A stroll through history
Mentioned in documents as early as the 11th century, definitely existent in the 13th century, Timişoara is the heart of the Banat – a beautiful and rich Romanian region that has had its share of glory, beauty and hardship. Situated at a commercial and military crossroad, Timişoara was one of the matters under dispute between the Ottoman and the Habsburg Empires. The Ottoman writer Mustafa Gelaldzade called Timişoara “the most important and powerful fortress in Transylvania, wanted by all Sultans”. In the 16th century, after repeated attacks, the fortress was conquered and the Banat region was turned into an Ottoman “paşalîc”. In the 18th the Austrian troops led by famous Prince Eugene of Savoy conquered the Ottoman fortress and thus the region became a province of the Habsburg Empire.
Timişoara developed as a town around the fortifications of the fortress, and being heavily influenced by Vienna it became a powerful economic centre. After 200 years of Habsburg occupation and a short period of Serbian occupation, in 1919 the Romanian army entered Timişoara, the Banat was united with Romania and the Romanian administration settled in Timişoara.
Dramatic moments occurred in modern times as well. The collapse of the communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989 was received by the people of Timişoara as a historical opportunity to over throw the communist totalitarian regime of Nicolae Ceauşescu. Timişoara is the city where the anti-communism Revolution of December 1989 started, which led to the downfall of Nicolae Ceauşescu and the communist regime in Romania.
Today Timişoara unfolds itself to visitors as a multicultural, modern, innovative and progressive city that still preserves alive the memory of past times through its historic, architectural and cultural heritage.
Milestones in Timişoara’s history
1177 – indirect documentary mention of Timişoara as a fortress
1212 – official documentary mention of Timişoara – Castrum de Tymes
1308 – Hungarian King Carol Robert of Anjou begins the construction of a castle and a fortress
1552 – the Ottoman Empire conquers Timişoara and turns it into a “paşalîc”
1716 – Prince Eugene of Savoy frees Timişoara from the Ottomans, and Timişoara becomes part of the Habsburg Empire
1718 – first documentary mention of Romania’s* oldest brewery
1728 – beginning of river Bega’s canalization, the first navigable canal in Romania*
1723 – the construction of the new “Vauban style” star-shaped fortress began
1745 – building of the town hospital, the first one in Romania* (25 years before the one in Vienna and 36 years before Budapest)
1771 – publishing of the first newspaper in Romania* – “Temeswarer Nachrichten”
1819 – 25. 02 – administration of smallpox vaccination for the first time in Central Europe
1823 – Janos Bolyai discovers the first non-Euclidian geometry in the world
1857 – first town in Romania* and the Habsburg Empire with street lighting with gas lamps
1869 – first town in Romania* with a tram pulled by horses between Cetate and Fabric districts
1884 – 12.11- first European town to have introduced general electrical street lighting with 731 lamps
1910 – the first hydroelectric power plant in Romania* is built on the Bega river
1919 – Timişoara becomes part of Romania
1938 – first welding machinery for train and tram rails, invention of professor Corneliu Micloşi
1953 – only European town with three state theatres in three languages: Romanian, German and Hungarian
1989 – first communism-free city in Romania
Romania*- refers to the present territory of Romania
Timişoara is situated in the western part of Romania, at the crossroads of East and West, bordering Hungary and Serbia. Tolerance and understanding are the two key words our city Timişoara has been built on. Representatives of tens of ethnical and religious groups have lived in Timişoara for ages. Twenty-nine ethnical minorities and seventeen religious groups live in Timişoara.
Timişoara is situated somewhere between East and West at the border of two civilizations. It is a permanent space of cultural and ethnical interferences that offers the city multiple advantages. Never have there been ethnic or religious conflicts in our area, Timişoara being a melting pot of cultures.
Timişoara is a rich cultural city with a particular architectural heritage, which gathers in a relatively small space an impressive heritage from different epochs and cultures, traces of different ethnic communities who have left their identity marks here.
Timişoara’s multicultural background comes from its past. Especially in the 18th century, colonists from the Habsburg Empire were encouraged to settle down in Timişoara in order to encourage economic development.
Today, Romanians, Hungarians, Germans, Serbians, Bulgarians, Jews, Italians live in harmony; they are active and vivid communities having their own cultural and religious institutions. Timişoara is the only European city with three state theatres in three languages: Romanian, Hungarian and German.
The Cetate district, Timişoara’s city centre, has always been the “heart”, a cultural, administrative and political centre of the city. Timişoara’s centre is a descendant of the Austrian military fortress built in the 18th century.
Timişoara’s historic centre has a system of three urban squares, unique in Romania, each square presenting different sizes, plastic solutions and architectural styles, which make up most of Timişoara’s “inner city” charm.
Libertăţii Square is undoubtedly the oldest of the Timişoara squares. Libertăţii Square’s location is also the site of the original nucleus from which Timişoara’s evolution started. The square has a lovely aspect with some fine baroque buildings and monuments like St. Mary and St. Nepomuk Monument, the Former Town Hall, the Military Casino.
The most charming is Unirii Square, the largest ensemble of Baroque architecture in the city. The most important buildings are the two cathedrals, Roman Catholic and Serbian Orthodox, the Baroque Palace and the Holy Trinity Monument. For three centuries, Unirii Square was the place of religious events, military parades and prestigious political and cultural events.
Victoria Square formed at the beginning of the 20th century on the grounds of the former fortress. The northern and southern sides are flanked by the imposing buildings of the Metropolitan Orthodox Cathedral and the Culture Palace, while the middle of the square is dominated by the green area with beautiful floral arrangements.
Around the year 1850, over half of the population in Timişoara lived in the Fabric district. If the “Cetate” was and remains the city’s brilliant showcase, Fabric was once the district of “middle-class people in Timişoara” and still keeps the picturesque of past centuries.
Fabric district’s past was directly influenced by the Bega River. Until 1907, not one Bega but several were flowing through Fabric. Several old, natural river branches were left here intentionally not canalized, and also a few additional canals have even been dug. The purpose of these small water courses was to set the small industry that began to emerge here in the 18th century going, especially the dozens of mills. In 1907-1910, the canals were levelled, some becoming streets – on the district map one can see that the Fabric has a far more disordered street structure than the other districts.
Fabric developed as a suburb outside the fortress, but not close to it, as the limit of 950 meters required by the military administration of the city of Timişoara had to be kept. Today’s Fabric is mostly the product of years 1880 to 1910, when many imposing buildings, most of them Secession, were built. Some of the monuments in this district are: Decebal Bridge, Neptune Baths, Szekely Palace, Synagogue in Fabric, Millennium Church, Ştefania Palace.
Iosefin and Elisabetin Districts
Until after 1716, the area of the present-day Elisabetin and Iosefin districts, located at the south-west, respectively south of the Cetate district, was not inhabited. There were no buildings (except the so-called “Roman wall”, whose actual construction date is unknown, but which went across the present-day Iosefin district).
The historic districts of Iosefin and Elisabetin emerged south of the fortress, on the site of former gardens under a lease (“maier”). The first buildings emerged in Elisabetin, but only Iosefin had succeeded in becoming a district with more than a few isolated houses since the 18th century. The second half of the 19th century, when steam power in locomotion is introduced, brings a dramatic development to the two districts, since the city’s railway station and port were here. Between 1860 and 1916, dozens of streets with thousands of new beautiful houses, some being true 1900s architecture jewels, were built: Traian Bridge, the House with Peacocks and Owls, St. Mary Monument, the Reformed Church, the Iron Bridge, the Synagogue in Iosefin, the Catholic Church in Nicolae Bălcescu Square.
Timişoara is a powerful cultural centre, providing its inhabitants and visitors with a cultural offer extremely valuable and diversified.
The inhabitants of Timişoara perceive culture as a facet of the social reality, necessary in order to regenerate the spiritual energies of the community. Culture has a unique and attractive character for the tourists as well as for the inhabitants who look for that peculiarity within the cultural events that could transform their visit into a memorable experience.
Timişoara’s museums hold valuable memories of the city and of the region, and some of their collections are of national or international importance: the Art Museum, the Banat Museum, the “Memorial of the Revolution”, the Banat Village Museum. There are also collections belonging to the different religious institutions located in Timişoara such as the Collection of the Romanian Orthodox Archbishopric, the Collection of the Catholic Bishopric and the Collection of the Serbian Orthodox.
Many art galleries and art foundations are very active in promoting intense international exchanges. Timişoara is appreciated both nationally and internationally as one of the most influential and dynamic centers of contemporary visual art in Romania.
Timişoara is the only European city to have three state theatres in three languages – the National Theatre „Mihai Eminescu”, the German State Theatre and the Hungarian State Theatre „Csiky Gergely”. The Romanian Opera House Timişoara, the „Banatul” Philharmonic and the House of Culture are also outstanding cultural institutions, presenting high-class artistic performances and concerts. Besides the professional cultural institutions, there are also numerous other cultural organizations, art galleries, musicians, artists that contribute to the effervescent life of the city.
Many of the artistic events take place in public and unconventional places – squares, parks, banks of the river, museums, old historical buildings, churches, even the airport runway.
The cultural agenda of the city looks more like a novel – the list of festivals and events seems endless. Timişoara intends to apply for the European Capital of Culture 2021.
Fun and entertainment
And when evening sets in, not everybody goes to bed… Bars and terraces are spread all over the city, not only in the city centre but also in the students’ campus and along the banks of the river. The terraces are popular in summer even during week days. To a foreigner, it may seem that everybody’s having an eternal vacation. So it comes natural to everybody to get into a holiday atmosphere.
Even during summer the city is never short on night life. As a matter of fact, if you go out on a Saturday night to Unirii Square, you will find it quite difficult to get a free table at a terrace. Late at night, in the city centre or in the students’ campus there’s a bustle and cheerfulness just like in a seaside resort.
You can choose from tens of clubs and bars. These are extremely diverse; some could be up to similar ones in other European countries, while some have the ‘local colour’. In summer many popular clubbing venues are set outdoors at swimming pools, while others take up the cool vaulted basements of venerable, 250 years old buildings of the „inner city”.
Timişoara’s most elegant squares – Unirii Square and Victoria Square have undergone a total revitalization over the last decade. Tens of terraces line up in these squares, and also on the streets in between. So, after a visit at the museum, or on a break during a city tour, there are plenty of opportunities to relax.
What can be more relaxing than taking a walk along the Bega River and passing through the beautiful parks of the city? How can you discover the sights and lovely scenery of Timişoara’s surrounding countryside in a healthy and invigorating manner? On a bicycle, of course! Timişoara offers a lot of sport activities including canoeing on the Bega! If you are looking for a fun place to visit, make sure your travel plans include the Zoo. You can rent a bike to discover the countless quiet streets of the historical districts: Cetate, Fabric, Iosefin and Elisabetin, or even head north to the green hills starting beyond the Green Forrest.
For those moments, when the shopping epidemic catches you, the cure is right in handy in Timişoara: the downtown area has shops and boutiques of all sorts. Not enough? Then the big shopping mall north of the city centre is the place to be in. The mall is in fact a complete solution for your free time, coming with a built-in multiplex cinema, fitness centre and spa.
If you prefer tasting some local flavours in your free time, just go to the nearest market, like the market “Timişoara 700” in the city centre – peasants sell tasty sheep and goat cheese, and also typical pickled vegetables. Or you can enjoy a pleasant evening in one of the local restaurants eating typical Romanian food.