The city of Sighisoara (pronounced like siggy-shwa-rah) is probably best known for being the purported birthplace of the infamous Count Dracula, aka Vlad Dracula, Vlad III, and Vlad Tepes, or Vlad the Impaler.
Vlad’s father, Vlad Dracul, also known as Vlad the Evil, was made the military governor of the Transylvanian region by the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund. Vlad III was born in what today appears to be a fairly nondescript home in the medieval fortified city on top of the tallest hill in Sighisoara.
While Vlad is portrayed literally as a monster throughout most of the world, in Romania he is a national hero. While his methods were quite brutal, he successfully held off the Ottoman Empire to protect the principality of Wallachia against incredible odds.
The fortified section of the city was established in the 12th century by Saxons who had been invited to inhabit the area by the King of Hungary. After plagues, the city was vacated. Later when people returned to the area, they were reclutant to inhabit the former plague-ridden walled section of town and instead settled in the lower section which is now the main part of the town.
The former citadel is one of the few currently inhabited medieval fortified cities in Europe and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is also the home of the annual Medieval Festival, traditionally held during the last weekend in July.
The city is full of history, and while most tourism is centered around the fortified citadel, the town itself is worth spending some time exploring. The city is easily reached via a 5-hour train ride from Bucharest or a 2-1/2-hour ride from Brasov.
The town can be reached by an easy walk from the train station, or you can take a taxi for about 7 RON (just over $2 USD).
While you can experience a good portion of the citadel and the town in half a day, I would encourage you to plan on at least a full day. There is really a lot to see and a lot of history in this small town. The locals are extremely friendly.
The citadel is most commonly entered by passing through the base of the clock tower. There is a different carved figure for every day of the week, and the tower still functions today.
This is where Vlad Dracula was allegedly born. See what I mean by nondescript?
The Saxons who established the citadel had many craftsmen. The wall is ringed by towers dedicated to different trades. This home was next to the shoemaker’s tower and a more modern church.
A statue of Vlad Dracula, locally known as Vlad Tepes or Vlad the Impaler.
These covered steps were built to give the city’s inhabitants protection from the winter weather while going further uphill to attend church or visit the cemetery. This isn’t a trick shot. The stairs really are that steep. Not really worth the climb either. There are only a couple of buildings up there, and they aren’t really that interesting.
Even if you aren’t a big fan of all things Vlad Dracula, Sighisoara is a great addition to any Romanian itinerary.