For obvious reasons, we tend to go for city-breaks outside our cities, but in January I decided to bring my family in a city-break to our own city. So to be tourist of your own town and see things from this perspective and not from that of the daily routine of a linguist, mother of two daughters, and a wife.
If you’re thinking of visiting a beautiful city this year, or perhaps of switching up your routine and working remotely for a week or so, Timișoara is a great destination and, according to the global Quality of Life Index, is 2nd best-ranked Romanian cities.
One of the oldest and most picturesque cities of the country, Timișoara was founded in the beginning of the 13th century. The city is named after the river Timiș, on the banks of which appeared the first settlements. Some people call this city "a little Vienna" because of the large number of old buildings in the Baroque style. Expressive architecture, rich history and excellent infrastructure make Timișoara truly attractive to travellers.
Timișoara makes a fantastic city break, or if you are visiting Budapest or Belgrade, it is a great place for a stopover.
Unirii Square, winter
Where to eat
Timișoara has a lot to offer when it comes to food. With a number of popular restaurants and cafés, visitors – both meat lovers and vegetarians alike – will be spoilt for choice. If you’re feeling adventurous, bear meat, papanași, zupă, papricaș, beigli, gomboți or crempita are local delicacy and have been a tradition for 300 years in this city.
What to do
The Changing of Guards at 10 am in Unirii Square will take you back in time, to the year 1716 to be exact. This is when the great prince Eugene de Savoy, fighting for the great Hapsburg Empire, conquered the formidable fortress of Timișoara, bringing to a definitive end more than 160 years of Ottoman occupation of the Christian territory.
A local NGO brought this event to life
The central square, called Unirii, is surrounded by beautiful medieval buildings, with the Catholic cathedral being the main attraction. This cathedral was built in the beginning of the 18th century. Its magnificent design in the Baroque style perfectly reflects traditions of medieval architecture.
One of the oldest buildings that has managed to survive in the city, is the Church of St. Catherine. In the 13th century, the spouse of King Robert of Anjou, Mary-Catherine, was buried in the grounds of the church and it was therefore named after her. Initially, the building was constructed in the Baroque style but after numerous renovations, it acquired the unique features of neoclassicism.
We would recommend you explore the city on foot, as all important tourist sites and entertainment venues are located within walking distance of each other.
From Libertății Square to Victoriei Square
Passing by Libertății Square, you will reach the heart of the city – Victoriei (Victory Square) – where you will be able to see several iconic places of interest. The Orthodox Cathedral is a very impressive and unique architectural monument, built in the middle of the last century. Opposite the cathedral there is a beautiful monument dedicated to those killed during the revolution of 1989. The National Opera House is located at the other end of this square.
Over the years, Timișoara has been home to several world innovations; in 1884, Timișoara became the first European city with street lighting and in that same year, the city started using horse-drawn trams as public transportation.
Built between 1732 – 1734, Theresia Bastion is a large section of the defensive wall that remains from the Austrian-Hungarian fortress of Timișoara. Named after the Empress Maria Theresa, it covers about 1.7 hectares of the city centre. The old fortification is today used as a passage, but is also home to commercial spaces, restaurants, bars, a disco and a library, plus two permanent exhibitions of the Museum of Banat.
One of the most interesting cultural institutions of the city is the Banat Village Museum. This massive, cultural, open air complex displays a variety of exhibits; old farm buildings dating back around 100 years, beautiful pottery and wooden cabins which were moved to the museum from various suburbs, plus the museum often hosts different events from pottery fairs to techno music festivals.
Music PLAI Festival located within the Banat Village Museum
If you have more time during your stay, you can choose to venture outside of the city, to visit the Bigar Waterfall, the Nera Gorge-Beușnița National Park, or the Danube Gorges.
All throughout the year the city hosts different events for all ages and interests such as the flower festival named Timfloralis and the DISKOteka Festival celebrating music of the 80s and 90s.
For those who still need a little persuading, please watch this short video to get a taste of what the city has to offer: https://youtu.be/qhuQ3qYa0HU
We hope to see you soon, perhaps in 2021 when Timișoara will be the European Capital of Culture!