The birthplace of Romania's 1989 revolution has a lot more to offer than just its recent history. Romania's fourth-largest city is the capital of the historic region of Banat and situated just on the outskirts of Transylvania. It's location at the crossroads between two of the country's major provinces has added to its colorful past, and given it a unique atmosphere that can't be found anywhere else.
Have breakfast and see some recent history
Romania in general likes a hearty breakfast, and Timisoara is no exception. Stop by Garage Cafe or Neata Omelette Bistro for a decadent wake-up before setting out.
Next, head to the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral, completed in 1946 and located in the city's main plaza, Piata Victoriei. While there are much older churches in Romania, don't let the Metropolitan Cathedral's youth fool you. This is the site where the protests against Romania's dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, first began. The uprising started here in mid-December of 1989, and eventually spread to the rest of the country. While debate continues about whether or not the uprising was truly a people's revolution or a coup coming from inside Ceausescu's government, Timisoara played a pivotal role in the fall of the authoritarian regime. The church itself echoes the style of the painted monasteries found in Bucovina in northern Romania.
Take a stroll through the rest of the square and you'll find lovely shops and restaurants lining the green pedestrian zone, eventually ending at the opera house on the other side.
Stop to smell the roses
Just behind Piata Victoriei, a green promenade lines the banks of the Bega River. The promenade is home to a lavish rose garden established in the late 19th century during the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was destroyed during World War II, but restored in 2012 and is open to the public. It also houses an open-air theater. Spring and summer are the best times to visit the promenade, as the roses are on full display!
Experience a melting pot of epochs
Across town, the recently renovated Piata Unirii is the oldest square in Timisoara. It's undergone a few name changes over the years, but was renamed "Unity Square" in 1919 when Romanian troops entered Timisoara after the union of the Romanian province of Banat with the rest of the country.
The square houses the Baroque Palace, which now functions as the city's art museum, a column commemorating an epidemic that swept the city in the 18th century, and a Serbian Orthodox cathedral also from the 18th century. But one of the square's most remarkable buildings is actually from the 1900s. The Art Nouveau-style Casa Brück was built in 1910 and gives Piata Unirii a whimsical character.
Time for lunch
Although some version of stuffed vine or cabbage leaves can be found across the Balkan Peninsula, no two countries' versions are exactly alike. Romanian sarmale is usually made with ground pork and rice wrapped in stewed cabbage or vine leaves, and eaten with sour cream and polenta. The best sarmale can be found at Casa Bunicii, or Grandma's House, a Timisoara institution.
Visit the memorial of the Romanian Revolution
The museum of the 1989 revolution is the best place to get a sense of what little we know about the end of Romania's dictatorship. Although a bit dated in some aspects, the museum offers a 30 minute film with English subtitles about the events leading up to and during the revolution, along with primary documents and images from the time period. Outside you can visit a fragment of the Berlin Wall and the Heroes' Column, a monument to those who died during the chaos.