I didn’t know about Timisoara, Romania until the morning I was leaving Belgrade and deciding where to head next. I am so glad I found it.
Timisoara has an international airport, but the flights can be quite expensive. You can get to and from the city by bus or train, both of which are quite cheap. The local trains within Romania are very cheap and you can get around the country for just a few euro. Hitch hiking and carpool are also options and are very safe there. Within Timisoara there are buses and trams running throughout the town with tickets for €.50. If you want to take a taxi, you will rarely need to pay more than €5 to get anywhere in town.
There are only three hostels in Timisoara. The best I’d recommend is Freeborn. Hostel Costel is about a kilometer outside the city center. Downtown Hostel is a small hostel right in the center off Victory Square but there is no sign for the hostel due to it being a historical building, so unless you know exactly where it is, you’ll be lost. The only way to find it is the name “Downtown” on the resident list by the door.
Freeborn has two buildings, the main one a couple streets east from the central square and the other about three streets north. They have good facilities, the cleaning is good, the lockers are big enough for a very large backpack (like mine) and as mentioned it’s in a great location. Rooms start at €12 a night.
I found the quality of food to be really good in Timisoara. I had both local meals and some other dishes, like an amazing pizza at Segafredo Zanetti and pizza at Sushi Ya.
One day I was treated out to the full Romania cuisine by my fantastic host. This consisted of “tochitură” (meat stew seasoned with onions and spices), “ghiveci” (over twenty vegetables cooked in oil), “sarmale” (pickled cabbage leaves stuffed with a mix of minced meats, rice and spices) and “mititei” (small skinless grilled sausages). When I went to my friend’s parents’ house in Resita, they served me homemade “ciorbă” (meat soup), “clătite cu brânză” (crepes filled with cottage cheese, raisins and spices) and “cozonac” (traditional holiday sweet bread filled with walnuts, poppy seeds or cream cheese).
No post on Timisoara would be complete without mentioning their lemonade. Without question it was the best lemonade I’ve ever had. Aside from original, they also had flavors like mint, ginger, strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, peach, pineapple and goji. I personally found the peach, blueberry and pineapple to be the best. They actually juice several lemons and blend them with ice and another flavor.
With Timisoara, the city more than anything is the attraction. There are a couple museums, one of which is closed and the other one is a museum for the 1989 revolution. It’s not the highest quality museum, but I would still recommend it. You will get to watch a homemade video about the uprising and conversion from communism, and then see many photos and artifacts from the time. There is also a Museum of the Communistic Consumer, which is not much of a museum but rather simply a house which still has all the equipment and set-up of what it was like to live under communistic rule. It’s not a big attraction, but it’s free.
I would definitely recommend taking a stroll along the river and also visiting the rose gardens. The river is also where you will find one of the best lemonade stands in town, Teresa D’arc boat cafe by the bridge. For a small price, you can rent a boat on the river and paddle around, which is very popular with the locals at night.
Unfortunately, most of the city is currently under renovation, but if you go in a few months you will probably find one of the most picturesque towns in Europe. All the streets are being re-cobbled, and the houses are getting a face lift. As a fun fact, Timisoara is nominated to be the European Capital of Culture in 2021.
The fun started as soon as I arrived. With three other backpackers I met on the train, I walked into the center of the town and found a huge free music festival in progress. Weaving my way through the crowd I made it to the hostel, dropped off my bags and went back to enjoy the music. The festival went on for the next two nights. The next day included a full fireworks show performed to Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart. It was one of those nights when I just felt giddy. That’s what travel is all about!
That festival wasn’t isolated. The next week there was a film festival with free movies each day. From what I could tell there was always something happening in Timisoara.
From Timisoara, I went to stay with the parents of a friend in Resita, Romania, where I was treated to some fabulous meals (as covered above) and then brought to the family farm, where they are able to live off the grid in their self-sustaining homestead. That was a fantastic experience and a whole story in itself which you can read here.
So to be honest, Timisoara doesn’t have a lot to do. The town is currently under renovation, one of the two main museums is closed and there isn’t much nightlife. But that’s what makes it go great! It’s virgin ground for most travelers, and you will find very few tourists in the town. It’s beautiful, quaint and really does have a great history. It was the seat of the Romanian revolution in 1989, and it was also the first city in Europe to have electric lighting in the streets! Of course, you’ll just have to go and see it for yourself. And then see the rest of Romania, including Dracula’s castle in Transylvania, the Carpathian mountains and the rest of the attractions Romania has to offer.