Hiking,  Nomad Life,  Romania

How to Spend a month in Sibiu, Romania

The first thing anyone who has visited Sibiu will tell is how incredibly beautiful it is. The historical old town is distilled Transylvanian fantasy. Each and every building has it’s own character. Together, they have more colours than a rainbow. People love exploring it’s streets and admiring the quirky corners. It’s so photogenic, in fact, that my yoga teacher and two-year resident of Sibiu commented that she still takes photos like a tourist. Sibiu is just a very beautiful city.

One of the things we really love about Sibiu is that there’s always something going on. For instance, whilst we were there, there was a jazz festival, wine festival, cycling event, car rally, motocross competition, beach volleyball tournament, street art festival and rock festival. For theatre lovers, Sibiu International Theatre Festival (FITS), features over 800 events in 10 days – one of the biggest theatre festivals in Europe.

However, despite the incredible volume of cultural events taking place, it has a relaxed, laid-back vibe. You can always find a quiet corner to have a coffee in one of the many characterful cafes. Our accommodation was less than 10 minute walk to the centre, yet on a morning, you can sit outside and hear only birdsong.

Know before you go

Sibiu is a city in the central region of Romania, called Transylvania. Many people are familiar with the region thanks to the tales of Dracula, which I’ll come onto shortly. To the south lies the enormous Fagaras mountain range, and the highest peaks of Romania (Moldoveanu and Negoiu at 2,544m and 2,535m high respectively). To the north is the comparatively flat Transylvanian Basin. The nearest bigger cities are Brasov and Cluj-Napoca, both around 2.5 hours drive away.

The region of Transylvania was heavily influenced by an influx of German settlers, many of whom came from Saxony, from the 12th century onwards. At the time, and for many centuries after, Transylvania was under Hungarian rule, and the then King of Hungary invited the Germans over to colonise the region. They established themselves by building the fortified cities which became known as the Siebenbürgen (7 cities). Although the population of Transylvanian Saxons has decreased with time, there is a still a dialect of German spoken in the region, and many Romanians speak German as a second language.

Sibiu, also known as Hermannstadt, was founded by the Germans on an existing settlement around the 12th Century. In the old city, many of the existing features remain, including many beautiful houses, the magnificent Bridge of Lies, Citadel Park with it’s impressive wall and huge towers, and the Saint Mary Evangelical Cathedral.

Romania was under a communist regime from 1947-1989. Living standards deteriorated terribly for the Romanian people under Nicolae Ceaușescu’s totalitarian rule from 1971 until his execution during the revolution of 1989. If you’re interested in this topic, I recommend listening to this podcast, which does a much better job of explaining the topic than I can!

In more recent history, Romania joined the EU in 2007. It is not part of the Schengen Zone, so there is a border to other EU countries, although this is likely to change soon. It has great infrastructure – the broadband speed is 14th fastest in the world and the cheapest in the EU. The roads are very well maintained (even in the mountains) and it has the 4th largest rail network in Europe. There are super digital services for anything travel-related you could need – transport, information, accommodation, taxis etc. Overall, it’s a fascinating country to travel and well-equipped for tourism.

What’s the connection to Dracula?

It’s widely believed that the character, Dracula, from Bram Stoker’s book published in 1897, is based on a famous leader from medieval Romanian history. Vlad the Impaler was a particularly bloodthirsty ruler named after his penchant for killing enemies via impalement. Thousands of them. Despite this fact, he is considered somewhat of a national hero in Romania due to his efforts fighting off the invading Ottomans and Saxons.

The connection to Count Dracula is not something looked upon favorably by all Romanians, considering his historical significance. However, you will still see plenty of tourist attractions capitalising on the reference, from Dracula restaurants, to the famous Bran Castle, his supposed residence.

Things to do in Sibiu

“The ASTRA Museum collections contain a rich and varied range of ethnographic objects carefully preserved and attractively presented. We are the repository of over 400 buildings and over 200,000 objects.”

Astra Museum Website

The largest open air museum in Europe, Astra Museum cares for buildings including houses, churches, mills and workshops have been collected from all over Romania and lovingly restored. The level of attention to detail is exceptional. Although you can’t enter the buildings, looking through the window gives you a glance into the lives of their inhabitants, as each has been decorated and furnished authentically. They even have individual gardens!

I’d recommend dedicating a minimum of half a day here to fully enjoy the area. The museum is situated on the edge of a lake, with ten kilometers of walkways leading you through the buildings arranged into little villages. It’s a great place to bring a picnic and appreciate the beautiful folk history of Romania.

Entrance price: 35 Lei (7 Euro) for the day

Getting there: As it’s situated 6km from Sibiu, I’d recommend cycling. There is a cycle path through the beautiful Dumbrava Sibiului Natural Park and bikes can be rented from the city centre. Walking is an option of course. There is a bus from town and also car parking.

Saint Mary Evangelical Cathedral

One of the most distinctive buildings in Sibiu, you will notice the beautiful coloured tiles of this cathedral as soon as you arrive. Built between 14-16th Centuries, the Saint Mary Evangelical Cathedral is Gothic in appearance thanks to the German influence in the region.

Entrance is 15 Lei (€3), which includes the tower. The walk up to the tower is not for those with a fear of heights as it’s rather a long way and you can see through the staircase! It’s worth it once you reach the top for the incredible views of the city.

Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral

Another enormous building, although hidden slightly out of the centre, the Holy Trinity Orthodox is definitely worth visiting. Opened in 1904, this cathedral is very different in style and much more Eastern in appearance. The inside is fantastically beautiful, painted as per the orthodox style and well worth a visit. Entrance is free; wear modest clothing.

Altemberger House – Sibiu History Museum

For the best overview of Sibiu’s history, take a trip to Altemberger House. This museum has exhibits from prehistoric through the medieval period up to 19th century.

Particularly interesting is the exhibition of the medieval Guilds of Sibiu, showcasing the skills of the different craftsmen (glassmakers, ceramicists, locksmiths etc).

Allow around 1-2 hours for visiting. Entrance for adults is 39 Lei per person. (around €7.50)

Eating and Drinking

For food-lovers, Sibiu has plenty to offer. There is a great range of excellent restaurants, serving modern European cuisine.

Some of our particular favourites were:

  • Sia Restaurant: an extremely style fusion restaurant serving tapas-style small plates as well as larger options as well. We particularly enjoyed their bao buns and crunchy broccoli. Sia is on the more pricey side – we paid about €60 per person for two courses with wine.
  • La Cuptor: a very popular restaurant (notably with locals): I’d recommend booking to avoid disappointment. They serve delicious Romanian and international cuisine cooked in a wood-fired oven. Prices are a bit more wallet friendly than Sia (we paid about €25 per person for two courses but didn’t drink alcohol).
  • Best pizza: Pardon Cafe. Offering outstanding views of the towers in Citadel Park, Pardon Cafe is worth visiting just to enjoy the view! They also have great pizza, which we didn’t find elsewhere. Prices are very reasonable – a pizza is around €7.50.
  • Best breakfast: Charlie’s Coffee. This fantastic little café was practically in our backyard so we spent a lot of time in here. They have delicious coffee and a small menu of creative breakfast and brunch items. We loved their bagels!
  • Best coffee: Nod. Our other favourite coffee haunt was Nod, situated in a very scenic but quiet corner just off the city centre. The coffee is fantastic and it’s a great place to sit and enjoy Sibiu (as well as some banana bread, perhaps).

Sibiu has so many fantastic eateries, it’s definitely not a place you can go hungry. Discovering Romania’s food scene was one of the unexpected delights of our trip! After eating all of that wonderful food, we found the best way to walk it off was with a trip to the mountains…

Outside Sibiu

Hiking

Romania has 14 national parks and is a veritable hikers paradise. Sibiu itself is situated close to a number of mountainous regions. To the immediate south, there are small villages with hiking possibilities. We visited Cisnădioara, the closest. South East of the city, the huge Făgăraș mountain range stretches almost from Sibiu to Brasov. The highest mountain range in the South Carpathians, they offer plenty of hiking opportunities including the famous Bâlea Lake, Negoiu and Moldoveanu Peaks.

For the extremely keen hiker, there is a route taking you across the whole range. To cross the 80km takes most people around 5-6 days. Don’t but deceived by the short distance, it’s incredibly steep with an elevation gain of 5800m!

The region is well-serviced with mountain huts, from simple shelters to places offering food and drinks. Trails tend to be clearly marked, or at least, easy to follow. In general, it’s a popular hiking area, although there are plenty of routes with less footfall.

It’s important to note that Romania has the highest population of brown bears in Europe. Although they tend to avoid humans, attacks have been increasing. The Carpathian Brown Bear Project has some good information on how to behave in areas where bears can be found.

You can whistle, talk or sing, everything in order to not surprise the animal. They have a good sense of smell and hearing and will avoid humans whenever possible. Experience shows that surprise is the most common cause of the attacks.

Carpathian Brown Bear Project

Information on hiking routes is relatively easy to find for Romania, and there are many routes mapped on popular apps such as AllTrails. Below are some of the hikes we can recommend.

Cisnadioara to Măgura Peak

A reasonably gentle hike through the woods taking you up to Magura peak, offering a great view of Sibiu and surroundings.

Details
  • Length: 20.57km
  • Ascent: 954 m
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Time to Complete: 5.5 hours
  • How to get there: 20 minute drive from Sibiu by car. Possible to cycle, mostly in a bike lane, or take a bus from Sibiu.
  • Season: year round

The route is easy to follow: on the way up you follow red markers and the on the way down, blue. There is a steep section at the beginning of the walk but afterwards the ascent is fairly easy. Under the cover of trees for the most part, you don’t have to worry too much about sun exposure. Parts of the track are used for mountain biking, so keep eyes and ears open for cyclists. It’s also worth noting that, although it’s not allowed, there were people driving ATVs on the path whilst we were there. Apart from those, we were alone on the route.

Câinenii Mici to Zanoaga and Cotilor Peaks

A moderate/difficult route taking your well off the beaten track. A very peaceful area away from the crowds but still giving access to the wonderful Făgăraș mountain vistas.

Details
  • Length: 28.16km
  • Ascent: 1,700m
  • Difficulty: difficult
  • Time to Complete: 7.5-8 hours
  • How to get there: 40 minutes drive from Sibiu
  • Season: May-October (when clear of snow)

This hike starts in the small village of Cainenii Mici, which is worth a visit anyway for it’s beautiful churches. The trail begins outside the village and leads you up the mountain at a comfortable gradient. The ascent is under tree cover however once you exit the tree line and, there is an extended section offering outstanding views of the mountains.

There is one difficult section at around 15km; you have to leave the main trail and follow an overgrown path for about 500m to join the trail leading back to Cainenii Mici. It’s disused and hard to find the path.

Note that there’s not much in Cainenii Mici so you’ll need to bring food with you. There is a small shop but no restaurants.

Cabana Poiana Neamtului to Avrig Lake and Scara Peak

A challenging 21km route which offers stunning views into the valley as well as dramatic mountain views, waterfalls and a glacial lake.

Details
  • Length: 20.57km
  • Ascent: 1,834 m
  • Difficulty: hard/challenging
  • Time to Complete: 7.5 hours
  • How to get there: 50 minute drive from Sibiu (car required)
  • Season: late May until late October.
For full details, see my post about this hike.

Balea Lake to Moldoveanu

The jewel in the crown of the Făgăraș Mountains, this one is for the avid hiker seeking a challenge. The hike to Romania’s highest peak is not to be taken lightly! Although the distance isn’t overwhelmingly long, it took us a solid 15 hours of hiking over two days. In order to reach Moldoveanu from Balea, you have to cross several mountains and there is little in the way of level ground. The ascents and descents can be very steep and there are some sections requiring scrambling assisted by metal chains.

Note that there are other routes to the mountain (the quickest is Valea Sâmbetei hut) however this one is a great adventure.

Details
  • Length: 20.96 km
  • Ascent: 2,163 m
  • Difficulty: very challenging!
  • Time to Complete: 15 hours; over two days. It’s possible to do it in one day, if you’re very fit.
  • How to get there: 90 minute drive from Sibiu.
  • Season: late May until late September. Snow may remain on sections all year round.

As with most routes in Romania, this one is easy to follow with the additional help of there being plenty of other hikers on the trail. It wasn’t overly crowded on the July weekend we did it but much more busy than other routes we’d done.

The first part of the trail is a steep and rocky climb from Balea Lake over Capra Saddle to Capra Lake. There are amazing views down the valley to the winding Transfagarasan Road. You can rest assured that the hike doesn’t get any easier from this point! We met a few people who didn’t appear too happy with their decision to conquer Romania’s highest peak.

My favourite part of the route was the famous ridge named “3 steps from death”. I could tell Steffen wasn’t overly keen on my enthusiasm for crossing this part but, technically, we actually found it pretty easy. The most challenging parts for us were crossing the slippery, melting ice from last year. A fall there would definitely result in broken bones, if not worse. On the second day, we didn’t risk it and instead walked behind the ice, where it slid down away from the rock. That was much more interesting!

Reaching the summit takes a long time; we managed to get there after about 7 hours. For the final challenge, you’re faced with this enormous, steep climb that gives off Mount Doom vibes. We got to the top of this behemoth absolutely overjoyed, only to realise that it’s actually another peak, Vistea Mare. Moldoveanu is about another 35 minutes of scrambling over rocks even more sketchy that the “three steps from death” part. Moldoveanu really is a challenge for your will power!

Once we got to the summit, the weather changed so we didn’t stick around for too long. It was windy, cold, looked like it might rain and we still had a 3 hour journey to reach our bed for the night. This didn’t seem to put off the group of Polish girls and their dad who had done the hike in Converse and tiny shorts.

We were pretty much running on empty for the last part of the hike however when we arrived at the hut, there was hot soup and stew, plus a mug of Teeschnaps! We fell asleep no later than 7pm… Cabana Podragu has pretty bad reviews online which I don’t really feel are deserved. The food was great, the room was warm and provided everything you need from a mountain hut. Plus, waking up to those views was absolutely worth it!

Day two of the hike was a short 5 hour trip back to Balea, mostly on the same path we’d already hiked. Luckily we had great weather, and planning what were going to eat when we got back to Sibiu kept us going!

Getting Around

Bike rental

For travel within Sibiu, there is a rental app called Sibiu BikeCity, with plenty of bikes stationed around the city. Prices are very reasonable, starting at 1 Leu (€0.20) for an hour. The daily rate is 10 Leu (€2). We used them to cycle in the park and to get to the Astra Museum.

By car

Romania has an excellent, well-designed road network. Although the roads are busy, there didn’t seem to be a huge issue with traffic in the cities compared to other countries. The smaller roads are generally in great condition, even in the mountains.

A vignette is required for driving in Romania, which you can buy them online at https://www.roviniete.ro/en/ . As of July 2023, the prices for a car are:

  • 7 days: €3
  • 30 days: €7
  • 90 days: €13
  • 12 months: €28

In general, driving in Romania is very straightforward although drivers can be impatient (much like some other Balkan countries).

Public transport

Trains are cheap and a great way to get to other cities in Romania. You can buy tickets on the Romania rail website: https://www.cfrcalatori.ro/en/. It’s even available in English language! In contrast to countries such as the UK, booking in advance doesn’t affect the price of the ticket, so you can book last minute without worrying. The prices are very affordable, for instance, in July 2023 you could get from Sibiu to:

  • Bucharest for €15.91 (on the fastest train which takes 5hr 30 mins)
  • Sighișoara for €3.23 (2hr 19 mins)
  • Cluj-Napoca for €7.68 (5 hr 40 mins)
  • Timișoara for €19.29 (9 hr 21 mins)

Buses can booked through https://www.autogari.ro/ and tend to be slightly faster and slightly more expensive than trains but could be better option. For instance, the fastest route between Sibiu and Timișoara by bus is only 4 hours and costs €28. As with trains, booking in advance doesn’t give a better rate.

There are also good train connections to other countries including Bulgaria, Hungary, Moldova and Turkey.

Airport

For a small city, Sibiu has a fairly well-connected airport with many direct international flights to Germany, as well as, London, Austria and holiday destinations like Greece, Turkey and Egypt.

Where we stayed

We rented an Airbnb just a 5 minute walk from the town centre for €865 a month (for more tips on finding awesome deals on Airbnb, see this post). We were really lucky to find this one available for the whole month, especially considering how many events are on in Sibiu in summer! As it was located in an alley off the main street, it was very quiet.

The apartment was a good size for a month. Although the kitchen was a little small, it had everything necessary. In general there was plenty of living space which was nice and we even had individual workspaces!

Food Shopping

One of the lovely things about Sibiu is it has a huge outdoor market with such a range of fresh fruits and vegetables, mushrooms, honey and flowers. The main market run every day and in addition to the stalls, there are also shops around it selling meat, bread, dairy products and things like flour by weight. There’s actually no real need to go to a supermarket unless you are looking for something not made in Romania!

On a Friday, there’s another market in the town centre selling a smaller range of fresh produce. They also have very good baked goods available.

There are a few smaller convenience stores in the town centre including recognizable names like Carrefour. Trans Agape is a Romanian brand supermarket. It’s a little strange in there as the only items you can fetch yourself are the fruit and vegetables. Everything else is behind the counter and it seems rather stressful for the staff to run around grabbing them for you.

In the shopping mall, there’s a huge Kaufland that sells absolutely everything you can think of and has pretty good quality. It takes about 20 minutes to walk there from the town centre.


Staying in Sibiu was a fantastic experience and one of our favourite places. It seems like a great city to live in and I’d totally recommend it for monthly stays or longer. It’s just a very livable place!

If you enjoyed reading this post, or have any questions, get in touch via the comments below or write to me on Facebook (Hopelessly Nomantic), Instagram (Hopelessly_Nomantic) or Twitter (HopelesNomantic).

Happy travels!

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