I have to be honest, Romania was not on my original travel itinerary. Had it not been for a very special encounter earlier in Spain, it may have taken me several more years to plan a visit. However, I came, I saw and I am excited to explore more in Romania.
Timisoara was my first contact with Romanian soil. What I really like about this city is, despite being the second largest city in Romania, it has an easy-going vibe and many opportunities to discover new things. 2012 was the first time I ever heard about the city, in spite of it’s historical significance as a crossroads between civilizations. During almost two-months of my stay I have seen very few foreign travelers unlike many other European destinations.
Did you know that Timisoara is that it is the first town in Europe and 2nd in the world after New York City with streets illuminated by electric lights!
I can tell you several reasons why you should consider putting Timisoara on your travel list. Instead, I feel like sharing the things and activities I have enjoyed as a visitor here. There plenty more that can be added to this list and plenty more that I, and others, have yet to discover in Timisoara. For now, let’s explore the city through my top 10:
10. Visit an outdoor market
The stalls range from antiques to modern art, freshly made crepes to artisan honey. You can find a variety of merchandise at the outdoor markets organized in one of the historic squares in Timisoara. Recently, I specially attended one that was called the “Really, Really Free Market“. The market was organized by a collective of socially responsible individuals to promote kindness and the alternative gift economy. And yes, everything was really, really free and top quality. Plus I had a wonderful time making new friends and learning about the local culture.
09. Buy fresh produce
Personally my two favourite spots are Piata 700 and Badea Cartan. It’s wonderful to have easy access to locally produced fruit and vegetables grown by pheasants (term often used for farmers in Romania). I simply love it – you shop in fresh air, buy season produce, choose from one of many farms, and pay less than at the supermarket! Aside from the two markets I mention there are other markets all around the city, making them accessible to everyone.
Fresh produce at the Piata 700 market
08. Rediscover the joy of sipping tea and wine
If you’re a tea enthusiast then Carturesti is the place for you but if you’re a wine connoisseur visit Enoteca de Savoya. If you’re anything like me you’ll want to become a regular at both during your stay in Timisoara. At Carturesti you will find a wonderful selection of tea to keep you coming back for months. I usually go to the location near Unirii Square to write but you you can also pick up a book from the bookstore on the lower level as relax. Not far from Carturesti is Enoteca de Savoya. Here you can find a bottle wine from around the world. There’s some excellent wine that’s produced in the region, my favourite is the wine from a place called Recas, some 25 kilometer outside of Timisoara. Find a cozy spot in the cave at Enoteca de Savoya and take the time to experience local wines with a delicious platter of cheese and olives.
07. Lemonade in Unirii Sqare (Union Square)
Unirii Square is a beautiful baorque plaza surrounded by colourful and unique architecture that house a museum and many cool cafe’s and restaurants to hang out at. The square is filled with historical monuments and artifacts, some of which require a bit of searching, as well as cultural symbolism. For example, you see an orthodox church constructed right across from a beautiful catholic church. From I have been told, this symbolizes the open-mindedness of the people of Timisoara towards religion and respect for different faiths. Oh, and that lemonade – you can find it at almost any of the cafe’s here but be prepared to make decisions. Only in Romania you find several choices for lemonade flavours; my favourite is the lemonade with forest fruit.
Life on Unirii Square
06. Visit the countryside
Timisoara is surrounded by some interesting countryside. A local friend once told me about the discoveries he’s made by cycling to several, inhabited and abandoned, villages nearby. A village I discovered and really like is called Stanciova, about 35 kilometers north-east of Timisoara. I found Stanciova through an organization called World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (Wwoof) while I was looking for volunteering opportunities at nearby organic farms. I have met some incredible people in Stanciova dedicated to building a strong community based on fairness, care and respect for people and planet. I feel truly privileged to have had the opportunity to experience inspiring discussions on community development with the people here. It’s amazing what you find when you choose to go off the beaten path.
Horse carriage in Stanciova
This article was originally written for Timisoara 2021 – a Romanian organization dedicated to winning Timișoara the title of European Capital of Culture in 2021.