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Sighișoara is one of the last remaining inhabited fortified Saxon cities of Transylvania, its Old Town a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This vibrant, endearing medieval city may not be very large, but it packs a punch in terms of history, culture, and gastronomy. Sighișoara is best-known for its location of Vlad Tepes’ birthplace – the figure who drew the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s classic novel, Dracula. Sighișoara isn’t all vampires and urban myths, however – there are plenty of things to do in Sighișoara to spend a few days.
- 1. guided walking tour
- 2. explore the citadel
- 3. visit all nine tower guilds
- 4. people watch in piața cetății
- 5. clock tower & history museum
- 6. visit vlad tepes’ birthplace
- 7. check out scholars’ stair passage
- 8. explore lower town
- 9. church on the hill
- 10. monastery church
- 11. holy trinity church
- 12. get lost
- 13. walking food tour
- 14. saschiz
- 15. seasonal events
- 16. souvenir shopping
- pin it
1. guided walking tour
Photo c/o Steve from The Trip Goes On
One of my very favorite ways to acclimate to a new city is to take a walking tour upon arrival. Usually filled with lesser-known stories and personal anecdotes, a walking tour will give you a crash-course into the city’s layout, history, culture, and personality.
While many larger cities tend to have a good selection of free walking tours, Sighișoara isn’t very big, and this paid tour from Carpathian Travel Center is one of the only options. The tour lasts approximately two hours, which is much longer than you would expect for the free version. Charles is an excellent guide, knowledgeable and professional, and knew the city like the back of his hand. Prices start at $35 USD depending on the size of the group.
2. explore the citadel
If you skip out on the walking tour, you may miss the fact that the entirety of Sighișoara’s Historic Centre is the Sighișoara Citadel! When the Saxon colonists first began work on the citadel in the 12th century, the primary intent was to protect against Turkish attacks on the city. The fortifications were erected much later, not until the 17th or 18th century.
Today, you can retrace the steps of the Saxon colonists as you walk along the perimeter of the original city walls, admire the most ancient structures (such as the Monastery Church and the Church on the Hill), as well as nine of the original fourteen tower guilds.
3. visit all nine tower guilds
When Sighișoara was originally established, there were fourteen tower guilds decorating the city walls to serve as additional fortifications. Today, nine of the fourteen remain, which are available to visit. The tower guilds all enjoy cutesy, old-timey names related to different guilds of the time. For example, pictured above is the Ironsmiths’ Tower. Not only is the tower named after the Ironsmith of the time, but the Ironsmith is the one who built and maintained it! This is the case for all of the towers of Sighișoara.
The other towers that remain include the Clock Tower, Ropemaker’s Tower, Tailor’s Tower, Shoemaker’s Tower, Tinsmith’s Tower, and more.
4. people watch in piața cetății
Photo c/o Steve from The Trip Goes On
At some point during your stay in Sighișoara, you’ll undoubtedly be seated at one of the cafés or terraces in Piaţă Cetății for lunch or dinner. This is the densest concentration of terraces in the city, and with stunning Gothic architecture to enjoy as the perfect Transylvanian backdrop.
Whether it’s for a morning coffee or evening cocktail, the people-watching is never dull in Piaţă Cetății and is one of the most relaxing things to do in Sighișoara, particularly after a day of sightseeing.
5. clock tower & history museum
Sighișoara’s Clock Tower is undoubtedly the best-known of the city’s guild towers, as well as the easiest to find – you can see it from almost anywhere in the city when scanning the horizon.
The Clock Tower itself is nice, but of particular interest is the history museum at the top. Here you can glimpse some sweeping views of the city, as well as learn about local history dating back to Roman times. The museum admission is 15 RON for adults, 7 RON for students or children.
6. visit vlad tepes’ birthplace
A man of many names, Vlad Tepes aka Vlad the Impaler aka Vlad Dracul was born in Sighișoara in the 15th century. While this is a great place to visit to soak up the local history, be sure you do some research before or after your visit. Unfortunately, Casa Dracul itself provides very little historical context.
It’s a bit on the kitschy side (ok, it’s suuuuper cheesy), with a restaurant and pub downstairs. However, for only a couple of lei it’s worth a stop. Or, stop to take a photo of the building’s outer façade. Still, it’s a point of interest and definitely among the most popular things to do in Sighișoara!
7. check out scholars’ stair passage
Set just to the south of Piața Cetății, you’ll stumble upon a covered staircase, which leads up to a small school and the Church on the Hill. The staircase consists of 175 steps. It was initially built to provide shelter to school children and church goers during the harsh winter months.
There’s no entrance fee to make the ascent, just go as you please. If you want to visit the Church on the Hill, however, expect to pay a couple of lei.
Climbing the steps is one of the most popular things to do in Sighișoara (almost like a rite-of-passage).
8. explore lower town
The lower town of Sighișoara lies beyond the boundaries of the citadel, in the valley of the Târnava Mare river. Pass through the ancient city gates to leave the citadel and enter into the lower (new) town.
From here, you can discover different vantage points of the city and truly appreciate the magnitude of the citadel from afar.
There isn’t quite as much to see or appreciate in the lower town. However, if you’re looking for the best food in Sighișoara, this is where you’ll find it. While the citadel has restaurants galore, they are more tourist-oriented (read: expensive) and usually of lower quality. In the lower town, you can find more variety, higher quality, and lower prices.
9. church on the hill
After making the 175-step ascent up the Scholars’ Stairs, you’ll reach the Church on the Hill (Biserica din Deal) and the adjacent German cemetery. The church, though relatively modest, has beautiful frescoes on the interior that were only (semi) recently uncovered during renovations.
Head down the stairs once you’re inside to visit the crypt (the only crypt in Transylvania). You won’t find any bodies here, however, as the crypt is empty – though still a bit spooky!
Entrance to Biserica din Deal is 8 lei.
10. monastery church
The Monastery Church of Sighișoara, also called Biserica Mănăstirii Dominicane, is a Gothic church built in the 13th century. The church has been rebuilt a number of times between the 15th and 16th centuries due to Mongol and Tatar invasions. It was rebuilt again after the great fire in Sighișoara in the 17th century.
Today, mass is still held for the Saxon community at the Monastery Church.
11. holy trinity church
The Holy Trinity Church in Sighișoara is one of the city’s most beautiful buildings. Biserica Sfânta Treime din Sighişoara, as it is called in Romanian, is a neo-Byzantine Orthodox Cathedral situated on the Târnava Mare River. When driving through Sighișoara en route to other Transylvanian cities, you drive right past it.
Since it is the seat of an archpriest rather than a bishop, it is technically a church rather than a cathedral, though it is referred to as such. It’s one of the newer buildings in the city, having only been built in the 20th century!
12. get lost
With the winding, hilly streets of Sighișoara paired with the vibrant buildings and quaint outdoor terraces, not much else is better than getting a little lost. Exploring the streets of the city is one of the most leisurely things to do in Sighișoara. Not to mention, it’s free! The best part is, no matter how far you wander, you can find your way back from the Clock Tower!
Be sure to wear appropriate shoes for walking on cobblestones!
13. walking food tour
Traditional Romanian food is worth taking the time to savor. What better way to do so than with a food tour!? Transylvanian cuisine is an amalgam of the different cultures that have made their mark on the region over the centuries. Romanian, Hungarian, Ottoman, Saxon, Austrian – you get the picture.
The tour lasts just under five hours, providing ample time to explore the different cultural influences on the local cuisine. In addition to the food and drinks that are included, you also get a few Transylvanian recipes to take home! Save this tour for a day with nice weather, as most of the tour takes place outdoors.
Located just 20km from Sighișoara is the commune of Saschiz. Best-known for its medieval fortress and church built by Transylvanian Saxons, whose ruins sit upon a large hill overlooking the village below. Saschiz is definitely worth a stop, as it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site (as of 1999).
The drive takes just 20 minutes, making it doable on your own or by taxi. At a taxi rate of just $2-3 USD, don’t even bother trying to take public transportation.
15. seasonal events
Depending on the time of year you visit Sighișoara, you may be lucky enough to experience one of the city’s many seasonal events. Among the most popular are the Sighișoara Medieval Festival, which happens each year in late July. The entire city comes alive with costumes, performances, and reenactments. It’s by far the most popular yearly event in the city.
16. souvenir shopping
Want to take home some kitschy, Dracula-inspired souvenirs for friends and family, or something more authentic like Romanian pottery? Sighișoara is a great place to pick up souvenirs for the return home. The souvenir shops here seem to be more authentic than in other, larger Transylvanian cities such as Brașov or Cluj-Napoca. Check out Autentic Romanesc in Piaţă Cetății.