Timisoara, located in the Banat region of western Romania, is Romania’s third largest city. You may have never heard of it, so I’ll drop a few reasons why I think you should visit. The city’s main sights are clustered around the 3 main plazas in the city center – Piata Victoriei, Piata Libertatii, and Piata Unirii – so you can cover the city in one solid day.
#1. Timisoara is an easy 1-hour flight from Bucharest.
T-town is a great change of pace from the Romanian capital Bucharest, which I’ve called home since February 2018. It couldn’t be easier to get to Timisoara from Bucharest: Ryanair and Tarom both have tons of cheap flights, often around $30-$70 round trip. Since Timisoara is pretty small, it’s an ideal locale for a weekend trip.
#2. Timisoara has Flower Power.
We got really lucky on our trip to Timisoara: we accidentally coincided with the Timifloralis fower festival, which gave the city an invigorating burst of color and joy. If you’re in Romania in the spring, I highly recommend looking up the dates of the festival (usually in late April) to plan your visit accordingly. One of my favorite parts of the festival was a display of mannequins dressed in ethnic Romanian garb, which was made completely from leaves and flowers, to celebrate Romania’s centennial. (This exhibition had me throwin’ it back to Project Runway’s Garden Party challenge). Throughout the flower festival weekend, the plazas burst with flowers and various forms of “flower art” by local artists.
#3. Timisoara is cute and colorful (especially compared to Bucharest).
Timisoara is like Bucharest’s cuter, younger cousin. Now, don’t get me wrong – there are still some crumbling and deteriorated buildings in Timisoara just like there are in Bucharest. However, the charming colors of many buildings in Timisoara’s city center contrast significantly with Bucharest’s ubiquitously gray facades (although I must say Bucharest has grown on me a lot, and I’m quite happy here). Piata Unirii, probably the most beautiful plaza in Timisoara, showcases red, mamey, yellow, mint, light blue, and lavender facades as well as two yellow churches. Strada Alba Iulia, the city’s central pedestrian walkway that links Piata Victoriei and Piata Libertatii, is shaded with many brightly colored umbrellas that hang over the street. Needless to say, Timisoara is a great place for pics!
#4. Timisoara has really cool Orthodox churches.
Standing 83 meters tall on Piata Victoriei is the Romanian Orthodox cathedral, the city’s most eye-catching edifice: its gorgeous tiled roof and had me gawking (See Lonely Planet for a great close-up pic of the roof that I was sadly unable to take myself). Make sure to go inside, as Romanian Orthodox churches differ significantly from their Roman Catholic counterparts. Take note of the ceiling vaults, stained-glass windows, and low-hanging chandeliers, as well as the fact that the church does not have pews like Roman Catholic churches do – people actually stand during mass. The pastel yellow Serbian Orthodox church in Piata Unirii is also worth a visit, with its well-decorated interior and crystal chandeliers.
#5. Timisoara has inexpensive yet delicious eats.
Eating out in Romania is pretty affordable overall, but Timisoara can be especially easy on the wallet. Our dinner at the gastro wine bar Vinto came out to 340 lei for 4 people including the standard 10% tip, which translates to $22 a person. We each ordered a dish, a glass of wine, and then shared 3 plates of dessert. I highly recommend Vinto for its quality selection of local wines – they actually make their own – and its location, which is central but not too touristy. I enjoyed the fact that the owner came out to explain each of the wines we ordered as he poured each of us a glass. In case you thought Vinto wasn’t that cheap, wait til you here about our lunch at the traditional Romanian restaurant Timisoreana: 175 lei including tip for 4 people, which comes out to $11 a head. That sum got us a total of 4 hearty Romanian dishes, a coke, 2 bottles of water, 5 local Timisoreana beers, and a plate of dessert. Yeah. Disclaimer: The service was not good. However, the tasty traditional food and wood-paneled dining room make for a very #Romania experience.
#6. Timisoara is the birthplace of the 1989 Romanian Revolution.
If you’re a history nerd like me, you’ll appreciate the fact that the 1989 Romanian Revolution against the nasty Romanian dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu, began here. Timisoara’s Museum of the 1989 Romanian Revolution is the most significant collection of information relating to this violent revolution, which successfully ended years of suffering under Ceaușescu’s Communist rule in Romania. The museum does not open on Sundays, which was unfortunately when I was in town, so I didn’t get to enter. However, I did get to see the piece of the Berlin Wall displayed outside the museum. Further reminders of the revolution exist throughout the city, like the memorial in front of the Romanian Orthodox cathedral that displays the names of children and young people gunned down on the cathedral’s steps during the Timisoara uprising.
I enjoyed my visit to Timisoara very much, and I encourage anyone in the region to make an effort to visit!