Known in German as Hermannstadt, Sibiu has always been the centre of Romania's German minority since medieval times. Even today, it contains Romania's largest German community, and, due to initiatives by the local government, the Germanic feel of the area has been maintained. Sibiu also has a significant Hungarian minority, remnants of Transylvania's past as part of the Hungarian Empire and, later, Austria-Hungary. Despite this, Sibiu is also distinctly Romanian (95% of the population are ethnic Romanians) and manages to fuse these three cultures, as well as smaller minorities of Roma, Slovaks and Ukrainians into a city that is as wonderful as it is vibrant.
Today, Sibiu is one of Romania's cultural and tourism capitals, attracting tourists due to its wonderful medieval charm, excellent views of the surrounding landscapes, great food, and stunning parkland. And, visit now until the city becomes flooded with tourists after 2007, when it will be the European Capital of Culture. Sibiu today is also doing excellently economically - having an income per capita far higher than the Romanian average.
Despite Sibiu's location in the centre of the Romania, it is quite a lot harder to get here than to other cities like Brasov and Cluj-Napoca, mainly due to Sibiu's location outside the main railway line which joins Bucharest to Hungary and beyond. However, train remains the easiest, cheapest and most comfortable way to get here. Remember, though, that from Bucharest, there are just two trains daily to Sibiu (one in the morning, one in the night). Also, Sibiu is one of the only cities of Romania not served by the modern and snazzy InterCity network from Bucharest, even though there are InterCity trains from Cluj Napoca.
From Bucharest, the train most tourists take is the day train A 1621 which leaves Bucharest North at 09:45 and arrives at Sibiu at 15:31, nearly six hours later and stopping at most towns along the way. The train is not particularly comfortable - hopefully, however, CFR Romanian Railways will soon introduce InterCity trains on this route.
Coming from Cluj Napoca, the main city of Transylvania, is a much better opportunity to get to Sibiu. In fact, many tourists do just that, as part of their Transylvanian tour. From Cluj Napoca, there are two fairly-convenient trains a day, one at 05:41 and one at 14:57, taking around 3 hours and a half. The trains are smooth-running and very comfortable.
If you're not coming to Sibiu from another Romanian town, plane is an excellent option, as there are direct connections to Sibiu International Airport from many European cities, especially those in Germany and Italy.
TAROM, Romania's national carrier, flies five times a week from Sibiu to Munich. For those with money to splurge, there are also flights five times a week to Bucharest, even though you're better off taking the train if you're coming from inside Romania.
Sibiu, a city of 170,000 people, seems quite large for its population, even though most tourists won't have to venture outside the conveniently-walkable city central area. In fact, try to walk as much as you can, as only in this way can you sample Sibiu's more remote gems, hidden behind lanes in the middle of the city and crooked, cobbled alleys taking you a step back in history.
If you do need to venture outside the medieval city limits, the local public transport operator TurSib offers excellent services, among the best public transport you'll find in this part of the world. These services may be useful if you're staying in hotels, pensions or homestays outside the city centre or would like to visit some of the wonderful villages surrounding Sibiu, for a taste of Romanian country life and stunning Transylvanian scenery.
The Sibiu citadel
The old town
The old medieval town is perhaps Sibiu's main attraction, and it is indeed very beautiful. Most of the buildings in the old town were built by German settlers and merchants who came to Sibiu in the late Middle Ages. Today, the buildings remain in very good conditions, and the streets are peppered with small, secluded lanes, corner cafes and wonderful churches. The old town is divided into two parts: the Upper Town, which contains most of the city's historic sights, and the Lower Town, which is home to many charming buildings and cobbled squares.
The Citadel of Sibiu
The Citadel of Sibiu was, in the Middle Ages, one of the best fortified in Europe and today remains very well preserved. The towers and bastions of the area are well worth a visit, but most of all, make sure you visit the wonderfully charming Stairs Passage, which connects the lower part of the citadel with the upper part. If you want to splurge, dine at the Golden Barrel (Butoiul de Aur), the oldest restaurant in Romania, which sits at the end of the Stairs Passage.
The Huet Square ( Piaţa Huet) is home to a jumble of Gothic buildings and is dominated by the Evangelical Cathedral, one of the most beautiful in Sibiu. Here, you can also find the city's only fully-German school, the Samuel von Brukenthal Gymansium, which shows the city's proud German heritage. In fact, Huet Square stands to be the most German of all places in this city which is as much German as Romanian, and, all the same, 100% Transylvanian.
The Brukenthal Museum
Said by many to be the best museum in Romania, the Brukenthal is a must see in Sibiu, containing 1090 paintings. The museum is named after Samuel Brukenthal, the governor of Transylvania. There are paintings from Dutch and Flemish schools, Italian schools and, of course, German, Austrian and Romanian collections. The museum also displays Governor Brukenthal's own collection dating from the 15th-18th centuries.
Despite Sibiu's wonderful historical and cultural attractions, the city is also very picturesque in the natural dimension. Paying a visit to some more outlying attractions enables you to sample the amazing Transylvanian environment.
Main article: Păltiniş
Păltiniş was a German tourist resort built by Siebenburgischer Karpatenverein in 1894. Today, it is the highest and oldest resort in the country.