Getting a flight to Timişoara is proper easy; they’re very cheap, and they’re pretty frequent. Sound good? Yip, except for one small thing – where the hell is Timişoara and what would/should/could you do there? Party until the sun comes up, do some sightseeing, eat some really, really delicious desserts and take an excursion to the surrounding countryside? Well, Ana knows, she was born in this Romanian city, and she’s super keen to give us some insider tips.
The name always shows up when you’re looking for super cheap destinations within Europe: Timişoara (ask a local to teach you the pronunciation)! But Timişoara is still unknown to most in the UK travel community. But my hometown is really worth the trip, no matter what time of the year. To me, holidays in Timişoara mean taking a break, enjoying delicious food and drinks in generous portions, and finding out why it’s been made the future European cultural city.
Right, I should probably start by explaining where it is you’re going. It is, according to population size, the third largest city in Romania and is located in the west of the country. It’s only two hours by car to the Serbian capital of Belgrade, a 3-hour drive to Budapest, roughly 6 hours to Vienna, but a whole 8 hours from the Romanian capital of Bucharest!
The quickest and cheapest way to get to get there from the UK is to fly out of London. The trip is around two and a half hours and only costs about £18 – and, yeah, that’s a return flight! This particular location and the excellent connections give the city an untapped international flair that the locals are particularly proud of.
Flights to Timişoara are cheap, and here’s the proof
Sure, Timişoara is not the official Romanian capital, but for me and many others, it’s the capital of the West, the gateway to the world and the most European city in Romania. The multicultural and liberal buzz that this city emanates have now been globally recognised as Timişoara will be the European Capital of Culture in 2021.
Timişoara: the birthplace of the Romanian Revolution
Timişoara is characterised above all by a pronounced multiculturalism and an enormous freedom of spirit: the revolution in Romania in 1989 against the communist dictatorship Nicolae Ceauşescu did not take place in the capital, as elsewhere in Eastern Europe, but actually started a week earlier in Timisoara.
Since then, the city has been a symbol of freedom, becoming the first free city of Romania. A visit to the Museum of Communist Consumers is, therefore, a must for all who are interested in history. Especially as this is not a classic museum, but a successful replica of a typical apartment from the time of communism, with living room, children’s room, bathroom, kitchen and storage room.
The morning after you’ve arrived in Timişoara, you can kickstart your day by jumping into the postcard-perfect atmosphere of the city. Have breakfast served at one of the various cafes and restaurants on Piata Unirii (Union Square), surrounded by striking architecture, then afterwards explore the most beautiful part of the city.
The jewel of the square is the 18th-century cathedral; its baroque ornamentation reflects the best traditions of medieval architecture and the lush interior is an incredible example of the Rococo style with many elements having been created by the finest artists Vienna had to offer at the time. In addition, there is the art museum, offering an impressive and comprehensive collection of both Romanian and European artists, this building is not only a must-see for all art lovers due to the exhibitions but also because of the impressive building.
When life gives you lemons
Maybe you broke your fast in the square, and maybe you didn’t, either way now’s the time to check out the cafe scene here properly. Pretty much every cafe on Piata Unirii is top notch and worth a visit as the coffee is as good as, if not better, than anything you’ll find in Vienna. Perfect for any coffee aficionado. As a compliment to your coffee or as an alternative, grab a lemonade. Seriously. Romania has a lemonade culture that’ll leave you wondering why it’s not world famous after your first sip; Oh, and the lemonade is flavoured – would you prefer watermelon, raspberry, mint or classic, etc.?
Animal lovers, especially cat lovers, who fancy sampling the local coffee or lemonade should definitely visit Café La Pisici – a cosy restaurant/cafe that is also a home for cute kittens and rescue cats that can be adopted (or at the very least, shown a bit of love and given cuddles galore).
And as we are on the topic of how to while away the day: You mustn’t leave Timişoara before visiting the Carturesti bookstore. A mixture of Victorian arcade and Hogwart’s Library creates a unique ambience, where you can browse books (also English-language) and buy original souvenirs all while sipping on a brew from the incredible range of organic teas available. This mixture of good music, special tea and wonderful books blends the accessibility of the major British chain bookstores with the aged feeling of backstreet libraries to create something uniquely Romanian.
Sweet Tooth? You’ve come to the right place
The city is famous for its numerous pastry shops, especially Codrina (try the chocolate eclairs!), Prospero, Senneville and Trandafirul. And when I talk about cakes, I don’t mean the standard affair that you get from the local bakery, but creamy desserts, chocolate glaze as far as the eye can see, pies filled with nougat cream, chocolate mousse and, and, and….. the list goes on. If you want to stick with something you already know, the best tiramisu can be found at Zanoni on Balcescu Square.
Take a Roma(nia)tic walk
As you stroll around the city centre, you should make sure to pay a visit to the Orthodox Cathedral. The Neo-Moldavian structure looks impressive from the outside, but it’s the interior that really stuns, and the entrance is free. If the weather is fine, you can also take a walk in one of the many parks in the city, such as the Rosenpark – one of the most romantic places in the city, which is especially beautiful in the summer, due to the hundreds of varieties of roses planted here.
If you want to treat your body and soul to the finest foods, these insider restaurant tips are sure to satisfy – check out Casa cu flori, Misto, Musiu, Nora -for a range of European foods – or BioFresh for incredible vegan and vegetarian dishes. The Sky Restaurant Casa Del Sole offers fine dining combined with the best view of the city.
As with any city, some districts are best for sightseeing, some for the nightlife and some for food or shopping. What do you most want to do? KAYAK Heat Maps allows you to filter by your interests and shows you all the hotels close to what you want to do. For even more tips and tools for finding the perfect hotel check out these 5 tips for finding the perfect hotel
Early evening until early morning
At establishments like Aethernativ, Ambasada, Cuib d’Arte (also a great venue for concerts) and – weather permitting – the Curtea Berarilor beer garden, you can end the day relaxing with local Romanian beers. If you feel like heading out of the centre a little, Bere Timisoreana is a brewery that offers unfiltered local brews and typical Romanian food.
If you let the party mood take you and want to continue into the early morning, head to clubs like D’Arc, Scottish or Molly. If techno is your thing bypass the other clubs and head straight to Database, a club that proves that the underground is strong here. If you need to refuel after your night out head to the student quarter at any time of night where the shops are open around the clock.
Yeah, Romania is not as sleepy as you might think. In fact, not only does Romania boast some of the fastest and best-connected internet in the world, there is free WLAN found almost anywhere. Most important for instant posts on social media and pictures on Instagram.
Do you want to find the perfect hotel? KAYAK Hotel search tool makes it easier for you, simply by using its various filters such as the map view, where you can easily find all shopping spots, clubs/bars and sightseeing. You can find more tips on how to use KAYAKs Hotel search here.
A raw unbridled beauty: The Romanian countryside
OK, Timişoara is a fantastic city, but the surrounding area is as worth the flight as the city itself. By hiring a car for the day or two, you can take in some unspoilt landscapes and make excursions to places as-yet-undiscovered-by-tourists, or to the castle of a certain prince who enjoyed impaling people.
The Bigar Waterfalls are found in the Aninia mountains south-east of Timişoara, and while stunning (see the photo above), they are a 3 hour drive each way, so you really have to put the whole day aside, especially as there is no direct highway and negotiating the roads can be a bit exhausting. The same can be said of Bran Castle (although the roads are much easier); Dracula’s Castle is about 400 kilometres east of the city, but the drive is worth it in itself.
Closer to home is the imposing dam at Drăgan Lake (Barajul Drăgan-Floroiu, in Cluj County), about 160 km away. If it’s the incredible naturally-formed monolithic landscapes, caves and hiking trails you’re after, you should visit the 61,000-hectare Domogled-Valea Cernei National Park (about 2 hours 45 minutes by car from Timisoara). In winter you can head to Garana Village in the Semenik Mountains, for a day of skiing or snowboarding, or in summer check out the international jazz festival, also about a 3-hour drive away.
Rail enthusiasts can also travel the Orawitza-Anina Line, the oldest railway line in Romania. The route traverses terrains with a 340-metre difference between it’s highest and lowest points and through 14 tunnels.
What to do in Timisoara? With KAYAK Activities you can discover plenty of things to do.
As you can see most of these trips are about three hours from Timişoara, and since there is no highway, a trip to and from the most worthwhile destinations on the same day can be rather exhausting. My advice: Break up your trip over a night or two and find some amazing Romanian accommodation.
Note: These rates are based on search queries made on KAYAK.co.uk on January 30th, 2017. The prices are quoted in GBP. Flight prices are based on results for a return economy flight search. Hotel prices are for double occupancy at base price. Prices are subject to change, may vary, or no longer be available.