A ridiculous Ryanair flight deal (about $6.50 return!) convinced us to head to Timisoara, Romania, for a city trip. A pretty unusual destination, don’t you think? Obviously you’ve heard about Romania and its capital Bucharest. You’re probably even aware of the existence of Dracula’s Castle (officially Bran Castle). But Timisoara? Doesn’t ring a bell. Well, the biggest asset of this university city is its beautiful architecture. It shows that Timisoara, nicknamed Little Vienna, has been influenced by many different cultures over the years. A self-guided walking tour through the city center is our favourite thing to do in Timisoara. A great way to explore and admire the beauty of the third-largest city in Romania.
So, what should you do in Timisoara?
Try the local beer at Fabrica de Bere Timisoreana
The Fabrica de Bere Timisoreana was the first beer factory in Romania. In the same building, there’s Curtea Berarilor Timisoreana La Fabrica, the factory pub. It doesn’t stand out on the outside, but the inside looks like a barn, with its high ceiling and cross-beams. The space is filled with heavy wooden tables and chairs, about half of them filled with people having a drink or dinner.
Instead of shipping the beer in bottles or kegs, it flows to the pub through pipes coming directly from the factory next door. We tried both the filtered and unfiltered version of the local beer called Timisoreana, and had a pint of Ursus as well. We, Belgian beer connaisseurs *ahum*, would say the filtered Timisoreana has less flavour than the unfiltered one (what a surprise!) and Ursus Black tastes a lot like coffee.
We visited this pub on our first night in Timisoara, and had dinner there as well. Brecht went with the Meniul Printului (the Prince’s Menu according to the English version of the menu), a mixed grill plate with pork chops, chicken breast, and mici. He really liked the mici (or mititei), an unofficial national dish. These rolls are a mix of grilled veal and pork minced meat. I chose the Pork Ribs, which tasted like they were heated instead of grilled. As side dishes, we got chewy bread and pickled vegetables. For dessert we ordered papanasi, a traditional fried pastry filled with a soft cheese and some kind of jam. The food was OK, but we wouldn’t particularly recommend this place for the food. Do visit to try the local beer though!
Admire the gorgeously renovated public squares in Timisoara
We stayed in Timisoara for 2 nights, meaning we only had 1 full day to explore the city. We started that day with a pretty good breakfast at Zai Après Café, right in the center of Timisoara. It’s just a block away from Piata Unirii, or Union Square, our next stop.
Piata Unirii is probably the cutest square I’ve ever seen, surrounded by beautifully coloured houses. It’s the largest site of Baroque architecture in Timisoara and definitely worth a visit! It’s a great spot for some people watching in a gorgeous setting. No wonder this square is one of the favourite hangouts of the locals (and mine!). Stunning buildings are lined up around Piata Unirii, making for some great (and colourful) photos.
There’s two cathedrals on opposite sides of the square: the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral and the, slightly more eye-catching, Catholic Cathedral. The impressive Baroque Palace (on the south side) used to be the governor’s residence, but now houses the Museum of Fine Arts. On a side note: Piata Unirii might be the oldest square in town, but it has one of the nicest public toilets I’ve ever seen. Make sure you have to pee when visiting!
Another, bigger, must visit square in Timisoara is Piata Victoriei, or Victory Square. Flanked by the Cathedral in the south and the Opera House in the north, this is the busiest square in Timisoara. In between there’s a bunch of cafés, a lot of green, even more pigeons, and the Fish Fountain. After we saw the pigeons fly away all at once (worth the wait), we walked over to the Cathedral, or Romanian Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral in full, for a closer look. You really can’t miss it, towering above Piata Victoriei in all its red and green glory. It’s pretty impressive.
Without even knowing it, we crossed Piata Traian, or Traian Square, as well. It’s a former industrial and trading area. We discovered we must have passed it, because we’ve seen the Biserica Catolica Millennium, or the Millennium Church, which is near the square. In our defence: it was night.
Check out the Street Art
While wandering through the streets of Timisoara, make sure to keep your eyes open for any street art. Plenty of graffiti artists (and a few vandals) using the city as their canvas. Quite a few different styles to be found!
Enjoy the Romanian food
We already tried two traditional Romanian dishes at Curtea Berarilor Timisoreana La Fabrica: mici (some kind of sausage) and papanasi (a fried pastry filled with cheese and jam). Brecht liked the mici, but we weren’t head over heels for the papanasi. On our second, and last, night in Timisoara, we had dinner at Casa Bunicii, or in English: Grandma’s House. As you might have guessed, they serve traditional Romanian food in a setting that reminds of a grandma’s house.
It’s a bit of a challenge to find this hidden gem of a restaurant, as there’s no clear signage on the outside. Just enter the gate of a white building and after a couple of meters you’ll see the entrance of the restaurant on your right.
After a long hard look at the menu we decided to go with the “Casa Bunicii” platter to share (88.95 RON). It had sesame-coated chicken breast, Banatian pork scruff (with mushrooms, bacon, and cheese), filet mignon with cherry sauce, Banatian potatoes with leek, and rice with veggies. It’s nothing fancy, just a down to earth meal, but it was pretty good. We especially loved the potatoes, but stay away from the bread. A weird observation we made: they served their red wine cold instead of at room temperature.
When you’re looking for a quick lunch that’s not necessarily traditional Romanian cuisine, we can recommend Suppa Bar. It’s a small soup restaurant, serving 5 different soups daily. You can find the English menu written on the windows. It’s only 9 RON for a 400ml cup, and you can add some toasted or regular bread for free. It smells delicious inside, and I loved the interior. We didn’t particularly like the French Potato Cream soup, but the Indian Tomato Cream Garam Masala was really good. We couldn’t help ourselves and ordered a delicious piece of chocolate cake for dessert (4 RON).
Have a drink in a unique café
Before or after your traditional Romanian dinner at Casa Bunicii, you should definitely have a drink at Scart Loc Lejer. This quirky café is hidden away in a regular looking house. It looks closed, but it isn’t, just go in! You’ll find a unique interior, a fun atmosphere, and boardgames on loan. They have a menu, but not in English, so we ordered the usual: Brecht a beer, I hot chocolate. No hot chocolate though, so I switched to raspberry tea. It was delicious, and believe me when I say you get a lot of tea for your money. Afterwards we read their garden is supposed to be nice too, but the weather didn’t allow for an outside drink anyway.
Wander through the lush parks in Timisoara
Timisoara has a lot of parks compared to the size of the city and its population. We only visited a couple of them. It was fall at the time, so they weren’t as alive and lush as they probably are in spring and summer. Instead of enjoying the sun (there was none), we hunted for geocaches.
Like almost every city, Timisoara has Botanical Gardens called Parcul Botanic, or Botanic Park. It’s the biggest park in Timisoara, popular with joggers in spring and summer. Although there was no sun, we did enjoy reading a book on one of the benches, while listening to the birds whistle. We also briefly visited Parcul Central, or Central Park, situated next to the Cathedral on Piata Victoriei. On our way back to our hostel, we walked along the Bega River, making a short detour through Parcul Rozelor, or Roses Park.
Although Timisoara isn’t an obvious choice when booking a city trip, we really do recommend it. It’s perfect for a short city trip on a budget: cheap flights, cheap food, and lots of things to do in Timisoara for free. Can you believe we spent less than €100 per person for this city trip? That includes the transportation, accommodation, and food. Have we convinced you yet?
Timisoara in short
Currency? RON, Romanian Leu (1 RON = 0.22 EUR = 0.24 USD)
How to get there? Plane, bus
Where to stay? Hostel Costel
Highlights? Piata Unirii, Piata Victoriei
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