A vibrant cultural centre with a growing business profile, Timişoara, which was recently awarded the title of 2021 European Capital of Culture, is an exciting city break destination. A visit to the city will allow you to immerse yourself in Romanian history and discover great dishes while browsing great cafés and restaurants, as well as plan a fun nature escape.
Visit the place where the Romanian revolution started
The 1989 Romanian revolution was the catalyst behind Romania’s extraordinary transformation from one of the most oppressive dictatorial regimes of Central and Eastern Europe to a flourishing democracy with a growing economy. Take a walk in the Victoriei (Victory) Square and you will find yourself at the epicentre of this popular movement that toppled the Ceaușescu’s regime, literally walking in the footsteps of those who were the first to shout ‘Down with Communism!’
As the capital of the historic region of Banat, Timişoara has the best of its cuisine, which is hearty, no-fuss and with a strong focus on flavor. Its highlights, which include a pretty rare delicacy called Mâncare de brozbe cooked using rutabaga, as well as pork dishes Ciolan cu varză and Pulpă de porc la tavă, all of which can be sampled throughout the city’s restaurants, many located in the city’s old centre.
Join the locals for after-work drinks at one of the city’s lively rooftops. Take in the views and watch from above how the city’s pace slows down on its central streets, which are dotted with beautifully adorned historic buildings. By contrast, on the city’s many terraces and cafés, this is when the vibe picks up and the mood relaxes, preparing the ground for long evenings, especially in summer, under Timişoara’s famous balmy weather.
Due to its illustrious historical past as an important economic and cultural centre, the city is filled with architectural wonders. In fact, Timişoara is the Romanian city with the most buildings classified as historic monuments. The city’s Art Nouveau heritage is truly impressive and visible as soon as you enter the city centre. Take, for example, Piaţa Victoriei, surrounded on all sides by imposing Art Nouveau edifices, among which the most iconic, the Opera House, can be visited. Piaţa Unirii, on the other hand, is bordered by highly decorative Baroque buildings with colourful façades.
Timişoara’s Art Museum, hosted in the impressive Baroque Palace in the city centre, has an impressive decorative arts collection on display. Featuring 1,500 pieces of ceramics, glassware, watches, textiles and furniture, it was started by the museum’s founder, Ormós Zsigmond (1813-1894). The ceramics section, in particular, includes Meissen tableware, Sèvres porcelain, Secession-style vases made at the Zsolnay factory, and maiolica objects made in Urbino and Faenza. The glassware collection, on the other hand, showcases the local tradition via pieces made locally in the workshops of Transylvania and Banat. As for the temporary exhibitions, they change often and are always highly original.
Muzeul Satului Bănăţean showcases the architectural styles of traditional Romanian houses as well as those of minorities living in the area, namely the German and Hungarian minorities. That is why a walk among the houses of this open-air museum will reveal the characteristics and the spirit of the traditional civilisation of the region of Banat. The wooden, stone and earth houses are all original and were once lived in by villagers. After being purchased from villages in the Banat region, they were carefully dismantled and rebuilt using traditional techniques. Usually featuring two or three rooms, they invariably have a guest room, the most beautifully decorated in the house, highlighting the high value hospitality plays in Romanian culture.
Attend the 2021 European Capital of Culture events
In September 2016, Timișoara became 2021 European Capital of Culture, alongside Eleusis, Greece and Novi Sad in Serbia. For one calendar year, and a long period before that, the ‘city on the Bega River’, as it is known in Romania, will become a stage hosting a plethora of cultural events highlighting the city’s and the region’s cultural heritage and its European dimension. Expect concerts, performances, art exhibitions, traditional crafts fairs and more.
Timișoara has always had an edge over other Romanian cities, as well as over European capitals. In 1884, the city became Europe’s first to introduce public electric street lighting. On November 12 that year, Timișoara’s streets were lit by 731 electric lamps. Two of them still remain in their original spot, in front of the iconic Huniade Castle, housing the Banat Museum.
If you happen to be a Hungarian or German speaker, you can attend a play in your own native tongue while in Timişoara. The city’s German State Theatre and the Csiky Gergely Hungarian State Theatre have been offering performances in these language ever since their creation. The Mihai Eminescu National Theatre and the Merlin Puppet Theatre complete the list of the city’s four theatres, an impressive number outside of the capital Bucharest.
A visit to Timişoara offers plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in nature. For those who want to stay in the city, the centrally located Botanical Gardens, which stretch over ten hectares and feature over 200 species of plants, is a quiet and intimate park perfect for long walks. But it is the city’s surroundings, and particularly the Bega River and Cheile Nerei that offer the best opportunities to wild nature lovers.
Those who want to combine water sports with birdwatching, a canoe trip on the river Bega is a great choice. With its wild landscapes, shaped by green emerald lakes and tall, white stone walls, the Cheile Nerei – Beușnița Natural Park is one of the most beautiful national parks in Romania. Head there for a hike, or simply to take in the breathtaking views and a very likely face-to-face meeting with Romania’s wildlife.