There is a city in Europe, which is not Prague although they say it seems to be, and it is beautiful, cozy, stylish, filled with traditions and culture. It has an esoteric presence and a medieval charm and it happens to be my favorite city. It lies graceful in the heart of Romania, in Transylvania area, surrounded by mountains.
A couple of days before Christmas I’ve found myself in the mood of being in a magic place, so I jumped in the car and I drove 3 hours until I reached it. It was exactly the place from my Christmas dreams. It had somehow a Victorian elegance mixed with a fairy touch, without being overwhelming or surprising…It was just perfect!
One of Europe’s most hidden Gems
I rented a nice room at Ramada Hotel, in the center, for 2 nights and I went to explore the city in its celebration mood. I have been there many times before, but never during the winter holidays.
Knowing very well its spirit and character, I was expecting to find a cozy and beautifully decorated Sibiu, but my surprise was even greater when I found a genuine Christmas city, a smaller Vienna, a fairy-tale.
What I like the most about Sibiu is its personality – it’s like an old friend you can trust, a friend that will never let you down and it will always be there for you. When I visited the city during the Medieval Festival, which takes place every end of summer, it was wonderful. The knights, the armors, the sketches, the entire scene, the historical center and that dress I’ve rented have turned me back in time in the smoothest way possible.
This time, I discovered a comfy traditional city, a vibrant place without been crowded, so private and delicate like a warm little village where everybody knows everybody, where locals are helping each other in order to ensure a healthy and pure relationship, a perfect symbiosis between people and nature.
There are many attractions worth visiting in Sibiu, such as the Brukenthal Museum -a beautiful palace converted in 1817 in the first museum of Eastern and Central Europe, and one of the best of Romania. The wide collection of art includes Van Dyck, Rubens, and Teniers paintings as well as remarkable works of German, Austrian, and Romanian masters. Moreover, it comprises an impressive collection of weapons, 350 very rare books, and some remarkable painted glass icons.
It’s such a pity they didn’t let me to take pictures inside. In fact, they did, but the price was too high and I wasn’t prepared, maybe next time.
Whilst in Sibiu I also went to visit the Astra Museum which I found to be quite amazing. Besides being the largest open-air museum I have ever visited, it was so coherent and complex. Imagine a beautiful dense forest with a huge lake in the middle and 300 buildings sprinkled between the trees. Some of the houses exemplified traditional homes from different periods and places in Romania.
Seeing the culture and the traditions of my nation, exposed in such a creative way was like stepping backward through those times. The décor was so authentic that I was amazed, but also a little nostalgic for not living in one of those picturesque houses.
This was my favorite one and it reminded me of a novel that I have read in high school. I’ve actually fancied myself there between the characters, waking up every morning before sunrise, feeding the animals, exploring the nature, living the same intrigues.
After visiting the Astra Museum, which is somewhere outside the city, I came back in town for a late lunch. In Transylvania you will find one of the best Romanian foods, so I highly recommend visitors to Sibiu to opt for a traditional meal. This city is maybe the only one in the country where I’ve seen such a dens and original collection of restaurants, bars, pubs, cafés, taverns, terraces, kiosks, pastries and …bookstores.
I chose to try some freshly baked pies and to take a walk between the colorful Christmas Market’s stands, saving the restaurants for dinner.
As much as I love sunny days, I was begging for some snowflakes to complete this beautiful scene I was playing.
Before going back to the hotel to prepare myself for the evening, I entered in a bookstore, where I discovered a lovely world. At the main level everything seemed usual but then I saw the stairs and I went down entering in a large beautiful room. As I was walking among the bookshelves, seized by the titles, I was wrapped by a sweet fragrance of orange and cinnamon. I followed the smell like a child and I woke up in another room – a beautifully decorated tea saloon with a couple of tables and an amazing bar where you could prepare yourself a hot drink in a beautiful unique cup and serve it while reading a book.
I was already buying “A Christmas Carol” so what better place to read it? After two hours spent in this warm and silent place meant to induce you in a fairy tale atmosphere, I bought a lot of accessories – vintage tea boxes, a beautiful kettle, scented candles, a few postcards, and some lovely trays, I went outside with the fear of not waking up from this dream.
I didn’t…of course, because Sibiu’s cobblestone streets were still leading my random steps along its legends, still steeping me into its wonderful history. That’s why I love this city! When I come here, I never try to manage my time; I never follow a schedule, because this would be a waste of precious things I could miss.
As a tourist in Sibiu you have to be spontaneous – don’t ever judge anything by the appearances because you might miss the best places.
I’ve finally arrived at the hotel, a little tired and hungry, but I didn’t want to lose everything by taking a nap, so I took a shower, got dressed, and went back in the lively Old Town. The Great Square and the Christmas Market were looking even better now that the night has come and the golden lights were creating a frisky spectacle. The square was filled with cheerful people looking for presents, playful kids, Santa Clauses, reindeers, tasty fragrances, stages where different performers were acting, a group of children wearing national costumes, dancing on Romanian traditional music – an almost perfect picture illustrating my favorite Christmas time! What should I do for a snowfall?!
It was almost eleven when I started to look for an elegant restaurant. Most of them were full at that hour. As I was walking on the Liars’ Bridge, I saw a lighted door and some beautiful tiny windows overlooking the sidewalk. I assumed that this could be a restaurant.
See, that’s what I am talking about! This city is indeed my friend, it always answers my questions, my wishes, and it seems to anticipate all my thoughts, and that’s why I trust it.
I opened the door and after crossing a beautiful hall with a piano and a chair placed in front of it, I found myself in a surprisingly stylish restaurant where I had a healthy meal, listening to quality live piano music.
I could find many adjectives to characterize Sibiu, but first of all, I could say that this is the most diverse small city I have ever visited. The long history makes it priceless, the rich traditions make it immortal, the culture makes it famous, the size makes it cozy, the location makes it special, the new additions make it classy, and all of these make it perfect.
I have never been in so many bars and cafes as I did in these two days spent here. I actually did a sort of marathon because I believe that this is a clever way to discover a city. I’ve seen amazing retro cafés, lively sport bars, luxury restaurants, colored confectioneries, Irish pubs, elegant lounges, traditional taverns, sweet tea-houses, and more. My favorite one was the Einstein Café – a very nice and ingenious place where I had a great time, ending the day. I will say just that because I don’t want to kill all the mystery.
This was pretty much everything about my short trip to Sibiu. I really hope I didn’t forget to tell you anything big, but if you are planning a vacation in this beautiful city, don’t hesitate to ask me for advice.