If you’re like me and travel runs through your veins, you probably use Skyscanner religiously. If you’re not familiar with this site (I mean we always rave about it here on Shut Up and Go) it’s basically this travel search engine which let’s you find the cheapest tickets for whatever date you choose. Oh, and you can actually use this service right on our website. You’re welcome.
Anyways, sometimes I choose my city (Bologna) as the departure city, random dates, and then select the destination as “Everywhere” to see the cheapest place I can head to for a vacation. (Yeah, normal people get bored and take Facebook quizzes that tell them they look 40% Chinese and 7.6% Nicaraguan… then there’s me).
One day, my friend Gabi and I decided to stop fantasizing and we bought the cheapest ticket for Halloweekend. Guess where we ended up?
Ever heard of it? Neither did we. But for 15 euros we decided to buy our ticket anyways and research later.
What did we learn?
During my pre-departure homework, I discovered that Timișoara is one of Romania’s major cities with about 300,000 people. Interestingly, I found out that many of these people are actually students, and for that reason, Timișoara has historically been a lot more progressive than other parts of the country further east. In fact, Timișoara was the first city in Romania to free itself from communism. Additionally, the main language is Romanian (no kidding) and the currency is the Leu. If you’re interested in exploring Transylvania, this is the perfect place to base yourself before you head out since it’s legit right next door. Oh, and lastly – Timișoara is the 2021 European Capital of Culture. Moving on…
The Basics (Lodging and Transport)
Now that we’ve done a brief background, let’s talk about what we actually did when we arrived in this new city.
As for lodging, we stayed at Hostel Cornel, right in the city center. The price ended up being 9 euro per night for a 10 bed mixed dorm (super steep, I know). At the end of the day, the hostel was pretty empty and chill, definitely not filled to the brim with loud partygoers as in other places. Alternatively, we did see Airbnb apartments going for as low as 12 euro per night. However, we wanted any chance possible to meet other travelers like us so we decided to opt out.
The only transport you’ll really need to book is from the airport to the city center. Gabi and I decided to take the local bus which costed us 2.5 Lei (around $0.60 USD) and lasted around 20 minutes. Timișoara itself is pretty small, and if you blink you’ll end up on the other side of the town. For that reason, I don’t think investing in any kind of bus pass is really worth it – although buses and trams do exist and are reasonably priced.
What is there to do?
The best things in life are free – fortunately, this also applies to Timișoara. The first thing we did as soon as we arrived in the city was explore the three main squares: Victoriei Square, Libertăţii Square and Unirii Square.
Unirii Square was the first square we encountered when leaving the hostel and is without a doubt one of the most spectacular. Dating back to the 1700s, the architecture is seeping with Baroque flair. Also, remember what I said about tolerance and progressivism? The square itself hosts a Serbian Orthodox Cathedral and a Catholic Cathedral… facing each other. Yeah – not very common back then.
Victoriei Square developed a bit later in the 1900s and today is home to the opera house and the main Orthodox Cathedral. This is the main center of life in the city with tons of restaurants, shops, the gigantic tourist letters everyone takes selfies with, and a cascading fountain.
If you decide to enter at least one place of worship during your trip, it has to be the Orthodox Cathedral. Finished in 1946, the cathedral looks like something out of a fairytale. Its design was heavily influenced by Gothic and Moldavian styles. What stood out the most to me was all of the extravagant gold and murals lining the interior. Romanian architects at the time wanted to make sure this was one of the most beautiful cathedrals of its kind in the world.
Lastly, take a stroll along the Bega River like we did and relax in the rose garden. We found these chairs scattered around that I low-key suspect might have been taken out of the airport (consult the photo below). However, they’re perfect for sitting down, practicing your Romanian verb conjugations, and admiring the foliage. Who said you have to run around all the time while traveling?
What about Food and Drink though?
Our favorite food stop was easily Miorița and luckily we found it on the first night. This was a real traditional Romanian restaurant, like the kind they tell you about in the movies. The interior was covered in aged brick, soft furs lined the chairs, and traditional gowns and cloths were splattered all along the walls. The second we walked in, Gabi and I looked at each other and said:
Wow… this is fancy
As a vegetarian, I ordered mămăligă (a polenta dish) with sour cream and local cheese. Gabi, since she eats meat, ordered the traditional Sarmale dish (pork-filled cabbage rolls) with polenta on the side. Adding a drink each, we ended up spending a grand total of around $5 USD per person. For a traditional dinner. In this bougie-ass restaurant. No, I’m not kidding.
The next day we decided to eat Ciorba in some random restaurant outside by Unirii Square. Ciorba is this traditional soup that comes in all different varieties and can be found across Romania and the Balkans. I ordered the vegetable Ciorba, Gabi ordered some kind of meat variety, and we both split some “Mediterranean Potatoes” and water. How much did this all cost? $2.50 USD per person. I’m done.
Oh and alcohol, almost forgot. Assuming you like beer, go to Bibliotheka. It’s not a library (as its name suggests), but rather a bar with one of the most impressive collections of beer that I’ve ever seen. I decided on a Coconut Porter that ended up being delishh.
Even though Romania was on my radar, I probably would have never bought a ticket to Timișoara had I not seen those crazy low ticket prices on Skyscanner. I ended up finding a cute town with a vibrant culture, a bustling food scene, and all for less than I would’ve spent during a weekend staying in my own city.
So next time you see that 15 euro ticket to somewhere you might not know too much about like Timișoara, or Kaunas, or Skopje – take my advice and buy it. You never know what you might discover!
What is the cheapest plane ticket you have ever purchased? Where did you end up?