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Timisoara, Romania – A Budget and Family-Friendly Destination

By adriana - September 9, 2016

Timisoara, Romania - A Budget and Family-Friendly destinationAdi takes us back to her hometown of Timisoara, Romania for a budget and family-friendly Eastern European slow travel destination.

Timisoara is the 3rd largest city in Romania, with a population of 305,000. It is the capital Timis County, located in Western Romania, near the border with Serbia.

When I think of Timisoara, I get warm and fuzzy inside as it is my birthplace and the city I lived in for the first twenty-one years of my life, before leaving Romania. Of course, I will always be biased, but I will try to be objective as I can be writing this article, especially since I had not been home to enjoy the city in almost thirteen years. Because so much time had passed, I could not help but feel like a tourist in the city I once called home. So much has changed in thirteen years, and I am excited to guide you through the highlights of this now vibrant city, which is both affordable and family friendly.

Timisoara’s Historic Centre

Timisoara, Romania's green and lively Victory Square

Timisoara, Romania’s green and lively Victory Square

The centres of most European cities are beautiful, and Timisoara’s is no exception. Victory Square, or Piata Victoriei, is as lovely as I remember. Flashback twenty-seven years and Timisoara was the starting point of the revolution against the communist regime. I was seven-years-old at the time and scared of what the future might hold.

Today, however, the only reminder of the revolution is the monument dedicated to the fallen victims, placed in front of the Orthodox Cathedral. Overall, the atmosphere is laid back due to the many cafes lining both sides of the square. This square that once was in turmoil is today a place where you can enjoy a nice cappuccino, have good ice-cream, listen to an occasional local band, enjoy many festivals, and in winter it is the setting of a little Christmas Market. If travelling with kids, let them give the millions of pigeons a good run. It’s safe, good fun my kids enjoyed.

Colourful Victory Square in Timisoara

Colourful Victory Square in Timisoara

Here, you will also find the Opera, and I urge you to buy tickets and see a play or a ballet performance. The tickets, when required, are ridiculously inexpensive, and many of the plays are free!

Don't miss the chance to experience Timisoara's Opera

Don’t miss the chance to experience Timisoara’s Opera

Liberty Square, or Piata Libertatii, undergone major transformations since I last saw it. It used to be busy with ancient but dying trees and unkempt, old water fountains. Today I found a newly renovated open space lined with benches, young trees and street performers. The best thing to do here is to get yourself an ice-cream, sit down, and let the world pass you by while reading a good book.

Liberty Square, Timisoara, Romania

Liberty Square, Timisoara, Romania

Unirii Square, or Piata Unirii, is probably my favourite square in the centre of Timisoara. I left the city with scaffolding surrounding most of the historical, baroque buildings and came back to discover them all dressed in new clothes.

Beautifully restored Unirii Square, Timisoara

Beautifully restored Unirii Square, Timisoara

Unirii Square is the epitome of relaxation. Now it is 100% pedestrian (not even bicycles are allowed). The city has replaced the ugly parking lots that plagued the little, narrow, historic streets leading to the square with cafes. The middle of the square offers a green and clean space with historic buildings for history buffs, including the Baroque Palace, built in 1754. It is one of the most important historical buildings in Timisoara, being built after the Kinsky Palace in Vienna.

Parks in Timisoara

Timisoara has plenty of green spaces, like this little church park

Timisoara has plenty of green spaces, like this little church park

I am amazed by how many parks are found in Timisoara. Each is unique in its own way, but they all offer a cool and shaded place on a hot day away from the chaos of the traffic. What impresses me most is many of them are large and very well kept. I appreciate the city’s desire to keep green spaces in a modern world consumed with covering everything in concrete.

Central Park in Timisoara, Romania

Central Park in Timisoara, Romania

The most notable parks for me would be: Central Park (Parcul Central), situated right next to the Orthodox Cathedral, Roses Park (Parcul Rozelor), which abounds in roses spreading their intense fragrance, Carmen Sylva and Lidia Parks, which offer children lots of entertainment, and Regina Maria Park, the oldest park in Timisoara, opened in the 19th century. There are many more, small parks which is impressive considering Timisoara only has a population of 305,000.

Take a deep breath at Roses Park in Timisoara

Take a deep breath at Roses Park in Timisoara

The Timisoara Zoo

The Timisoara Zoo has come a long way since its Communist past.

The Timisoara Zoo has come a long way since its Communist past.

Before this past visit, the last image I have of the zoo in Timisoara was of horrifying and ridiculously small cages keeping in starving animals in a post-communist world that did not care much for these sort of things. I am pleased to say, fast forwarding thirteen years, this is a thing of the past.

Although the size of the zoo hasn’t changed much, the area where the animals reside has increased dramatically, and their well-being is evident. Most of the animals are native to Romania, but you will find the occasional exotic animal like monkeys, Shetland ponies, wallabies, and meerkats. Because the zoo is in the forest, on the outskirts of Timisoara (Padurea Verde), it makes for a nice little escape to get some fresh air. The entrance fee is a bargain.

The Botanical Garden

Timisoara's Botanical Garden is being restored to its former glory

Timisoara’s Botanical Garden is being restored to its former glory

One of the best green spaces in Timisoara is the Botanical Garden. At the time of our visit, the garden was in the midst of reconstruction work. Years ago, the Botanical Garden was unkempt, and many features were destroyed. Today, however, the city is working to change this and refurbishment is underway. We were able to walk inside and enjoy the finished sections. At the end of the renovations, the garden will display ornamental plants, rare species of trees and conifers, and even a Japanese garden. Give this garden a try, especially since the entrance is free.

Colourful blooms at the Botanical Garden in Timisoara

Colourful blooms at the Botanical Garden in Timisoara

The Children’s Park

Kids love Timisoara's Children's Park

Kids love Timisoara’s Children’s Park

I have great memories of the Children’s Park, in which, as a child, I would spend enormous amounts of time with my family. It has always been a great space for families with children but today it’s even more fun. The admission cost is gone, but inside there are a series of opportunities for great fun for a small fee. You can rent a quad or a scooter, you can buy trampoline time, and you can pay for time on huge inflatable slides. The fees are small, and the fun is guaranteed. But don’t think all the entertainment here costs money. There are many slides, swings, and entertainment centres for little ones as well as for the child in you. My kids loved spending time inside.

Bega Canal

The Bega Canal offers serenity in Timisoara, Romania

The Bega Canal offers serenity in Timisoara, Romania

Once a dumping area for trash and dead animals, today Bega Canal has a new, clean face offering the perfect area for a little R&R. Bicycle and walking paths line both banks of the canal, and you will also find a few comfy cafes in the centre. At times, two small canal boats are available for canal tours, and you can even rent little paddle boats. It is perfect family entertainment.

Iulius Mall

Entertain the kids while you shop at Iulius Mall

Entertain the kids while you shop at Iulius Mall

I know what you might be thinking – why pay the mall a visit while in Timisoara? I will tell you – kid fun! Our stay included a few days when we had no idea what to do. Because I had to meet a friend, we decided to meet at the mall. Summer is scorching in Timisoara and spending time in an air-conditioned place sounded great to me.

I was pleased to discover how many activities at ulius Mall are aimed at keeping the kids entertained during the tedious activity of shopping. Little ones can enjoy a lot of fun at the massive jungle gyms and trampolines while older children can experience virtual reality games and a large play-station area. If you ask my son what the highlight of the trip was, he will tell you “killing zombies at the mall.”

Be Cool at the Pool

UMT Pool offers an escape from Timisoara's summer heat

UMT Pool offers an escape from Timisoara’s summer heat

Timisoara has perfected the pool scene with many pools directed mostly at adults, complete with good music and cocktails. However, I have kids, so the ideal option for us was my neighbourhood pool, UMT Pool.

Back when I was a child, I spent entire summers going here, daily. I used to be a mermaid, never wanting to come out of the water. Keep in mind, back then it wasn’t half as nice as it is today. There have been dramatic changes in appearance and quality.

The entrance, as with all the other venues, is inexpensive, and if you go during the week, it’s not busy at all. There are many options inside with different pools on offer: a huge lap pool for proficient swimmers, a thermal pool used mostly by the elderly, and two pools for young children. Food and drinks are available inside, but we preferred to bring our own. During winter, you can take advantage of the newly built spa. They offer massages, different beauty treatments, and a sauna.

The Banat Village Museum

The Banat Village Museum offers a look at Romania's past

The Banat Village Museum offers a look at Romania’s past

This excellent outdoor museum is located in my former neighbourhood, Padurea Verde, and the city has been struggling for years to get it together and make it a place worth visiting. I was happy to see they managed to turn Banat Village Museum into an attraction they can be proud of.

My kids and I loved strolling the walkway leading to the houses displaying village life in the 19th century, in Banat County. The entrance is inexpensive, and you will most likely be alone. Not all the houses allow you to go inside but plenty do. Stepping inside is like stepping back in time, and I loved everything about it. Even my kids enjoyed it; asking questions and being amazed people in the past did not have today’s technology. More houses will be added in time as it looked like the museum will expand. Do pay this wonderful place a visit.

Where to Eat in Timisoara

The café and food scene in Timisoara has exploded, with many options for Romanian and international cuisine that will make your taste buds happy. In that regard, I need to point a few of my favourite restaurants.

Casa cu Flori serves great Romanian cuisine

Casa cu Flori serves great Romanian cuisine
Tripe soup at Casa cu Flori

Tripe soup at Casa cu Flori

Casa cu Flori – Situated on Alba Lulia walkway, between Victory Square and Liberty Square, Casa cu Flori offers mostly Romanian cuisine. We visited a few times for one of my absolute favourite Romanian dishes – tripe soup (ciorba de burta). They provide a great portion size, good and fast service, and it I very inexpensive. I especially love that they are on the top floor, on a shaded terrace, offering a beautiful view and a breeze on a hot day.

Musiu offers great food in a green and peaceful setting

Musiu offers great food in a green and peaceful setting
Fresh and delicious food at Musiu restaurant

Fresh and delicious food at Musiu restaurant

Musiu – This restaurant was recommended by a good friend so I trusted her advice. Musiu feels like home away from home. Situated in a residential neighbourhood, in the Balcescu area, Musiu offers a tranquil, green space, good music, excellent service, and great food.

Curtea Berarilor is a great restaurant option in Timisoara

Curtea Berarilor is a great restaurant option in Timisoara
Dining at Curtea Berarilor restaurant in Timisoara

Dining at Curtea Berarilor restaurant in Timisoara

Curtea Berarilor – Curtea berarilor is a large, no-frills pub/restaurant situated across the street from the Continental Hotel and the Bega Shopping Center. Eat here if you want to enjoy a large and inexpensive portion of the most Romanian dish I can think of – mici, with mustard and Timisoreana beer. The terrace is inviting but, on a hot day, step inside and enjoy the cool air offered by the air-conditioner. [It seems funny to be mentioning the air-conditioning but in Romania, there is a stigma against it so not many places offer it. You will hear passionate opinions about "the draft” caused by air-conditioning and how bad it is for you. Just one of the quirks of being Romanian.]

Delizioso Gelato is a great dessert option in Timisoara

Delizioso Gelato is a great dessert option in Timisoara
Which flavour to choose?

Which flavour to choose?

One last thing I need to mention is the best Italian gelato I’ve ever had. Now, when I say ‘the best gelato’ I am not using the words as a cliche term. I generally dislike Italian gelato (crazy, right?), because I find it too icy. I seek creaminess in an ice cream, creaminess I found at Delizioso Gelato, in Liberty Square, a newly opened ice-cream shop everybody needs to discover. Here you buy the ice cream not by the cup but by weight, and 100g will cost you 5RON or just little over 1 euro.

Tips for visiting Timisoara, Romania

Traffic is chaotic in Timisoara so don’t be afraid to use taxis. They are inexpensive and an excellent alternative to public transportation. Pay attention you take a taxi company, not a private car. Use Tudo, Pro, Fan, Euro, and Radio taxis for very inexpensive rates.

If using public transportation, pay attention to your belongings as there are occasional pickpockets on board.

Travelling the city in summer using public transportation can be nightmarish due to the heat, making trams sweltering. Use buses or taxis as most are air-conditioned.

Take out cash! While most stores, cafes, and the mall will take major credit cards, there are many vendors who will only accept cash, so be prepared.

Do not be afraid to travel to Timisoara and Romania in general. It is not a dangerous destination no matter what gypsy stories you may hear in the media.

I can honestly say I loved being back home. Rediscovering Timisoara with my kids was a lot of fun. Timisoara has changed so much in the last decade, making it able to compete with many West European cities in terms of history, architecture, food, and fun! If you ever visit Romania do not skip this beautiful and vibrant city!

Timisoara, Romania - A Budget and Family-Friendly destination

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Adriana
I live in Germany with my husband and two children. I have a big passion for travel and photography. I am most happy when I travel, when I discover new cultures, see new places and try new foods. We have travelled to more than thirty countries and almost two hundred cities. See some of the photos taken during our adventures at Life in A Suitcase and follow on Google+.
Adriana
I received 6 peer recognitions @Viewbug https://t.co/g3sxUigoZq #photography - 6 days ago
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6 comments

  1. Comment by Gosia

    Gosia Reply September 9, 2016 at 18:38

    Thank you so much for the article. Just on time as I’m going there in 2 weeks. Can you also recommend some day trips from there?

    • Comment by Adriana

      Adriana Reply September 9, 2016 at 23:47

      Lugoj is close and it has a cute center. Deva is great, to visit Deva fortress, although not really a day trip. Bigar waterfall is 2h away in Caras-Severin county. It’s a small waterfall but it was voted one of the best in the world.

  2. Comment by Luminita

    Luminita Reply September 9, 2016 at 22:50

    Central Park and the Botanical Garden are two of my favorite places in Timisoara. I never went to Musiu, so thank you for the tip, the food looks delicious! It’s always nice to rediscover your own city. Sometimes, you forget about the places you used to love and it’s good to revisit them.

    • Comment by Adriana

      Adriana Reply September 9, 2016 at 23:50

      Timisoara has some of the best green spaces I’ve seen in Europe. Musiu was really nice. One other place I wanted to try was Homemade but they were on vacation the entire month of August.

  3. Comment by Betsy Talbot

    Betsy Talbot Reply September 12, 2016 at 17:06

    Adri, I loved this post and your gorgeous photos. Now I want to go to Romania even more! My neighbors here in Spain are Romanian, and her parents are currently visiting. They brought us 2 beautiful needlework scarves from Romania. What are some of the top products/crafts/foods you recommend visitors try to get a real feel for Romania?

    • Comment by Adriana Yampey

      Adriana Yampey Reply September 12, 2016 at 20:41

      For the real taste of Romania, I recommend the countryside. Everything moves a lot slower and the feel is that of going back in time 100 years. The food is the best as most of it comes from people’s gardens. My favorite Romanian foods are soups. Tripe, perisoare, green beans, chicken soup with dumplings. My favorite summer dishes are the salads; cauliflower and eggplant salads are so yum on homemade bread, made in a brick oven. Most of the time the fairs come with huge BBQ areas full of pork goodness. Romanians love to eat lots of pork, BBQed, and cured products. For authentic Romanian products visit fairs and markets in the countryside. They are made in Romania. If you go to tourist stores you will see a lot of the stuff is made in India.

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