Archives November 2016

Bucharest wellness and spa complex opens new area for families

Therme Bucharest, the biggest wellness and spa complex in Romania, is expanding its Galaxy area with a new 4,000-sqm space dedicated to families, regardless of their children’s age.

The new area has a salt library, a playground with 14 Playstation consoles, three thematic wet saunas, and 20 infrared beds. It will include the largest Himalaya salt construction in Europe, with 40 tons of salt having gone into its construction. The library will have around 150 books and ebooks.

The complex currently has three areas, namely Galaxy, The Palm, and Elysium, which can host about 4,000 people simultaneously.

Read more about the expansion at

Alba Iulia, history at the heart of Romania

Alba Iulia is a tourist destination many may have never heard much of, but this up and coming tourist spot will definitely see increasing interest in the future. It’s time to plan a trip there before it gets too crowded. Most travelers go there with low expectations, but end up in awe and decide to revisit.

What the majority know about Alba Iulia relates to its rich history – this is the place where the great 1918 Union took place, which makes the city commonly referred to as the other capital city. But only a few people know about the Alba Carolina citadel, which now, after the restoration with EU and private money, looks stunning. The citadel and the relaxed feel of the city will definitely turn Alba Iulia into a tourist magnet.

It’s the heritage that makes this city a must-include-in-my-holiday destination, but it’s not only that. The main attraction is the Vauban fortress called Alba Carolina, and a trip around the citadel – which should be guided, otherwise you’ll miss a lot of stuff – is a trip through Romania’s history, back to the Dacian and Roman settlements, to the Habsburg citadel in the star-shaped configuration designed by the French engineer Marshal Vauban. Should you need a guided tour, the place to ask for one is the Museum of History (where the Union Hall is also located), where they can organize tailored tours, depending on how much time you have. They’re talented story tellers too – the museum director Gabriel Rustoiu is one of them.

The Vauban fortress was built between 1715-1738 after the Habsburg conquest of Transylvania, and it looks great restored. The seven gates of the star–shaped fortress are a tour in themselves, and what sets them apart from other Vauban–type fortresses are the decorations that are still present on the majority of them.

But the history of the place goes further back in time: this was the place where King Michael the Brave unified the three Romanian provinces for the first time (and for a short time) in 1600. Later on, in the 20th century, this was the reason the city was chosen for the Great Union of 1918. To this end, the Union Hall within the Union Museum is a must see. Later on in 1922, King Ferdinand and Queen Maria were crowned in Alba Iulia, at the Orthodox Cathedral, which was built for this occasion. A rarity to see an Orthodox Cathedral so close to a Catholic one, which had been on the site since the year 1000 – and yet they ‘live’ together in the Alba Iulia fortress.

There are several palaces that need to be visited – so book at least a day for your tour of the fortress. You will be impressed by the attention to detail and by the local authorities’ understanding of the need for entertainment. If you visited other citadels in Romania and found it a bit boring, it might not be the case here. From the guards dressed in historic costumes who perform a change of guard ritual every day and fire the cannons on Saturdays at noon, to the photo magnet statues located here and there in the fortress, everything creates a positive experience.

The fortress is a lively place, especially if you happen to visit while they organize one of their frequent cultural events. But even apart from that, a lot people from down the city spend time there, a lot of them biking and mixing with tourists. The change of the guard is also very popular among tourists and locals alike, and so is the new Roman guard the Museum of History has put together – people dressed in Roman army costumes, performing their ritual during the evening.

The city itself is very quiet and perfect for de-stressing, as it is not on the main transport route, like the nearby Sebeș is, so chances are high you will enjoy a stress–free weekend. There’s plenty accommodation available – check below for our recommendations.

While in Alba Iulia, there are several other destinations apart from the citadel. One is the Râmetului Gorge, which was an adventure in itself and a must try for those who like adrenaline and a bit of climbing – it’s good for beginners as well.

Once the highway being built to reach Sebeș is finished, it will be even easier to get to Alba Iulia from Bucharest, but even so, on the Bucharest – Pitești – Râmnicu Vâlcea and then the Olt Valley route, it takes about five hours to travel the 350 kilometers before reaching Alba Iulia. The road there is good, although in some areas only just acceptable, but scenery on the Olt Valley is so beautiful that you’ll ignore some bumps in the road. If you have time, stop at the Cozia monastery in Căciulata, just at the entry to the Olt Valley.

On your way back to Bucharest you can take a slightly longer route via the Jiului Valley and make a stop at the famous Sarmizegetusa Regia Dacian site in Hunedoara county. Then head back to Hunedoara and Petroșani to enter the beautiful Jiului Valley. In 2013, the road was closed for repairs three days a week, on Tuesday, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, so better check before planning the route.

By Corina Chirileasa

A trip to Little Vienna

For a weekend or more, Timișoara is a city worth discovering for its diversity, history and lively arts and culture life. This is the city where the Romanian revolution of 1989 started and the one that holds the title of European Capital of Culture in 2021. And the one often called “Little Vienna,” for its heritage of Secessionist architecture.

The city standing on the northern bank of the Bega River is the third largest in western Romania and its presence is first recorded in 1212. The city was built on the site of ancient Roman fortress Castrum Regium Themes and its first fortress was Castrum de Tymes, built by the Hungarian Crown. In time, the city welcomed the most diverse cultural influences: Turkish, Austrian, German and Serbian.

A tour of Timișoara can start in Piața Libertății (The Freedom Square), which hosts the Viennese Baroque sculpture Mary-Nepomuk. The monument was transported from Vienna, by water, in 1756. It was started by Rapahel Donner and finished by Wasserburger and Blimm. Also in Piața Libertății stands the Timişoara Garrison Command and the Military Casino, a late Baroque building with rococo influences. The Old City Hall is another landmark building in this area. Its eclectic look comes from the various refurbishments it underwent in time. It was built as the “German community city hall” in 1731 but its façade was rebuilt several times.

bega_canal_0innercloisterPiața Unirii (The Union Square) hosts the Romano-Catholic and Serbian Orthodox Cathedrals, which face each other. The Roman-Catholic Cathedral, known as The Dome, was completed in 1774. It is representative of the Austrian Baroque, with the towers similar to those of the Holy Trinity Church in Salzburg. The Baroque Palace hosts the Banat Art Museum since 1984. Built in the Austrian Baroque style with some Rococo details, it has a large hall that hosted festivities occasioned by the visit of emperors and important cultural personalities, such as the musicians Franz Liszt, Johannes Brahms, Pablo Sarasate or George Enescu.

Piața Victoriei (Victory Square) has as its main attraction point the Romanian Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral. Able to host about 5,000 people, it has 11 towers, the highest of which reaches 83 meters. It was built between 1936 and 1946, and its green and red roof tiles are arranged in a mosaic design. The Memorial of the 1989 Revolution stands in front of the cathedral, while the Memorial Museum offers further insight into the events that took place in the city. The Piarist Complex, including a monastery church and a school, both created by architect Szekely (together with A. Baumgarten), in the Secession style, can be found north-west of the cathedral.

For day visits from Timișoara you can try a trip to the Recas Vineyards, to Arad or to Hunedoara. If you’re in the city for longer, the city is home to an opera house and to the Banat Philharmonic, and hosts theater venues such as the German State Theatre or the Hungarian State Theatre. Timișoara regularly hosts its own Jazz Festival, a Literature Festival, and a Tango Festival, among others.

More about what to do in the city here.

Photos: Wikipedia/ Gratziela Ciortuz

Bucharest Astronomic Observatory reopens after restoration works

The Bucharest Astronomic Observatory Admiral Vasile Urseanu is reopening this weekend, on November 26th, after undergoing restoration and consolidation works that started in 2014, reports Astronomy presentations and workshops had been previously held at the Sutu Palace.

The revamped building will be inaugurated with the exhibition titled “Signs and Symbols. Apophenic Visions in the Fractal Domain.” The exhibition can be visited until May 28th 2017 and opens on November 26th, starting 13:00.

The history of the observatory, the only one open to the public in the capital, begins in 1908 when local astronomer and scientist Victor Anestin started working with Admiral Vasile Urseanu to establish the premises of the institution.

The admiral would become the president of the Romanian Astronomy Society Camille Flammarion and would build the yacht-shaped house with an observation dome. Of the house, which he built through his own financial means, he used to say: “I built my house in shape of a yacht, with an observatory dome so I can look through a telescope and at the same time have the feeling that I’m floating at sea.”

Photo: Mircea Răduțiu,


Fresh travel guide – City Compass Romania: Bucharest & Beyond, 2017

City Compass Romania: Bucharest & Beyond, 2017, the feel-at-home guide to Romania, in English, enjoyed by expats, tourists and even Romanians, is now out in print & digital editions.

Everything you need to feel at home in Romania! Practical info, tips & tricks, real stories from 17 contributors and curated recommendations in an easy to follow format + bonus special chapter on technology.

Now available in hardcopy, soft cover, fully color, glossy, 168 pages, as well as in digital formats – full color PDF, ePub & .mobi versions for iBooks and Kindle reader.

This book will help readers discover the real Romania. It covers the main regions and cities of the country, with insights from 17 contributors, locals and expats, and recommendations of places to see and things to do.

Highlights of this edition:

  • NEW Letters from expats
  • UPDATED Travel destinations from all over Romania, including main cities, mountain resorts, seaside & Danube Delta
  • NEW Spa & destination hotels in Romania
  • UPDATED Bucharest neighborhoods, including Pipera –the expat area & Old Town
  • NEW Special dossier: Technology,  Tech trends, Romanian discoveries,  IT hubs,  Start-ups
  • UPDATED & CURATED Bucharest business directory, in easy to browse format:  Restaurants, Hotels, Shopping,  Education, Transport, Home & more

Get a free book extract by signing up here, and order your copy now – in print with international delivery, or digital, with instant download! 

New theater venue opens in Bucharest

Apollo111 is a new theater venue in Bucharest, set to open starting November 25th. The theater is open in the B section of the Universul Palace in the capital.

The theater, which will have a new artistic director each season, will stage productions for both grownups and children. “We want to be an alternative to state-financed theaters and cultural institutions and we are looking for an organic growth. We create art by running this project on the basis of a business model based on our own financing,” theater representatives say.

The founders of Apolo111 are actor Bogdan Dumitrache; Cătălin Rusu, CEO of Rusu+Borțun; director Călin-Peter Netzer; and film producer Dragoș Vîlcu.

For the first year the artistic director of Apollo111 will be one of its founders, actor Bogdan Dumitrache. He will be followed the second year by director Radu Afrim and the third year by a playwright. During its first running year it will show five productions, each of them staged for only six weeks. If one production is sold-out, it will be rescheduled after several months for another two or, at most, four weeks.

Children aged 4 to 7 will also find a repertoire for them, with productions highlighting the magic of stories and novel visual concepts.

The theme of the first season at the theater is an interdisciplinary one, combining film and theater. The first performance is directed by Radu Jude, based on Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s text Ali: Fear Eats the Soul. The second script to be staged at Apollo11 is Sieranevada by Cristi Puiu.

Apollo111 is located in the Universul Palace, in a space offering an 850 sqm surface for performances, a theater and cinema hall with 140 seats, a hall for concerts and special events, three rehearsal halls, two casting halls and a bar.

The program and the tickets can be found here.

Photo: Apollo111 Facebook Page, the launch event.

The Dacian fortress at Ardeu

On the route linking Rosia Montana to Sarmisegetuza, an ancient Dacian fortress stands proof of a prosperous community that lived in the area 2000 years ago. Built by the same model as other fortress in the Orastie Mountains, the site is lesser known and not included in the tourist circuit, even though it is more accessible. After climbing a steep hill and around 250 steps, the visitor reaches the fortress surrounded by stone walls, built to control the access to the old gold mines on the Aries Valley.

Archeological digging revealed traces that confirm human living in the area since the 1st century BC. The oldest traces belong to the Cotofeni culture. Later, in the Bronze Age and during the first period of the Iron Age new communities settled here. Archeologists say that 2000 years ago the Ardeu fortress had defense walls, a tower that served as a residence, a smith shop and many housing spaces. During the second Dacian-Roman war, a fire engulfed the fortress and the building’s south side fell down, covering most of the interior yard. During the Middle Ages the fortress started being inhabited again and a new fortress emerged, on a smaller surface, protected by walls made out of mortar.

The Ardeu Fortress and the gold mines in the vicinity are often linked to a legends saying that a treasure was hidden in one of the caves in the area. The treasure was guarded by giants who bricked up the cave so nobody would know where it is hidden, hence the interest in exploring the area.

The fortress still accommodates an archeological site and open-doors days are organized here by the Dacian Civilization Museum in Deva, making for a good opportunity to visit the place in case you don’t decide for a self-planned trip.

How to get there:

The fortress is located in the Ardeu village, Balsa commune in Hunedoara county. It is 44 kilometers away from Deva, and can be reached by car by following the county roads DJ107A and DJ705.

The Romanian Eternal Flames, a wonder of the nature in Buzau

There are many things I like about Romania, but the one I like the most is that it has so many tourist attractions that are not yet known. Today I am going to tell you more about one of such places mainly known by locals and some mountaineers as it’s off the beaten track: The Living Fires of Buzau.

”A landscape that could only be dreamed up by the Brothers Grimm.” That’s how a British journalist with The Guardian described the Buzau region after a week bicycle touring through the Buzau Mountains.

Many already know about the Muddy Volcanoes, which are also a wonder of the nature, but few know that the area where the two attractions are located will soon become a Geopark, joining the network of 48 already present in Europe.

The Living Fires of Lopatari are some of the most mysterious, and unusual phenomena you will find in nature, on a hiking path, within your reach. The important thing is to know where to look. In the village called Terca you will find this phenomenon, which is unique in Europe, but not in Romania.

Two similar sites can be found in the Andreiasu and Reghiu communes in the Vrancea County. Although the Fires in Andreiasu are considered to be more spectacular, as they also cover a larger area, the ones in Lopatari are more popular among tourists due to the other attractions in the area: the Muddy Volcanoes, the Dealu Mare wine-growing district, the Salt Mountains near Manzalesti, the oil springs at Pacuri, or the amber mines at Colti, Romania’s only amber extraction site.

Wondering how this works? The natural emanations of gas are lit at the surface, under the rays of the sun. The fires burn at night as well, when the scenery is at its most spectacular display. At times you can see a flame rising up to 1 m above the ground.

For travelers, the fires are a natural curiosity. For the locals however, they are a source of legends, mystical beliefs, and superstition. Many local traditions have been inspired by these “eternal flames,” some no longer practiced, others still leaving their mark on local pottery or costumes.

So are you ready for a hike in the beautiful area of Buzau? To reach the place, take DN2/E85 to Buzau, drive through the city and then take DJ203K to DC159 in Lunci and then continue for another 7 km until you reach Terca. Keep in mind that the car cannot take you to the Fires. The road takes you on uneven terrain up the hill, on a twenty minutes hike. Make sure you follow the signs and you will get to see this wonder of nature in no time.

By Oana Pascu


The Underwater Church

Close to Cluj, in the village of Belis, the traveler can encounter an unusual kind of church: an underwater one. The Urmanczy church can be seen especially during extremely dry summers as it emerges out of Belis-Fantanele lake, which flooded it in 1972-1973.

The church was built in 1913 by count Ioan Urmanczy and is one of the few remains of the Belis village in its original site. In between 1972 and 1973 the course of the river Somesul Cald was diverged to create the Fantanele dam as part of the works to build the Somes hydro-power plant. The new course of the river ran through an 8,475 meters long underground gallery, powering the plant. In order for the project to take shape, the villages of Belis and Giucuta de Jos, both sitting at the time on the bank of the river Somer, were moved or they would have ended up being flooded by the waters of the accumulation lake.

By 1974 new houses were constructed at a new location but the church remained at its old site. What was taken from it with the move was the rooftop and the steeple. Today, the foundation of the church sits 30 meters deep underwater. Despite its water location, the paintings on the church’s walls, representing angels and biblical scenes, are still visible.

How to get there:

The E60 on the Oradea-Cluj-Brasov route leads to the site. Once at Huedin, you can take the DJ101 to Belis village.

Several other tourist sites can be found in the area: the fortified church in Valeni, the Radesei fortifications, the Scarisoara glacier or the Ursilor cave.

Photo source:

Open-air ice-skating ring inaugurated in Bucharest’s newest mall

Veranda Mall, the newest one to open in the capital, inaugurated its ice-skating ring. With a 650 sqm surface, it is the first open-air one in the Obor area of the capital.

The ring is open daily, between 10:00 and 22:00. Access costs RON 15 Monday to Thursday and RON 20 Friday to Sunday. Passes options are available, as are discounts for larger groups. Renting a pair of skates costs RON 15 for the entire day. Those who cannot yet skate can find instructors on the premises.

AFI Palace Cotroceni also has an indoor ice skating rink, and Promenada Mall will most likely open a rink on its roof terrace, as it did in previous years.

Read more about the new opening at

Sibiu, European Region of Gastronomy in 2019

The central Romania city of Sibiu is known, among others, for having held the title of European Capital of Culture in 2007, for the international theater and jazz festivals taking place there each year, and as the city whose former mayor became Romania’s first president of an ethnic community background.

Its tourist profile has only increased in recent years, and now the food culture of the region is taking center stage as it has been selected to be the European Region of Gastronomy in 2019, alongside the South Aegean region in Greece.

sibiu-turismSibiu placed its bid under the title Sibiu, richness and legendary tastes, highlighting the diverse gastronomy and traditions of the region. Products from the area include the Mărginimea Sibiului cheese; cold meat dishes such as “pomana porcului” (pig’s give-away), sausages, wursts, jelly, pork rinds, meat in lard jars or salt greaves and the Sibiu slami; sweet potato bread, flax seed bread, pumpkin seed bread and sunflower seed bread; Tãlmaciu plum brandy (ţuica) or Sadu brandy (rachiu); and ecologic honey.

In preparation for the title, programs highlighting local products will be developed and restaurants in the area encouraged to use it. The food culture festivals taking place in the county of Sibiu will be further developed.

But there is no need to wait until 2019 to visit the region. The city of Sibiu makes for a good destination all year round and the Christmas Market there is one of the most attractive in the country. The city’s old town, its cultural life and its many pubs and cafes make for a good destination, either for one weekend or longer, but also for a good base to explore the entire region. The Sibiu county hosts many medieval Saxon fortified churches and villages and the medieval town of Medias.

The Sibiu Region, as it applied for the title of European Region of Gastronomy 2019, is made up of the city of Sibiu, the city of Mediaș, Mărginimea Sibiului, Țara Oltului, Valea Târnavelor, Valea Hârtibaciului and Țara Secașelor. It encompasses over 460,000 inhabitants and over 300,000 hectares of agricultural land.

Read more about the bid of the Sibiu region here.

More about the city of Sibiu here.

Photo: SibiuTurism Facebook Page

Bucharest subway operator adds more trains during rush hours

Bucharest subway operator Metrorex decided to increase the number of trains during rush hours (7:00 to 9:00 and 17:00 to 19:00), after several incidents caused chaos in the underground over the past two weeks.

A total of 22 trains will run on the M2 line, which connects the Pipera office district in Northern Bucharest to the Berceni residential area in the South, at every three minutes. Metrorex has added one more train on this line, which is the busiest one during rush hours.

Over 600,000 people use the subway in Bucharest every day. During rush hours when commuters have to wait one or two trains to pass before they can finally get on a train. This happens most often at the Victoriei and Unirii subway stations, where many commuters also change trains.

Read more about these changes at