For those who have been following my travels in 2018, I was doing a 50 Days Road trip across 15 countries during the summer with Cez.
One of the pit stops along the trip was at this lovely little town of Timisoara in Romania. Unlike most tourists who usually visit Bucharest, the capital of Romania, I ended up roaming the streets of the pretty little town of Timișoara.
Like many other small untouched towns in the Balkans, Timisoara has a particular charm that was waiting to be discovered.
What you can do if you only have 1 Full Day in Timisoara
1. The historical spots of Timisoara
The quaint little city is filled with important historical landmarks.
You can see that in the restored buildings all around the town. A part of the Banat region, the city has registered an important number of milestones over the years. It was the first city in the country of Romania to have electrical lit streets, the first electrical tramway and also houses the oldest beer factory in the country.
Fun Fact: the 1st city in Southeast Europe to print the German newspaper.
2. Visit the most Instagramable street
After you depart from the capital city to Timișoara, you will notice in an instant that the rhythm of this town is a lot slower pace and more relaxed. People living here spend more time enjoying the little things/ hobbies that really bring joy. For example, a long relaxing walk through the streets, a stroll down the Bega, which is the river that crosses and cuts across the city, or a nice cup of coffee in one of the many hip cafes all around.
While you’re walking around. be sure to stop by Alba Iulia Street and look up for a colourful surprise. Part of a project that was and still is going on for 5 years now, the street is decorated every year with over 600 coloured umbrellas and the view here is spectacular. Not to mention the endless picture you can take on your phones/ cameras and 360 cameras.
3. Bike down the Bega
Very much different from the other cities in Romania, Timișoara is a great place for bike riders.
Statistically speaking, it is also the city with the most bike owners in the country. It is an absolute delight to ride and bike here because the smooth paths and well-kept lanes taking you with ease around the city, through small forests, over hills and alongside the river Bega or Timis. There is documented to be around 60 km of bike lanes, but some bike enthusiasts will tell you a few other good routes they discovered on their own.
4. Watch the birds soar at Timisoara
If you watched Hitchcock’s movie “The birds”, you might be reminded of it while here. Aside from the amazing view of the grand Orthodox Cathedral, you won’t be able to miss hundreds of birds it hosts. There are pigeons all over the city and they are very friendly, if you bring food, they will even come and sit on your hand or shoulder. And when it starts getting dark or a sudden change in weather, we saw hundreds of them flying through the skies, like as though an apocalypse is coming.
5. Discover the amazing Orthodox Cathedral
And speaking of the cathedral, take some time to fully observe it, outside and inside, because it is truly an impressive one. In fact, the most beautiful I have seen in the Balkans and possibly even Europe.
The construction started in 1936 and the building has a unique style. With 11 tours, the tallest reaching the height of 83,7 meters. The exterior wall is made out of brick, while the inside was all completely painted, with the original painting starting since 1956.
Take a moment to sit in the cathedral in silent meditation and reflection, yet be enthralled the splendour and beauty of the golden chandeliers, intricate patterns and carvings in every cranny in the cathedral.
6. Slow old school boat rides down the Bega River Bed
When you get tired of all the cycling and walking, opt to see the city via a tranquil boat ride. Perfect kid’s town Timisoara activity!
We spotted quite a variety, from small antique ones like the ones in Berlin or the Bateaux Mouches in Paris, to really old school paddle boat ones shaped like animals that are popular with kids as you need to paddle to move. Whichever you prefer, they will be a nice breezy ride down the Bega and with the swans and ducks waddling next to you. The boat rides are rather affordable, on the weekends it runs only for tourists, but on the weekdays, locals use it as a way of transport from one place to another.
7. Free Walking Tours or Walk on Your Own
At the heart of the city, there are numerous places to stroll around and sit down at to enjoy some outdoor and nature. Starting with the Botanical Garden, the flora and fauna haven of the country, moving on to Parcul Rozelor (Park of the roses). Yes, from the sound of the name, you can find here over 10.000 species of roses here in the heart and centre of the city.
If you have some extra days, drop by the local zoo, the variety of animals are not much but it will still be a nice pleasant visit and you might be surprised by what you find.
8. A Trip to the Past
Both housed in the same building, Scart and The Museums of the Communist Consumer will make you feel like you travelled back in time into the communist times.
On the ground floor, you can chill in Scart for a drink, a really affordable place. Down the stairs, you can check out the museum which is free of charge.
Scart is a place that offers a clear image of the communist times. From pictures on the walls, old newspapers and other tokens to food that has a nostalgic touch to it, old electronics used in factories and 2 paintings with the communist leader and wife, Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu.
After a nice drink, take the stairs and explore deeper into the museums, which resembles a typical apartment filled with all the iconic pieces of furniture and decorations from those communist times. Don’t worry, you can touch all the pieces in the museum and explore at your own pace.
9. Night Life – A Taste of the local Romanian culture and flavour
The nightlife here is far from boring, as the Romanians really know how to have a good time. They are also really friendly and warm with tourists, you will feel very warmly welcomed. They have a large variety of bars and clubs and for sure you will find something for your taste. These local bars have a great variety of local house labels/ brands when it comes to beer, wine, and hard liqueur.
Great tip – you might not find this in all the bars, but if you have the chance, make sure you ask if they have a traditional alcoholic drink called “visinata”, which is made out of sour cherries. Don’t let it fool you, it’s really sweet but very strong.
Other Places for Day Trips from Timișoara
- Retezat National Park
- Lugoj – Densus – Colti
- Herculane Thermal Baths (Baile Herculane)
- Corvin Castle – Hunedoara (Castelul Corvinilor)
How to get here
One can find multiple low-cost planes that fly here from the capital – Bucharest. There are also a lot of connections by trains and buses from all the major cities around Europe like Geneva, Zurich, Vienna and Frankfurt.
You can hop on a flight from Bucharest – Otopeni to Traian Vuia International Airport, the airport is only 6 km away from the city center, and taxis are available and not very pricey. Another option, if you want to see the picturesque scenery is to take the train from Gara de Nord (the North Train station in Bucharest), but the trip is rather long, or a bus if you want a quicker option and want to avoid flying. Of course, there’s always the option of driving there in a rented car ( which we did!) or even hunt for bus pool services that allow you to find a driver going that way that you can split the gas with. This gives you more flexibility, but be aware that the road infrastructure and schedule can still be improved.
If I have learned something after traveling so much on the road all these years, is that small towns like Timișoara are sometimes more whimsical and enjoyable than big capital cities. Many big cities have similar infrastructure and expected standards of modernization/historical monuments after a while, but a small city will allow you to see a few unique interesting touches to the town and experience the culture better. People are usually more friendly and not in as much a hurry and there is always time for exchange of smile, stories and local experiences.