
1. The Large Square (Piata Mare)
Basically Sibiu’s Old Town, it is sometimes called “The Big Square” – but always “Piata Mare” in the Romanian language.
It is Sibiu’s historical center and here you will find most of the main attractions in the city, so you can visit almost all the important landmarks in a day or two, while you can also enjoy a relaxing coffee and a delicious traditional meal, as there are many nice restaurants in the area.
During warmer days, you will also find a ton of Gelaterias if you’re an ice cream fan.
Back to the piazza itself, it’s worth noting that it’s not just one of the biggest piazzas in Sibiu, but also one of the biggest in the Transylvania region. It is also connected to the Small Square, which is like its little sister, with pubs and restaurants all over the place.
From strolling along this square and admiring the locals that are taking a day off or all the tourists that are absorbing Sibiu’s beauty to visiting other attractions, you will not get bored in the Big Square!
2. The Bridge of Lies
This bridge, although it sounds grandiose, is a very small one, but of great importance to the city and extremely Instagram-worthy.
It links the Upper Town to the Lower Town (the city is horizontally developed, and so, for a long time, the Upper Town was wealthier than the Lower Town, kind of how Italy works nowadays, too, although this is a forced comparison). It also links Huet Square to the Small Square.
The Bridge of Lies is the first bridge in Romania and the second one in Europe to have been cast in iron and it gets this popular, funny name from a phonetic mismatch.
As I mentioned before, there were many Germans here, and so it was initially named Liegenbrücke (The Lying Bridge). It was soon mismatched for Lügenbrücke (The Bridge of Lies). It wasn’t much until people started telling legends and stories about lying on this bridge, although probably none of them are true.
We have talked about Romanian superstitions and this can definitely be put on the list. It is said that if you tell somebody that you love them while on the Bridge of Lies, it’s actually untrue. Also, if you ask somebody to marry you on the bridge, it won’t happen. So don’t do it!
But you can totally come here to take a picture, tell a white lie and then joke about it after, just as a local would.
3. Brukenthal Palace
You will find this beautiful landmark in the West side of the Big Square. It currently hosts the Brukenthal National Museum, with many art galleries (you can visit the European section as well as the Romanian one). It was founded by Samuel von Brukenthal, a governor of Transylvania back in the days.
It is the oldest museum in Romania and one of the oldest in Europe, being opened 3 years before the well-known Louvre. As you can see, there are a lot of “the oldest” places you can visit here, which will definitely leave you with a nice taste of this country.
What I find really fascinating about it is that it doesn’t look like a palace at all, you could pass it for a bank or maybe a somewhat fancier institution. If you visited other palaces or castles in Romania – like the amazing Peles castle – you will definitely tell the difference between those grandiose buildings and this one.
4. Passage of the Stairs
After you would have indulged into a really nice traditional Romanian meal, you may find a little bit of sport well appealing. And since you’re in vacation and calories don’t count, you won’t need to do a lot of cardio other than using this passage!
You will, of course, find here the oldest restaurant in Romania, where Michael the Brave himself once dined after a battle. Its name is Butoiul de Aur (The Golden Barrel) and it’s a great place for testing the local cuisine, although a bit on the pricy side. (You can check out their menu here)
Running up and down those stairs cannot compare with a medieval battle, but you can totally celebrate your effort by taking a bite here. It has a medieval air to it, as there is a segment of a fortification wall that doubles the one above it, belonging to the second enclosure of fortifications.
If you want to get a bit medieval (and still be in the heart of the city), this is a great place to do so!
5. The Council Tower
You will also find this in the Big Square, and below it there is an alleyway through which you can get to the Small Square.
It used to host different museums back in the day, which it still does sometimes, but not so often. It is mainly known for the view you will get once you get to the top of it.
Once there, you will see most of Sibiu, as well as the Fagaras Mountains. Take a picture here, let your friends and family know how greatly you’re enjoying this beautiful town and boost up those Instagram likes and followers!
6. ASTRA Museum
There aren’t many open air museums in Romania, which makes ASTRA Museum even more special because, yes, it is one!
If you have ever been to the Village Museum in Bucharest, one of the main attractions of Romania’s capital, you will see the resemblance between these two. Both of them are open air and both of them show what the rural, lees known, less visited part of Romania (which is actually about 45% of our country) looks like.
What I find incredibly interesting about the ASTRA Museum of Folkloric Traditional Civilization (that’s its full name!) is that it feels like walking through a park on a sunny Sunday afternoon, but taking a trip back in time along the way, being able to absorb all that culture. Definitely a nice thing to do in Sibiu.
7. Lutheran Evanghelical Cathedral and Tower
This is a Gothic cathedral in Huet Square, one of the most impressive gothic halidoms in Romania. You will definitely be stunned by the architecture and beauty and craftsmanship. You will also feel a unique atmosphere.
The building is dominated by the seven level tower with the four towers on the corners, a mark showing that the city had the right of condemnation.
The Tower is the biggest one in Transylvania, with its height of 73 meters. It offers a panoramic view of a part of Sibiu, with all of its beautiful red-ish roofs and you can visit it, but on demand, which I personally suggest you do.
It used to be a burial place for mayors or other important personalities, but it recently stopped after serving as such for 300 years. There was, however, an exception, that being the baron I previously talked about, Samuel von Brukenthal’s body, which will be laid here for eternal sleep.
Bonus: if you visit it anytime between June and September, you will also experience local concerts here on Wednesdays.
This used to apply before the pandemic, it may unfortunately not be the case anymore now. However, you can certainly revisit Sibiu after this is over and you might also experience these beautiful concerts.
8. Nicolae Bălcescu Street
It is the biggest street in Sibiu and it is known for being incredibly populated by tourists. Here you will find many cafes, restaurants, shops and so on.
This may sound a little bit boring, but there is actually a lot you can get from this street. You can keep walking and you will reach to Cetății Street, named “the most beautiful street in Sibiu”.
It truly deserves this name because here you will be mesmerized by the culture and history packed ruins of a massive 16th century brick wall and three defense towers: the Archbishop’s Tower, the Potters ‘Tower and the Carpenters’ Tower. The area is very charming, with a pronounced medieval air.
This is a pedestrian area, so no cars to upset you. And as a bonus, all the buildings in the area and have a charming architecture, one worth admiring.
9. Clay Castle Valley of Fairies
Hopefully, if you can find a cab or a bus to bring you here, 45 minutes away from Sibiu to Porumbacu de Sus, you will feel like you are not in the real world.
This is an “eco-friendly castle” built by two Romanians in 2 years, using natural materials. It looks like you stumbled into some alternative Universe, in some sort of fairytale, with the nice, green garden all around you, the mountains as your view and the architecture that leaves you speechless.
We have talked more in depth about this amazing attraction, so make sure to read all about Romania’s Fairy Tale Clay Castle here.
10. Museums and Parks
These two categories are, as you know, present in pretty much every city. Therefore, if you still have time to spare after visiting all of my recommendations above, you might want to check out, beside the Brukenthal Museum and ASTRA Museum, which are definitely a must, the History Museum, the Pharmacy Museum, the Steam Locomotives Museum, or the Ethnography Museum.
There is also a Zoological Garden, if you have little kids or even if you yourself are a fan of animals, but if you’ve seen larger ones in other cities, it’s best to skip it.
As for the parks, they are always a good idea. Who doesn’t like a nice promenade after a busy day, during which you would have already visited a good part of the city and would have eaten many meals (because, let’s be honest, once you taste some Romanian food, there is no going back)?
For this exact reason you will find a park named exactly after this activity: The Promenade (the firs park in Sibiu, it doesn’t have this name today anymore, but this is what it used to be called). It is now part of Citadel Park.
You might also enjoy a nice walk in the Sub Arini Park (Under the Alders Park), which is one of the biggest and the best maintained parks in Romania (take it from me, this is a nice quality, not many parks are maintained here).
Sibiu is also called The City with the Eyes, believe it or not. Not because there are many places where you can have beautiful panoramic views or anything like this, but rather because many of the houses have a unique architectural signature.
The roofs of these houses have windows built in such a way that it looks like they are eyes… and are watching you. This is definitely more fun and less spooky than it sounds.
These roofs used to be a medieval symbol and it is a rare architecture element nowadays. You can look for these houses in the Big Square, the Small Square and on other streets from the city center – and you’ll love finding them for sure!
To conclude, I hope these tips helped you plan your visit in Sibiu in a more organized way, which ranges from national to local culture to a simple taste of our food or our routines, such as promenades. You know now which are the best things to do and see in Sibiu – but don’t hesitate to let me know which are your favorites!