Living in Romania

Complete Guide to Drobeta Turnu Severin: a Great City to Visit or Retire to

I’m starting a new series here on Romania Experience – one that had to be started a long time ago, a series of articles where I will talk in detail about the cities in Romania. So if you’re wondering where to retire to in Romania or what cities to visit in the country, this article series will have you covered. And sometimes, the suggestions might take you by surprise, as it is the case of today’s city: Drobeta Turnu Severin.

When you’re thinking about visiting or moving to Romania, you are probably considering all the “classic” destinations: Bucharest, Timisoara, Cluj, Sibiu, Brasov and so on. The larger cities. The cities everybody is talking about. But Drobeta Turnu Severin? Who ever heard of that city with a funny long name?

Well, this is my home city and the people who have contacted me asking for city suggestions know that I don’t really consider it one of the best cities one can retire to or visit, since it’s small and off the beaten path. But for the right person, this could really be a gold mine.

And we’re going to find our more about it in this article where we’ll talk about the Pros and Cons of living in or moving to Drobeta Turnu Severin, Romania.

What and where is Drobeta Turnu Severin?

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Some of the most important things to see in the city

Called by locals “Severin” and the rest of the country “Drobeta”, this small city is situated in the southwestern part of the country, on the bank of the Danube river. It is an extremely old place, dating from the Roman times. It was in Drobeta where Roman architect Appolodor of Damascus had built Trajan’s Bridge (in the early 100s AD), the bridge over the Danube: the place that the Romans used to invade and conquer Dacia.

It was the first urban center in the region and the third in the country. It can also be considered the birth place of the actual Romanian civilization since here’s where the Romans entered. However, the city has been destroyed and rebuilt over the centuries and just a few structures from the Roman era are still standing.

Right now, Drobeta Turnu Severin has a population of nearly 90,000 people and in the past years has been under some serious modernization, turning it into one of the more beautiful cities in Romania, in my opinion. And definitely one of the greenest (in terms of parks and other green areas, not recycling).

I decided to write about it after taking some photos in the city center a few nights ago. Even though my camera is not the best – nor are my photography skills, I am sure that you can use your imagination to see how beautiful this part is:

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The main kinetic fountain, one of the best attractions in the city
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Pietonal area near the park and kinetic fountain. Not seen are the restaurants and bars on each side of the park: they offer some great views!

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There’s also a short video I took before rage stopping it because it was mostly out of focus. I only managed to film about a third of the park (which is the smallest in the area, but also the cutest as you can easily see in the photos above and the video):

PROs of retiring to Drobeta Turnu Severin

– this is one of the cheapest cities in the country – from rent to buying a house or apartment to food and service costs.

– it is on the border with Serbia and in 15 minutes you can be in another country, eating a traditional pljeskavica and enjoying the other (and slightly better looking) bank of the Danube.

– you can easily walk from one side to the other of the city in about 30 minutes. Usually, you can get anywhere in about 10 minutes of walking. A taxi ride between the two farthest points of the city would be about 2 Euros.

– It has great parks and quite a few attractions, including the Danube river promenade

– It is really close to Orsova, a beautiful touristic spot on the Danube, as well as Baile Herculane (named after Hercules) with thermal baths and extremely clean air.

– It is relatively close to two major cities: Craiova (about 110 KM) and Timisoara (220KM). Bucharest is some 320 KM away.

– It’s being modernized constantly and it can be considered extremely safe

– Although it doesn’t offer that many options, there are still quite a few really nice pubs, bars and restaurants in the city where you can spend your free time.

– It’s never crowded: you’ll feel as if you are always on vacation in a silent, relaxing area.

– It is considered one of best cities in Romania regarding the weather and one of the hottest cities in the country with the mildest winters.

CONs of retiring to Drobeta Turnu Severin

– It has one of the highest unemployment rate in the country so it can be considered a really poor city. As a result, you would have a very, very difficult time finding a job here. So only come here if you have a guaranteed monthly income or as a tourist.

– The population is mostly made of very young people (up to high school age) and elderly people. Students and middle aged people usually prefer to move to the nearby, larger cities.

– Older people have poor-to-no English skills, although they might know French or Russian (but this goes for the entire country).

– It’s not a very lively city and during the week it usually turns off (save a few spots – like the central area) at around 10 PM. If you’re all for the fun and parties, you won’t get a ton of those here.

– The health system is considered by locals somewhat sub-par and many choose Craiova or Timisoara for investigations or treatment. Still, there is a state hospital in the city and quite a few private clinics with good doctors so unless you have some very rare conditions or problems that require very modern tech, you should be more than fine.

– The expat community is small here (but locals are extremely friendly, like most Romanians and would certainly do their best to make you feel at home).

– It doesn’t offer a lot of options for your spare time in the city: very little in terms of entertainment, art, social clubs and so on – like most, if not all, smaller cities in the country. However, its proximity to Serbia as well as Orsova and Baile Herculane really make up a lot for that!

Top Things to See in Drobeta Turnu Severin

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The Kinetic fountain and theater during the day
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Large replica of Trajan’s bridge. It’s really spectacular during the night!
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The iconic water tower
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The same tower during the night
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And Trajan’s Bridge replica during the night
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Long pietonal area that’s starting to be called the “new city center”. In the central region of this street, there is a huge stage for events, small water fountains and pubs. It’s also the place where the ice skating rink is open during the winter and a large swimming pool awaits for cooling off during the summer days.
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The main boulevard, decorated for the winter holidays
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The city during the winter

All in all, I am sure that the right kind of person would manage to fall in love with Drobeta Turnu Severin: especially those who prefer a calmer place, a smaller city and natural, raw beauty (parks, green areas, promenade and other natural “wonders”) to man-made entertainment and feel-good places. Also, it is a must to have your monthly income guaranteed and not come here job hunting, or only visit for a few days up to a week, as the job scene doesn’t offer much right now.

[Source for the photos, excluding the night ones in the park: Mehedintiul Meu]

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  1. Wow! It’s a lovely place C! Looks very relaxing and lovely. It sort of reminds me of Houston suburbs which are built like this. I think it would be a nice place to retire in as long as you didn’t need a job like you said (pretty much goes for all of Spain, save for the big cities). Amazing the reach of the Roman Empire . Trajan was born in Santiponce Seville, and has a bridge named for him all the way over there. It would be cool to see the Danube over there, we went on a cruise in Budapest and it was so lovely. I like this series 🙂 .

    1. I didn’t know where Trajan was born and he’s considered one of the most important people in Romania’s history. There are some really nice things to see on the Danube here – actually near Orsova (30 km away)… and then some nice restaurants to chill at 🙂

      1. Yeah, Santiponce boasts two Roman Emperors, Trajan and Hadrian. I think that was one of the reasons why Seville was so prosperous in those days 🙂 .

  2. Hi Calin:

    A very nice overview of your city. The first 2 pictures of the fountain reminded me of a fancy vanilla-iced cake. (Yeah, I am hungry as I write this;-)
    Looks like a very pleasant place. I see no roaming dog packs, either–ha, ha.
    Is there a bus/tram system for those who don’t have cars? What about bicycling–is that something that is popular?
    Are there any river day-cruises available? I would think the river is an important part of the city.
    You have one good-sized mall, yes? (Still no cinema, yet?) You have several hypermarkets, too?
    So, who (or what) is Mehedintiul Meu? Just curious and ignorant. Nice of you to give credit, though;-)

    Re the “cons”: (Living in the USA, as I do, these questions come quickly to mind, sadly.)
    Because of high unemployment, is there an uptick in crime (residential, person-on-person, etc.)?
    Assuming there are unemployed youth, do they join gangs, and cause problems?
    Is there some sort of “security blanket” (unemployment insurance, severance pay, etc.) for those who have lost their jobs?
    Knowing guns are a rarity in Romania (Yea!!!) do violent crimes usually involve blunt objects (bats, mallets, etc.) and knives?
    Do the police (blondes or not;-) provide adequate protection and service?

    (Sorry, off-topic: What do you think about Hungary’s mis-handling of the refugees? The prime minister does NOT seem very empathetic or sympathetic. I can’t understand why the powers-that-be are so heavy-handed. It’s so sad what all the displaced people have to go through just to survive, and Hungary sure is NOT making it any easier. Again, sorry this has zip to do about your fine city article. I am just curious what you think.)

    So, do you thing you’ll sometime do a first hand report of Oradea and Piatra Neamt (sp?) Maybe you could take a winter vacay and go skiing–ha, ha.

    Thanks again for sharing a bit of your Romania!


    1. Hello Teil,

      Let’s get straight to the point and answer those questions!

      1. There are very, very few roaming dogs around, which results in a slightly larger population of stray cats (or just cats walking around): you can see a cat on the streets every now and then 🙂

      2. There are no special bicycle lanes, and bicycling is not that popular – however, the younger people are starting to pick up on this trend. We do have a bus system, but buses are few and far in between because most people prefer to walk from one point to another.

      3. The river should be an important part of the city, but right now there are no cruises being offered as far as I know. There are plans to change that, but there’s no date set in stone. However, Orsova offers a lot of them, and it’s just a 30-minute ride by car or train away.

      4. We currently have one mall and the second is being built and should be inaugurated this month (September 2015). It will finally bring us a big cinema with 7 different screening rooms. Hypermarkets and supermarkets are everywhere in the city, yes, as well as a few peasant markets open daily with fresh products (but I am sure that something similar can be said about all other cities in the country).

      5. Mehedintiul Meu is a Facebook page sharing photos about the cities in the county (Mehedinti). I just happened to find all the photos I needed over there 🙂

      Regarding the unemployment rates, things are not as bad as they sound, actually. Even though the data is certainly correct, most of the unemployed in the city actually live most of the year in nearby villages, growing their own food and animals. Or at least they have family members who do it. If not, just as it happens in the rest or Romania, many have spouses and/or kids working in the richer countries in Europe, sending money over. Plus, everybody receives unemployment aid which helps a bit. And fortunately, there is no gang mentality in Romania yet so there are no gangs here and, in the end, no rise in crime levels. Romanians are unfortunately used to living with next to nothing and making it work: two of my good friends have gone through long unemployed/no money periods at different moments in their lives and when that happened, they simply stopped going out and spending any extra money. They spent most of the days at home, watching TV and trying to find jobs using the employment websites. They both had quick spells of poor paid jobs here until eventually finding something in a different city and in a different country, respectively.

      Regarding the immigrants, you’d be surprised to hear that many Romanians are against them and what is happening, even though Romania is not a country they want to seek refuge to. I am not sure what data you have on this, but Hungary is not that bad with them, actually. All the refugees want to get to Germany and Hungary is forced to delay the process because, when they arrive in the country, they are illegal immigrants and they have to do some paperwork so that they can move on (I actually believe that no European country really needs so many people to support, and Hungary is certainly glad they’re not the final destination). They have camps set up for the refugees, they have aid packages for them, but the response from most immigrants is not nice: they are throwing away the aid packages, they are protesting and refusing to go to the special camps and they have a bad behavior, in my opinion. In the end, they are people running away from the horrors of war and searching for a better life and they should accept a helping hand when it is offered. There are many poor people in Europe who would gladly take the aid packages that they’re throwing away and destroying and I consider that unpardonable. But they are highly uneducated people, they are probably under a lot of stress, they most likely don’t understand the language and they believe that any setback in their quest to get to Germany might get worse in time so their reactions are not the best possible and we could find some excuses for that. However, in my opinion, they should be humble and accept the help they’re being offered, and not come here with demands and then protest that they’re not getting what they want. There are laws in place and they need to be followed in all cases.

  3. Drobeta-Turnu Severin looks cute with all those fountains. Is there any nature nearby, like for hiking or swimming? The Baile Herculane area looks nice. The Danube looks very imposing, does it ever flood? Google Maps has what looks like strip mines just to the northeast. Is that the outline of a fortress that I see on Insula Simian? I like Drobeta-Turnu Severin very much, but I would worry that I would feel a bit isolated there. I think I would end up bothering you and the Mrs. too much.

    In English, we say “pedestrian” not “pietonal” and we usually talk of medical examinations, not investigations.

    On the subject of refugees, I hope this doesn’t go bad for Germany. Sweden has been taking in many refugees from some of the same hot spots over the years and I’m afraid it hasn’t gone that well for them. We also shouldn’t forget that 70% of the “refugees” come from Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia, Macedonia, Serbia and African nations, in other words, most are economic migrants and not war refugees. But there isn’t anything that can be done about it now. I have already noticed the cheap rents have dried up in some of the German towns I was eyeing for retirement. One has to shake one’s head when one considers the Germans have destroyed some 40,000 apartment units in East Germany since reunification in an effort to get the vacancies down and the rents up.

    1. Hello Sturat, there are a lot of areas for hiking and swimming nearby, as well as nice bicycle routes in the nature, outside the city (as an add-on to Teil’s questions). The Danube never floods because we have the Portile de Fier (Iron Gates) nearby, which is the hydroelectric power plant of the country and also serves Serbia. In other words, it’s all under control and even if there were any dangers, the city itself is a few tens of meters above the Danube.

      I wouldn’t mind you “bothering” us a lot, it seems that there are still a lot of things – basic things – that I have to learn about the English language.

      Regarding Simian, there’s an interesting story about the “fortress” there: when Portile de Fier were built, the island Ada Kaleh sank. It was the home of the largest Turkish population in the area, with houses, shops and all the nice stuff – my grandmother used to tell nice stories about the place. However, everybody left when the island sank and the government decided to rebuild, later on, a replica of their fortress on Simian Island. But apparently it was not enough and nobody decided to move there. There are talks for a few years now about turning the island into a touristic attraction, but I don’t think that will happen too soon.

      1. Calin, the last thing I want to do is give you a complex about your English. It is very, very good. I just want you to get that last bit of polish so that you dazzle even brighter than you do already!

        I had an interesting experience at a pen-pal website where I contacted a Romanian retired teacher. I wrote him in Romanian and he responded with, “Sa nu crezi ca ai scris foarte bine in limba romana. Ai ceva greseli…” Talk about taking the wind out of my sails! What did he expect? Perfection?

    2. Error: the Germans have destroyed 44,000 apartment units in the state of Thuringia alone! No telling how many units were destroyed in the other five East German states. The total figure must go into the hundreds of thousands.

  4. Thank you C !!
    I always enjoy reading your articles they are very informative and make me want to learn even more of your beautiful country.

  5. Question about possibly retiring to Romania. Will I have to pay Romanian taxes? If I have a monthly social security and other incomes totaling $2,000 u.s would I have to pay the 16% flat tax? I plan to ask a Romanian tax preparer too. I am very serious about retiring to Romania and Drobeta Turnu Severin sounds very nice. Figuring out how to hold on to my precious retirement income is important as I expect to have no means of earning money or getting a job in Romania.

    1. Hello Otto, I think that it would be best to speak with a tax person as they know better and even if you have to pay the 16% in tax (which might go as high as 21.5% if you also have to pay for national health insurance) – they can find ways out.

      As far as I know, if you are already paying tax for the money (or, better said, this is the income after tax) you should not have to pay tax again – it would count as double taxation. But surely a taxperson knows best.

  6. Hello All, I am taking into cosideration all previous comments, where the comment of Otto is important to be clarified. However, what about cost of properity is it high ? in terms of renting to own small appartment or house.

  7. Thanks C.
    I’ve checked out your previous articles and found them helpful and rich. However I woud have in mind to visit Drobeta first then Cluj. Your comments appreciated.

    1. is the best website for finding real estate and cars in Romania. I have spent hours fantasizing about which house I would buy or which apartment I would rent. I never knew purple was such a popular color for painting one’s interior walls! I have already “selected” the Dacia 1410 with only 105,000 km on it that I am “going to buy” for a whopping 400 Euros…

  8. Hello Stuart, I would check out the website which you’ve recommanded to see. Meanwhile wishing you all the best luck with your new house.

  9. I am a Concordia Chiajna fan and try to go to all matches home and away. Myself and some others may be coming to Drobeta Turnu Severin when we play Pandurii Targu Jiu on the weekend of 21st November.

    Do you know of any guided tours we could take to Orsova or Baia Herculane

    These all sound like great places and I’m looking forward to checking it out.

    1. Oh, my! I had no idea that Concordia Chiajna has such a diehard fanbase – it’s a really new team on the top stage of Romanian football.

      These being said, I unfortunately know nothing about guided tours from Drobeta to Orsova or Baile Herculane. However, you can easily get there (especially Orsova) by train or regular buses leaving from the Drobeta Autogara – and once you’re there, you will find lots of boat owners who are ready to take you on a nice trip to the Danube and show you the main sights (Cazane, churches etc). If you get there, don’t forget to visit Monastery Sf. Ana as well!

      Regarding Baile Herculane, I don’t think that it would be worth visiting in late November.

      1. we are the Chiajna Foreign Legion and we are crazy about our team!

        The boat trip sounds good – will do that

        For what reason is Baia Herculane not a good idea in late November, which time of year would it be best to see?

        Also, can you recommend good restaurants and lively bars to go to on a weekend?

        1. I would suggest summer for Baile Herculane: this way you could enjoy the thermal pools (which are all outdoor) or even go with the locals and bathe in the Cerna river which goes through the city – or experience the amazing “la cadite” feeling where you would stay in natural thermal water holes by the river itself and enjoy the great views. You can enjoy the “Cadite” (Bathtubs) during the colder weather, too, but I think it’s best when it’s hot outside.

          Baile Herculane is a very small town, almost 100% tourisitc so you don’t really have much to see or do there if the weather is not right. You can give it a try if you think you wouldn’t mind that: there is still the river, you could still experience the “Cadite” but I think that the perfect time of the year would be during the summer/warmer months.

          I can’t recommend restaurants and bars in Orsova and Herculane – but Orsova has quite a few right on the bank of the Danube, offering some great views. I am sure that any would be really good.

  10. I’ve really enjoyed your blog and your retirement series is a great idea. My wife and I plan to retire in Romania in less than two years. We’re looking at Cluj but are open to suggestions. Read in one book there are an unusually high amount of English speakers in Oradea.

    1. I am happy to hear that, Wade! The North-Western cities are usually my recommendations too and we’ll surely cover them all – although I won’t have a personal knowledge on them as I do with Drobeta.

  11. It’s nice seeing other places covered. Great idea for a series of posts! I had considered this area until I realized how hot summers were there compared with the more mountainous regions. I definitely can’t wait to visit though.

  12. Thanks a lot for this accurate report about your out of the beaten tracks city.
    Do you know how easy or difficult it is to get to Drobeta Severin from Cluj by bus or train?
    Thank you

    1. Hello Julien,

      I don’t know anything about buses – there might be some direct rides, but most likely they will go just like the trains. The train ride is divided in two: Cluj – Timisoara, then a train from Timisoara – Drobeta. It’s a 10 hour ride on the train, though…

  13. Really great info! It would be really helpful to expand this series to other, less known cities that may be good for aspiring retirees.

    1. I am happy you found this useful. I am planning to cover the major cities first and while I do that, I am doing research on other hidden gems as well. Not going very fast since this is a one-man-show, but we’ll get there 🙂

  14. Hello C
    Recently I started searching about Romania,especially about Drobeta Severin
    . I’m polish ,who lives in London …. I met love my life who is Romanian he comes from your city . We are planning to live there, so glad that I found your article ,but a bit concern if I will be able to work in your country 🙁 with English language . As I read in that city is not many opportunities to work especially if I don’t know Romanian 🙁

  15. I’m an expat living part-time in Severin. C.’s evaluation is spot on. It’s like a storybook town especially in the winter when it snows. But it’s 3.5 hours to the nearest airport.

    1. I am happy to hear that you agree with everything I’ve said about the city. There’s a closer airport than Timisoara – it’s in Craiova and it has international flights too, but the offer is extremely limited at the moment.

  16. Hello C. Love your articles, insight, photos and videos. Looks like a wonderful place to retire and enjoy life. Retired 54 year old male and his 50 year old wife (we are active and workout 5 days a week) but would like somewhere cheaper and more relaxed pace of life than here in the U.S. Debating Romania, Serbia and Ukraine. Strong state retirement income, but a bit concerned about taxes on my retirement income abroad and health insurance. Any guidance on which of the three countries would
    better suit us. Thank you

    1. Ed, I am sorry, but I know nothing about Serbia and Ukraine. But I do believe that prices would be similar in all these three ones, so probably choosing the easiest one to retire to would be the best option.

  17. C, thank you for your super fast response and advice, I appreciate it. Also, thank you for keeping us all informed about the pros and cons.

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