As a living part of history, the Romanian city of Sighisoara may be the most well-preserved medieval village in all of Europe and the lack of over development in this area has kept the city as close to its origins as possible. From this perspective, taking a trip to Sighisoara can be like stepping back in time, with several iconic buildings and the remnants of the original six-sided fortress that was once used to protect the city from attack. A trip to Sighisoara should only take a few days, but the many sights will ensure that a visitor is never bored while they explore the medieval town.
The History of the City
Contrary to popular belief, Sighisoara did not start off as either a Romanian or Hungarian town. In fact, it was a group of Germans that first populated the city and were responsible for building the impressive fortress and many of the finest buildings that still exist. It is thought that colonization of Sighisoara took place sometime towards the close of the twelfth century and the city quickly rose to prominence with a reputation of the highest possible quality of crafts in the region. At its height in the 16th and 17th centuries, the city became a center of crafts, with at least 15 documented guilds being located in the city and an additional 20 branches of handicrafts being represented.
The Dracula Connection
The history of the city is not only limited to its role of craft supplier to many neighboring areas. The real claim to Sighisoara’s fame is that it was the birthplace of Romanian ruler Vlad Tepes, who also spent time in the city later in his life. For those unaware, Tepes is thought to be the figure that Bram Stoker’s Dracula was supposedly based upon, with several stories of barbarianism and his penchant for impaling enemies. While this connection is very loose, Tepes is seen as a national hero of the country as he was able to repel Ottoman and Hungarian invasions on a number of occasions and the use of his likeness in relation to the Dracula story brings mixed emotions to many native Romanians.
The Fortress Sights
Regardless of how they feel about how the image of Vlad Tepes has been used, there is no doubt that Romanians are extremely proud of Sighisoara and the city is certainly worthy of praise. With classification as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Sighisoara Citadel is a must-see in the town, especially the Church on the Hill (Biserica din Deal), a Gothic Lutheran construction will a crypt that can be visited by tourists. Connecting the Church on the Hill with the center of Sighisoara is a covered staircase with a wooden roof that adds to the spooky feel of the Transylvanian town.
Other Points of Interest
Visitors will also want to take time to visit the Clock Tower (Turnul cu Ceas), which has a viewing platform at the top and an impressive history museum inside that has a wide variety of artifacts that includes weapons, clothing, and pieces of money. The only sight that should be avoided is the Torture Museum, not because of a high level of blood and gore, but more for the fact that it is only a small room and has not properly been completed yet.
When to Come
The best time to come to Sighisoara is without a doubt in the middle of summer during July. For ten days each year, the city is home to the Sighisoara Medieval Festival, an event that brings an estimated 30,000 people to the city to take part in the music, theater, and crafts activities. Highlighted by a torchlit parade every night and a fireworks display on the weekend, the many different activities can encourage a visitor to stay in town for the entire duration of the festival. Other events that may be a good time to make a visit to Sighisoara include the annual blues festival that is held in February or Pro Etnica, a celebration of the many different ethnic groups that make up the Romanian population.
As far as accommodation options go, a traveler may be surprised by the wide range afforded by Sighisoara. At the budget end of the spectrum, there are currently only three hostels to speak of, but a number of cheap hotel options offer private rooms for just a little bit more expense. The hostels include a local branch of the Nathan’s Hostel chain as well as The Legend House, which has high reviews and is located more towards the center of town.
Inexpensive Luxury Hotels
With unexplainable low prices, a visit to Sighisoara may be the time to experience true luxury as one of the best hotels in the country, BinderBubi, runs specials on a regular basis that can bring the price of a standard double room down to 50 Euros. With a fascinating wooden architecture, this hotel and spa provides the perfect base to explore Sighisoara and the surrounding areas.
Eating Out in Sighisoara
Finding a good spot to eat in Sighisoara is not a problem as a number of quality restaurants have opened up in the past few years. An eatery called Rustic brings tourists and locals together to sample typical Romanian cuisine done well. A great choice for adventurous eaters would be to try their tripe soup (Ciorba de Burta), with a creamy garlic flavor. Less daring diners would be well suited to the minced meat rolls (Mici) or cabbage rolls filled with ground meat (Sarmale). Other restaurants that generate rave reviews are La Perla for pizza or the restaurant located at the Hotel Sighisoara.
Getting in and out of Sighisoara is relatively easy as long as a person plans ahead. There are daily connections to the major cities of Romania, such as Brasov, Cluj, and Bucharest, but getting to more remote destinations like Suceava may require changing trains or buses a number of times. Hotel or hostel staff should be able to help with finding the best way to get from Sighisoara to the next destination on a traveler’s list. For many people, Sighisoara is the highlight of their Romanian vacation and it is quickly rivaling nearby Brasov for the title of best city to visit in the country.