Sighisoara Travel Blog› entry 1 of 2 › view all entries
Founded by Transylvanian Saxons during the 12th century, Sighisoara (Schassburg in German) still stands as one of the most beautiful and best-preserved medieval towns in Europe. Designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, this perfectly intact 16th century gem with nine towers, cobbled streets, burgher houses and ornate churches rivals the historic streets of Old Prague or Vienna for atmospheric magic. It is also the birthplace of Vlad Dracula, also known as Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler), ruler of the province of Walachia from 1456 to 1462. It was he who inspired Bram Stoker’s fictional creation, Count Dracula.
In the 14th and 15th centuries, the economic growth recorded by Sighisoara’s industrious craftsmen and tradesmen ensured financial means for the construction of a strong defense system provided with 14 towers and several bastions provided with gunnery directed to all four cardinal points.
Sighisoara was not the biggest or richest of the seven Saxon walled citadels in Transylvania, but it has become one of the most popular. A walk through the town’s hilly streets with their original medieval architecture, magical mix of winding cobbled alleys, steep stairways, secluded squares, towers, turrets and enchantingly preserved citadel, is like stepping back in time.
For several centuries, Sighisoara was a military and political stronghold.
You can still spot the Blacksmiths' Tower, Butchers' Tower, Cobblers' Tower , Furriers' Tower, Ropemakers' Tower, Tailors' Tower, Tanners' Tower and Tinsmiths' Tower. The ninth tower still standing is the Clock Tower itself.
The Citadel Square
This quaint small square lies at the heart of the citadel. In the old days, street markets, craft fairs, public executions and witch trials were held here. From this square, you can easily access the main attractions of Sighisoara.
The Clock Tower
Sighisoara’s main point of attraction is the Clock Tower, also known as the Council Tower, built in the second half of the 14th century and expanded in the 16th century.
After a fire in 1676 when the town's gunpowder deposits located in the Tailors’ Tower exploded, Austrian artists rebuilt the roof of the tower in its present baroque style and in 1894, colorful tiles were added.
The dial overlooking the Lower City features a set of seven figurines, each representing the pagan gods who personified the days of the week: Diane (Monday), Mars (Tuesday), Mercury (Wednesday), Jupiter (Thursday), Venus (Friday), Saturn (Saturday)and the Sun (Sunday).
The Clock Tower served as the gathering place for the City Council until 1556. Since 1899, it has housed the History Museum.
The Church of the Dominican Monastery
Not far from the Clock Tower stands the Church of the Dominican Monastery. First attested in a document in 1298 as part of a Dominican monastic settlement, the church became the Saxons’ main Lutheran church in 1556. The monastic complex demolished in 1888 and its place was taken by the present town hall. Only the church has remained from the original structure.
Inside the church, you can admire some valuable artistic objects, such as the bronze font dating back to 1440, the stone doorframe carved in 1570 in Transylvanian renaissance style and built into the northern wall of the church, the collection of 16th and 17th century Oriental carpets, a baroque organ and a fine altarpiece from 1680.
The Church on the Hill
To the north of the Clock Tower stands one of the most representative gothic-style structures in Transylvania, the Church on the Hill – so called because of its location on the School Hill (1,373 ft high). First mentioned in a document in 1345 and superposed on a former Roman basilica, its construction lasted almost 200 years.
Inside the beautifully restored interior, you can admire fragments of *murals from 1483-1488, the period prior to Martin Luther’s Reformation, and renaissance-style furniture. The gothic altarpiece dedicated to St Martin dates from 1520 and was painted by Johann Stoss, the son of the renowned sculptor, Veit Stoss from Nürnberg. The three wood-carved coats of arms, found in the anterooms of the side naves, belonged to Mathias Corvin and his wife, Beatrix, the Transylvanian prince Stephen Bathory of Nyir (1479-1493) and the king of Poland and Hungary, Wladislav the 3rd.
The Scholars’ Stairs
Located at the end of School Street and connecting the Citadel Square with the Church on the Hill, the Scholars’ Stairs, or Schoolboys’ Stairs, as it was also known, makes for an interesting piece of medieval architecture. Built in 1642, the covered stair-passage was meant to facilitate and protect schoolchildren and churchgoers on their climb to the school and church during wintertime. Originally, the stairs had 300 steps, but after 1849, their number was reduced to 175.
Vlad Dracul’s House
The Vlad Dracul House is located in the Citadel Square, close to the Clock Tower.
The Stag House
Built in the 17th century in Transylvanian renaissance style, the house draws its name from the stag skull set on one of the corners of its façade. Recent restorations revealed an external mural depicting the stag's body. Nowadays, the building houses a hotel, with a ground floor that doubles as a cellar bar.
The Citadel Towers
The half-mile defense wall was initially provided with 14 towers, of which nine have been preserved to this day.
The Ropemakers' Tower
Dating from the 13th century and standing above the pre-Saxon citadel walls, the Ropemakers' Tower is one of the oldest buildings in Sighisoara. Its role was to defend - together with the Goldsmiths’ Tower - the northwest corner of the hill. Nowadays, the tower is the home of the caretaker of the Saxon cemetery, located next to the Church on the Hill.
The Tailors' Tower
This imposing tower was raised in the 14th century by the richest guild in town. Initially as tall as the Clock Tower, its upper part was destroyed in the 1676 fire, when the town's gunpowder deposits, located here, exploded. The Tailors’ Tower, with its two vaulted galleries which used to have huge oaken gates with an iron lattice, also serves as the second access road into the citadel. The tower was restored in 1935.
The Cobblers' Tower
The Cobblers’ Tower, located in the northeastern part of the town, was first mentioned in documents dating from the mid-16th century but it was rebuilt from scratch in 1650.
The History Museum
Admission charge - one ticket allows entry into three museums: the History Museum, Torture Room and Weapons Collection
The museum presents the evolution of crafts in Transylvania and features a collection of Renaissance furniture, medical instruments, ethnographic artifacts, fine arts and a collection of clocks.
The Torture Room
This small but interesting museum is housed at the foot of the Clock Tower in the same room where prisoners were tortured and confessions were extorted during the Middle Ages.
The Weapons Collection
Housed on the first floor of the Vlad Dracul house, the museum features an array of medieval weapons, showcasing the development of weapons used in and around the town throughout the ages. Also on display is an oil portrait of Michael Freiherr von Melas (1731-1806). Born in Sighisoara, he became a general of the Austrian mounted troops and fought against Napoleon Bonaparte’s army at Marenga (June 14, 1880).
Festivals & Events
Festival of Medieval Arts and Crafts (July) - Recreating a medieval atmosphere, complete with troubadour music and costume parades, street entertainers and handicraft displays, open-air concerts and medieval ceremonies, this event offers the chance to immerse yourself in the lore and legends of medieval Transylvania.