Welcome to another edition of Travel Like A Local, the fortnightly guest post series where I ask other travel bloggers to share their insider knowledge about their hometowns. This week’s edition is brought to you by Iuliana of Authentic Travels and is all about Sibiu, in Romania. Read on to find out all the best things to do, places to stay, where to eat and much more, all from a local’s point of view!
Hi, Iuliana tell us a bit about yourself! What city do you feel like a local in?
Hi Greta, nice to meet you “virtually”. First of all, I am a passionate traveler. Travel is part of my life and one of my core values. I grow and learn a lot through travel – from new cultures to new people and to my always-changing limits. I’m a travel writer; I write for different magazines and on my personal blog Authentic Travels. At the moment I live in Sibiu, Romania, and since it’s a very touristy town, I’d like to share my local knowledge about it.
How long did you live there for?
I have been living in Sibiu for nearly eight years. The funny part is that, during my first year here, I felt as if I were on a constant vacation. It was so different than Bucharest (the busty capital), that I thought I moved to heaven. Now, things have changed, but I still like the old part of Sibiu very much.
What are your favorite places to eat?
I would recommend Kon Tiki (strada Tudor Vladimirescu). It’s not well known as a tourist spot (in fact, it’s not located in the center of Sibiu), but it’s popular among locals because they serve their famous tripe soup (ciorbăde burtă– 10 Ron). I also recommend Crama Sibiană (situated right in the heart of the old city, in the Lesser Square). There you can try our national dish; small sausages made of mixed meat (micicumuștar). Usually, one costs around 3-4Ron, less than one euro.
Do you have a favorite place to study or work?
Sibiu is more of a town than a city, meaning it’s pretty small. There are several cafes where you can go and work. I went a couple of times at Habitus Cafe, in the refurbished cellar of the Catholic Church. It has a cozy atmosphere, you are surrounded by books, and you have wifi and a few tables to set your laptop. Humanitas Bookstore, on the main pedestrian street Nicolae Bălcescu, also has a few tables where teenagers go and study. The funny part is that, wherever I go to work among books, I have never actually worked but read the books surrounding me. So in the end I’ve given up and now I work at home, holding my cat on my knees.
What about when you want to relax? Do you have a favorite relaxing spot?
For me, hiking Gușterița Hill works like a therapy. It’s close to Sibiu (five minutes by car from the town center), you can hike on top of it in 20 minutes, and from there you have expansive views of Sibiu and Făgărași Mountains. There’s also a small hamlet on those hills, so you have the feeling that you’re in the countryside, even when you’re so close to Sibiu.
Is there a typical activity locals do in their free time?
We often have concerts and all sorts of events in the town center (especially in summer). We go in the Large Square to all the events that take place there even if we don’t like some of them. There is also the Subarini Park and the Village Museum where people go to stroll in nature or jog.
What is your favorite activity or thing to do Sibiu?
Sibiu was Cultural Capital in 2007. Ever since many cultural events have taken place in the city. Every week there’s a wide range of workshops and films that you can choose from. I’d recommend the film series “Cine m-a văzut la Habitus”. It presents films that have won special prizes, every Wednesday, downstairs at Habitus Bookstore and cafe. Also, I suggest the organ concerts that take place in the Evangelic Church. Their program is posted on the main entrance door of the church.
Do you have a favorite photo spot?
There’re two wonderful photo spots from where you can see the whole medieval part of Sibiu. Climb up the tower of the Evangelic Church in Huet Square or the Council Tower in the Lesser Square. There is also an epic view from Gușterița Hill (5 minutes by car from Sibiu towncenter), from which you can see both Sibiu and Făgărași Mountains.
When is the best time to visit Sibiu?
Spring and autumn are definitely the best times to visit Sibiu. In spring, all the surrounding hills are blooming and in autumn the weather is stable and great for hiking. Winter is cold and there is lots of mud (brrr, I don’t like it), and it can rain a lot in summer, meaning you won’t see much of the old town.
What’s one “touristy” thing in Sibiu everyone should actually do?
I wouldn’t say that we have a lot of touristy things. I recommend strolling through the historic center of Sibiu and you’ll discover hidden places, very picturesque and photogenic. The charm of the old town is still enchanting many travelers, especially photographers, and I think that it will do so for a long time from now on.
What’s one “off the beaten track” place people don’t normally know about but should know about?
It’s the Asylum Church – the first church of the town, built somewhere around 800 years ago. The church was (and it still is) part of a larger complex, the complex of the first hospital in Transylvania, and also in Romania. The church sits in the Lower Town (on the Asylum Street – Strada Azilului) but you can glimpse it if you enter the inner courtyard of the Weinkeller Restaurant in Huet Square. You will see the tower of a wooden church from there, but if you have time, go and explore the whole complex.
Any tips or tricks on how to navigate Sibiu?
Sibiu is a walkable city and the historic part is even more easy to walk. In 3-4 h you can walk almost everywhere. If you stay out of the old town, a taxi is cheap in town (5 Ron/km ~ 1 euro/km) and wherever you go it won’t cost you more than 150 Ron (4 euros). We are not Western Europe with its crazy prices. Not yet!
Any tips on how to visit Sibiu like a local so that travelers reading this can blend in?
In Astra Park, at the border between the old and the new town, local men play board games in summer. I’ve been watching them for a long time and they are so passionate that it makes me want to join them one day (although there are no women with them). Otherwise, it’s still cheap in Sibiu to sit down at a terrace and drink a beer/ coffee. Take advantage of our low prices since we haven’t switched to euros yet.
What is the best area in Sibiu to stay in? Any specific hotels you can recommend?
If you come to Sibiu, stay in the old part of the town. The houses and streets are very picturesque and I am sure you’ll love it. However, keep in mind that during summer, the municipality runs local concerts and events in the main squares of the Upper Town – that means the area gets very noisy, so don’t book accommodation there. Instead, choose something in the Lower Town, more quiet and peaceful, and within 5 minutes of walk to the Large Square. I recommend Casa Veche Guesthouse (on strada Liviu Rebreanu) or Max Appartments (on Strada Ocnei).
What do you love most about Sibiu?
Sibiu is a peaceful and quiet townbut, if you know where to search for, you have plenty of events to choose. Another thing I like most is that I can walk wherever I go. I can reach many places in Sibiu in half an hour walk. And especially the historic center of the town is entirely walkable, which is great for tourists and locals as well.
Anything else you want to share about your city?
Don’t neglect the countryside of Sibiu. We have the region called MărginimeaSibiului, a group of 18 authentic Romanian villages, where you can experience local costumes and dishes (e.g. caș,telemea, andurdă– different sorts of cheese). Also, in this part of the country, there have been preserved more than 200 fortified churches built by the German settlers whocame here 800 years ago. It’s an area rich in history, so don’t consider that during a 3-day city break you can see everything. I’d rather recommend a full week to get a real feeling of the place.
Have you been to Sibiu? How did you find it? Let us know in the comments below!