Sighisoara, the birthplace of Dracula (sort of) – Backpacking Romania

Sighisoara, the birthplace of Dracula (sort of) – Backpacking Romania

If you’re going to Romania’s Transylvania region, there’s a good chance the medieval city of Sighisoara is on your list of places to visit. It’s famous for being the birth place of Vlad the Impaler, the man who inspired the character Count Dracula and it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

I took a day trip to Sighisoara, fitted in on my way from Brasov to Sibiu. There’s only a couple of trains a day from Brasov and they take just under 3 hours. I departed at 8:51 am and arrived in Sighisoara at 11:31 am.

 

Basov - Sighisoara - Sibiu Map
Basov – Sighisoara – Sibiu Map

 

I bought a first class ticket as I wanted to sit next to my friend. There isn’t much difference between first and second class carriages.

 

First class train carriage
First class train carriage

 

At Sighisoara’s train station they have a luggage store. For 7 RON they store your luggage all day so you don’t have to worry about carrying it around.

 

Sighisoara’s background

 

Sighisoara’s claim to fame is, it’s the birth place of Vlad III or Vlad Țepeș, known as Vlad the Impaler.  He was the second son of Vlad II Dracul and had the family name Dracul (Romanian for Dragons).  “Son of Dracul” in old Romanian is Drăculea which gives you Dracula.

Vlad the Impaler was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s fictional vampire – Count Dracula. He was famous for impaling people. For those not familiar with this technique – it’s when a large spear is inserted into the anus and then raised so the person slowly slides down the spear, while all the internal organs are missed. It typically takes 2 days to die.

 

Impalement
Impalement

 

Apart from his love of gruesome medieval torture there isn’t much of a tie between Vlad the Impaler and the fictional Count Dracula.

Count Dracula is based in Transylvania, yet Vlad the Impaler was Prince of Wallachia and never owned anything in Transylvania. However, his father Vlad II had a house in Sighisoara, Transylvania. So it’s claimed Vlad the Impaler was born and spent the first 4 years of his life here. There’s a sign by the clock tower so it must be true.

So much of Romania’s tourism industry stems from Bran Stoker’s Dracula.

 

Vlad Dracula home from 1431 to 1435
Vlad Dracula home from 1431 to 1435

 

It’s really colourful and touristy

 

Considering this is the birth place of the infamous Vlad Tepes – ruler, impaler and torturer, I didn’t expect it to be painted in bright blues, oranges and yellows. The inside of Sighisoara’s medieval citadel is very colourful.

 

Colourful buildings of Sighisoara
Colourful buildings of Sighisoara
Cobbled streets of Sighisoara
Cobbled streets of Sighisoara
One of the many souvenir shops
One of the many souvenir shops

 

It was obviously painted these colours to make it more appealing to tourist. I thought it looked a little tacky but, on the plus side, the children seemed to enjoy it.

 

The citadel – not so pretty from the outside
The citadel – not so pretty from the outside

 

From the outside of the citadel the little city looks very different.

 

UNESCO Historic Centre

 

Sighisoara is an example of a fortified medieval city and one of the 7 fortified Saxon cities in Transylvania. The citadel dates back to the 12th century and remains one of the best preserved in Europe. Inside the citadel square there are a few restaurants and some shaded seating.

 

Citadel square
Citadel square
Bars and Restaurants
Bars and Restaurants
Dog chillin in the square
Dog chillin’ in the square

 

The Clock Tower is the highlight

 

In terms of things to do in Sighisoara, it’s pretty limited. The main two attractions are the Clock Tower and the Church on the Hill.

The Clock Tower is at the main entry point to the citadel. Only 9 of the 14 towers constructed along the citadel walls remain. Sighisoara has a long history of protecting itself from the Turks and these towers played a large part. (Note: outside The Clock Tower is a drinking water fountain)

 

Sighisoara Clock Tower and wall
Sighisoara Clock Tower and wall

 

The Clock Tower is accessible to tourists and costs 7 RON to go up (only 4 RON for students). It’s definitely worth it.  Inside is a small museum on each floor as you make your way up. The museum was nothing special but the view from the top of the tower is impressive. I especially liked the brass signs with the distances to capital cites all around the top.

 

Sighisoara Clock Tower
Sighisoara Clock Tower
Museum inside
Museum inside
Top of the Clock Tower
Top of the Clock Tower

 

Church on the Hill

 

If you go up Scholars’ Stairs – the set of covered steps – you reach the Church on the Hill. This sits on School Hill at 1,373 ft. It’s the most significant church in Sighisoara and the third largest in Transylvania.  

 

Entrance to the covered stairways
Entrance to the covered stairways
Stairways to the Church on the Hill
Stairways to the Church on the Hill

 

At the top are views of the surrounding area and a large graveyard. It costs 7 RON to enter the church and I think it’s worth it. I got a print-out of the church’s history and I strolled around. I looked at the statues and went down into the crypt.

 

Graveyard on the Hill
Graveyard on the Hill
Inside the Church on the Hill
Inside the Church on the Hill
Statues
Statues
Down into the crypt
Down into the crypt
Graves
Graves

 

It’s home to the worst museum ever

 

When I heard there was a Torture Museum I was intrigued. We arrived at the museum’s small door and found it closed. I asked at the tourist shop next door if it was open today and they told us to wait 5 minutes for someone to open it.

After 10 minutes someone arrived and opened the door. Entrance was 4 RON. This “museum” is actually just a chilly room with a few wooden torture devices and no information. It’s hilariously bad.

With a bit of imagination they could make this so much better. But I guess the name is good enough to attract tourists.

 

Torture Museum
Torture Museum
Noose, but no written information
Noose, but no written information

 

Take Swimwear

 

Sighisoara only needs half a day to explore. If you have a car then it’s the perfect place to stop by for a few hours, but if you’re relying on public transport from Brasov or Sibiu, there aren’t many options so you might find yourself there all day.

Outside the walled part of the city there’s a camp site with an outdoor swimming pool – Aquaris Pensiune, which is a great way to spend a few extra hours in the summer.

 

Aquaris Pensiune – outdoor swimming pool
Aquaris Pensiune – outdoor swimming pool

 

Get a selfie with Vlad

 

After strolling around the citadel streets – there isn’t many of them – I went to look for the statue of Vlad Tepes (the Impaler). I found the statue and took a selfie. It’s very similar to the statue in the Old Town in Bucharest.

 

Vlad Tepes statue
Vlad Tepes statue
Selfie with Vlad
Selfie with Vlad

 

There are many rumours surrounding the death of Vlad the Impaler. They range from: his own soldiers turned against him, to, he died on the battlefield fighting against the Turks, and my favourite – he went undercover to gain intelligence on the Turks, he was captured by his own men who didn’t recognise him and killed him. One thing that remains a mystery – where is his body?

Only his head was recovered and put on display in Constantinople (now Istanbul) to prove to the Turkish people that Vlad’s reign was well and truly over. Hence, there’s only a statue of his head.

 

Food includes a lot of pizza

 

This is a general thing I noticed in Romania – they love pizza. There are so many Italian restaurants in the country, yet the food isn’t that good.

Sighisoara isn’t immune to the influx of pizza places. Luckily they were a lot better than what I had in Bucharest. I had pizza for lunch and in the evening we had a meal at Al Forno. This restaurant has an outside area in the back which is nice to relax in.

 

Italian food at Al Forno
Italian food at Al Forno

 

Getting to Sibiu or back to Brasov

 

There’s a train back to Brasov at 17:39, if you’ve taken a day trip from there. Alternatively you can head to Sibiu like me. There are no trains running in the afternoon and evening but there is a shuttle bus run by CDY Services that departs from the main bus station at 19:50. They are really strict about making a reservation in advance and printing it out. It cost 19 RON to go from Sighisoara to Sibiu and took 2 hours.

 

Typical Romanian mini bus
Typical Romanian mini bus

 

Overall

 

I felt 8 hours was a long time to spend in Sighisoara. It only needed 4 hours to explore as the Citadel is very small.

My favourite parts were the Clock Tower and Church on the Hill. Both are a must see. A lot of the appeal of the city is its historical significance and it might be worth reading up on it before you visit. Although I think even children would be unimpressed by the torture museum.  Overall, it’s just another citadel with a loose tie to Count Dracula.

 

4 Replies to “Sighisoara, the birthplace of Dracula (sort of) – Backpacking Romania”

  1. It is a good story and a very unusual place to go. I would rather fancy it myself but for just four hours as you say. It is a bit tacky looking but rather surreal and better than your run of the mill
    holiday. Thinking of the reality of Vlad, he was a shocker. The cruelty of people never ceases to amaze me. I would like to go to this region.

    1. I hope you go one day. The region is definitely worth exploring, if you have a car then you have a lot more freedom. Vlad the Impaler did horrible things but I think Romania is thankful for how many tourists he brings to Transylvania.

  2. This blog brings back memories of the time we spent in Sighisoara. You are looking great in that first photo. That torture museum was certainly a joke. Would also note, it was pretty hard to find water to buy while up on the citadel, luckily there was a drinking fountain and the water seemed safe to drink.

    1. I had a great photographer 😉 I totally agree on the water fountain. I mentioned it in the the post – it’s outside the Clock Tower. On a hot day (Romanian summers are hot!) it’s very needed. Most of the places in the citadel are restaurants aimed at selling food.

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