From interesting cities, with a wealth of architecture, history and events to discover, to beautiful nature sites, here are some suggestions for the 2020 travel list.
A city of rich history and many cultural events, Sibiu often finds a spot in local and international travel recommendations and for good reason. It's well preserved Old Town, testimony to its Saxon history is a joy to discover, with its winding, cobbled streets, eyed rooftops and many museums. The Brukenthal Museum has one of the most impressive art collections in the country, while the History Museum or the Pharmacy Museum, all located within the perimeter of the Old Town, are definitely worth a visit. The Astra Museum Complex, located in the city’s Dumbrava Sibiului Natural Park, is another attraction. The open-air, ethnographic museum received this year’s Luigi Micheletti Award, which recognizes innovative museums in the world of contemporary history, industry, and science.
Sibiu is also where many events with an international reach take place. It was a European Capital of Culture in 2007, a European Region of Gastronomy this year, together with the surroundings, and it is getting ready to host in 2021 Eurorando, a pan-European walking event organized every five years by the European Ramblers Association (ERA). The Jazz Festival and the International Theater Festival held in Sibiu are other events that are worth a trip to the city. And if time allows for it, a trip in the area Mărginimea Sibiului offers unspoiled rural charm, quietness and great food. No wonder it has been included among the best destinations for a digital detox.
A city often touted as an example of a successful transformation into a regional IT hub, Cluj has its own share of interesting museums, beautiful parks, Eastern Europe’s coolest café culture and one of the best art bars in Europe. It is also home to some of the country’s largest festivals, such as the Transilvania International Film Festival (TIFF) or the music festival Untold. It is also a destination you can discover and enjoy without having to worry about it being too crowded. Actually, CNN included Cluj Napoca on a list of “20 beautiful European cities with hardly any tourists.” So you will be able to enjoy sites such as the Gothic St. Michael's Church or Fabrica de Pensule at ease. While in town, don’t miss the views of the city from the Cetățuia Hill, and, if you visit at winter, the Christmas Market, selected this year among the most beautiful in Europe.
One of Romania’s oldest cities, Iaşi was the capital of Moldavia for three centuries, from 1564 to 1862. It is a city of beautiful, old parks, impressive buildings and home to the biggest literature festival in the country, FILIT. Among the landmark sites to see in Iaşi is the renovated Palace of Culture, a Neo-Gothic style edifice that hosts four major museums: the Art Museum, Moldavia’s History Museum, the Ethnographic Museum, and Stefan Procopiu Science and Technology Museum. The city’s Botanical Garden is the oldest and largest in the country, spreading on over 80 hectares of land, divided into various sections, including a Rose Garden gathering some 600 varieties of roses. The Copou Park is the city’s oldest public park, dating back to 1834, and is now also a popular destination for literature events, art exhibitions, and fairs. It also hosts the Mihai Eminescu Museum, dedicated to Romania’s great Romantic poet, as well as Eminescu's Linden Tree, a centuries-old tree said to have been a favorite of the poet while he lived in Iasi.
The region of the Apuseni Mountains is known for its picturesque landscapes, impressive caves, and villages where traditional life goes on largely intact. Some 60 km from Arieseni, in the village of Chiscau (Pietroasa commune), you will find the Bears’ Cave. It has a length of 1.5 km but the part accessible to tourists is only 488 meters. It was 1975 when it was discovered by chance during limestone exploitation works. Traian Curta, one of the village’s miners, was the first one who had the courage to enter and explore the mine, and who got really scared when he discovered the huge bones inside, a real cemetery! Indeed, the name of the cave comes from a species of bear that disappeared 15,000 years ago, the cave bear, Ursus Spelaeus. These gigantic mammals used to retreat to these caves to die.
Another site to see is the Scarisoara cave, home to the second-largest underground glacier in Europe, a 4000-year-old natural monument preserved thanks to the air currents and the low temperature which is sometimes close to 0 degrees even in the summer, perfect for cooling off if you took a jacket with you. The entrance is through an impressive chasm from which you have to go down (then back up) 270 steps to enter the cave.