Sibiu is my Romanian love. It was totally unexpected. After arriving on a train from Brasov, a taxi dropped my backpack and me in Sibiu’s Upper Town. As I wandered around trying to orient myself and find my hotel, I gazed up at the imposing gothic Cathedral and the colorful houses in beautiful decay lining the tiny streets.
I didn’t know at the time all the things to do in Sibiu or that it had been voted the 8th most idyllic place to live in Europe in 2008 by Forbes. It was just a sense as a traveler that I’d landed in a place I was going to have a hard time leaving.
15 Splendid Things to Do in Sibiu Romania
Sibiu has grown outward since it’s 12-century beginnings, and luckily, its charm and appeal has only increased, as well. The heart of the city is its medieval center complete with open squares, stone wall defenses, towers, and centuries-old buildings and churches.
Staircases separate the Lower Town from the Upper Town, and historically, the wealthier Saxons lived in the city center while the peasants lived down below in small, colorful houses.
There are quite a few historical and touristic things to do in Sibiu. But, stay longer in town to stroll (with an ice cream, of course!) and soak up the ambiance of this medieval gem in the heart of Transylvania.
1. Begin in Piata Mare (a.k.a. Big Square).
Sibiu’s Upper Town is a logical starting place. You won’t be able to help but make your way into the wide open expanse of Piata Mare. The square has been Sibiu’s center since the 15th Century. Today, Piata Mare is home to historical landmarks, restaurants, and cultural events like concerts and festivals.
ProTip: La Taifas is a restaurant in Piata Mare with outdoor seating. I loved(!) their polenta with cow’s milk cheese paired with an eggplant salad side.
2. Learn about Romanian art at the Brukenthal Museum.
Located in the Piata Mare, the Brukenthal National Museum is an art museum within the palace of Samuel von Brukenthal, a former Transylvanian Governor. The museum displays work by Romanian artists and European artists, but the architecture and furnishings of the palace itself are as much the draw as the paintings. I loved getting a close-up look at the Anatolian carpets and learning more about the style of Romanian artists throughout history.
3. Visit one of Sibiu’s 3 religious landmarks.
The Catholic Basilica, also located in Piata Mare, is deceiving for its simple outside appearance. Take time to look at the beautiful inside of this historic landmark. You’ll appreciate the historical context of the different groups of people who settled in Sibiu, the Saxons, the Hungarians, and the Romanians, and their respective places of worship all within walking distance from one another.
4. Stroll down Strada Nicolae Balcescu.
The main pedestrian thoroughfare leading away from the Piata Mare is Strada Nicolae Balcescu. It’s lined with ornate pastel buildings vying for your attention and competing with the cascading flower displays in full bloom on the windows and balconies.
5. Taste a local Romanian treat.
As you stroll, grab a Romanian pretzel called a Covrigi. You’ll notice locals and visitors alike seem almost worry-free as they walk with a small treat in hand enjoying Sibiu’s peaceful atmosphere.
6. Stop to admire the art in the Orthodox Cathedral.
The Orthodox Cathedral is a can’t miss while in Sibiu. If you visited the smaller Orthodox monastery in Sinaia, you’ll recognize the characteristic murals and frescoes covering the walls, but on a much grander scale.
7. Climb the Council Tower for pretty views.
Retrace your steps back through the Piata Mare to the white Council Tower.
The Council Tower dates back to the late 1500s and sits in the passageway between the Piata Mare (Big Square) and Piata Mica (Small Square). Climb the stairs for fantastic views overlooking the city. You can and should also climb to the top of Sibiu’s Lutheran Cathedral (see below), but the view from the Council Tower lets you admire and photograph the Cathedral’s glistening tiled rooftop.
8. Walk around the Piata Mica (a.k.a. Small Square).
After descending the Council Tower steps, Piata Mica and the Bridge of Lies await. With the steeple of the Lutheran Cathedral hovering overhead, a view into Sibiu’s Lower Town, and the beautiful decay of the colorful buildings, this is one of the prettiest spots in Sibiu. On certain days, look for a local craft fair.
9. Make a short visit to the Pharmacy Museum.
Sibiu’s Pharmacy Museum, located in the Piata Mica, has 2 rooms packed with pharmaceutical artifacts. If you like to visit quirky sights on your travels, this is the place. Your short visit will surely leave you feeling grateful to have escaped medieval pharmaceutical instruments and procedures.
10. Cross the Bridge of Lies.
Legend has it the Bridge of Lies has ears and knows when someone standing on it is being untruthful. Tales of creaking and noises when someone is lying have survived centuries of history. Today, it’s the perfect spot for a photo-op…and 100% honesty, just in case!
11. Visit and climb Sibiu’s Gothic Lutheran Cathedral.
Continue into Huet Square with the imposing Cathedral filling the square. Take a circular path around the square to discover historic houses before rounding to the entrance of the stunning Cathedral.
Sibiu’s Lutheran Cathedral dominates the cityscape with its steeple reaching over 200 feet into the air. If you’ve visited Brasov prior to Sibiu, you’ll probably know the 4 turrets around the steeple were a sign to medieval visitors about the town’s right to sentence you to death should you step out of line. The gothic Cathedral was built in the 14th-century and is really well-preserved. After touring the cathedral, climb the tower for gorgeous views of Sibiu.
12. Wander through Sibiu’s Lower Town.
As pretty as Upper Town is, look for stairways and passageways leading you to Lower Town, like the Stairs Tower in Huet’s Square…
Or the stairs passageway, accessed by walking out of Piata Mare toward the Lutheran Cathedral, where you can see some of the Sibiu’s old fortifications. You won’t have truly seen Sibiu without a visit to Lower Town.
Once in Lower Town, you’re in the oldest areas of Sibiu. Explore the tiny streets with their two-story medieval buildings painted in all shades of the color wheel. Be sure to bring your camera.
In Lower Town, look for small squares, hidden alleyways, and scenes of daily life, like kids playing in the street or an older woman sweeping a step while a scrappy dog struts past.
13. Stare back at the houses with eyes.
By now, you’ll have spent enough time in Sibiu to notice the houses with eyes. Structurally speaking, they’re ventilation windows to air out attic heat. However, throughout periods of political strife and oppression, locals believed they were being watched by the “eyes” to ensure they were not acting out or causing trouble.
14. Laze away a late afternoon in one of Sibiu’s cafes.
I loved the outdoor cafe just on the side of the Bridge of Lies. It was a great spot to people watch, listen to live music, and take in my surroundings. The outdoor courtyards at Max and also at Jules make for perfect spots to eat and tuck yourself away into Sibiu’s hidden nooks.
15. Go beyond Sibiu.
Sibiu is perfectly situated at the doorstep of the Carpathian Mountains and the untouched countryside of Romania. Make sure your visit to Sibiu includes time to explore this natural beauty just out of town. What’s even better, you can take part in both of these experiences without renting a car.
Transylvania Cycling offers one-day and multiday cycling excursions that depart from Sibiu. You can also get help and equipment for a self-guided ride if you prefer. Mihai is a friendly and knowledgeable guide who loves to help visitors experience traditional life in Romania. Whether you’re a skilled cyclist or just someone like me who likes to go on occasional bike rides, the team at Transylvania Cycling can put together the right experience for you.
I met Mihai at a park in Sibiu and from there we went into the countryside and past fields of wild flowers.
We saw plenty of traditional Romanian haystacks…
…and rode our bikes along dirt roads with horses and wooden carriages.
We stopped in an Orthodox Church in a small village nearby…
…and even met a local woman who tried to explain what some of the paintings on the outside of the church symbolized.
By the end, my legs were tired. But, Mihai was more than happy to accommodate my need to walk alongside my bicycle for a while. More than anything, though, I was so grateful for the day with Mihai and his local insight.
The Astra National Museum Complex is living open-air museum just a short city bus ride outside of Sibiu. In fact, it’s the largest museum of its kind in all of Europe. The museum has more than 400 monuments, including mills, wooden churches, and traditional homesteads to preserve and educate visitors about the Romanian culture.
As you walk along the museum’s pathways, you’ll see people in traditional dress working in the fields and at the homesteads using scythes and other manual farming tools.
If you don’t have enough time or transportation to explore the Romanian countryside, this gem of a museum will transport you back in time and give you a glimpse of daily life in Romania.
As with so many areas of Romania, the museum was quiet and gave the impression of a new discovery. Spend the day exploring Astra’s expansive collection spread out over 98 acres at your own pace. You’ll undoubtedly come away with a deeper appreciation for the local culture.
Where to Stay in Sibiu
Sibiu is well-equipped to make visitors of all travel styles comfortable. The medieval city center is an ideal location for getting around on foot. You’ll easy access to all of the things to do in Sibiu and excellent food choices nearby.
I stayed at the Pensiunea Chic Hotel and loved everything about it. The location was just down the steps from the Lutheran Cathedral and the Liar’s Bridge. The rooms were clean and modern. The hotel had a quaint outdoor courtyard and the staff was friendly and helpful! Check latest prices in Sibiu.
Airbnb is also a great option in Sibiu whether you’re looking for a budget-friendly stay, enough room for a group, or just prefer local digs. 🙂
How to Get to Sibiu
You can take the train from Bucharest. A direct journey will take about 5 1/2 hours. There are several direct trains daily from Brasov taking about 2 1/2 hours. Local trains connect Sighisoara and Cluj to Sibiu as well.
There is also a small airport that connects Sibiu with other European cities, like Rome, Munich, and Vienna, on carriers TAROM, Lufthansa, and Blue Air.
So, have you fallen in love with Sibiu? Which things to do in Sibiu would like to do?
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