Sighisoara is by far one of the most important highlights in Romania. It is a place that seems frozen in time, one of the best-preserved medieval citadels in Europe that is still inhabited, and the settlement where Vlad the Impaler, known as Dracula, was born.
It is one of the 7 German citadels of Transylvania that the Saxons founded in the 12th century. Its old citadel and the fortifications became in 1999 one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a truly remarkable legacy of Romania's Saxon culture and architecture.
Below, you will read some practical info about visiting Sighisoara, interesting stories and legends, and which are the best attractions of Sighisoara that you should see.
1.How to reach Sighisoara?
Sighisoara is located in the very heart of the Transylvania region. Like any other Saxon settlement, it has 3 names, actually, one name translated in 3 different languages: Sighisoara (Romanian), Schäßburg (German), and Segesvár (Hungarian). Hence the 3 main ethnic groups that were living in the citadel.
There are different ways of reaching Sighisoara, of course, depending on your budget and travel plans. You can arrive in Romania at Bucharest, Sibiu, or Cluj International Airports and from there continue your ride to Sighisoara. Kindly note that Sighisoara does not have an airport.
- Bucharest – Sighisoara (300km):
- By bus to Brasov and change for the bus to Sighisoara (approx 6h – the timetable for the buses to be found here)
- By train either to Brasov and then change the train to Sighisoara (approx 7h depending on the time spent to change the train in Brasov – the timetable for trains to be found here)
- Rent-a-car (approx 5h)
We recommend you avoid the road from/to Sighisoara from/to Bucharest, especially during weekends because of the bad traffic. Unfortunately, there are no highways to connect these 2 cities, and the road has many speed limits and two lanes, one for traffic in each direction.
- Sibiu – Sighisoara (100km):
- Cluj Napoca – Sighisoara (160km)
It is good to know that both the train station and the bus station in Sighisoara are within walking distance from the old town.
2. Pied Piper and Sighisoara
Every settlement has a great and unique legend that explains how it was founded. “Marketing” or “Branding,” I suppose they call it today.
The legend of Pied Piper of Hamelin is probably one of the most beautiful ones I’ve ever heard.
In the 13th century, the city of Hamelin, from Southern Germany, was confronted with an increased number of rats. One day, a man dressed in multi-colored clothes (“pied”) claimed to help the locals get rid of these unwelcomed visitors simply by using his magic pipe. In exchange, the mayor promised to pay very well for this man’s job.
The piper waited no longer, he started to play his pipe, and soon, as he walked towards the exit of the city, he was followed by the rats. The Pied Piper led them to the nearby river where all the rats have drowned.
Despite this success, the mayor refused to keep his promise and pay the reward, even going as far as suggesting that it was the Pied Piper who brought the rats into the city in the first place in an extortion attempt.
Extremely upset, the man left but promised to come back and take his revenge.
On Saint John and Paul’s Day, when the locals were inside the church attending the religious mass, their children remained outside to play. Suddenly, the Pied Piper appeared and started to play his magic pipe once again. This time he was followed by these children all the way to a place called the Koppenberg Mountain or… Transylvania. Here, the children were so excited by the charming landscape and the beautiful forests that they did not return home but remained and found what we know today as Siebenburgen or the Seven Saxon Citadels of Transylvania. You got that right! Sighisoara is one of these seven citadels.
Of course, the legend has many versions; some say that the children got drowned in the same river where the rats had, or that they got back to their families after the Pied Piper got paid or they ended up in a cave, and no one heard about them ever since.
Many cities adopted this legend; it is a nice one for sure. But, before blaming Sighisoara for lack of creativity and for not respecting the copywriting, think just that back then, Vlad the Impaler, Dracula, had not yet become the vampire rock star that we know today. They needed a good story to attract visitors, and for a couple of centuries, the Pied Piper from Hamelin legend worked pretty well.
3. Visit the Clock Tower
According to historical writings, the citadel was fortified with strong walls and many defense towers.
During a stroll around the citadel of Sighisoara, you will count no less than 9 towers of defense. Each tower belonged to a guild that was in charge of its administration in times of peace and war.
The master tower was the Clock Tower that dominated the main entrance in the citadel and is considered a symbol of Sighisoara. Having 65m in height, the tower is visible from almost every corner of the city. Its purpose was to defend the citadel's main gate and served as a city hall until 1556. Thanks to its beautiful mechanical clock, it is considered one of Transylvania's most expressive clock towers.
Since the end of the 19th century, the Clock Tower hosts the History Museum of Sighisoara.
An important architectural element of this tower is the balcony, which is the most important observation point of the city: the wide view allowed to sight eventual fires in time to promptly reach one of the nine places in all Sighisoara that could provide water. It was vital to prevent the spread of flames because, at that time, the city did not dispose of much water.
Also, the tower keeps two clock mechanisms, one in wood and one in metal, according to the age of the crafts. Two facades (one facing the citadel, the second facing the lower city) hold a clock dial with black and gold hand-painted clock numbers. Two niches with symbolic figurines on the inside are located on the left side of the dials: the days of the week represented through Ancient Gods (every midnight, the round platform rotates from left to right to install the new day figure that can be seen in the morning by the locals), Justice and Righteousness, a drummer, the Peace Goddess.
Opening hours and days:
- From May 15 to September 15:
- Mondays: closed
- Tuesday – Friday: 09: am – 06:30 pm
- Saturday – Sunday: 10 am – 05:30 pm
- From September 16 to May 14:
- Mondays: closed
- Tuesday – Friday: 09: am – 03:30 pm
- Saturday – Sunday: 10 am – 03:30 pm
- 15 Lei – adults
- 4 Lei – students
The History Museum of Sighisoara has 2 more exhibitions next to the Clock Tower: The Weapons Room – 6 Lei per adult and the Torture Room – 4 Lei per adult.
4. Pay a visit to Dracula’s birth home
After visiting the Clock Tower, as you head to the City Square, you will pass by a house that claims to be the birthplace of the former Prince of Wallachia, Vlad the Impaler, known to be the inspiration of the fictional vampire, Count Dracula.
The story has it that his father, Vlad Dracul, the then ruler of Wallachia, and his pregnant wife were hosted in this house by the ruler of Sighișoara during the Turkish invasion of Wallachia, between 1431 and 1435. It appears to be the oldest stone structure in the city.
Today, this house hosts a medieval-style restaurant on the ground floor and a small weapon museum on the first floor.
5. Climb the Covered Stairs
After the shortstop at Casa Vlad Dracul, continue your stroll all the way to City Square and then turn left to Sighisoara Hill, on the top of which you can see a school and the Church on the Hill.
To reach the top, you have to climb the so-called Covered Stair. It was built in 1642 to connect the lower part to the upper part of the citadel. The main purpose of this construction was to ease the access of the people and the children to reach the church and the school during wintertime or simply bad weather. If at the beginning there were 300 steps, now only 176 remained.
6. Visit the Church on the Hill
The Church on the Hill is another valuable symbol of Sighisoara, one of the most representative buildings in gothic style and the third largest of its kind in Transylvania. Located next to the Hilltop School, the Church dominates the citadel being visible from almost all directions. The construction started in the early 15th century. Like most Transylvanian churches, it has a rather austere and simple design outside, as back then, the churches were moreover fortified, serving both as a worship place and shelter during the siege.
Inside, as you walk along the main hall, you will discover some stairs that lead down into the only ancient crypt from Transylvania. It was often devastated as the thieves believed they would find valuable objects in the tombs of the former city’s leaders.
The interiors were completely painted, and luckily some frescoes survived throughout the centuries. Among the paintings you will recognize for sure: the Christ’s Passions’ tools guarded by an angel with a few saints, Saint George fighting the dragon, The evangelist Matthew, the Veil of Veronica, The Judgement, and The Mother of Jesus Christ.
Opening hours and days:
- From April 1 to May 15: every day from 10 am to 5 pm;
- From May 15 to September 30: every day from 10 am to 06:00 pm;
- From October 1 to March 30: every day from 10 am to 04:00 pm.
Admission: 2 Lei / adult and 1 Leu / child
7. Stroll around and admire the civic architecture and the defense towers
We do not say that Sighisoara is like a fairy tale land for no reason. Its cobblestone streets, the fortifications, the towers, and the medieval houses have much to do with creating a magic décor like one from the Grimm Brothers’ stories.
There are now 9 towers surrounding the citadel:
- Sighișoara Clock Tower – the symbol of the city
- The Tinsmiths’ Tower – the tower facades still preserves traces of bullets during the siege of Hungarians from 1704 to 1706.
- The Butchers’ Tower
- The Bootmakers’ Tower – currently, the tower hosts the local radio station.
- The Tailors’ Tower – built in the 14th century, opposite the Clock Tower, guards the second gateway into the Citadel.
- The Furriers’ Tower
- The Ironsmiths’ Tower
- The Ropemakers’ Tower – currently a guardhouse for the Church's cemetery on the Hill, is the only inhabited tower among those left.
- The Tanners’ Tower
Most of the over 300 years old houses from the city are considered historical monuments. The most beautiful ones are those surrounding the Main City Square, once inhabited by noble families, but also in other parts of the city: the House on the Rock, the Stag House, the Venetian House or also known as the Green House, Sighisoara City Hall, and many others.
In big lines, these are the best attractions of Sighisoara, a medieval jewel of Transylvania and a must-visit stop during your trip to Romania.
Sighisoara is a great starting point for trips to the remote Saxon villages of Biertan, Viscri, Crit, Messendorf, Malancrav, and many, many others. The nearby 500-year beech forest offers great bike experiences, and the medieval cities of Brasov and Sibiu are positioned close enough to enjoy a day trip to each one.
If you liked our article and wish to visit Sighisoara, you can also look at our Romania small group tours.