In the modern world of today, where the daily chaos slowly swallows any trace of freedom, there are few places where we can truly evade. We need moments when we can travel not only with our steps, but also with our souls. There aren’t many destinations in this world that offer so many emotions and experiences like Sighisoara Citadel, a magical place that transcends time and can transport travelers in long passed times. Countless stories await to be discovered on the cobblestone streets, through the colorful houses and between the towers of the fortress. Modern civilization seems to end before the walls of Sighisoara Citadel that withstands for centuries as one of the few medieval fortresses of Eastern Europe that was continuously inhabited. Included in the UNESCO World Heritage, Sighisoara offers a complex and fascinating experience to its visitors, with an unbelievably rich heritage of historical buildings and interesting monuments, but also with an authentic atmosphere that cannot be replicated.
Where is Sighișoara and How to Get There
The town of Sighisoara is located in the central part of Romania and the Transylvanian plateau. Crossed by the Târnava Mare river and surrounded by the hills of Transylvania, the old citadel was founded on a small mound overlooking the valley. Sighisoara is part of the Mureș County and is relatively easy to reach from any part of Romania. The closest international airports are located in Targu Mures (54 km) and Sibiu (94 km), with flights mainly from Germany. The airport of Cluj is located 160 km away and has many more destinations, while the airport of Bucharest is located 270 km away. There are direct trains from Bucharest (about 6 hours) and Cluj-Napoca (3-4 hours) to Sighisoara. Travelers can also rent a car and drive to Sighisoara, the city being located along the E60 European Road that crosses Europe from Brest, France to Constanța, Romania, and continues to China. The national road DN14 comes from Sibiu through Mediaș, while the DN13 comes from Brașov. Visitors of Sighișoara can park their cars outside the citadel, as the narrow steep streets of the old town are mainly pedestrian. There are several parking areas, the main one being right at the southwestern foot of the citadel, facing the Clock Tower. The fee is 2 RON/ hour and about 6 RON/day.
Best Things to See in Sighișoara
The story of the Sighisoara citadel seems to start with the arrival of the Saxons from Germany on these lands upon the invitation of the Hungarian king in order to defends its borders. A settlement was attested on this place since the end of the 12th century, while only a century later historical documents highlight a town built upon a former Roman fort. Through the ages, the town was known under several names, Sighisoara appearing for the first time in a document of Vlad Dracul, the father of Vlad Țepeș, who lived in exile here. During the period of maximum development of the fortress, it used to be one of the most important commercial and crafting centers of all Transylvania, with about 15 known guilds, most of them belonging to Transylvanian Saxons. They were also behind the building of the fortifications that surround the old town, one of its defining elements being the towers that bear the name of the old guilds. Today, Sighisoara Citadel silently endures above the new city below, being invaded by tourists for half a year.
Most visits of the fortress start from the large parking lot below, ascending along a set of stairs towards the first important monument and one of the symbols of Sighisoara, the Clock Tower. Of the 14 initial towers of the citadel, only 9 are still preserved and the Clock Tower is the biggest and most interesting. Rising at 64 meters, it dominates the surrounding area and can be seen from almost anywhere in town, while the views from its upper balcony are truly astonishing. The most fascinating element of the tower is the large clock created in 1648, its inner mechanism being replaced in 1906 with a Swiss order. Next to the clock, there is a series of figurines with a height of 80 cm, showing the days of the week, as well as other smaller ones. Made from basswood and personifying ancient gods, these figurines bring a certain exotic charm to the already impressive monument. Since the beginning of the 19th century, the tower houses the History Museum of Sighisoara that occupies all the levels with several collections that include archaeology, art, pharmacy, ethnography, guilds, weapons and others. At the last level, visitors can admire an interesting horology exhibit, as well as the mechanism of the watch that includes the seven figurines.
The small square behind is known as the Museum Square and is truly charming, surrounded by beautiful medieval monuments. At its core sits the imposing Monastery Church, that was once part of the dominican monastery abolished in 1556. The splendid Gothic church was built between 1492 and 1515 over an older dominica church. It has many valuable religious artifacts, with its central element being the ornate altar piece dating from 1680. In front of the church towards the wall is the Blacksmiths’ Tower, built in 1631 on the spot of the former Barbers’ Tower. It seems rather short from the fortress, by it actually extends downwards along the wall. Before continuing towards the nearby Citadel Square, one of the less known monuments is the Vlad Dracul’s House, the sone of Mircea the Elder and the father of the famous Vlad Țepeș. It is believed that he stayed in this house until the age of four, while it currently houses a restaurant and two rooms established as a small museum, but without interesting elements. The Venetian House is also here, featuring beautiful neo-gothic architecture.
The small and lovely Citadel Square can be considered the central point of the old town, surrounded by medieval buildings that currently house hotels or souvenir shops. The most interesting is the Stag House, named after the mural painting that is ornate with the impressive trophy of a Carpathian stag. Along the centuries, the house was inhabited by the most important families of the fortress, currently housing a guesthouse and a traditional Romanian restaurant. From the square, School Street goes towards the hill where the imposing Hill Church can be seen. Before beginning to climb, travelers can stop to visit the unique The Dracula Investigation, where they can unravel the true story of the ruler who became a medieval legend. Two other monuments can be admired a little to the south, along the walls. The Tinsmiths’ Tower and the Tanners’ Tower date from the same time as the walls. To ascend towards the church, travelers can follow the dark tunnel of the Covered Stairway, also known as the Scholars’ Stairway. These were covered at the end of the 19th century to protect the children that went to the school on the hills during rainy or snowy days. The 176 wooden stairs create the feeling of traveling through time, a touching experience for anyone. Stepping outside the stairway, the surrounding atmosphere is almost magical, with old monuments and green nature.
The first monument on the left is the old Hill School, now known as the Josef Haltrich Highschool. First mentioned in 1522, it is one of the oldest schools in Transylvania, passing through several transformations along the years. The hill is dominated by the imposing silhouette of the St. Nicolas Church, also known as the Hill Church. Built in a gothic style along several stages between 1345 and 1525, the evangelical church includes a Romanic chapel and a keep, while the crooked belltower rises at over 40 meters. Among the most interesting features, this is the only location in Transylvania that includes am underground crypt and it also has superb interior paintings that were discovered during the last renovation and date from the 15th century. Close to the church there is another defense tower known as the Ropemakers’ Tower, dating from the same time as the fortress walls and rebuilt in 1350 and being the last one still inhabited. The western part of the hills is occupied by the old cemetery, a space with a special atmosphere, surrounded by trees and covered by the patina of time. The gravestones show the true age of this space and the customs of those times, some having symbols that show the profession of the deceased.
To descend back into the fortress, visitors can follow another route along the little Stairs’ Alley, then continue towards the hidden Butchers’ Tower, dating from the 15th century and located in a rather remote and overlooked corner of the town. Also, the adjacent Furriers’ Tower guards the same Torle Gate where once the they did the splitting of the herds. Taking the Citadel Wall or the Carpenter Street, travelers can reach one of the most interesting old monuments in the city, the Tailors’ Tower that was built during the 14th century and rebuilt after is exploded during the great fire of 1676. The tower used to defend the second gate of the Sighisoara Citadel, passing underneath its two levels. From here, continuing along the Carpenter St. towards the east, one can reach the small square with the Petofi Sandor memorial, located between the Cobblers’ Tower and the Roman-Catholic church. The tower is pretty short compared to the others but has a distinct charm. The present look dates from 1681 and currently houses the local radio station. The St. Josef Roman-Catholic Cathedral is a newer yet graceful monument, built in 1894 after the abolishment of the Franciscan monastery and the Locksmiths’ Tower. On the road back to the Clock Tower, travelers can also stop to admire the building that houses the Town Hall of Sighisoara, built at the end of 19th century on the place of the former Dominican Monastery and another lost tower.
Besides these magnificent monuments that dominate the fortress, the old authentic medieval houses are worth mentioning and they can be admired along the fortress streets. Inhabited mostly by the craftsmen and their families, they feature a special diversity of architectural styles and ornamental elements. The pastel colors and flowery windows greatly increase the delightful ambiance of the citadel, with many of them still inhabited, while others have been turned into guesthouses, restaurants, crafting workshops or souvenir shops. For a truly unique experience, the fortress should be visited during the annual Sighisoara Medievala Festival that usually takes place at the end of July. During this awesome event, the streets are brought to life by medieval music and dancing, fighting reenactments, medieval costume parades, art and theater workshops, traditional craftsmen and local producers, as well as tourist crowds that arrive for this amazing celebration. Travelers who wish to avoid the crowds and discover Sighisoara Citadel with a more romantic atmosphere, should visit during spring or autumn, during a week or early in the morning.
Recommended Accommodation in Sighisoara Citadel
9.0 Rating from 795 Reviews!
Conveniently located in the heart of the citadel, this astonishing guesthouse features superb medieval decorated rooms, a restaurant, a café/lounge and an outdoor terrace! The welcoming atmosphere is doubled by the friendliness and hospitality of the personnel!
9.8 Rating from 525 Reviews!
One of the most prestigious and unique accommodations in Sighișoara, this outstanding guesthouse features unique room design and perfect amenities, being extremely appreciated!
9.0 Rating from 1066 Reviews!
This splendid guesthouse is located right in the heart of medieval Sighișoara, featuring amazing rooms, a delicious traditional restaurant, a terrace a garden and a wine cellar!
9.5 Rating from 1048 Reviews!
Located in a historical building at the foot of the citadel, this astonishing accommodation has excellent reviews and offers unique and comfortable rooms with wooden decor!
Recommended Restaurants and Cafes in Sighisoara
- Gasthaus Altepost – Located in the center of Sighișoara, this prestigious establishment offers excellent Romanian food in an extremely authentic atmosphere. The restaurant features a wine cellar, an outdoor terrace and a pizza atelier.
- La Perla Restaurant – Located in the Lower Town of Sighișoara, just a few steps from the Clock Tower, this amazing restaurant offers traditional Romanian food, burgers, pizza and desserts, with both indoor and outdoor spaces.
- Joseph T Restaurant – A exquisite fine dining experience in Sighișoara, this restaurant and wine bar is located at the base level of the Central Park Hotel, featuring delicious Romanian and international recipes.
- Michelangelo Italian Restaurant – One of the most appreciated locations in Sighișoara, this Italian restaurant offers an authentic menu that includes delicious pasta and meat recipes, sweets and amazing wines!
- Medieval Café – Located right in the heart of the Old Town Sighișoara, this café and restaurant is well-reviewed and features a charming medieval atmosphere, as well as amazing recipes, including medieval ones!
- The Bean Specialty Coffee – Travelers that fancy a taste of a heavenly freshly roasted coffee cup can find it at The Bean Specialty Coffee, located right in the center of the old citadel.
Local Tips for Sighișoara
- There are plenty of great and affordable accommodation options right in the old citadel, thus escaping the long ascent up the stairs for each visit!
- While there are also excellent restaurants in the citadel, these might be a bit more expensive than the ones located in the streets below!
- Comfortable shoes are definitely a necessity in Sighișoara as all the alleys and streets of the citadel are cobblestone or rough stones!
- Enjoy an astonishing view of the city from the top of the Clock Tower, with the added benefit of visiting the small historical museum inside!
- It would be best to visit Sighișoara during early spring or late autumn, when the prices are lower and it is not overcrowded!
Short Trips from Sighișoara
Medieval Town of Mediaș
The town of Mediaș is located about 40 km west of Sighișoara, featuring a beautifully preserved medieval old town, with a superb old Lutheran church that is surrounded by medieval fortifications, including towers and walls. There are many other impressive sights to discover in Mediaș, also known as the Fortress of Light!
Village of Biertan
The magnificent village of Biertan used to be an important religious and commercial center during medieval center, once the headquarter of the Lutheran Church in Transylvania. From those times, the village still preserves the majestic fortified church, surrounded by walls and towers, as well as many superb old houses!
Village of Saschiz
The village of Saschiz is located just about 20 km to the east of Sighișoara. It is a splendid rural destination that features a fortified church included in the UNESCO heritage, the ruins of an old fortress up on the hill and a beautiful rural architecture. In Saschiz, travelers can discover the authentic lifestyle and products of Transylvania!