Most travelers to the country of Romania stick to the capital city, Bucharest. They may venture out for a day trip to the famous Bran’s Castle, but otherwise much of Romania is considered off the beaten path. One city that many travelers don’t get to see is the city of Timisoara. This small city, located in the western part of Romania, holds a vast amount of history, making it a very interesting place to see. If you want to get off the beaten path in Romania, here’s my budget-friendly travel guide to Timisoara.
Timisoara Fun Facts
- Timisoara was the first town in continental Europe to have a network of electric street lights (1884)
- The anticommunist revolution of Romania started in Timisoara (1989)
- Timisoara was chosen as the first Youth Capital of Romania due to it being one of the biggest university cities in the country.
- The city was designated as the European Capital of Culture for 2021.
- Timisoara is the only European city to have three national theaters within the same building.
The Romanian National Opera House
Things to Do
Stroll through the Parks
Did you know that the small city of Timisoara has over 300 parks? There are beautiful spaces all over the place! While it may be difficult to squeeze all these parks into a short stay, there are some that you should definitely see!
Justice Park has gorgeous tulips in all different colors that bloom in the spring. It borders the Bega Canal, making for some lovely waterside views. Roses Park is located right next to Justice Park, and contains exquisite display of roses in the early summer months.
Next to that you can find Children’s Park. This stretch of green is a magnificent haven for kids and kids at heart (me). With numerous play structures, hammocks, and a giant castle at the center, it’s difficult not to walk through without a smile. Other notable parks within Timisoara include Central Park, the Botanic Park, Civic Park, and the small park of the Floral Clock.
Strolling through Justice Park
Roses Park…no roses yet 🙁
Visit the City Squares
There are three main squares in the city of Timisoara. At the north end of the city center is Union Square. This was my favorite square because of all the color and the yellow brick pathways that led through the square. Here you can find many of the town’s historic churches as well as the Baroque Palace and the art museum.
Still colorful, even on a grey and rainy day
Towards the center of Timisoara sits Liberty Square. This is the oldest square in Timisoara and once served as the central hub of the city. Here, you can find the Former Town Hall, the former Council of War, and the Military Casino.
Loving that brick pattern in this square!
Lastly, at the southern end sits Victory Square. This place is very important to the history of Romania. This square is where the Revolution against communism began in December 1989. Over 1000 people lost their lives here during the days of the Revolution. You can still see bullet holes in many of the buildings in this square. It is also the location of the picturesque Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral, and many shopping and dining facilities.
In the 1700s, the city of Timisoara was one giant star-shaped fortress belonging to the Austrian-Hungarian empire. Today, there is only a small portion of the fortress remaining, and it has been renovated to house small cafes, a museum, and event space. It is interesting to know that the grass you can see on the roof of the fortress was put there in hopes of softening the blow of any cannonballs launched at the fortress.
Visit the Churches
There are dozens of churches in Timisoara, and they each have their own unique architecture. The Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral is one of the most popular churches to visit, and has become somewhat of a symbol of Timisoara. In Union Square, you can find the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Dome. Not too far from here, you can also find the Jewish Synagogue. This presence of different religions within one small city is part of the reason Timisoara was awarded the European Capital of Culture.
The Roman-Catholic Dome
The Serbian Orthodox Church
The Revolution Museum
With Timisoara being the location of the beginning of the Romanian Revolution against Communism, it is important to learn about this event in the world’s recent history. Having only taken place in 1989, the wounds of this war are still present within the community. The owner and curator of the Revolution Museum in Timisoara has first-hand knowledge of the war, and the bullet wounds to back it up. While much of the museum’s information is only available in Romanian, there is a highly informational video you can watch, that has English subtitles. At a cost of only 5 lei to enter (that’s a little over $1 USD), you cannot miss experiencing this museum.
If you are looking for something a little different to do (and perhaps want to escape the rain) venture into the University district and check out La Pisici, the area’s resident cat cafe. You can order off an extensive menu of coffees, teas, milkshakes, and more, then sit down next to some playful kitties. You can pet and play with the cats as you enjoy your drink. And if you fall in love, many of the cats are also adoptable!
The Communist Consumers Museum
Also located within the University District is the Museum of the Communist Consumer. You can find it in the basement of a bar called Scartz (or Scart loc Lejer). This small museum is a collection of different items you would have found in homes during the time of Communist Romania. While I found the museum to be mostly creepy and a great potential location for a slasher movie, it may be worth checking out if you’re interested in the communist era. Or things that are creepy.
The Banat Village Museum
The Banat Village Museum was the top thing I was looking forward to when planning my trip to Timisoara. And boy, it did not disappoint. This museum is basically a giant park filled with houses you would have found in the area throughout history. Each house has a very unique style and feel to it, and is decorated with items from the same time period. You can easily spend several hours here exploring the park and the interesting little houses.
How to get there: The Banat Village Museum is located just a little ways outside of the city center. To get there, you’ll want to go to the Bastion bus station and get on bus #46. There is a small stand by the station where you can purchase your tickets for just 2 lei, each way (make sure to get two for a round-trip!).
Where to Eat
With a constantly changing menu of warm soups at a low price, Suppa Bar makes a fantastic lunch spot on a budget! Next door to the shop is a funky eating area with all-you-can-eat bread slices and croutons to go with your soup. Also frequented by locals, this is a great place to meet new people and enjoy a meal.
This is a popular restaurant for locals and visitors alike. Serving traditional Romanian foods at an affordable price, Timisoreana is a great place to find authentic dishes like sarmale, ciorba, and papanash. It is very easy to find, located in Victory Square. Visit at the right time, and you can listen to a live band while you eat, or enjoy your food in their outdoor dining area.
Scartz (Scart Loc Lejer)
This local bar is also the location of the Museum of the Communist Consumer. It is a favorite hangout for locals, with eclectic decorations and lots of boardgames to play. The outdoor garden also features hammocks you can use while you sip on your favorite local drink.
This small bakery located at the south end of Victory Square was a favorite of mine. I visited multiple times, to sample some of Romania’s best baked goods. Try the cherry covrigi- almost like a cherry turnover, turned into a ring shape!
Where to Stay
For an affordable place to stay, check out FreeBorn Hostel. You can’t beat the location, just outside of Victory Square, and the friendly hospitality provided by the staff! Here’s my review of my stay with FreeBorn Hostel.