City Guide to Sighisoara: Exploring, Must See Attractions, and Tips
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We’d argue that a visit to the Transylvania region in Romania isn’t complete without some time spent in Sighisoara. Our original plans while visiting Romania didn’t include a stop in this charming city, however, we’re glad that our travels brought us there. It was the perfect place to stop between the Transfagarasan Highway (a once in a lifetime, world’s best road trip!) and Cluj-Napoca, Romania. There are many reasons to add this town to your bucket list, just take your pick:
- It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- The citadel dates back to the 12th century, making it a great place to discover and learn about the Transylvanian Saxons.
- The city is full of color! Each house is painted in a different bright or pastel color, making the narrow, cobble stone streets extremely charming.
- It’s in the heart of Romania’s Transylvania region. The tales of Vlad Dracula, vampires, and castles are strong here.
- Explore the history of Vlad III (aka Vlad the Impaler), who is said to have been born here. While being known as the inspiration for Dracula, he was also a strong military leader of Romanians, protecting them against the Turks.
Let’s Cover the Basics:
Sighisoara is in central Romania, on the Târnava Mare River and in Mures County. It’s also in the heart of Romania’s historic Transylvania region. As a point of reference, Sighisoara is 290 kilometers (180 miles) northwest of Bucharest and 157 kilometers (97 miles) southeast of Cluj Napoca.
How Old is Sighisoara?
The area where Sighisoara is situated has been occupied since the first century CE, when the Dacians inhabited the area and built a fortification named Sandava. Then, during the 12th century, Transylvanian Saxons built the current fortress, also known as the citadel. It was first known as Castrum Sex, which translates literally to Fort Six, meaning six-sided camp. Sighisoara has been known by many names over the centuries, but was first referred to as Sighisoara by Vlad Dracul, Vlad the Impaler's father, in 1431.
How to Pronounce Sighisoara?
Based just on the spelling, Sighisoara can be a bit of a challenge to learn to pronounce. We learned to pronounce it as ‘See-gi-shwa-ra’. As we know though, the best way to learn to properly say something is by hearing it. We recommend using this audio guide to practice your pronunciation of Sighisoara.
Where to Eat in Sighisoara?
- Casa Vlad Dracul – Probably the most famous and most visited restaurant in Sighisoara is Casa Vlad Dracul. It’s the former home of Vlad Dracula, aka Vlad the Impaler and Vlad Tepes. Come for a traditional dinner and, if you choose, pay a few Euro to see the room where he was born. Location: Strada Cositorarilor 5, Sighișoara 545400, Romania
- La Perla – A popular pizza place located in the center of town. Location: Piața Hermann Oberth 15, Sighișoara 545400, Romania
- Cafe Piata Cetatii – A great café in the main square. Location: Piata Cetatii, Sighisoara 545400, Romania
- Casa cu Cerb – Located in the main square and easy to spot since a deer head is mounted on an exterior corner of the building. They serve traditional Romanian dishes. Location: Strada Școlii 1, Sighișoara 545400, Romania
- Gigi Covrigi Traditionale – A great place to come for traditional pretzels and bakery items. Location: Str. Muresenilor nr. 22, Brasov Romania, Romania
What’s Near Sighisoara?
There are six international airports near Sighisoara. In our travels, we found that Bucharest (OTP) and Cluj-Napoca (CLJ) were the easiest to fly into.
Nearby Castles and Fortified Churches
- Apold Fortified Church – 8 miles south of Sighisoara
- The Fortified Church at Saschiz – 10 miles east of Sighisoara
- Saschiz Fortified Church – A UNESCO World Heritage Site, 12 miles east of Sighisoara
- The Fortified Church Biertan – a UNESCO World Heritage Site, 18 miles west of Sighisoara
- Apafi Castle – 11 miles west of Sighisoara
- Bran Castle – 86 miles south of Sighisoara
- Peles Castle – 102 miles south of Sighisoara
- Malancrav (Mălâncrav) - 15 miles southwest of Sighisoara
- Darjiu (Dârjiu) - 22 miles west of Sighisoara
- Valea Viilor – 32 miles southwest of Sighisoara
Nearby Hiking Trails
If exploring Sighisoara and climbing the hill to the fortress isn’t enough, be sure to check out local hiking trails!
Festivals in Sighisoara
Sighisoara is home to many festivals throughout the year. The anticipated one being the yearly Medieval Festival, which takes place each July. Visitors will be immersed in the celebrations with costume reenactments, concerts, parades, and plenty of beer and food to go around! Be sure to check the official Romanian events calendar to see what’s going on during your visit. Sighisoara seems to offer something for everyone, from a Horse Show and Vampire Festival to a Blues Festival.
Sighisoara Tourist Information Centers
Sighisoara Tourist Information Centre
Address: Str. Octavian Goga, nr. 8
Telephone: +40 0265 770-415
Sighisoara Tourist Information Centre
Address: Piaţa Muzeului nr. 6 – Cetate
Getting to Sigoara and Exploring!
Our travels in Romania began with a month long stay in Bucharest before we made our way to the unforgettable Transfagarasan Highway. From there we spent a night in Sibui, with a great Airbnb host, before continuing on to Sighisoara by train. We’ve been on many trains throughout Europe during our travels, but the trains in Romania were a different experience. They’re not as modern, comfortable, or as fast as other trains we’ve been on, but we’re not complaining. Honestly, the age and slower speed of the trains added to the experience of the countryside, along with the fields of corn and sunflowers that we passed on the train ride. There was limited air-conditioning and the trains were packed, so it was a bit, shall we say, ‘stuffy’ at times. However, we had a chance to meet new people and pass through areas of Romania that we wouldn’t have otherwise. Some of the towns we passed through were so small that the train stopped at what could barely be categorized as a train station. The train we were on to and from Sighisoara seemed to be a daily route and a train that locals took to commute from one place to another.
On the train, being surrounded by other travelers and their large, heavy, cumbersome bags reminded us of the gratitude we have for lightweight and one bag travel! Once the train arrived in Sighisoara, we grabbed our backpacks and were able to quickly disembark the train, minding the three-foot drop to the platform, of course. The station was quaint and everything you’d expect from a small countryside train station. There was nothing fancy like an underground passageway or bridge to walk from one platform to the next. No, instead, along with everyone else, we crossed over the tracks to exit the platform and the train station.
From the train station we walked across town, through the ‘newer’ suburban area, and made our way to our Airbnb (use our link and $40 off your first stay!) that we’d booked ahead of time. It was in a great location, just a couple of blocks from the citadel and the old town center. Everything in Sighisoara is in close proximity, so even though there’s public transportation, we didn’t need it. We walked everywhere, which not only got us from point A to point B, but we’re able to enjoy all of the scenery in-between. Whether you’re enjoying the amazingly preserved old fortified city in the center of the city, or walking around the suburban streets of Sighisoara, you’re bound to enjoy the sights. The medieval buildings can’t be missed, as their intricate and decorative facades were absolutely beautiful and varied from building to building. Each home had it’s own personality with a different color of paint, from off-white and soft pastels to bright colors. To top it all off, the streets were lined with roses and it seemed that on almost every block there were at least a few fruit trees. We saw everything from apples and pears (sadly not ripe during our time there) to plums and grapes!
Must See Attractions in Sighisoara
- Best Time to Sightsee in Sighisoara
- The Fortification Towers
- Clock Tower (Turnul cu Ceas)
- Vlad Dracula House
- Church on the Hill (Biserica din Deal)
- The Church of the Dominican Monastery (Biserica Mănăstirii Dominicane)
- The Scholars' Stairs (Scara Şcolarilor)
- Holy Trinity Church (Biserica Sfânta Treime)
- Exploring Beyond Sighisoara
Sighisoara’s attraction list is short and can be easily seen in half a day. However, once you step into the city and its old walls, you’ll be lost in time. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself lost in the charm of the streets, the colors, and the beautiful architecture! A full day to enjoy the slower pace of life in this well-preserved, beautiful town is the bare minimum. If you’re one to enjoy exploring the town, or one to enjoy sitting in the various cafes looking out on the city, then we’d highly recommend setting aside a couple of days here.
Before arriving in Sighisoara, we explored the possible activities and sightseeing attractions in the town. We gathered up everything amazing to see and do and placed it on our digital map. To possibly make your research on sightseeing in Sighisoara (and other destinations) easier, we’ve kept our maps with all of the information we gathered (accurate at the time of our sightseeing). Finding hours, prices, and general information can sometimes be challenging, so we’ve tried to include these details on our maps and provide appropriate links. And finally, not every attraction is suitable for every visitor, but the copywriters and marketing departments for the destinations sure make it sound like it. How many times have you read “Great for kids and adults alike” and shown up at the venue to wonder why anyone over 20 years-old without kids would go out of their way to be there? Below we’ve included our itinerary with tips, impressions, and our takeaways on each place that, when combined with the official attraction information and website, may help you decide if it’s a destination for your travel adventure or not.
NOTE: We used this sightseeing map for our personal sightseeing adventures, because of that, some notes may not make perfect sense, and some information could be outdated. Information on this map was valid at the time of creation. All prices are shown in US dollars but are actually Romanian LEI (local currency). That being said, feel free to save it to your Google account and use it as a starting point (or modify it accordingly) for planning out your personalized itinerary in Sighisoara.
Best Time to Sightsee in Sighisoara
Sighisoara is a city that not surprisingly, draws many tourists, so don’t be surprised to see tour buses and large crowds of people in the city. If you’re anything like us, then you’ll very much enjoy having the cobble stone streets, the town square, and the many stairways up to the citadel to yourself. We found that leaving our hotel between 7 am and 8 am gave us a good hour or two to explore the old city while it and its visitors still seemed to be asleep. It was the best time to take pictures, enjoy the serenity, and explore the streets. Then, when shop owners started opening their doors and putting out their goods, and visitors started to meander towards the attractions, we were able to visit the clock tower just as the doors were opened.
The Fortification Towers
During the 12th century, in an effort to protect the eastern borders of the Hungarian kingdom, the King of Hungary invited German craftsman and merchants to what’s now known as Sighisoara. The city wasn't only in a strategic location, but it had also become a hub of merchants and artisans, making it one of the most important cities in the Transylvanian region. Each guild was responsible for building, maintaining, and defending one of the 14 fortification towers in the city. The towers were unique, in that they were fortresses in and of themselves. Meaning, that even if one was captured, the integrity of the city as a whole would continue.
Along the half-mile defensive wall, only 9 of the 14 fortification towers remain. All of the towers can be seen from the outside, however only one, the Clock Tower, is open to the public. As a notable event in the town’s history, a large fire engulfed Sighisoara in 1676 and many of the towers, homes, and buildings were destroyed or damaged and later underwent repairs and rebuilding.
Sighisoara Clock Tower (Turnul cu Ceas)
This is a central attraction in Sighisoara, and one we cover it in more depth below.
The Tinsmiths' Tower (Turnul Cositorarilor)
The Tinsmiths' Tower was built in the 13th century and is 25 meters (82 feet) high. This tower is quite uniquely shaped and has a square base, followed by a pentagonal section that was added in the 16th century, and then topped with a widened eight-sided section and a hexagonal tiled roof. If you look closely, the tower still shows the damage from bullets during a siege by Hungarians (1704-1706).
The Cobblers’ Tower (Turnul Cizmarilor)
The Cobblers’ Tower protects the northeast side of the Citadel. The original tower was destroyed in the 1676 fire and the current one was built in 1681. Also, the bastion of artillery for this tower was destroyed in 1846 and the wooden staircase on the tower wasn’t added until 2001.
The Tanners' Tower (Turnul Tăbăcarilor)
The Tanners’ Tower dates back to the 13th and 14th centuries and is in the southeast part of the citadel. Its purpose was to protect the town square and the courtyard of the Clock Tower. Amazingly, this tower wasn’t damaged by the 1676 fire.
The Tailors' Tower (Turnul Croitorilor)
The Tailors’ Tower is, aside from the Clock Tower, the largest and most impressive tower of the Citadel. Its size and design are signs of the wealth of the Tailors’ Guild at the time. It’s located opposite the Clock Tower and stands at the second entrance to the Citadel, where the two archways are actively being used to usher pedestrian and vehicle traffic in and out. The tower was originally built in the 13th and 14th centuries, but the upper section was destroyed during the 1676 fire when the gunpowder being stored inside exploded after being ignited by the fire. During your visit, be sure to look up at the tower and you’ll notice the downward-facing openings that were used to pour boiling oil on invaders!
The Blacksmiths’ Tower (Turnul Fierarilor)
The primary purpose of the Blacksmiths' Tower was to protect the Monastery Church. As such, it’s located behind the church and on the northeast side of the Citadel. The tower was re-purposed as a fire station in 1874. When viewing it from the inside of the Citadel walls, don’t be fooled by it’s short stature; from outside the walls it’s impressively large.
The Furriers' Tower (Turnul Cojocarilor)
The Furriers’ Tower has a simple design and dates to the 14th century. It was rebuilt in the 16th century and repairs were necessary after damage from the 1676 fire.
The Ropemakers' Tower (Turnul Frânghierilor)
The Ropemakers’ Tower, that dates back to the 13th century, is thought to be one of the oldest buildings in Sighisoara, because its foundations are on the pre-Saxon citadel walls. It’s also the only remaining inhabited tower of the nine in Sighisoara. It’s currently used as a guard house for the cemetery of the Church on the Hill in Sighisoara (Biserica din Deal).
The Butchers' Tower (Turnul Măcelarilor)
The Butchers’ Tower protects the western side of the Citadel and was originally built in the 15th century. It had to be re-built in the 16th century to raise it above the bastion built directly in front of it, so that it would enlarge the field of view. During its rebuilding, it was reconstructed in a hexagonal shape with three floor and historical writings indicate that it housed five arquebuses (a long gun), a few cannonballs, and gunpowder.
Clock Tower (Turnul cu Ceas)
The History and Architectural Features
The Clock Tower is among the most beautiful clock towers in the region, and rightfully so. The Clock Tower is the main tower of the Citadel and protects the main entrance to the walled city. It’s no surprise then that the base walls are 2.35 meters (7.70 feet) thick and the second floor walls are 1.30 meters (4.25 feet) thick! The clock tower was a public tower, housing Town Hall until 1556, and unlike the other towers wasn’t maintained and protected by just one guild. It was a public good and responsibility, therefore protected by all. The tower can be seen from almost all places in the city and is unmistakable. It was built in the 14th century and was expanded in the 16th century, after the fires of 1676, to reach its current height of 64 meters (210 feet). During the expansion, the Baroque features of the roof were added, but the colorful tiles you see today weren’t added until 1894. When visiting, take notice of the four small spires you see on each corner of the roof, they're said to signify that Sighisoara had judicial autonomy and the ‘right of the sword’ (ius gladii), meaning they had the right to impose capital punishment.
The clock on the tower is one of the most interesting parts of the tower. There are two facades to the clock, one facing into the Citadel and one facing into the lower city. Both sides of the clock are adorned with linden wood figurines that measure 80 centimeters (31.5 inches) in height. On the side facing the Citadel, four sets of figurines can be seen on the clock:
- Peace Goddess is to the left, holding an olive branch and a trumpet
- The Little Drummer is to the right, with a bronze drum
- Justice and Righteousness are in the center, Justice is blindfolded with a sword and Righteousness holds a balance.
- Day and Night are in the upper pulpit and are represented by two angels. At 6 am, the angel figurine representing day comes out to start the working day. At 6 pm, carrying two lit candles, the angel figurine representing night closes the working day.
On the side facing the lower city, seven figurines representing the days of the week can be seen on the clock
- Sunday symbolizes the metal gold and is represented by a woman crowned with sunbeams. Notice her hand positions, as it indicates that she lowers and raises the treasure of the Earth.
- Monday symbolizes the metal silver and is represented by Luna, the Goddess of the Moon, and by Diana, the Goddess of the Hunt.
- Tuesday symbolizes the metal iron and is represented by the God of War, Mars/Ares/Tiu. The symbol over his head is the zodiacal sign of Aries.
- Wednesday symbolizes the metal mercury and is represented by the God of Trade, Mercury.
- Thursday symbolizes the metal tin and is represented by the God of Thunder, Jupiter/Thor.
- Friday symbolizes the metal copper and is represented by the Goddess of Love and Beauty, Venus/Frya.
- Saturday symbolizes the metal lead and is represented by the God of Sewing and Seed, Saturn.
The Museum and Outlook Terrace
Inside the Clock Tower is a museum that spans across each floor of the tower. For 15 Lei (under $4 US dollars during our visit) you can explore the museum and learn the history of the town and the tower. It’s a quaint museum, however the real interesting part of it all is seeing the inside workings of the clock and an up-close view of the figurines. Arguably though, most visitors probably pass by the museum fairly quickly and make their way to the lookout deck. The stairs up are winding, narrow, and steep, so visitors should climb and descend them with caution. Once at the top, the observation deck is just a small step outside. It was originally a fantastic place to lookout over the city and surrounding areas and spot danger as it approached, whether it was enemies or fire. Today, it offers a 360 degree lookout over Sighisoara and the countryside beyond. On a clear day, views of the town and churches with beautiful tiled roofs, and the green countryside covered in thick green trees, can go on for miles. If you’re looking for the most picturesque views, we’d have to say they’re in the direction of city center. So, make note that, if you go in the morning, the sun will be shining brightly in this direction, casting strong shadows and washing out photos you may want to take.
Vlad Dracula House
The brightly painted yellow Vlad Dracula House is near Citadel Square, just past the Clock Tower. Today the building is a restaurant, Casa Dracula, but historically it was home to Vlad Dracula, who was part of the Order of the Dragon. Hence the name Dracula, which comes from the Latin word for dragon, ‘draco’, and the meaning behind the dragon sign that adorns the front of the building. What makes this home famous though, is that Vlad Tepes (aka Vlad the Impaler, the son of Vlad Dracula and the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, was born here in 1431. While he only lived here until he was four, in addition to a meal, you can pay a small fee to see the room he lived in.
Church on the Hill (Biserica din Deal)
Located at the highest point of the citadel, at 429 meters (1,407 feet) elevation, this church can be seen from all directions. To reach the church we climbed the Scholars’ Stairs and took the path to the left to wind around the outside of the church. One of the first things we noticed was the simplicity of the church, inside and out, which is likely due to the limited means of the city when it was constructed. The church is an evangelical church dedicated to St. Nicholas and dates back to the 13th century, although it underwent renovations in the Gothic style in the 14th and 15th centuries. Sadly, an earthquake in 1838 caused the collapse of the vault above the choir, which today you’ll notice was replaced with a wooden imitation. Renovations in the 20th century uncovered portions of wall paintings throughout the church, two of which are of particular note. The first is the unique fresco in the archway that depicts the Holy Trinity as a three-faced entity and the second is the Last Judgement painting that doesn’t show purgatory. Admission to the church was 8 Lei during our visit.
Additionally, when exiting the church, you may choose to visit the old Saxon cemetery directly across the cobblestone pathway and opposite the church’s entrance.
The Church of the Dominican Monastery (Biserica Mănăstirii Dominicane)
This church was first written about in documents from 1298 CE and became the city’s official Lutheran church in 1556. The church was repaired after the fire of 1676 and obtained its present look after repairs in 1929. When visiting, be sure to see the Transylvanian renaissance carved altarpiece from 1680, the bronze baptismal font from 1440, the carved stone door frame in Transylvanian renaissance style from 1570, and the collection of 16th and 17th century Oriental carpets. Admission was 8 Lei during our visit.
The Scholars' Stairs (Scara Şcolarilor)
This unique medieval structure connects the lower citadel with the School and Church on the Hill. The covered staircase was built to protect school children and churchgoers from winter weather and was originally 300 stairs long when it was built in 1642. However, in 1849, the staircase was reduced to the current 175 stairs. The wood sheltered staircase is quite unique, and while it’s a climb, we think it’s worth the effort for the experience, as well as reaching the top and visiting the Church on the Hill.
Holy Trinity Church (Biserica Sfânta Treime)
This Roman Orthodox Church is on the northern bank of the Tarnava Mare River and can be reached by a pedestrian bridge. The church was built between 1934 and 1937 in a Byzantine style and dedicated to the Saint Trinity. Even though this church isn’t in city center, we recommend a visit inside to take in the ornate interior! Admission is free.
Exploring Beyond Sighisoara
If you’re in Romania and enjoy the citadel in Sighisoara, you may consider taking a tour of all seven of the medieval Transylvanian Saxon citadels, known as ‘Siebenbürgen’. They are spread across the region and located in:
- Bistrita (Bistritz)
- Brasov (Kronstadt)
- Cluj Napoca (Klausenburg)
- Medias (Mediasch)
- Sebes (Mühlbach)
- Sibiu (Hermannstadt)
Sighisoara captured our whimsical imaginations and was such a great place to visit! It’s a rare opportunity to be able to explore the streets of such a well preserved citadel and UNESCO World heritage site. Romania has so many treasures to explore, and we’d highly recommend visiting Sighisoara!