The City of Timisoara is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city which has much to offer, both to its residents and to its visitors.
Located in Western Romania, in the Banat region (60 km southeast from the western border with Hungary, 40 km northwest from the northern border with Serbia and around 650 km west of Bucharest), Timisoara is the capital of Timis county. No less than 315000 people call this city home.
Timisoara was first mentioned in history as Castrum Temesiensis in a decree of King Andrew II of Hungary in 1212. As a city, Timisoara was mentioned first in 1474.
Throughout its tumultuous history, this city rose from almost perishing in the rage of invading ottomans to become around 1712, the “little Vienna”.
For centuries, this name has been widely accepted mainly for two reasons: first, for the architectural style of the buildings, and second, for the German features given by the German clerks and artisans who came to live in Timisoara starting with 1700, after the town had been conquered by Prince Eugene of Savoy.
Timisoara was the first city in Europe and second in the world after New York, to use electricity to illuminate its public streets. It was the first European city to introduce horse-drawn trams (in 1869) and electrical street lighting (in 1889).
Timisoara was built on a swamp – and that is the reason why it is impossible to use underground transportation in this city. The Metropolitan Cathedral has 5000 oaks supports underneath it. Timisoara is known as the city of roses or the city of many parks. On 16 September 2016, Timișoara was selected as Romanian host city of European Capital of Culture in 2021.
Things to do in Timisoara
Have fun in Unirii Square
Unirii Square is an enormous Baroque square on the edge of the Timisoara Old Town and is made up of buildings built during the 18th and 19th centuries. The picturesque Habsburg-era Unirii Square was so-named for the imposing sight of the Roman-Catholic and Serbian Orthodox Cathedrals facing each other. Historic pastel-hued buildings line the square. During the 18th century, this was the city’s commercial centre and the venue for numerous military processions and religious ceremonies. In the very center of the square is the Holy Trinity Monument and nearby is a well that was drilled to a depth of over 405-meters. The impressive 18th century Baroque Palace dominates the square’s south side. Formerly the governor’s residence, it now houses the Museum of Fine Arts with works by German, Flemish and Italian artists. At the northwest corner of Piata Unirii stands the spectacular Scont Bank. This typical Hungarianstyle art nouveau structure, built in the early 20th century, features an organic shape comprising curved walls studded with turquoise tiles forming patterns drawn from folklore, and extravagant iron gutters and window grills. Unirii Square is constantly packed with people, which is no surprise, as it’s lined with restaurants, bakeries, bars and other shops.
Visit the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral
Built between 1936 and 1946, its green and red roof tiles are arranged in a mosaic design. With its 11 towers, it is one of the tallest churches in Romania. In front of the Cathedral is a memorial to those who lost their lives during the 1989 Revolution which overthrew Communist rule.
Stroll Down Opera Square
Some of the city’s most interesting sites are its elegant baroque buildings, spread around town and particularly along the main square, Opera Square. It was built in the early 1900s on the grounds of a fortress which once stood in the same area. On one end of the square is the Orthodox Cathedral and the other end is the Opera House so it’s a neat place to relax with the locals and take some great photos of the architecture in Western Romania.Get Lost in Roses Park At the outer edge of the Old Town, near the Orthodox Cathedral, is the Roses Park. Legend has it that this park was designed and created for the rich women who lived in Timisoara during the 19th century. It’s said that these women imported their own roses from abroad and today you can find quite the variety of beautiful flowers in the park. There are more than 600 different species of flowers and plenty of gravel walking trails throughout the park. It’s a popular place for locals to visit during weekends and many people come to take their wedding photos here.
Take a tour of the Beer Factory
The Timisoreana brewery is the first brewery in Romania, founded in 1718, and parts of the old factory are still preserved today. Here in the garden factory, in November 1847, Austrian composer Johann Strauss son, along with his orchestra, gave a concert in which he played famous waltzes – The Blue Danube, Artist’s Life, Vienna Blood and Wine, Women and Song. It was the first concert of Johann Strauss son, outside Vienna. In the tour, you can see lots of interesting things, like how is beer processed or what are the difference between simple, caramel and black malt.
Relax in the Freedom Square
Another remarkable open space in the city is Freedom Square which offers a great display of Secessionist architecture. The Banat region was under Turkish rule from 1552 until 1716 when the Austrian-Habsburg Prince Eugene de Savoy took over Timisoara. At this time, a seven-starshaped bastion and gate-towers were constructed and the marshes surrounding the town were drained by the new Habsburg governor, General Mercy.
Taste wine in Recas Vineyards
Taste white, red and rosé wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Burgund Mare, Merlot, Cadarca, Feteasca Regala or Creata at Recas Wine Cellars, 12 km from Timisoara. A visit at the cellars will give you the opportunity to attend a presentation of the wine making process in the Barrique Hall, and the conservation of bottled wines in the Recas vinoteque – featuring stocks of exceptional vintages.
Learn about history at Theresa Bastion
Theresia Bastion, named after the Austrian Empress Maria theresa, is the largest preserved piece of defensive wall of the Austrian-Hungarian fortress of Timisoara. Built between 1732–1734, it is used nowadays as a passage, but it also houses commercial spaces, restaurants, bars, a disco and a library, and two permanent exhibitions of the Museum of Banat.
Even though Jewish presence in the Banat region dates back to the 2nd century AD, the first written mention of the Jewish community in Timisoara occurred in 1716, when the Turkish army commander surrendered the town to the Austrian Prince Eugeniu of Savoia.
In the old Sephardic cemetery, graves dating to the Turkish occupation may be seen, the oldest belonging to Azriel Assael, a Rabbi and surgeon who died in 1636. A century latter, Rabbi Meir Amigo and four followers from Istanbul were allowed to settle in the city. Following the implementation of citizen rights acts in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Timisoara’s Jewish community flourished, reaching a population of almost 7,000. Six synagogues were built in the city after 1867, the year of the AustroHungarian reconciliation. Today, three remain with one still active.
The New Synagogue in Fabric (Sinagoga din Fabric) – Address: Str. Splaiul Coloniei 2
One of the most beautiful buildings in Timisoara, the synagogue in the Fabric district was built in 1899 by Hungarian architect Lipot Baumhorn in a traditional Moorish style. It is currently closed for structural repairs.
Great Synagogue(Sinagoga Cetate) – Address: Str. Resita 55
This Neolog-rite synagogue, built in Oriental style in 1865, resembles the great synagogue in Oran, Algeria. One of the largest synagogues in Europe, it is currently closed for structural repairs.
Orthodox Synagogue – Address: Iosefin district
Built between 1906 and 1910, this Orthodox Synagogue is the only one in service at this moment.
Apart from the many shops in Unirii Square and Opera Square, the shopping-addicted can have fun at Iulius Mall or Timisoara Shopping Centre. Iulius Mall is one of the biggest shopping centers in Romania, with its 350 stores, a food- court with 25 fast-foods, restaurants and cafes, seven-screen cinema complex, a casino, swimming pool and fitness club, bank agencies, and so on. Shopping City Timisoara on the other hand, houses the first and only cinema in Romania and the second cinema in Europe with IMAX and 4DX technology. It has 110 stores, a thirsteenscreen cinema complex, 20 fast-foods, restaurants and cafes, plus lots of entertainment places.
Enjoy a cup of coffee in a special place
You can have the best coffee in some of the picturesque bars or cafes in Timisoara in the Unirii Square. Here are a few we visit often and recommend: Mokum Cafe – the smallest cafe in Timisoara, Tucano Cafe – enjoy a wide variety of coffee specialtiess, Café Colt – hosting our regular Saturday Morning Milongas in Timisoara.