The city of Sibiu, 2007 European Capital of Culture is a fusion of Romanian, Saxon and Hungarian cultures, displaying an interesting blend of architectural styles, the sheer scale of its historic core - a labyrinth of medieval squares, narrow streets, churches and bridges - being quite impressive.
Sibiu is primarily loved for its medieval charm, for its cosy restaurants and is surrounded by beautiful landscapes. A cyclist-friendly city, Sibiu and its surroundings can be explored by bicycle, as well as on foot.
The Citadel of Sibiu is an absolute must-see place, as it remains one of the best-fortified citadels across Europe.
Mentioned under the name Hermannsdorf in 1321, Sibiu receives the title civitas in the second half of the XIVthcentury. In a 1366 document, the city is mentioned for the first time as Hermannstadt. Towards the end of the XVthcentury, an institution called the Saxon University is formed. This institution was the administrative ruling unit of all Saxons, led by a royal judge, later on a Saxon committee.
The main trace of Sibiu during the Middle Ages is the constant economic growth, marked by the activity of the guilds. In 1376 there are 19 guilds, 13 of them being active in Sibiu, comprising 25 professions. The number of the guilds gradually increased and by the second half of the 16th century there are 29 guilds, whereas in 1780 about 40 guilds were attested for, in a time where the role of manufacturing had increased substantially. Continuing its growth and development, between the XVth and the XVIIIth century Sibiu becomes the most powerful fortress in Transylvania and one of the most prosperous and blooming cities. The Sibiu fortress has been invincible for hundreds of years, facing Ottoman attacks in 1432, 1427, 1442 and 1493. The end of the 16th century and the beginning of the XVIIth century were marked by military conflicts which later on would influence the evolution of economic and social life in Sibiu: the 1599 battle of Mihai Viteazul (Michael the Brave) in Șelimbăr and the 1601-1603 siege of Sibiu undertaken by Sigismund Báthory’s troops. Less than a decade later, the army of Prince Gabriel Báthory takes over Sibiu. After the Austrian defeated the Turks at the end of the XVIIth century, the region is declared “Grand Principality of Transylvania” within the Habsburg Empire, with the capital in Sibiu. Beginning with 1688 Sibiu becomes the headquarters of the Transylvanian Military Command until November 7th 1918. The administrative power of the new province was carried out by the so called “gubern” (government), located in Sibiu between 1692 and 1791 and again between 1850 and 1867. Sibiu was also the residence of the Governor of Transylvania.
The second half of the XIXth century and the first quarter of the XXth century are characterized by an unprecedented economic and social growth. The urban, social and economic development of Sibiu is stopped by the start of the First World War.
Sibiu played a major part in the preparation for the Great Union in 1918. After the Union of Transylvania with Romania declared on December 1st 1918, Sibiu is named again the capital of the province until the end of 1919. Sibiu was also the main location of the Transylvanian Government and the Transylvanian Parliament. The name of the town is officially changed in 1919.
After the Second World War, in 1945 begins the deportation of the Transylvanian Germans in the Soviet Union. Around 2.800 ethnic German people have been deported, many of them never returning home.
With small exceptions, the old city of Sibiu has not been tainted by the Communist Regime. In 1968 Sibiu becomes the capital of the county with the same name.
December 21st 1989 marks the beginning of the anticommunist demonstrations in Sibiu, which continued up to December 22nd, resulting in 89 victims and hundreds of wounded. After Timișoara, Sibiu was chronologically the second city which rose against the Communist dictatorship. Over the past few years, Sibiu has experienced a significant economic and cultural rebirth. Today, Sibiu is one of the Romanian cities with the highest level of foreign investments. In 2007 Sibiu was elected European Capital of Culture, alongside with Luxembourg.
The Council Tower (1, Small Square) is one of the best known monuments in Sibiu. Its present height is that of a 7 stories-building, with small openings on the façade.
The Evangelical Church (1, Huet Square) is one of the most important places of Lutheran worship in Romania.
Samuel von Brukenthal High School (5 Huet Square): it is erected on the location of an old school, which was referred to in official records refer around 1380. In 1471 it turned into a boarding school. Given the spreading of the Lutheran Reformation, the school was transformed into a gymnasium receiving the title “Gymnasium academicum”. This gymnasium schooled young people from all over Transylvania, some of them being solicited as teachers for Wallachia. Nearby, the school library dates back to 1598.
The Samuel von Brukenthal Palace (4, Large Square) was built between 1777 and 1785, was serving as the headquarters of the Transylvanian Government, and also as the Baron’s personal residence and art museum. The façade of the Palace is pretty rough, symmetrical with 9 windows on each floor. The most significant element of the façade is the stone framing of the gate, a portal built by the sculptor Simon Hoffmeyer, a Cluj native who later resided in Sibiu.
The Bridge of Lies was built out of wood before 1771 and was rebuilt in 1859 using cast iron, being the first bridge of cast iron in Romania. The origin of the name, Bridge of Lies, is highly disputed, based upon many legends, each with its own mystical charm. The most credible of them is that this bridge used to be a promenade for young couples in Sibiu and young military cadets who used to utter vows and promises of eternal love, of which most were lies.
The Guild Towers: since the Middle Ages, the guilds had been very active in Sibiu. In 1376 there are 19 guilds mentioned, comprising 25 professions (Thick Tower, Carpenters’ Tower, Potters’ Tower, Harquebusiers’ (Gunsmiths’) Tower, Barbers’ Tower, etc.)