The walled historic center of Sighisoara Romania with its 14th-century clock tower was finally visible in the distance as the train neared the station. A few hours earlier, I’d departed from Sibiu on a local Soviet-era train covered in an array of spray paint. The train had chugged through unspoiled green Romanian countryside. It squealed to a stop in people’s gardens and at seemingly random gravel road intersections where horse and carriages waited to pass. I’d enjoyed seeing such rural daily life scenes, but now, I was anxious to arrive. When I saw the fortified medieval city of Sighisoara appear on the hilltop, it energized my excitement all over again for having decided to visit incredible Romania.
Sighisoara is one of Romania’s 7 citadel cities built by the Saxons in the 12th-century. Located in Transylvania, Sighisoara is remarkably well-preserved and earned a UNESCO World Heritage Site distinction. The Clock Tower and the Church on the Hill are among the sights to explore in Sighisoara. Yet, the true experience comes as you wander the cobblestone streets. Stroll past the brightly colored houses and soak up Sighisoara’s ambiance. In doing so, you’ll have stepped back in time and landed in a medieval fairytale.
You’ll swoon from the moment you arrive in Sighisoara. The Piata Cetatii, or main fortress square, sits at Sighisoara’s historic center. The square is popular with visitors, and (yes), displays the typical Dracula souvenir stands seen in Brasov and Bran. After all, Vlad the Impaler was born in a house just steps from the Clock Tower!
Still, Sighisoara’s picturesque setting helps you see past these touristy distractions. Medieval charm flows from the fortified walls. You can just imagine a carpenter busy at work in his shop. Or a butcher selling his fresh meats at the local market.
Sit on a bench in the square or at one of the cafes along the perimeter. Wonder over the public trials and executions attended by Sighisoara’s medieval residents. Or listen for the music coming from a bustling a street fair overflowing from the main square.
After this, walk to the centrally-located Clock Tower, next to the main square. It was built in the late 1300s and is 1 of the 9 towers still standing today. The original citadel had 14 towers built by trade guilds to protect against attacks and invasions.
Hundreds of years ago the Clock Tower was a meeting hall for important business and government matters. Today, it houses the history museum with artifacts detailing Sighisoara’s past. The tower also gives a birds-eye view over Sighisoara’s colorful houses and tiny streets along an open-air observation deck just above the clock.
I was fascinated with the colorful Baroque roof tiles on the Clock Tower. They replaced the original roof after a fire and explosion from a nearby tower a few hundred years ago.
After climbing the Clock Tower, walk through its arched base and view the tower from the other side. If you visited Rasnov Fortress near Brasov, you’re sure to notice architectural similarities in the stonework.
With only the cobblestones underfoot and the stone archways in sight, you might begin to wonder what century you’re in and just who might be waiting around the corner!
Head back to the front of the tower and stop in the Monastery Church. It’s a Lutheran congregation next to the Clock Tower. For a nominal fee, you can glimpse the church’s gothic interior. Inside, you’ll see a collection of Anatolian carpets and a Baroque altarpiece dating back to the 16oo’s.
The charm of Sighisoara, though, lies in wandering away from the Clock Tower and main square. A day in Sighisoara is not complete until you’ve discovered the quiet surrounding streets.
Just when you think the scene before you can’t be any more picturesque, a few more steps reveal another incredible photo-op!
And, while many of the people-free Clock Tower photos were taken in the early morning, these were taken on an afternoon stroll. Be sure to leave the busy main square and truly appreciate Sighisoara’s beauty.
Away from the hustle and bustle, you may just stumble upon a darling cafe….
Best of all, if you visit Romania in the summer, you’ll see endless displays of colorful flowers. Whether it’s a small flower box in between 2 brightly colored shutters in Sinaia or a garden spied from over the top of a wall in Sighisoara, you’ll start to wonder if this is the national Romanian pastime with everyone competing!
And, while it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the gorgeous big picture, don’t forget to look for the little things…
As you explore, you’ll likely come across the 175-step wooden staircase at the end of Strada Scolii. The stairway leads up to the Church on the Hill. It has been used by Saxon churchgoers and students, as well as current Sighisoara residents and visitors since it was built in 1642!
Visit the School and the Church on the Hill. The church became the main Lutheran parish of the Saxons long ago. You’ll get to see recently restored 15th-century murals which were painted over back in the 1700s.
The grounds surrounding the church are home to a peaceful cemetery and the Goldsmiths’ Tower. The tower is now home to the cemetery keeper and appears to be in remarkable condition for its age.
On the way back down the hill, skip the wooden staircase. Instead, walk along the winding road to capture Sighisoara and its towers from above.
You’ll see how the present-day Sighisoara has grown beyond its fortified walls outward towards the countryside and mountains.
Nevertheless, Sighisoara’s fortified center remains the focal point of history, culture, and medieval ambiance.
How Much Time in Sighisoara Romania
If you’re driving from another nearby town, Sighisoara makes for a perfect day’s outing. Plan to arrive in the morning and spend a full day. This’ll allow you plenty of time to see Sighsoara’s sights and explore at a comfortable pace.
For travelers taking the train like I did (see more info below), you’ll probably want to spend 1 night. Most trains won’t arrive into Sighisoara until late morning or even the afternoon. You could spend 24 hours total by leaving the next morning or afternoon.
How to Get to Sighisoara Romania
Trains run to Sighisoara from several popular Romanian cities, like Bucharest, Brasov, Sibiu, and Cluj. I took a direct train from Sibiu and, at 3 hours, is a bit longer than taking the train for a day trip from Bucharest to Busteni. Navigating Romania by train is doable, but my recommendation is to take direct trains (when possible) to avoid any mishaps with connections. Check the Official Romanian Train website for schedules and fares.
ProTip: Save all the details for the train you want to take just in case the agent at the station doesn’t speak any English. A screenshot can go a long way to helping you end up in the right place.
Once you arrive at the Sighisoara Train Station, you can walk the 3/4 of a mile up to the citadel or take a taxi to the main square.