Sighisoara. “The Pearl of Transylvania.” A small town where history hides in every stone; where in the first half of the XV century Prince Vlad, known as Dracula, was born. Sighisoara, despite its small size, is a famous tourist center of Romania, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; one of the few surviving medieval citadel towns of Eastern Europe and perhaps the most beautiful of them.
Founded by German natives back in the 12th century, Sighisoara, aka Szesburg, aka Szegesvar, has long been a “city of three languages”, as its population is mixed, German-Hungarian-Romanian, as elsewhere in Transylvania. But of course, Romanian is spoken by all the locals.
When I first arrived in Sighisoara, I was fascinated by how organically the Middle Ages are intertwined with the present. Many of the houses in the center are several hundred years old. A little further away, of course, there are high-rise buildings, businesses, and everything else a modern city should have. But it’s as if the old ages didn’t go anywhere; they are literally everywhere.
The medieval center, located on a hill (Citadel, Chetate), is quite picturesque.
It was once all surrounded by a wall with 14 towers, of which 9 have survived to this day. I assure you, they are worth a detailed visit.
The town is divided by the small river Tyrnava Mare, on the banks of which you can often see sheep and goats grazing.
The past and the present, the “urban” and the “country” are absolutely in harmony here.
How to get there
To verify the veracity of the poetic comparison of Sighisoara with a pearl, one must first of all drive here. Typically, travelers from Russia arrive in Romania via Otopeni airport near Bucharest (direct flights from Aeroflot and the Romanian airline Tarom arrive here). So, no matter how you want to get to our “pearl”, you will have to fly from Bucharest.
So how best to reach Sighisoara? First of all, I would recommend the train. You can also take a bus, as well as a car ̶ will take an average of five to six hours of travel from Bucharest by any of the above modes of transport.
You can get to Romania by plane from Moscow. Direct flights of Aeroflot and Tarom (Romanian airlines) operate only from the capital. True, on any day of the week; however, depending on the season, departure times vary. Most often, however, the flights are in the morning. Travel time is an average of 3 hours. The cost is from 9 to 11 thousand rubles one way, depending on the time of year, exchange rate changes and generally on the pricing policy of the airlines. Click here to see how much the tickets will cost for your trip.
Let’s talk about one of the most affordable and convenient ways to get to Sighisoara: by train. Alas, there is no direct train connection from Russia to Romania; the only existing train Moscow-Kiev-Bucharest-Sofia going via Romania was canceled.
From Bucharest from Gara de Nord – “Northern Station” (Piata Gara de Nord, nr. 1-3) there are several trains to Dracula’s little homeland. Recently, 3: in the morning, between 5 and 6 o’clock; then between 12-14, and in the evening, between 17-19 o’clock. Why am I writing “in between” – simply because the schedule changes all the time; in just a month or two, coming back to Romania, you’ll find that the 13.05 train is already leaving at 12:15. Better check the schedule on the site beforehand, here.
An important point: all trains to Sighisoara are passable. Standing time is usually a couple of minutes, so get out in the vestibule beforehand, especially if you have a lot of luggage. The trains are quite decent; either “seated” compartments or just upholstered chairs and a table. Sometimes in the carriages there are peddlers with snacks and drinks, but you can take food with you.
The average cost of the ticket is 70 lei (about 15 euros) for second class, 100 (23 euros) (give or take) for first class. Five hours later, as I mentioned, you arrive in Sighisoara, at the only train station in town, Gara CFR (near Libertatii St.). Here it is, the jewel of Transylvania! But before you get to the medieval beauty, you need to get to the hotel, which is better to book in advance.
First things first: to get into town from the train station, you must overcome a small crossing (there are underground, there are through the rails). We go to the station, which, by the way, is pretty clean. Then we cross a small station square and go straight to the cab stand. A trip around the city from the station will cost 5 lei (1.5 euros). Public transportation is very inconvenient; there are only buses in Sighisoara and it takes a long time to get there. I don’t recommend this form of transportation for tourists.
If you do not like the train or you do not like the schedule, you can take a bus. So, what do we have: buses from Fany or Memento Bus will take us to Sighisoara. First things first:
- Fany: 2 am, Filaret bus station (Piata Garii Filaret nr.1). You should know that at 2:30 this bus stops at Otopeni airport, so you can catch it there. The bus is again passable. Arrival: 7.35-7.40 at the central bus station of Sighisoara (Cambus), next to the train station (str. Libertatii 53). Ticket is purchased from the driver, cost about 50 lei (11 euros).
- Memento Bus (the driver charges 70 lei (16 euros) for the ticket: 3.30 am, Autogara CHR bus station – this is already near Gara de Nord (Calea Grivitei 158). Arrival: 9:30 am – although not at the central bus station, but at the Penny Market (Strada Zaharia Boiu 20).
The Memento Bus is also available at 6 am, 10:30 am; 12, 8:30 pm and 10:30 pm (arriving at 12, 4:30 pm, 6 pm, 2:30 pm, 3:40 pm).
But for the sake of all the saints who patronize travelers, check the schedule beforehand!
It is as changeable as the weather. Buses can appear and disappear quite unexpectedly, depending on the season and other factors known only to Romanian drivers. The site where you can check the schedule is located here.
Note that only the first bus (Fany) runs every day. The others are a day or two a week. So, you should check the site first.
What can I say about road trips from Bucharest to Sighisoara? The best way to find a hitchhiker is probably to use a hitchhiker service. You can arrange everything on the spot with the driver. The cost will be from 45 to 60 lei (10-13.5 euros). The trip time is 5-6 hours.
When the season. When it’s best to go
Sighisoara is good at any time of year, but I would especially recommend visiting it in summer, unless of course you are afraid of the heat (40-45 degrees in the sun). It’s summer, in the last weekend of July, one of the biggest annual cultural events is held: a festival of medieval art, which attracts tourists and artists from all over the world. By the way, the heat in Sighisoara is easy to bear, because the city has a lot of greenery, there is a river and the air is fresh and clean.
In general, the tourist season begins in spring, in April and May, and lasts until November. Already in early March, the temperature can reach 15 degrees, begins real spring. In March and early April there are few interesting events in the city, but it is in this period when Sighisoara is especially beautiful: wild plums and cherry trees bloom, the whole city is dressed in white and pink lace.
More about events: in February and March, a jazz and blues festival is held in the city. The date is floating. I must say, throughout the year there are exhibitions, concerts by local bands, especially children’s and youth groups. It is unlikely you will see the world celebrities there, but you can unwind.
It’s worth visiting during Halloween (October 31-November 1) in the fall. Since Sighisoara is Dracula’s birthplace, it’s celebrated there in style, with many tourists choosing Sighisoara for the Halloween masquerade.
Winter is one of the worst time to visit: the city can be very slippery, and since Sighisoara is built on hills, the sidewalk, especially in the center, can feel like an ice slide. Frosts can be bitter, around 20 degrees Celsius. But not often. Mostly Sigishoara winters are “average”, not very cold, moderately snowy. The local climate is slightly warmer than, say, in Moscow, but does not reach up to Sochi.
Sighisoara in summer
It’s hot in Sighisoara in the summer. The average temperature is 45 C in the sun. But it’s easier to breathe than in metropolitan areas like Bucharest. There’s no “stone jungle” effect. Sighisoara is a very green city. It’s a pity there is nowhere to swim, the river is shallow. But in the hotel “Cavalier” (Str. Consiliul Europei,6) there is an excellent pool, the entrance is about 30 lei (about 7 euros).
What to see: the aforementioned medieval festival during the last weekend of July. The dates vary, but the duration is always 3 days, Friday to Sunday.
Late August-early September: the Proetnica festival of national minorities; but not every year.
Sighisoara in autumn.
I suggest late October-early November: Halloween. Hotel accommodations are best booked very in advance. In addition, there is an interactive performance in Chetat, “The Trial of the Witch”. I should note that it sometimes happens at other times of the year. In general, the play is held for tourists by appointment. You can even pre-book it, for example, here. The weather is usually warm – in October in Sigishoara there is a real golden autumn, or even Indian summer. This is essentially the end of the tourist season.
Sighisoara in spring
In spring, there are still not very many tourists in the city. The city is waking up from its winter hibernation, trees begin to bloom. It gets warmer quite quickly.
Of the events: the Jazz and Blues Festival in March. Although the dates vary; sometimes it is at the end of February. On the first of March the whole country celebrates Märtsisor, the meeting of spring. In the last days of May, Sighisoara usually has a festive procession of graduates, a German tradition.
Sighisoara in Winter
In Sighisoara in winter is well worth visiting if you have friends there. Winter is not a tourist season at all. Although I really like the Christmas illuminations in the park in Hermann Obert Square. All the trees: both Christmas trees and non-fir trees are hung with illuminated lights. When it snows, the park looks very festive in the evenings. You can go to a New Year’s Eve ball by booking tickets in advance on the website of the hotel, where it is held. It’s simple: choose a hotel, for example “Sigishoara,” where such seasonal festivities often take place. Go to the website, in this case here, choose the Events section, and get in touch with the reservation service.
Sigisoara – weather by month
Neighborhoods. Where to live
Sighisoara can be roughly divided into the Old Town and the New Town, or “Upper Town” and “Lower Town”. On the map below I have roughly outlined the historical and tourist center (it is also in a separate box in the picture), as well as the area where you can find a good and cheaper than in the center hotel.
The Old is the medieval center with all sorts of beautiful sights and attractions; the New is an ordinary residential area with everything you need for a comfortable stay, you just have to take a cab or walk to the Middle Ages.
Sighisoara is a small town, you can have a great hike.
So, the Old Town: Cetate is the most romantic, prestigious and not cheap by local standards place to stay. Here, the price-quality ratio is optimal, because we pay for the opportunity to live among the ancient exotic and romance. Hotels like Sighisoara (4-6 Scolii Street), Casa Wagner (Str. Piata Cetatii, Nr. 7) are right in Cetat. All the beauties are visible from the window.
A little farther, but also in the center, there are 5 star hotels such as “Binderbubi” (Str. Nicolae Balcescu,8), “Cavalier” (Str. Consiliul Europei nr.6) and so on. In general, the center, as in most cities, is beautiful, expensive and busy. The main difference between the expensive hotels and mid-priced hotels is the view from the window. Plus the size of the rooms, the presence or absence of services such as swimming pool, massage. Although Chetat hotels do not have an elevator, but they are in Chetat! The clock tower is a stone’s throw away. And in a medieval building, the elevator itself is impossible, and hotels usually have few floors, so having to walk up and down the stairs is not too frustrating, to be honest. During the season you have to book hotels in advance. At least a month before you arrive. Even the inexpensive ones; and especially in the summer, during the festival and in the fall, for Halloween. This can be done either through travel agencies or directly on the hotel websites. There are also many small and expensive pensions with a medieval flavor in the center of Sigishoara. For those who like to save money, I can advise to settle down in so-called “New Sigishoara”, especially in the area of Kaufland supermarket (B-dul Mihai Viteazu), where there is a 3-star “Rex” (Dumbravei, nr 18). The street is not far from the center. The “Rex” is a cozy, cheap hotel in a residential area, among the five-storied buildings. To the center – again, 5 minutes by cab. Across the street is the aforementioned Kaufland.
The neighborhood near Kaufland is generally very good; the prices are lower than in the center, the supermarket is close by, the atmosphere is almost homely, and Cetate is a stone’s throw away. Get off at the Consiliul Europei highway and walk to your left. In 15 minutes you’re in the old town. To summarize, if your wallet lets you, you can stay in the Old Town. If your wallet protests against extravagance – don’t worry, you are always welcome in the Old Town.
The site Booking will help you find a hotel, and here is a handy way to compare prices from different sites. Fans of staying in private apartments will be interested in this service.
What are the prices for holidays
Saving money in Sighisoara is possible in this way: first, to use less cabs, walk more on foot (as I said, the size of the city allows), and second, rent a hotel room in the New Town. At the Rex. Rooms there cost an average of 24 euros.
Hotel prices: from 24 euros to 65-70. The most expensive are certainly in the center: “Cavalier” (Str. Consiliul Europei nr.6), “Binderbubi” (Str. Nicolae Balcescu, 8), Central Park Hotel (Str. Hermann Oberth 25). Cab – 5 lei. Food depends on the place. In the New Town you can order a pizza for, say, 18 lei (about 4 euros), coffee for 8-10 lei (an average of 1.5 or 2 euros). In the Old Town you will find restaurants and with a price of 50 lei or 11 euros for one course. Well, not for pizza, of course, but for something national, pork with potatoes and vegetables, and stuff like that. It’s a matter of taste and wallet. At the same time, there are small coffee and pastry shops in Chetat, where you can grab a sandwich or a piece of cake with coffee for 25-30 lei (7 euros). True, you won’t get very full of it, especially after a full-blown hike. But still. In the stores the prices are a little bit lower than in the capital, noticeably lower than in Russia, especially in Moscow or St. Petersburg. But this does not apply to souvenir shops, everything there is designed for foreigners and therefore not very cheap.