Top Medieval Towns
Romania may not be well known for its medieval cities, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t several interesting destinations from this category throughout the country. In fact, cities like Sibiu and Sighisoara are among the best preserved medieval towns in Europe, while the larger Cluj and Brasov offer many touristic attractions of their own.
Let’s take a look at the finest medieval towns from Transylvania.
Located on the foothills of the picturesque Apuseni Mountains, Alba Iulia is the city of the Union and the cradle of Romania’s national spirit. The city is built around the largest citadel in southeastern Europe, while the ruins of the Roman castrum are a testimony to Alba Iulia’s storied past. The facing Roman Catholic and Orthodox cathedrals, and historic buildings such as the Apor Palace and the Batthyaneum Library make the perfect backdrop for a trip back in history. Don’t miss the changing of the guards, every day at noon.
One of the seven cities of the Saxons, the small medieval town of Bistrita has preserved a series of attractive landmarks from the medieval period, including the Saxon Evangelical Church, a Gothic construction rivaling Brasov’s famed Black Church, and the Coopers’ Tower, the last of the 18 bastions that protected the city. From Bistrita, visitors can explore the scenic Bargau Mountains, which served as an inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, or learn more about the area’s traditional lifestyle.
A fine Romania medieval town, Brasov is famous for its Old Town Hall Square, a picturesque square lined with buildings from the 16th century. But the city’s symbol is the Black Church, the largest Gothic church in Eastern Europe. An interesting thing to know about Brasov is that the city contains an entire mountain within its limits, Mount Tampa. Make sure to climb to the top for some beautiful panoramas of Brasov. Brasov is also known as a major winter sport destination, and has its own resort, Poiana Brasov, one of the finest in Romania. Other nearby attractions are the Saxon villages in Tara Barsei.
The largest of the Romania medieval towns, Cluj-Napoca is the unofficial capital of Transylvania. A vibrant university town and cultural center, Cluj really offers a little something from everyone. The city’s heart is Union Square , where many of the finest historic architecture can be admired, including the magnificent St Michael Church with its 50 meter bell tower, the tallest in the country. Climb the Cetatuia Hill for some sweeping views of this friendly, cosmopolitan city.
A smaller but nonetheless interesting Romanian medieval town, Fagaras is located in Brasov County in the shadow of Fagaras Mountains, the highest in Romania. The town prides itself with a 12th century fortress, where some major historic Transylvanian figures once lived. Don’t miss the towns three medieval churches. Fagaras is the gateway to the scenic mountains of the same name, and the Transfagarasan, a high-altitude road connecting Transylvania to Wallachia, that some have called the most scenic road in the world.
The Saxon town of Medias is not as famous as neighboring Sibiu, but the settlement does have a few attractions that make it a worthwhile destination, especially for history buffs. The Saint Margaret Church and the Franciscan Church, both build in the 15th century, are Medias’ chief landmarks, while the Buglers’ Tower is a well preserved medieval construction that outlived the town’s old defensive system. The area around Medias is just as charming, with the highlights being the UNESCO World Heritage fortified church of Biertan and the fortified church in Valea Viilor.
Perhaps the finest of all medieval towns in Romania, Sibiu is a major touristic center, having been designated the European Capital of Culture in 2007. The city’s main attractions are the old citadel, of which large portions are preserved, and the historic center, divided in the Upper Town and the Lower Town. Make sure to visit Brukhental Museum, one of the oldest in the world, the Jesuit Church, and the Council Tower, all located in the city’s Grand Square. Dedicated to the traditional folk civilization of Romania, the ASTRA Museum in Sibiu is the largest open air museum in Europe.
Centered around one of the last citadels in Europe that are still inhabited, Sighisoara is a fascinating mix of history and legend. Nine towers and two bastions still protect this Old Saxon town, but today it is tourists, not invaders, that are likely to descend upon the city. Some of the most interesting places to see in Sighisoara include the Clock Tower, where the city’s history museum now functions, the church of the Dominican monastery, and Vlad Dracul’s House, where the legendary Vlad Tepes was born. If you visit in the summer, try to catch the annual Sighisoara Medieval Festival.