Difference between revisions of "Oradea"
Revision as of 10:22, 20 November 2014
Oradea  is one the few undiscovered gems of Romania's tourism. Despite the city being one of the largest and most important in Transylvania, with a high degree of administrative, economic and commercial importance, it is often overlooked by tourists in favor of other Transylvanian cities such as Brasov, Sighisoara or Cluj-Napoca. The city can also act as a pleasant stopover if you are coming to Romania from Hungary, or leaving the country.
The city combines a good location and climate with romantic baroque architecture from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, with a lovely jumble of Romanian and Hungarian cultures. There was a settlement in roman times called Varadinum vulgo where today is Oradea. It has a long history, being mentioned for the first time in a document in the year 1113. Oradea was declared town in 1235. In 1080 it became the residence of the Roman-Catholic Bishop. Oradea is a multicultural city with Romanians (73.1%, 2011 census) and Hungarians (24.9%, 2011 census) forming the two major ethning groups. Both of these cultures are apparent in the city giving it a special charm and pleasant mix of architecture.
Oradea, situated 8 km from the Hungarian border (and a whopping 650 km by train from the capital of Romania, Bucharest), can even serve as a starting point for a Romanian journey, as it is served by trains coming in from Budapest and other parts of Europe. Many tourists also make a stopover in Oradea before travelling further on to Cluj-Napoca, Brasov or Bucharest. Recently, tourism is booming and people are even considering attributing the name Le Petit Paris (The Little Paris) to it.
Oradea is in Romania, in the county of Bihor (BH), in Transylvania. The city proper has a population of 196,367 (according to the 2011 census); this does not include areas in the metropolitan area which bring the total urban area population to approximately 350,000. Oradea is one of the most prosperous cities of Romania. The city is on the Crişul Repede river, and has a sizeable Hungarian minority, approximatly 45'000 (2011 census).
To find different sites to visit and also hear some input from Oradea citizens themselves visit www.virtualtourist.com
The official language of the country is Romanian, thus most people will speak Romanian. Oradea is partially bilingual, with some residents speaking both Romanian and Hungarian.
Romanians are tolerant of foreign languages and tourists, so, in the vast majority of cases you can find English, French, German, Italian or Spanish speaking people in Oradea.
English is becoming increasingly popular, and it is spoken fairly fluently by the younger generation, and by many of the middle-aged people. In supermarkets or shops, you can confidently speak in English, especially if the staff members are fairly young. However, it is always good to know a few words in the local languages, because not only will the locals appreciate you for it, but you will understand much more.
Oradea has a small airport , located 5 km (3.1 mi) southwest of the city. This airport has TAROM  flights from Bucharest twice daily. These flights are average in terms of comfort, but are fairly expensive.
Oradea's closest large international airport is Cluj-Napoca, which serves flights from all corners of Europe (~152km from Oradea). Budapest's Liszt Ferenc Airport is another option for international flights (~309km from Oradea), as well as Timisoara and Debrecen, Hungary.
Getting into Oradea is moderately easy, as from Romania as from Hungary. Most visitors arrive in by train, as Oradea is located at the western extremity of the Romanian train network. If you're travelling from Bucharest, there are two or three trains per day, one of which is a very comfortable yet fairly inexpensive night train, especially if you decide to travel in a refurbished first-class sleeper. Make sure that you take your tickets well in advance if you intend to travel by the first-class sleeper cars because the tickets sell out quickly.
The journey from Bucharest is a 10-hour, 650 km trip across Romania. Getting to Oradea from other parts of Transylvania is a lot easier and quicker - there are now fast InterCity (IC) connections with brand-new trains from Germany to Cluj-Napoca, Arad and Timisoara. Besides these, there are fast trains that link Oradea at least once daily with nearly every major city in Romania.
If Oradea is your entry point to Romania, and you are coming from Hungary or Central Europe, there are five trains per day from Budapest to Oradea (some of which continue onwards to Brasov and Cluj-Napoca). Two of these trains are early in the morning, and one leaves Budapest in the afternoon and arrives in Oradea in the late evening, after about four hours.
Intercity bus and coach services running through Oradea are strongly on the increase, and most of the residents see them as a welcome departure from what they see are slow, uncomfortable trains. This is due to the fact that intercity coach travel is very much a novelty in a country where trains and aeroplanes have been the primary form of public transportation for decades. Even today, train is by far the recommended way, being much more comfortable and increasingly.
Bus services are private, and are either run by large cross-European companies such as Eurolines or small Romanian or Hungarian companies which operate coaches between, say, Oradea and Budapest.
The beautiful city center is worth visiting, as are the Băile Felix thermal spas, accessible by car, train or bus and located outside the city (~10km from Oradea).
Several sites worth visiting are:
Activities - Pestera Ursilor, Baile Felix health spas, etc.
University of Oradea  has an increasing number of faculties that have English-only courses, enabling foreign students to gain a European education with lower costs than in other countries.
Souvenir shopping, food shopping.
Most restaurants serve local cuisine, which is similar to other continental cuisine. Additionally, some Italian, Asian and Middle Eastern restaurants exist.
restaurant robinson country club str marin preda nr17
Most of Oradea's night life revolves around the Black Eagle Palace, and the surrounding area.
Hotels in Oradea range from modern and gleaming structures with all the amenities to cosy, wonderful and very elegant pensions to old, charming but somewhat uncomfortable hostels. Prices of hotels tend to be fixed, so it's not much use haggling. Note that prices are increasingly being quoted in euro, not Romanian lei (the local currency), and euro is accepted in most places. Hotels in Oradea are cheaper than in Western Europe, but not by an overly significant margin.
As Oradea city center is not that large, anywhere is OK to stay. In the "satellite quarters" of Oradea there are rarely hotels, except in the Nufărul quarter, where it's not worth staying. Try finding accommodation in the city, near Str. Republicii or the Town Hall, or near Bd. Magheru and the Civic Center. Both places are just as good, even though the you will find Str. Republicii accommodation to be probably more desirable, due to the abundance of shopping, dining and partying facilities on the street, which is the liveliest in Oradea. These accommodations are also noisier.
In terms of major problems and on a Romanian scale, Oradea is fairly safe. On a Western European scale, the city is even safer. In fact, you will rarely find problems with organised crime against tourists, or more serious offences. What you will find more abundantly, unfortunately are petty scams or thefts. Keep an eye for beggars, who beg for money and may attempt to distract you while your wallet or watch are snatched.
Concerning tricks and scams, these tend to occur more regularly in Oradea. When exchanging money, don't do so on the black market, as these people generally rip you off. Try to stay away from people selling souvenirs or products at the railway station. These usually aren't of quality and aren't worth buying. Also, when taking a taxi, make sure the taxi is certified. The prices per kilometer must be displayed on the taxi door on both sides. Some of the well established taxi companies in Oradea are Fulger, City, Hello, VIP.
Kelly's Irish Bar is also in the habit of providing foreign customers with a menu with grossly inflated prices compared to what the locals pay. These menus tend to show the prices in both new and old lei. At least the 'tourist' prices seem not to have risen in line with inflation, but are still higher than what is commonly paid on the Black Sea coast.