Sibiu, a Medieval Citadel in The Heart of Transylvania
The city of Sibiu represents the heart of the Germanic Transylvania and is located in the place where a long time ago there lay one of the largest medieval citadels in Romania. Today, Sibiu is one of the cities in Romania which over time have attracted a large number of foreign investors. 2007 was the year when Sibiu benefitted from a large national and international exposure, when it was elected European Capital of Culture, alongside Luxembourg.
The history of Sibiu seems to be written by the Saxon colonies, sent here by the Hungarian kings who wanted to speed up the takeover of Transylvania. The arrival of the Saxons in the area raised the standard of living and opened up new levels of civilization in the heart of Transylvania. Apart from the newly imposed life standards, the Saxons brought with them crafts and turned the old Sibiu into a commercial outlet. This helped Sibiu grow fast and quickly become the most important citadel in the old Transylvania. From then on, Sibiu has been one of the most prosperous European cities.
Sibiu was known in the past as the most important German population center in Transylvania; three large cultures lived together in harmony here: Romanians, Hungarians and Germans, and also a series of minorities. Due to its location near Wallachia and Moldova, but also due to the Germanic influence, the entire culture and monuments in the city bore western, byzantine and orthodox influences. During the Habsburg occupation, Sibiu was the second most important city in the empire, after Vienna, due to its location, at “the Gates of the Orient”. The Germanic influences are visible not only in the culture and buildings of the time, but also in the degree of civilization of the people, the education acquired in the schools abroad and also in the clothing brought from outside the country. Another important factor which led to the change for the better of Sibiu is represented by the people of the Empire, people of value who were sent here to take up leadership or administrative positions in the city.
Sibiu is the city whose name is connected to many important people. Conrad Haas, the father of astronautics, who invented the multi-stage rocket, was born here. Among other important names born in Sibiu are also Emil Cioran, and Nicolaus Olahus, an important person in the European cultural context. Sibiu is where the first pharmacy in Romania opened its doors in 1494; the first library opened in 1300 and the first hospital in 1292. The year 1852 was when the first newspaper was printed; 1904 was when an electric tram ran for the first time in Sibiu (and in Romania). Also in 1904, the largest open air museum in Europe (in surface area), the ASTRA Museum of Traditional Popular Civilization, was established.
PLACES TO VISIT IN SIBIU
The Large Square in Sibiu is the most important starting point to wander around Sibiu. Although initially it was a grain market, later it became the place where medieval executions, public gatherings or carnivals were organized. The old buildings of the city, over 500 years old, surround the square and write the history of the place in colors.
The Brukenthal National Museum is located on one of the sides of the Large Square. The façades of the museum are built in baroque style and the interior combines baroque and rococo styles. The museum was built for the Governor of Transylvania in the 18th century.
The History Museum is located in close proximity to 2 Mitropoliei Street. The museum is housed in an old medieval building, which in the past served as City Hall between 1549 and 1923 (the museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays).
The Evangelical Cathedral is located in Huet Square (this is also where you can visit the Stairway Tower). Initially, this was the Hungarian Catholic Church, and was built between 1322 and 1520.
The Orthodox Cathedral is located on 33-35 Mitropoliei Street and was built at the request of the Metropolitan Andrei Saguna in 1857. That is the year when the rulers in Vienna allowed him to build a cathedral for the orthodox people in Transylvania.
The Synagogue was built in 1898 and can be visited on 19 Constitutiei Street. The Synagogue has a single rectangular building; the façade is built in neogothic style and the interior has a basilica look. Inside you can admire a decorative wrought iron fence.
The Park under the Alders is one of the oldest parks in Romania and was created in 1856; the park stretches over 22 acres containing 68 species of trees. 30 of these species are exotic and 38 are Romanian.
The Small Square is represented by buildings with arches and is located behind the Large Square. A series of museums and galleries can be visited here.
The Council Tower is located in the Small Square and can be visited between 8 AM and 8 PM. It is one of the most important landmarks in Sibiu; in the past, this tower served as a look-out point for fires, as a place where criminals were locked away for the long term, as grain storage and even as a museum.
The History of Pharmacy Museum is a former drugstore dating back to the 17th century where you can see medical instruments from the 1500s and also a series of concoctions by Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy.
On the left of the House of the Arts (the former butcher shop) is the Bridge of Lies; the wrought iron bridge bears that name due to the people who used to gather here and gossip. May 9th Street and the New Street are lined on both sides by the oldest houses in the city, dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries. The Goldsmiths’ Square is the place where the craftsmen who molded this precious metal used to gather in the past. The Roman Emperor Hotel is on 4 Nicolae Balcescu Street and impresses tourists with its vast interior and its elegance.
The ASTRA Museum of Traditional Popular Civilization is about 6.5 km away from Sibiu, going south. The museum is the largest ethnographic open-air museum in Romania, it is located in the Dumbrava Forest and stretches over 96 acres, which makes it the largest open-air museum in Europe. It dwarfs the Village Museum, with its 15 acres. The museum was inaugurated on August 19th 1905.
The Paltinis Resort is located 32 km away from Sibiu. It is a dream place for those who love winter sports and also for those who want to relax in a wondrous location. You can visit the Cindrel Tarns, the glacial lakes, the Hermitage and the Constantin Noica Memorial house.