The medieval town of Sighisoara is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for good reason. Enclosed by once strong defensive fortifications, Sighisoara Citadel is a celebration of colour and charm. The use of vehicles is restricted inside the Citadel so walking along its stony lanes feels like a time travel like no other. The medieval Old Town is very small yet full of hidden treasures. Read on and find out what to do in Sighisoara, this medieval gem of a town located right in the heart of the stunning Transylvania region.
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By the way, if you have an interest in all things Dracula, you should know that Sighisoara is an important part of his life’s story as it is considered his birthplace. Vlad III, also known as Vlad Tepes, Vlad the Impaler, Vlad Dracul or, simply, Dracula, was a Romanian ruler renowned for the cruel methods he used to torture and execute his enemies. He reigned for extended periods of time between the years 1448 – 1476 and he was particularly fond of execution by impalement. However, not everyone remembers him as a bloodthirsty, cold-hearted madman. For many, Vlad III was a national hero who did his best to save Romania from brutal Ottoman attacks.
Table of contents
- What to do in Sighisoara in a day
- Our one-day itinerary in Sighisoara
- Sighisoara Travel Guide
What to do in Sighisoara in a day
Most travellers visit Sighisoara on a day trip. Situated halfway between the Romanian cities of Brasov and Sibiu and given its compact size, it is indeed an easy day trip from either of them. However, we can’t recommend an overnight stay in this picturesque town enough. In the evening, when day-trippers are long gone, the Citadel surrenders to absolute peace and magic. The romantic ambience of the low lit medieval alleys is captivating and the time travel-like feeling you get is inescapable.
Don’t go thinking that there is not enough to see in Sighisoara in a day. No matter how small, the Citadel is full of hidden gems waiting to be explored. Not to mention that soaking in its beauty alone would keep you busy for hours and hours on end.
Our one-day itinerary in Sighisoara
Arriving at Sighisoara
It was about 16:00 when our GPS told us that we had almost reached our destination. Little did we know that our rental car wasn’t going to take us right outside our guest house though. Or anywhere else inside the walls of the Old Town for that matter. I have no idea how this vital piece of information had escaped us. But it had.
It wasn’t long before we realised it though. We were driving along cobbled Strada Anton Pann, under the thick shade of beautiful trees, for quite a while. When the latter met Strada Zidul Cetatii, we saw the barriers that blocked our way towards the Citadel. We found out that we could drive to the Citadel so as to leave our luggage and then head back down to park the car. We chose not to do so but park the car there and then.
So after following instructions from a non English-speaking Romanian (don’t ask me how we managed to communicate, I’m clueless to this day), we paid for a super cheap parking ticket (about 1€ for 24h), parked the car and we were ready to start walking towards the Citadel. Luckily, at that moment the city bus appeared and we caught it all the way up to the Citadel for a minimum fee. It wasn’t a long walk, but it was all uphill and we were carrying our luggage.
After a couple of minutes, the bus came to a halt and we were suddenly surrounded by magic. We got off at the very heart of Sighisoara Citadel, the colourful Piata Cetatii. We couldn’t wait to explore this enchanting town so we hurried to the guest house to check in. Apparently, our guest house was also home to one of Sighisoara’s prettiest cafés, so we decided to have a quick stop for tea and cake first. We had been driving all day long after all.
The Scholars’ Stairs (Scara Acoperita) and the Church on the Hill
Instead of heading towards the very heart of the Citadel, we started our walk from the Scholars’ Stairs. The latter is an impressive covered stairway made of wood which leads all the way up to School Hill. It was built in 1642 so as to facilitate students and churchgoers during harsh winter days on their way to school and church respectively.
After climbing the 176-step covered stairway, we found ourselves before the magnificent Church on the Hill. The late Gothic construction is the most important church in Sighisoara and the third largest one in Transylvania. Sadly, we didn’t get the chance to admire its frescoed interior with the Romanesque crypt, the only one in Transylvania. The church was closed when we visited in late afternoon (after 18:00).
However, School Hill is home to yet another fascinating attraction that we did visit. Right next to the Church on the Hill, there is a Saxon cemetery. We strolled around in absolute silence as the warm afternoon sun graced everything with its soft light. When it was time to go, we didn’t head back to the Scholars’ Stairs. Instead, we took the winding path that starts from the cemetery and leads all the way down to the centre of Sighisoara Citadel. This way we could admire the view and enjoy a short walk down a picturesque cobblestone path.
Getting lost in Sighisoara’s colourful alleys
As soon as we descended School Hill, we started wandering around the very heart of medieval Sighisoara. Our first stop was inevitably the gem of a square that is Piata Cetatii. The latter was the area around which life in old Sighisoara revolved. Apart from the occasional market stall, Piata Cetatii also played host to more gruesome activities such as executions, witch trials and, Vlad’s favourite, impalements. Then, starting from Piata Cetatii, we let ourselves get lost in the Citadel’s narrow alleys. Lined with fairytale-like colourful buildings, the stone-paved streets of Sighisoara were a feast for the eyes.
During our walk around Sighisoara Citadel, we stumbled upon many historical relics, most of them dating back to the Middle Ages. The Bootmaker’s Tower is a fine example of the city’s strong defensive fortifications. It’s just one of the surviving nine out of fourteen towers that used to protect Sighisoara from frequent Ottoman raids.
At some point our feet brought us to the Church of the Dominican Monastery, a massive construction dominating the surrounding area. Again, we couldn’t visit as it was closed for the day. Right next to the church, Dracula’s bust looked desperate for a quick chat with passers-by.
Casa Vlad Dracul
Speaking of Dracula, our next stop was Casa Vlad Dracul, the house where Vlad was born and lived until the age of four. Nowadays, the centuries-old building houses a restaurant as well as one of the most touristy sites in the whole of Transylvania. Vlad’s childhood bedroom. Far from being a museum-like experience though, it’s more of a tiny horror show with giant spiders coming down the ceilings and vampires sleeping in coffins. That said, for a minimum fee it’s totally worth having a good laugh at your screaming travel partner when the aforementioned hairy spider touches her bare neck. Any similarities to actual people or events is purely coincidental. Not.
After my near death experience with the stuffed arachnid, it was time for us to press pause and have a beer. So we headed back to quaint Piata Cetatii and we enjoyed a mug of cold, local beer at Café Piata Cetatii just as the sun was about to set.
Getting a glimpse of Sighisoara Lower Town
Our loud stomach growls announced dinner time. Reluctant though we were to let the Citadel out of our sight, the little explorers we hide inside wouldn’t miss the chance to have a quick look at the lower part of the city as well. Although the Citadel represents the medieval heart of Sighisoara, which has remained almost intact throughout the centuries, the Lower Town is where the heart of the modern city beats. Leaving Piata Cetatii behind, we headed towards Sighisoara’s most iconic landmark: the Clock Tower. We took a moment to appreciate the marvellous view to the Lower Town from a cosy resting area with an abundance of wooden benches situated right behind the Clock Tower.
After that, we walked through the clock’s arched base and we found ourselves at the bustling modern part of Sighisoara. We wandered around gazing at one colourful house after another. We were happy we had chosen this part of the city to have dinner as each and every restaurant there was packed with locals. The best indicator that, foodwise, we were at the right place.
A couple of cocktails and a great meal later, we were once again at the now romantically lit passageway below the Clock Tower. Once we crossed it, the sight of the dark Citadel dimly lit under the moonlight took our breath away. Though our feet were heavy with fatigue, we couldn’t resist taking advantage of the sweet summer night to enjoy yet another stroll around Sighisoara before calling it a night.
The Clock Tower
The following day we had a very early start. The first thing we did was head to the Clock Tower, even before opening time, so as to avoid crowds. At 9 o’clock sharp we were the first to enter Sighisoara’s main point of interest. The Clock Tower is really pretty from the outside with its colourful roof tiles glistening in the sun.
However, a visit inside the tower (3€) is mandatory for two reasons. First of all, the Clock Tower houses a mini History Museum as well as an impressive scale model of Sighisoara. Also, from inside the tower one can marvel at the clock’s beautiful wood-carved figurines. Just keep an eye for a tiny window at the side of the stairway leading to the top of the tower and you will see them. Secondly and perhaps more importantly, the Clock Tower offers breathtaking panoramic views to the city of Sighisoara.
A thousand snapshots later, we went back to our guest house. We had breakfast, checked out and after casting a final look at the charming Sighisoara Citadel, we exited its walls and descended the cobblestone path towards the parking lot. Sibiu, our next exciting destination, was waiting for us!
Sighisoara Travel Guide
How to get to Sighisoara
If driving is not an option, Sighisoara is accessible by train from most major cities in Romania, such as Bucharest, Sibiu and Brasov. Also, there are direct international lines connecting Sighisoara to cities like Vienna and Budapest. Consult the official Romanian railways website for information on train routes, timetables, etc.
Bus is another way to get to Sighisoara. The city connects to most destinations within Romania as well as some international ones. Plan your bus trip here.
Where to stay in Sighisoara
As far as we are concerned, we’d never consider staying anywhere else but within the Citadel walls. The opportunity to spend the night inside one of the few inhabited fortified medieval towns in Europe doesn’t come up every day. So, regardless of the slight inconvenience the uphill location and the vehicle restriction may cause, try not to miss this unique experience. We chose Casa Cositorarului for our one night stay in Sighisoara. For just 40€, its location and Dracula-like ambience are hard to beat. Same goes for the beautiful café and the historic building that houses the guest house. On the minus side, communication with the staff was kind of a struggle with minimum or no English spoken on their part.
Where to eat in Sighisoara
The café at Casa Cositorarului is among the most charming ones in the Citadel. It’s the best spot to enjoy a hot beverage and dessert from a wide selection. We didn’t particularly like breakfast there though. Any bar at Piata Cetatii is marvellous for a glass of wine or beer. For our meal though, we chose the local part of the city, the Lower Town. We were quite tired of the Romanian cuisine by the time we got to Sighisoara, so we chose to dine at La Perla, which serves amazing burgers and pizza. We didn’t skip papanasi, the typical Romanian dessert, though. Nor did we say no to a couple of kick-ass Aperol Spritz cocktails. We had our Italian night in Romania, I guess. For less than 10€/person if I may add.
Day trips from Sighisoara
Doubtful that anyone would choose tiny Sighisoara as a base to explore the rest of Transylvania, but if you do, there is a vast array of easy day trips you can take. Vibrant Sibiu and picturesque Brasov are among the most obvious choices.
Sighisoara can also be the ideal base to explore several fortified churches that are scattered in the region. Among them, the fortified churches of Viscri and Biertan are the ones that stand out.
What are fortified churches exactly?
Learn everything you need to know and plan your trip to the most stunning fortified churches, fortresses and castles in Romania!
Other useful travel tips
Currency: Romanian Leu (Lei in plural). Credit cards are widely accepted.
Languages spoken: Romanian and nothing but. Although a very touristy destination, people didn’t seem to be able to master the most basic English vocabulary.
Attractions opening times: Make sure you check opening times for the sites you want to visit in advance. All churches close at about 17:00. The Clock Tower doesn’t open on Mondays and closes at about 17:30 on weekends and an hour later on weekdays (summer schedule).
Best time to visit Sighisoara: Summer or early autumn/late spring so as to enjoy sitting outdoors marvelling at the Citadel’s charm.
Parking in Sighisoara: As I mentioned above, vehicles are not allowed inside Sighisoara historic centre. Only residents who have a special permit can use their cars in the Old Town. Also, some hotels within the walls of the Citadel have limited parking spots reserved for their guests. Check with your hotel to see if that could be arranged. If not, you must park your car in one of the parking lots around the Citadel. Have a look here for locations as well as prices. The website is in Romanian but you can get an idea.
So, did we manage to make you daydream of Sighisoara? Who wouldn’t want to spend some time in one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe after all? Should you need help planning your own trip to Sighisoara, we’re here for you. We promise, it will be love at first sight! Until then, la revedere!
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