In the past, I tried to visit Romania twice without any success. The first time was in 2014 during summer for a student festival in Timisoara but Schengen visa holders could only stay 5 days, so I cancelled. Then last year, I even booked my flights to Bucharest but a visa story again. This third attempt definitely worked. I booked a Monday off at work to enjoy a long weekend in Timisoara and even explore other parts of the region with a day trip to Hunedoara to visit Corvin Castle.
City: Timisoara, Romania
Where I stayed
I stayed at NH Timisoara. It appears to be the only international hotel chain present in the city so I kind of had some expectations on what it would be like. Overall, great service and small details to be looked at. But in terms of the room, the bedding and the location, excellent. Here’s my full experience.
Arriving at midnight from Timisoara Airport, the taxi driver stops in front of this modern 2 floors white building. It was just a quick drive from the airport, around 15-20 minutes away. Plus, only 15 minutes walk to the heart of Timisoara. The hotel is rather central but yet the area is peaceful and quiet, near the university.
I was able to check-in very smoothly with a friendly receptionist who spoke perfect English, that I thought I was still in London. He directed me to the room and shared the essentials such as where’s the breakfast room for the morning buffet. The reception itself is not impressive and rather needs important improvements to feel more cosy and welcoming.
After a quick check-in, I obviously went to straight to my room. From the first impression, it definitely feels different from the reception area and is rather a very welcoming, spacious and bright room. It surely is also a room filled with good quality furniture. It basically had everything needed for my week-end stay including some surprise amenities like a robe, coffee machine and an iron. I also got a complimentary bottle of Romanian wine, a big bottle of water and a salad with tasty beef toppings. It was a perfect welcome as I was super hungry and thirsty at that time. Given my late arrival, all I wanted to do next is sleep.
Luckily, the bedding was very comfortable. The mattress was like sleeping on a cloud. It is topped up with 2 different sets of fluffy pillows to fit all tastes. I just slept like a baby to be honest! The quality furniture is surely a positive experience at the room.
As a blogger, I need to always stay connected so fortunately the wifi was fast enough to make live stories on Snapchat and Instagram. It was also uninterrupted the whole time which is a big plus! Moreover, enough outlets near the bed to plug my iPad and iPhone in.
The breakfast buffet was served in the lowest floor where friendly staff always greeted me with a smile and a warm welcome. The overall quality of the food is good, nothing special but nothing below average either. Some parts could be improved like the juice which would be more appreciated if it was pure juice or at least from concentrate rather than a fruit-flavoured drink mix. Some parts were perfect like the pastries corner with croissants, petit pain au chocolat and even donuts which I like a lot! I was really happy to start the day with a chocolate glazed donut!
The best advantage is that the breakfast buffet lasts from 8 am until 12 pm on week-ends! So there’s no rush to get up or not even set an alarm to wake up. I absolutely loved it as it was the first time ever I stayed in a hotel with such great timings for the breakfast. It is very considerate and convenient. Because let’s face it, I’m here on leisure so I really don’t want to set the alarm at 7.30 to catch breakfast, so that was a great highlight! It gets even better as I had to actually wake up at 5 am one day to go to Corvin Castle and to my surprise, a little on-the-go breakfast was ready at 6 am by the reception!
Overall, I do recommend NH Timisoara for the positive experience I had. To end the experience well, I had an extended check-out for a couple of hours. I strongly believe that I would go back to NH either in Timisoara or anywhere else in the world.
For bookings at NH Timisoara, follow this link.
What to do in Timisoara
Timisoara is a fairly small city compared to the capital, Bucharest. So most things to do are within walking distance and concentrated in the city center.
I have done a walking tour with Timisoara City Tours. The tour lasted a bit less than 3 hours and showed the highlights of the city and even the big stories of the country. As it was my first time in Romania, I enjoyed the background stories and its history with its Balkan and Central European neighbours.
The tour starts at the National Opera on Victory Square and actually ends there, making the ultimate circle around the city for just 10 euros. Some stops include the Bastion, Union Square, Freedom Square and the Jewish Quarter. Ludovic, the guide and founder of the tour company, was really nice to point out some secret stories and things that I wouldn’t notice if I were alone.
I particularly enjoyed the baroque buildings on Union Square. At the very middle of it, there’s a statue which I saw similar replicas in Vienna and Prague, showing the deep connection to the Central European history. On the same square, there’s a Serbian Orthodox Church proving the connections with the Balkan states. It was clear by then, that Timisoara is a cosmopolite city.
Anyway, some of my other highlights include the Timisoara Orthodox Cathedral which is very impressive and is one of the tallest constructions in the city as it stands over 84 meters tall. The tour offered by Ludovic is really good for people stoping over for few hours in town or like me staying for longer. At the end of the tour, Ludovic gave me a name of a restaurant to try. It was Timisoareana. It is located on Victory Square.
I went to the restaurant for lunch and I was really excited to try some Romanian and East European specialities. I tried the Chicken with cherry sauce and potatoes. It was really tasty and the portion was huge. In contrast, the bill was quite small as I paid less than £6 for this meal in a very traditionally welcoming restaurant. However, they could really loose the Katy Perry playlist blasting over there! Some local music would really go well with the restaurant look and atmosphere rather than ‘I kissed A Girl’ pop song.
As a student city, it is no surprise seeing students from Asia, Europe and Africa. I have heard many young students talking in Arabic which makes sense as Romania is one of the main destination for medicine studies for Moroccan students. There are many bars around the old town, but I didn’t have the chance to try the city nightlife on this trip. I will leave it for next visit of the capital of Timis County.
Day trip to Corvin Castle
Romania is quite a big country and is well reputed for its majestic castles.
Just 130 kms away from Timisoara, there’s Corvin Castle. I took the 7.33 am train from Timisoara to Deva, then a minibus to Hunedoara to find one of the most famous castles of Romania. It was really a great day trip. However, the train takes 3h20min to only reach Deva, then a further 30 min to reach the castle.
Corvin Castle is about 20 minutes walk from Hunedoara Train Station, there is not much to see on the way. It is just boring and lifeless. But the views from Corvin Castle over Hunedoara change the perspective and the image I got from the city on the ground.
The Castle views are quite diverse as a side looks towards mountains and nature and another towards the city of Hunedoara. Inside the castle, there are few rooms one must see but nothing impressive. I believe that the highlights of the castle are its medieval architecture, its majestic posture and its breathtaking views.
I think it would be much easier to go by car. I still managed to enjoy the castle for few hours. This day trip was totally worth waking up early and get on a slow train.
I also planned to visit Deva Fortress which seems to have amazing views over the region as I couldn’t managed with time as I was due to return to Timisoara. But this day trip was a great preview of what Transylvania and the Carpathians look like.
Disclaimer: I was guest of NH Hotel Group to provide a review on my blog. All opinions are strictly my own. The same applies to Timisoara City Tours.