Located right in the centre of the country, halfway between Brasov and Sibiu, Sighisoara seems to form together with the two medieval cities a triangle of the most beautiful settlements in Romania.
If you plan to visit Sighisoara, find out below what are the top attractions in the citadel. The fortress with narrow and cobbled streets is a jewel worth discovering. It has colourful houses, defence towers and witness walls to important fragments of the country’s history.
Today’s Sighisoara is an explosion of colour. At the same time, it is a well-preserved sheet of history. It is considered an open-air museum. Its mixture of different cultures that have intertwined here, enhance the charm you now find on every alley, in every building and on every street corner.
A short history of Sighisoara
Many years have passed since 1280, from the first documentary attestation of the Sighișoara fortress, under the name of “Castrum Sex”. In 1999 it was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Today it is the only medieval fortress in Europe that was and still is constantly inhabited.
In ancient times the Szeklers lived in the present area of the fortress. In the medieval period they were moved to the borders. The fortress was colonized by Saxons, craftsmen, organized in guilds, with well-established rules of operation and perfect order in the management of the city.
The Medieval Fortress of Sighisoara was built by the Saxons. It dates back to the 13th century, during the glorious era of the fortification. At that time it had 15 defence towers, 5 artillery bastions and 2 barbicans guarding the main gates.
However, the fortress was not protected from conflicts or unfortunate events. In addition to the periodic invasions of other peoples, Sighisoara also had to face epidemics of plague, earthquakes and fires. Of all, the one that survived the most in the history of the city was the fire at the end of April 1676. It is said to have started in the house of a widowed woman who forgot a burning fire while washing clothes. The fire spread to the attic of the house and from there to other houses. So, 70% of the city of Sighisoara burned then. Later, the houses were rebuilt in brick and stone to withstand other such calamities.
To visit the Sighisoara fortress, you can either stay in the city at one of the medieval-looking guesthouses, or you can come on a day trip from Sibiu or Brasov. One day in Sighisoara is enough to discover its charm and win your heart. You will have enough time to walk on its cobbled streets and discover the main places to visit in the city.
Tourist attractions in the Sighisoara citadel
The clock tower
The Clock Tower is the most emblematic tourist attraction in Sighisoara. It is 64 m high, the lower part of the tower dates from the 14th century, and the upper levels are added later.
Considered also the symbol of the city of Sighișoara, the Clock Tower is one of the strategic towers. From it, the fortress was defended in case of possible sieges. It is the tallest of the towers, and for this reason, is the most visible of all. Thus, it protects the main entrance of the fortress which is now accessible through the passage that passes under the tower. In its construction, it combines a variety of architectural styles, as it was built in steps. And the trends of each period have left their mark on it – from the Gothic style to specific influences of the Renaissance, then Romantic and Baroque.
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The roof, destroyed by the city fire of 1676, was rebuilt by Austrian craftsmen the following year. Its bulb shape is the oldest surviving evidence of the penetration of the Austrian Baroque into Transylvania.
In 1894 the roof was replaced with the current one, with glazed tiles, and in 1900 the annexe building was rebuilt. The clock existed in 1648 when the master Johann Kirtschel added the quarters of an hour and the figurines that represent the days of the week, also rebuilt by him after the fire of 1676.
From the top of the tower, the view over the city is spectacular. And if you are there at a fixed time you will be able to admire the spectacle offered by the 300-year-old clock. The giant clock includes two dials on both sides of the tower – the entrance and the fortress – each measuring almost 2 and a half meters in diameter and accompanied by carved wooden figurines, representing important symbols for people’s lives in the past.
Over time, the tower has played different roles, from prison to the city hall, and currently houses the History Museum in Sighisoara.
If you choose to pass the walls of the Sighisoara fortress right at the main entrance, where the Sighisoara Clock Tower is, you will first see the torture chamber. It is a very small room, but full of various torture techniques for evil-doers.
The monastery church
Right next to the Clock Tower, on its left side, the Monastery Church was attested in 1298. It belonged to the Dominican monks until their expulsion and the conversion of the Saxons to Lutheranism.
Sighisoara Citadel Square
After passing beyond the walls of old Sighișoara, coming slowly from the Clock Tower, you immediately reach the central square of the fortress. This is the place where the performances took place, the punishments with the public and the markets of the craftsmen. It is certain that the market was the main attraction of the city then and continues to be today, even if it no longer has the same role in the lives of today’s inhabitants.
Now you can find here terraces with tables spread out in the sun, waiting for their guests, next to buildings glittering in bright colours.
Special houses in the Sighișoara fortress
There are a few houses inside the fortress that have their own special stories. Walking down the streets you can’t help but notice them. Some are even centrally located, near the Clock Tower and the Citadel Square, others you can find on the adjacent streets, but are just as charming.
The first one you see once you enter the fortress is, perhaps, the most promoted among tourists – Vlad Dracul’s House – the place where the former ruler of Wallachia withdrew to prepare for his return to the throne. It is also said that his son, Vlad the Impaler, was born, which makes it an attraction, especially for fans of Dracula’s legends.
Even opposite it, the Venetian House stands out through its atypical architecture compared to the rest of the houses in the fortress. Legend has it that Mayor Stephanus Mann had a passion for a beautiful Venetian woman and built this Venetian-style house in the middle of the city, with stairs leading down to the gondola and neo-Gothic windows.
The blacksmith’s tower
The Blacksmith’s Tower was built in 1631 on the site of the old Barber’s Tower. It burned in the fire of 1676 and then was repaired. It is located next to the Clock Tower, behind the monastery church and it can be visited.
Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Joseph
The Roman Catholic Cathedral of Sighisoara is one of the famous old churches in the medieval city. This construction is characterized by an eclectic style, dominated by neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque architectural elements. The church has a 30 m long nave with a semicircular apse, a transept and a very tall bell tower.
The construction of the church began in 1895, during the time of the parish priest Josef Weiss. It was built on the site of an old church from the Middle Ages, belonging, before the Reformation, to the Dominican Sisters, and after the Reformation in 1723, the Franciscan brothers. It was consecrated on October 4, 1896.
The Shoemaker’s Tower had a defensive role, and although it dates back to ancient times, being mentioned as early as 1521, it took its shape today in 1681. This objective cannot be visited. Today here is the headquarters of a radio.
Tailors’ Tower Sighisoara
The Tailors’ Tower was built in the 15th century, its purpose being to store, but in case of danger, the two gangways could be closed with metal gates. In 1676, during the fire, the gunpowder stored here exploded, destroying the upper part of the tower. The Tailors’ Tower guards the second most important entrance to the fortress and is on the other side of the Clock Tower.
Covered staircase or school staircase
The covered staircase was built in 1642, on the initiative of Mayor Johann Both, to make it easier for students, during severe winters or rains, to access the school next to the church on the hill.
Initially, the School Staircase, built of wood and covered, had 300 steps. After a change in 1849, it retained 175 steps, interrupted by several wide platforms.
This beautiful, tunnel-like staircase, through whose wooden slats the sun’s rays penetrate, leads to the top of the hill, where there is an old Gothic church and an evangelical school.
One of the legends of the ladder says that a boy must kiss the girl he loves on every step of the ladder and say his name without making a mistake. If he succeeds, it means he is the right boy for the girl.
The school on the hill
In 1619 the mayor Martin Eisenburger ordered a building to be built next to the existing one, this new building bearing the inscription Schola Seminarium Reipublicae-1619. The new building is based on a defence tower from an older fortification.
In 1620 the rector Simon Hartmann organized the middle classes according to the model of the three most important schools in Transylvania at that time (Brașov, Sibiu and Bistrița), the graduates having the right to attend any university.
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The church on the hill
The hilltop church in Sighișoara is an evangelical church that was built in several stages between 1345-1525. Dedicated to St. Nicholas, it is located at the top of the so-called “School Hill” (in German Schulberg).
Considered the most valuable architectural monument in the city, it is the fourth largest Gothic church in Transylvania and includes a Romanesque chapel and a quadrangular keep. It has a 42 m high bell tower that makes a foreign body like the rest of the building, and which goes a little to the south.
It has the only known crypt in Transylvania below the choir and contains tombs from the 16th-18th centuries.
Sighisoara Citadel has a special charm. If you visit Sighisoara, you will also love the crowded streets, the cobblestones of yesteryear, the chic but elegantly decorated houses with flowers, the buildings reminiscent of old guilds and the buildings full of spirituality. A walk through the fortress will win your heart and make you want to come back to feel its medieval scent.