Sighisoara, a tiny town situated smack bang in central Romania in the Transylvania region (yes, we’ll get to the vampires shortly) is well worth a look, as a short stop on your way through this delightful country in Eastern Europe.
The old town, also called the “medieval citadel” has UNESCO world cultural heritage listing for good reason. It is not only one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe, it is also stunningly picturesque with cobblestone pedestrian-only roads and colourfully painted houses.
Seeing the sights
It was a grey day on our travels, but that didn’t stop us enjoying the main sights including the clock tower (14 Lei per person, 9am-4pm, closed Mondays) which is an easy climb, includes a fascinating museum, and has great views from the top (note that the tower shuts at 4:00pm but they start to hurry people out before then so I suggest heading there earlier in your day).
We also climbed the other famous (covered) stairs to the Church on the hill (10am – 6pm). The climb is free but the entry to the church is 5 Lei. The views from the top aren’t great due to the trees but there is a cemetery to wander through and you can admire one of the many guild towers scattered throughout Sighisoara. Unfortunately you cannot enter it as it is now used as a residence but two of the others are now open publicly as shops so you can enter those free of charge and have a look around.
If Dracula is one of your interests in this region, then you might want to visit “Casa Dracula” where Vlad was reputedly born and you can see his room or take part in a Dracula themed lunch at the traditional Romanian-fare restaurant inside the house.
There are also a number of other churches worth looking at in Sighisoara including the Church of the Dominican Monastery, in the old town, near the clock tower and my favourite – the Orthodox Cathedral, just outside the old town, on the other side of the river over a pedestrian bridge.
Options for eating
In my opinion, you’re better off sticking to one of the many restaurants in the area known as ‘downtown’ which is easily accessible by the stairs near the Clock Tower.
We had two lovely meals at “La Perla” (it was so good we went back) which does excellent Romanian food but the pizzas also looked temptingly good as I peered over at them as they went by our table. The hot chocolate was also very pleasing from here on a chilly day in October, while my partner enjoyed the beer selection on tap.
Alternatively, almost opposite “La Perla” is a reasonable sized supermarket “Profi” where you could stock up on goods for a delightful picnic in the downtown park, or near the Church on the Hill.
“Café International/House on the Rock” (Mon – Sat 10am-8pm, in the main square of the old town) also came recommended as both a café (apparently the berry pie is amazing) and a souvenir shop, but unfortunately it wasn’t open when we were there on a Sunday so we instead tried the apple pie (with homemade ice cream for 4 Lei extra) at the Medieval Café (next door to the adjoining medieval costume shop) which also serves reasonable coffee (no wifi available though).
How to get there
You can buy a map at the Visitor Information centre in the old town, for 4 Lei which I found helpful (it lists all the attractions on the back and notes them on the map) and easier than trying to use offline maps on my phone while walking around. However, after a couple of hours, you’ll know your way around anyway and have no need for any kind of map.
The town is easy to find with a car, and parking is available outside the old town (you need a residence permit to enter the old town). It is also on the main train line through central Romanian, with the old town being only a short ten minute walk from the train station. The train system is very easy to use albeit very slow (expect a 90km journey to take 2.5 hours or more) so the sensible locals seem to use buses or cars to travel between cities. The buses can be harder to locate but sometimes the “Autogara” is right next to the train station, making it fairly easy. Don’t hesitate to ask the locals, if they speak English, they will be more than happy to go out of their way to help you find any place you need. One lady in another Romanian city walked us right to the bus stop when we couldn’t find it – and luckily so, we would never have found it otherwise! For those of you speaking Latin languages like Italian and French, you’ll find it easier to get around as many of the words are recognisable.
When to visit
In the offseason when we were there in October, Sighisoara was a fairly sleepy small town however all the locals attest that it gets very busy in summer, so select your travel time depending on your preference. It was surprisingly chilly in October with maximum temperatures of around 13 degrees celsuis.
Sighisoara is small enough to easily check out in a day, or even less, but if you choose to stay overnight, then the Central Park Hotel seems to be the best located, and is very reasonably priced for what it promises. The DoubleTree Hotel by Hilton (where we stayed one night only) had a fabulously large and very warm swimming pool but we found the central heating too hot and they couldn’t do anything about it for us, so I wouldn’t recommend it for the cooler seasons (summer might be ok, as it changes to central cooling). They did give us a welcome choc chip cookie though that was possibly the best I’ve ever had, so it’s almost worth staying there just for that!
11 October 2016