Timisoara was a bit of a wildcard choice for us; we had never heard of it, it had cheap flights from Bucharest (£8) and was near the border of Serbia. We did do a little google and it looked a nice place so we thought why not! Some of the best places we have been had been little known or slightly off ‘tourist central’. We caught our Ryanair plane from Bucharest which left on time for the short flight to Timisoara arriving at 19.20. By population, Timisoara is currently the fourth biggest city in Romania, constantly jostling for second place behind Bucharest with Cluj-Napoca and Constanta.
Unfortunately upon arrival things went slightly downhill; we had pre-booked accommodation as usual on Booking.com which included a free airport transfer; there was no sign of our transfer upon arrival. After phoning we were informed our host was not local and an uber would be arranged. This also did not materialise so after a long wait we ordered our own uber and made our way to the accommodation. Unfortunately, upon arrival this was not of a good standard with no working toilet, a horrible smell and the kitchen had a very poor level of cleanliness. Despite paying in advance for this accommodation we were tired and fed up so booked into a different hotel through Booking.com at a good rate with late availability. We called an uber and arrived at our new hotel, The Excelsior, which was a vast improvement, at 10pm. Tired and a bit fed up we decided to get an early night and enjoy our full day in Timisoara tomorrow.
We got up early and had breakfast which was an extra 7 euros each and then headed off to Timisoara for stop one – Nigel’s haircut. It is a bit of a tradition for him to get haircuts abroad and as he was looking like the nutty professor we decided it was time to take the plunge (and let’s face it not much could go wrong!). We managed to locate a busy barber’s shop not too far from our hotel in Piața Nicolae Bălcescu.
With Nigel all neat and tidy again we decided to head to the centre of Timisoara to see what it had to offer. We crossed the River Bega, stopping to take pictures of the Timisoara Orthodox cathedral and visited the Civic Park admiring the graffiti.
We were quite clueless about what Timisoara had to offer and from googling it appeared there were three main squares in the town centre so we headed for the nearest one which was Piata Libertatii. This was quite small but pretty with sculptures, shops and seating areas.
We next headed on to Piata Unirii, or Union Square, which was larger and also very pretty; boasting colourful buildings, coffee shops, the Baroque Palace, Roman Catholic dome, the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral and the Trinity Monument. We stopped here to have a coffee and take in the ambience.
Our next stop was where the fun really started, Piata Victoriei. This was a bustling hub with food and drink stalls, loads of people and a really chilled out vibe. What we didn’t realise when taking our earlier pictures of the Orthodox Cathedral was that it was the focal point of the square (we veered off from it rather than go straight on). It was Easter weekend which is why there was so much going on; however, we decided to check out the stalls.
We decided to try a hot wine from one of the stalls which cost 3 lei (approx 50p) whilst having a look further around the square; the food looked nice however we weren’t quite ready to eat yet. There were some impressive fountains and the square is also home to the National Opera. The square is where Timisoara was proclaimed the first free city in Romania on 20th December 1989 and was renamed Victoriei or Victory Square from Opera Square. The promenade on the right of the square facing the cathedral is called ‘Corso’ and on the left ‘Surogat’. The square houses cinemas, shops, galleries and copious coffee shops, restaurants and bars and was clearly the must-see place to visit in Timisoara.
It was pretty hot so we decided to stop for a drink in one of the bar/restaurants called Massimo; we didn’t eat but we did have a couple of cocktails sat in the sun which were reasonably priced around 19 lei each (around £3.50). After we had finished these we decided we were hungry so went to try what looked like a big omelette with meat on the top. We ordered a portion of this which we shared and it became apparent it was not eggy at all but polenta with cheese and meat. It was nice and very filling although some of the meat on top was a little chewy. We then decided to try one of the ice creams; we had seen the cones being made on the grill and wanted to try them. They were really quite nice at approximately £1 each.
We hadn’t yet tried the local beer which had to be done! We stopped at Restaurant Timisoreana and tried Timisoareana beer before heading back to our hotel for a bit of a rest!!
That evening after a bit of a nap we decided to head for the ‘Beer Factory‘ in Fabric. This was mentioned to us previously, however, we weren’t entirely sure what it was; however from googling it was the factory for Timisoreana Beer! We grabbed an uber and headed there. The Beer Factory is actually a big dining hall offering good food and a wide variety of beers from the Timisoareana label. It also transpires it is the oldest Brewery in Romania.
The Brewery hall had a very similar feel and layout to the Lowenbraukeller in Munich which we also enjoyed. We sampled some of the very reasonably priced food and beers and enjoyed our visit. There was a beer garden out the back which we could imagine would be lovely in the summer months.
After leaving we stumbled across this rather impressive sight – The Millenium Church. The view of the church at night really was spectacular. I am sure the church is equally as impressive inside also, however, it was closed at that time of night. We called an uber and headed back to our hotel to pack for the next leg of our trip in the morning.
Timisoara did not quite go to plan due to the issues when we arrived which meant that we missed out on exploring the first evening; however, what we saw we really enjoyed. We only had a snapshot of what it had to offer; I’m sure there is much more in relation to nightlife and sightseeing that we didn’t have time for including the inside of the Millenium Church. Timisoara is due to be the Capital of Culture of Romania in 2021 which will only lead to an increase in the visitors to this lovely place and due to budget airlines flying here it is more accessible than ever (Wizz Air fly here from Luton at very reasonable prices). What was also surprising was the availability of uber here which is very popular; most taxi rides were under £2 including to the Beer Factory. It was, however, time to move on to our next location – Belgrade!
Carol & Nigel xx