As a tourist, it is important to know what are the major cities in Transylvania so you can plan your itinerary accordingly. Transylvania or Ardeal (Siebenbürgen in German) is a historical and geographical region in Romania, located within the Carpathian arc.
Transylvania is sometimes given a very broad meaning, designating the territory west of the Eastern Carpathians and north of the Southern Carpathians, thus including the western half of Maramureș, Crișana and Banat.
That is why some of the most important cities in Transylvania are also included in the list of major Romanian cities. Other towns in Transylvania are too small to be included in that list, but you will find some of them below.
And if you are ready to visit Transylvania read also this travel guide.
Top 10 cities in Transylvania
Situated along the Bega River, Timisoara is one of the largest cities in Romania. It is also called “Little Vienna” due to its rich cultural life, historical relics and 18th-century buildings, built in the Viennese-influenced Baroque style.
Timisoara was the first European city, and the second after New York globally, to introduce electric street lighting in 1884.
Once in Timisoara, you can start your walk here in Unirii Square. Unirii Square is the oldest historical square in the city, arranged in Baroque style. It is also known as the “Dome Square”, due to the Roman Catholic Dome.
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Timișoara is a symbolic building of the city. In the basement, it houses a museum that has among its exhibits the New Testament from Bălgrad from 1648 or Varlaam’s Cazania from 1643.
Victoriei Square, where it is located, is another important market in Timisoara. Victoriei Square is crossed by a beautiful promenade called Corso, which connects the Metropolitan Cathedral with the Timisoara Opera.
Read also: Best time to visit Transylvania
The oldest building in Timisoara is Huniade Castle, destroyed and rebuilt repeatedly. The fortress of Timisoara, on which the current city was built, has only a few remains left. Maria Theresia Bastion is one of them.
And if all this did not convince you that Timisoara is worth visiting, find out that the city still boasts a Rose Park that houses a multitude of rose varieties.
Cluj Napoca, the largest city in Transylvania
Founded in 106, when the Roman Empire conquered Dacia, it was initially called Napoca, a name that was later incorporated into the current name becoming Cluj Napoca.
Cluj-Napoca is currently the second-largest city in Romania and practically the largest city in Transylvania, an important cultural, university, economic and industrial centre. More than a third of its population is made up of students from the country and Europe.
Tourists who arrive here stop in Unirii (Union) Square, the point zero of the city, to admire the Church of St. Michael (the cathedral with a Gothic architecture built in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries) and the statue of Matthew Corvinus. From Unirii Square, they go on to Matei Corvin’s House and to the Museum Square.
The Museum Square takes its name from the Museum of Transylvania located on one of its sides, a museum that houses exhibits from the history of Transylvania. The Museum Square is also the oldest square in Cluj-Napoca, being in the centre of the first fortified enclosure of the old fortress.
From the hill near the old centre of Cluj, you can admire the city from above. It is called the Citadel due to the old Habsburg fortress built on it, a fortress of which only a few ruins remain today.
Besides the historical attractions, the city also welcomes its visitors with a famous botanical garden and with international festivals, the best-known of them being Untold.
Brasov is without a doubt the most visited city in Transylvania due to its rich medieval history, its proximity to Bran Castle, known as Dracula’s Castle and the surrounding mountains. The natural setting in which the city was built makes it perfect both as a summer destination for those who prefer hiking in the woods, but also as a winter destination for those who practice winter sports (skiing, snowboarding, etc.).
Those who visit it enjoy interesting tourist attractions such as the Black Church (the largest church in Romania), the Council Square, a lively place full of terraces and restaurants, museums and narrow streets paved with cubic stone.
The medieval atmosphere is given by the fortifications built around the centre and preserved to this day. A walk along the fortifications will reveal the towers and bastions built for the defence of the fortress in the past and used today as museums.
Brasov can be visited as a day trip from Bucharest, in combination with 2 beautiful castles nearby (Bran Castle and Peles Castle) or can be used as a base to visit the most famous tourist attractions in Transylvania.
Oradea is known for its rich multicultural history, famous art nouveau architecture, good restaurants, active nightlife and world-renowned spas. The city was founded according to legend in 1092 by Ladislaus I, King of Hungary, who was buried in the city’s cathedral after his death.
Unirii Square is considered the 0 point of Oradea, from where you can explore countless palaces belonging to the art nouveau, secession or baroque styles. Also here you will see why Oradea is a multiethnic and multicultural city: next to each other are built on the sides of the square the Church with the Moon (Orthodox), the Church of St. Ladislaus (Roman Catholic), the Church of St. Nicholas (Greek Catholic). The square is surrounded by Art Nouveau buildings, such as the Black Eagle Palace or the Moon Church.
The fortress, almost 1000 years old, is another important tourist attraction in Oradea, and it has been restored in recent years. Here you can visit the Princely Palace, the Cathedral, the Fortress Museum, and sometimes you can participate in craft workshops or medieval demonstrations.
Those who spend several days in the city can enjoy thermal baths at the spa resorts Baile Felix and Baile 1 Mai located nearby.
Sibiu, the most beautiful city of Transylvania
In 2007, Sibiu was the European Capital of Culture, being the first city in Eastern Europe to receive this title, and since then it seems to have flourished. Being colonized by the Saxons (a population of Germanic origin), the city was first mentioned in documents in 1191, under the name of Cibinium. From 1366, the city became Hermannstadt, and only after 1919 did it acquire its current name, Sibiu.
In the past, the city has been the capital of Transylvania repeatedly, competing for this title with Alba Iulia.
Those who come to the city can stop in the Great Square, the most famous square of the city and the place where the most important events are organized. On one side of this square, you can visit the Brukenthal Museum, the first museum in Romania and in this part of Europe. The Brukenthal Museum was founded by Baron Samuel von Brukenthal and housed the Baron’s art collections, and is still an art museum.
From Piata Mare, you can easily reach Piata Mica, the place where you can find the city’s famous restaurants. Like other cities in Transylvania, Sibiu became the host of several religious cults simultaneously, coexisting harmoniously here. In the historic centre are located the Orthodox Cathedral, the Evangelical Cathedral, the Roman Catholic Church, the Greek Catholic Church, the Reformed Church and a synagogue.
But I think the main attraction of the city is its medieval heritage: towers, bastions, fortification belts, old buildings and narrow streets, all of which give it a special charm. It is considered by many not only the most beautiful in Transylvania but also in Romania.
Alba Iulia, the former capital of Transylvania
The city of Alba Iulia is known among the Romanians as the place where the Great Union was achieved, here being voted in 1918, after the First World War, the union of Transylvania with Romania. But the history of the city begins before Christ, with the Dacian fortress Apollo / Apulum, which was built here.
Then a Roman camp was built, a medieval fortress and the current Alba Carolina fortress which included the first 2. Alba Carolina Fortress is the largest fortress in Romania today and has a star shape in 7 corners, being the main attraction from town. Within it, you can also visit the Union Museum, the Roman Catholic Cathedral and the ruins of the Roman camp.
Tourists can also attend the changing of the guard ceremony.
Alba-Iulia was for a time the capital of Transylvania, where the principles of Transylvania since then had their residence.
Târgu Mureș is one of the most beautiful and underrated towns in Transylvania. From an ethnographic point of view, a mixed population lives here, including Romanians, Hungarians and Saxons, ethnographic influences are also observed in the customs and traditions of the area, but also in the architecture of the city and the settlements nearby.
Tourists arriving here first stop in the Rose Square, the city’s central square, where the “Ascension of the Lord” Orthodox Cathedral is located. Also, in the city can be admired the architecture of the buildings of the City Hall, the Palace of Culture or the Prefecture, erected in the centre.
In the centre of the city, on an area of 4 hectares lies the Medieval Fortress. It was built in the 17th century on the site of a 15th-century fortification. Part of the brick walls, the gate tower and the 6 bastions remain. Inside is a park of impressive size, where the locals go on a picnic, play sports, watch movies at a small outdoor cinema or take wedding photos.
Baia Mare, the town located at the foot of the Gutai Mountains, was attested at the beginning of the 14th century and managed to develop due to the underground resources found around it. “Baia” means “mine”, the city being well known as a mining centre. The extraction of gold, silver and other non-ferrous metals dates back more than 2,000 years.
The city centre looks modern but has a medieval core. With the territorial expansion, the former medieval fortress became the historic centre of the city. The main attraction in Baia Mare is the bell tower built as an annexe of the church dedicated to St. King Stephen. The Museum of Mineralogy is unique in Romania and is one of the lesser-known attractions of the city.
Baia Mare is the residence of Maramures County, an area known for its wild beauty and well-preserved traditions. Those who are wondering if Baia Mare is worth visiting can make a quick stop here when they come to Maramures.
The city of Hunedoara covers an area of 97 km2 and is documented in 1265. Until 1918, Hunedoara was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
After the Second World War, the Hunedoara industry experienced unprecedented development. Around the 1989 revolution, in Hunedoara, over 3 million tons of steel were produced. Unfortunately, after the revolution, the industry collapsed and many factories were abandoned.
From a tourist point of view, the city could easily go unnoticed if it were not the host of the most beautiful castle in Romania: Corvin Castle. Visiting it is one of the best things to do here.
Built in the 15th century, the Corvin castle in Transylvania belonged in turn to Iancu de Hunedoara and Matei Corvin. It is a Gothic-style building with towers and bastions and here an annual medieval festival with medieval ladies, knights and dances take place.
Sighisoara, the most beautiful town in Transylvania
Sighisoara was founded by German settlers called Saxons, the first documentary evidence being from 1280 when it was just a small fortress and was called Castrum Sex.
The Romanian name of Sighisoara appears only in 1435. Together with Sibiu and Brasov, it forms a medieval triangle often visited in Transylvania. The medieval fortress of Sighisoara is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is known for its romantic air. It is probably one of the most beautiful towns in Transylvania.
In the fortress you can visit the main square, the Clock Tower, you can take a walk along the defensive wall to see the towers and bastions left standing or you can climb the covered staircase to the church on the hill and the cemetery. History buffs find in the Clock Tower a torture chamber with medieval torture exhibits.
But you can come to Sighisoara and just wander on its streets paved with cubic stone and framed by old, colourful houses. Whatever you choose to do, you will love the place. It’s charming!
These are only the most important cities in Transylvania, but you must know that the region has also other small, interesting towns, beautiful villages and other places for those who like to discover less-known attractions. This list is just a starting point if you plan to visit Transylvania. But if you are looking for a more complex itinerary, don’t hesitate to contact us!