The Little Vienna
After a while since our first, and only visit to Romania before with Bucharest, Bran and Brasov; we return right in time benefiting from Ryanair’s new route from London Stansted on their introductory fare. Something we could not resist, furthermore their flight times could not be any better! Giving us the entire weekend over there, without having to rush away from work on Friday evening to the airport. I wish many of the European routes with any airline would be as good as this timetable.
Timisoara is Romania’s third largest city, yet second after Bucharest in regards to tourism, industry, economy and education. It’s location is also very favourable on the west of the country, very near the border with Serbia and Hungary; and its architecture, heritage from the times it was part of the Hungarian Empire has resulted in receiving the nickname of Little Vienna. The entire historic quarter retains almost intact its original fabric, with beautiful late 19th and early 20th century buildings among older palaces, cathedrals and churches.
It is very wrong when sometimes we think about Romania and come to our minds what we get through the news, unfaithfully believing that either the country is poor, their people untrustful or “not much” to see and do. It is actually all the opposite! And I already knew this after visiting the beautiful capital and the idyllic Transylvania villages and castles through Bran and Brasov; and now strengthen with Timisoara, (and Arad the following day). This leads me only to want more of this country and having a great potential here with so many destinations to go.
Visiting the city is matter of just few hours since the historical centre is very compact, with majority of the streets pedestrianised and a short walk from edge to edge. If you were originally planning to spend a full weekend in the city, then let me advice you to also include in your ideas visiting other cities or places as otherwise you might end up without anything else to do, especially if you are a heavy traveller as we are.
Nearby you have the beautiful city of Arad at just 60 kilometres north of Timisoara, and Szeged across the border in Hungary, 110 kilometres west, which also shares the border with Serbia. While Arad was immediately included in the plans for this weekend, with Szeged we left it as an “if we have time”.
For more information about Timisoara check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Romania’s currency is the Leu (RON). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Timisoara
- Parks That one of the city’s nicknames is “city of parks” does come for a reason. If you see a map where both the old town core and the new town around this is, in between it is entirely encircled by parks, notably the ones at the south.
-Central Park The nearest to the train station, at the southwest of the city. It has a nice central avenue with fountains and monuments.
-Cathedral Park Just across the road from the Central Park, it marks the south of the old town. Has a nice promenade along the riverside at the southern edge, while at the north its highlight is the Orthodox Cathedral.
-Justice Park The third park on the row, right after the Cathedral Park
- Boulevard Constantin Diaconovici Loga The major thoroughfare across the southern edge of the old town dividing this with the northern side of the three parks mentioned above, following a semicircle.
-Institute of Education By the northern end of the Justice Park. Beautiful typical Central European style building.
-Fine Arts High School Right behind the Institute of Education, another large building for architect lovers.
-City Hall At the next corner from the Institute of Education, housed on the former Commercial High School built in 1925.
-Banatul Philharmonic Across the road from the City Hall, in eclectic style.
-Holy Cross Church Towards the west of the boulevard, dating from 1911.
-Piarist Highschool In the same compounds of the Holy Cross Church that marks one of the corners, this is a very large school with a marvellous art-nouveau western front.
- Victory Square (Piaţa Victoriei) The largest square in the city, where many of the architectural symbols are. In a clockwise order starting at the south:
-Orthodox Cathedral At the southern end of the square (behind is the Cathedral Park) is one of the city’s landmark constructions.
-Revolution Memorial Reminder from the 1989 revolution.
-Széchényi Palace By the southern edge of the square, built in 1914.
-Dauerbach Palace Built in 1913 is the largest and most impressive in the square.
-Newhouse Palace Built in 1912 in an eclectic mix of Viennese Secession and Hungarian art-nouveau, right after the Dauerbach Palace at the same side.
-Lloyd Palace One of the symbolic constructions in Timisoara depicted in many postcards. It opens to the wider space in the square where the National Opera stands at the north end of the Victory Square.
-Weiss Palace The next corner building in the secession style. All this area resembles more the look of Vienna than anything else.
-Timisoara Hotel One of the best in the old city centre housed in a historical building from the late 19th century.
-National Opera At the northern end of the square, the oldest national opera company in Romania built in 1875 in Renaissance style. A first fire in 1880, then another in 1920 gave the current look in 1923, where the interior is kept in its original design, but the exterior added a bulky facade.
-Loeffler Palace Also falling into the secession style, opposite the Newhouse.
-Huniade Castle Behind the Loeffler Palace, is the oldest building still standing in the city, built during the reign of Charles I Robert in the 15th century. It is a branch of the Banat Museum. Right at the front you can see 2 street lamps, reminder that Timisoara was the first mainland European city with electric street light.
-Chamber of Commerce Opposite the Dauerbach Palace in the other side of the square.
- Liberty Square (Piaţa Libertăţii) The linking square between Liberty Square and the Unirii Square farther north within the old town. It is a street behind the National Opera, in the heart of the old town, characterised by the perfect orthogonal grid street urban plan.
-Military Casino One of the most important military constructions in the city from the 18th century. Occupies an entire side of the square, and is since 1996 the Museum and the Military Station.
-West City Radio The building with the corner cupola.
-Old City Hall Easy to spot for being the beautifully painted in red.
-Saint Nepomuk’s Statue In the centre of the square.
- Bulevardul Revoluției din 1989 Main street crossing the old town from west to east and through the Liberty Square. It is named 9th of May and Strada Proclamația de la Timișoara depending on the section.
-Dejan Palace Built in 1735 by the Deschan counsellor in neoclassic style.
-Mercy Palace Built in 1808 as the County House and Jail.
-Civic Park Main park inside the old town core.
-National Bank of Romania Branch At the east end Boulevard where it intersects the ring road.
-Central Post Office Immediately behind the National Bank building.
-Maria Theresa Bastion Reminder of the old fortifications that once protected the city. Not in the Boulevard itself but a street to the north along Hector Street, which passes underneath.
-Dicasterial Palace Just across the road from the Bastion, in pure Hungarian style, is the court headquarters for the Timis Court, Court of Appeal and Prosecutors.
- Union Square (Piaţa Unirii) The next major square in Timisoara, surrounded by beautiful late 19th and early 20th century buildings. Located by the northern end of the Old Town core. In a clockwise order from the south:
-Bruck House In art-nouveau style at the corner with Strada Florimund Mercy.
-Former Discount Bank At the southwest corner of the square, luxury flats since its conversion from bank to apartments.
-Serbian Bishops’ Palace Built in neo-Serbian style by the plans of Laszlo Sekely.
-Serbian Orthodox Church Next to the Bishops Palace, both forming a beautiful complex. Built in Baroque style in the 18th century.
-Casa Cu Lei Former residence of Prince Eugeniu de Savoya. It was built close to the Vienna Gate which was situated where Marasti Square is today which is behind this residence.
-Townhouses Especially beautiful the ones aligning the entire north side of the square, with their beautiful facades.
-Saint George’s Cathedral Known just as the Dome, completed in 1774, is right at the opposite side from the Serbian Church. In Baroque style with very rich interiors in combination with rococo elements.
The city is well served by the 3rd largest airport in the country, with frequent flights through the country and the rest of Europe, notably increasing their bases Ryanair and WizzAir. It is located 10 kilometres to the northeast, and linked to downtown by express bus line 4, and the main train station by line 4B for a fare of 2.5 RON per way.
Coming from other cities within Romania is generally a lengthily journey if by train or long distance buses. A new motorway still under construction (September 2016) will link Bucharest with Timisoara and farther beyond into Hungary. A better option is to fly internally with TAROM, the national airline of Romania which can be cheaper than a train ticket. There are direct daily international rail connections to Budapest, Vienna, Belgrade and Munich which can be handy as a night train to arrive there the following morning.
Within the city, although the historic old town core is walking distance all the way through, other parts of the city might require you to take some public transports, especially if you are staying outside the old town. There is a good network of trams, trolleys and buses, easy to use and inexpensive.
While we found a great selection of hotels even that the city is not of a large size, it is really easy and straightforward to find a nice deal too! And at a good hotel. You have plenty of choice around the city centre and along the main ring of gardens surrounding the city from where it is a short walk to the old town. Now, if you want something bigger of with more facilities, you might need to consider staying in the outskirts and commute from there (which if you have a rental car would be your perfect bet).
This was our idea, since we know this weekend would not be that hectic and busy walking kilometres everywhere visiting sights. No, it was all the opposite, a nice and relax weekend, visiting small cities hence why we decided to get a SPA hotel, enjoy the pools, bubble baths, steam room, sauna, etc.
We stayed at the SPA Ice Resort, in str. Calea Lugojului, nr. 27A. Located not fart east from the city, half way between the old town and the airport, it had all I mentioned above. And this was a great selection what we did. The staff was great, the facilities all perfect, and a nice included breakfast. Very quiet at night and comfortable bed. What else you really need?.