Last Updated on July 2, 2023 by Ellen
Several cities are called “little Vienna” because of architecture similar to the Austrian city. Timisoara, Romania is one of them. It’s on the edge of Transylvania, which adds to its foreign mystique and sense of romance.
Timisoara, Romania: why we loved this ‘little Vienna’
Simply put: old town Timisoara is romantic with many parks and flowers, sidewalk cafes and ornate architecture.
The old town is filled classic building facades inspired by the Vienna Secession artistic movement. This is why Timisoaora is called a ‘little Vienna’.
Two city squares pictured below show building examples. Victory Square looks towards the Orthodox Cathedral with rows of historic palaces with rehabbed fancy facades (pictured first); Union Square is similar with more famous buildings (pictured second).
Timisoara old town
The old town portion of Timisoara stands on the city’s former fortress. With the end of the Ottoman Empire, the fort walls were (mostly) demolished to make room for a new urban center built between the second half of the 19th century through 1913.
With 36 parks and lots of lush green spaces during spring and summer, Timisoara is also called ‘City of Flowers’.
Timisoara was the first European city lit with electric street lights, and it is where the Romanian Revolution against communism began.
Those brave historic events underlined the city’s theme of ‘courage and diversity’ for the annual Capitals of Culture event. Timisoara was one of three cities chosen by the European Union in 2023. We were there for that, and enjoyed special attractions like art installations and jazz concerts.
Timisoara is the fifth-largest city in Romania with a population of 250,000 in the city proper.
It is diverse with many religions and ethnicities. People from more expensive European countries such as Italy now live in Romania. Timisoara’s six universities draw students from all over. It is the country’s technology hub.
There also are many ‘overseas foreign workers’ from countries like Iraq, and Asian and African regions. When Romania joined the European Union in 2007, many Romanians left to work in wealthy European countries that pay higher salaries. This left a void of blue-collar workers. As a result, Romania needs foreign workers.
We found people who spoke fluent English at nearly every business we went to in Timisoara’s old town: restaurants, convenience stores and a telecommunication shop (for a SIM card).
However, if you venture outside old town, you might not find English – it is not commonly spoken outside of Romanian cities.
Getting around Timisoara
The best part of Timisoara is simply strolling along. During our three-day visit, we curated our own walking tour because ‘free’ walking tours (tip-based, no credit card needed) were not available.
Around the two squares pictured above, as well as a third named Liberty Square, you will find the majority of the historic palaces. Near these squares you also will find other major points of interest, such as the only remaining parts of the old fort walls.
The tram system is fantastic! Buses, too. We bought single-use tickets at a convenience store, but you can also use a credit card. Once you enter the system with your card or ticket, you have an hour to ride anywhere – including any and all connections.
There are several walking tours offered through pay sites and on Airbnb ‘experiences’ around $40 and up per person. We sometimes book paid tours to help the local economy. One example was the Dharavi Slum tour in Mumbai, India, which cost $12.50 per person.
But as budget slow travelers, we decided to create our own self-guided walking tour this time. Our list is below, which you are free to use as a starting point.
In the next section following our self-guided walking tour list, I’ll share a few price examples for lodging and dining – or skip ahead now to that section.
Self-guided walking tour list for Timisoara – Romania’s Little Vienna
- Sfanta Trieme Statue – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Trinity_Statue,_%C8%98imleu_Silvaniei
- House of Lions – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_with_Lions
- Bruck House – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Br%C3%BCck_House
- Baroque Palace – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baroque_Palace,_Timi%C8%99oara
- Timisoara Art Museum – no wiki – was part of Banat Museum until 2006 – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Museum_of_Banat
- Maria Theresia Bastion – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theresia_Bastion
- Dicasterial Palace – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dicasterial_Palace
- Dejan Palace – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deschan_Palace – also named Deschan Palace and Scherter House
- Guilds Tree – no wiki, not on Google maps — it’s a replica at the corner of Strata Franceso Griselini and Strata Proclamatia de la Timisoara, but the real one is in a museum: https://www.welcometoromania.eu/Timisoara/Timisoara_Copacul_Breslelor_e.htm
- The Army House – houses military museum since 1996
- Liberty Square – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberty_Square,_Timi%C8%99oara
- House with Atlanti – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_with_Atlantes
- Romanian National Opera House – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanian_National_Opera,_Timi%C8%99oara
- Victory Square – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victory_Square,_Timi%C8%99oara
- Weiss Palace – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weiss_Palace
- Loffler Palace – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L%C3%B6ffler_Palace
- Lloyd Palace – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lloyd_Palace
- Neuhausz Palace – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuhaus_Palace
- Merbl Palace – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merbl_Palace
- Dauerbach Palace – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dauerbach_Palace
- Szechenyi Palace – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sz%C3%A9ch%C3%A9nyi_Palace
- Hilt-Vogel Palace – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hilt-Vogel_Palace
- Orthodox Cathedral – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timi%C8%99oara_Orthodox_Cathedral
- Huniade Castle – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huniade_Castle — also — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Museum_of_Banat
- Piarist Lyceum – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babe%C8%99-Bolyai_University (it was moved to Timisoara in 1940)
- Constantin Jude Hall – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constantin_Jude_Sports_Hall
- Old Slaughter House – https://spotlight-timisoara.eu/en/pf/abatorul/
We never made it to the old Communist Consumer Museum, but we wanted to go. If you go, tell us how it is! Here’s some info: https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/museum-of-the-communist-consumer
Our Airbnb was ideally located around the corner from Victory Square, with a balcony view of the magnificent Orthodox Cathedral (first picture below). It had fast WiFi, washing machine, TV (which we never turned on), comfortable bed. It cost $42 a night.
Enjoy a enjoy a brunch at Union Square (pictured above) for less than the cost of dinner. We went to the popular Bruck Cafe at the famous Bruck Palace and had a cheese omelette and pancakes, tea and coffee for about $20.
Or eat in a regular old alley (still interesting views) and get more for your money. We ordered three delicious vegetarian dishes and split them at the casual restaurant Biofresh. Our total bill was $25, tip was extra.
Tipping is appreciated – it’s not included as a service charge on bills at casual restaurants.
Timisoara, on the edge of Transylvania
Our visit was in late June, and the weather was ideal. High temperatures in the 80s, lows in the 60s, and long daylight hours for endless wandering around old town.
Earth Vagabonds are headed into the heart of Transylvania next — to Alba Iulia.