The capital of the historical province of Banat, Timișoara is the residence of Timiș County and the cultural and economic centre of the western part of Romania. With a population of 306,462, the city crossed by the Bega River has long maintained its reputation as a western, cross-border, young and entrepreneurial city.
The city was built over an ancient Roman fortress, and the first documentary attestation dates back to the 12th century. Timișoara owns the largest ensemble of old buildings in Romania, consisting of the urban ensembles of the Cetate, Iosefin, Elisabetin and Fabric neighbourhoods. The varied architecture, the influences of the Viennese Baroque and the multitude of parks have earned Timișoara the reputation of “Little Vienna” and the “City of Parks”.
Between 1880 and 1914, Timișoara was the most important industrial, commercial, financial and cultural city in the region, admired for its artistic excellence in music, literature, painting, sculpture and architecture, as well as for its technical and scientific innovations.
Even before 1989, in the middle of the Cold War era and a totalitarian political regime, Timișoara was considered an experimental and ingenious city, where conceptual art Sigma Group and the rock band Phoenix started. It was the only place in the country where artists were performing in public spaces.
It is a multicultural city, influenced by various ethnic communities German, Hungarian and Serbian, but also Bulgarian, Italian and Greek. Also, Orthodox believers, Catholics, Jews, Protestants, Lutherans, Reformed, Muslims and other denominations practise their religion in harmony. In Timișoara, the meaning of the word “tolerance” has evolved to “fraternity”.
Timișoara is an important intersection of destinations in Europe, with seven major capitals in Central and South-Eastern Europe within a radius of 600 kilometres: Belgrade, Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna, Zagreb, Skopje and Bucharest. It is also an important railway centre, while the Bega Canal is the oldest navigable channel on the current territory of Romania.
Sometimes big changes start on street corners. In 1884, Timișoara was the first city on mainland Europe to have electric street lighting. In 1989, the sparks of the Revolution against Ceaușescu’s regime were ignited on the streets of Timișoara. In 2023, in the streets of Timișoara – European Capital of Culture we will spark a needed conversation about courage and tolerance.
For Timișoara 2023 comes with a challenge: Shine your light – Light up your city! We can illuminate the city together with our glowing curiosity, love of art and respect for diversity, our determination to take a step forward and take a stance for our common European values.
What should you expect from Timișoara?
Openness. The city of over 300,000 people remains true to its spirit, currently hosting 21 cultures and 18 religions. In 2023, you should expect hundreds of celebrations of our openness, from contemporary dance performances in hidden courtyards to sound installations in synagogues.
Insight. The city takes pride and inspiration in its past – as it hosted the first public library with a reading room in the Habsburg Empire or the first cinema screening –, while exploring the transformative power of culture to shape its future. Timișoara is a friendly and user-friendly city, with more than 40,000 students, a vibrant creative sector, and an array of welcoming cultural institutions. In 2023, the city will host a series of exhibitions highlighting important figures of Romanian and European art, while transforming the plazas and the parks into worldwide connected stages.
Wonder. The richness of the urban texture, including over 10,000 historical buildings, generous public spaces, and historical neighbourhoods with distinct identities, combined with the development of blue-green corridors along the Bega Canal, makes the city appealing for families, the relocation of professionals from across the world, but also for the free spirits backpacking Europe. In 2023, you will be able to explore the city and its heritage while enjoying a concert on the riverbank or parking your scooter to the next open air performance.
Three more reasons to come back to Timișoara 2023
While our city is already an interesting and welcoming destination for business or leisure travellers, in 2023, the title of European Capital of Culture gives us a new set of reasons to shine. Our lush parks alongside the Bega River and our generous public spaces will host a vast array of events, from concerts to immersive theatre, while hidden courtyards or prestigious institutions will showcase collaborations between European and local artists or performers. Besides the shows and the exhibitions that will be quite impossible to miss, here is a short list of reasons (for you) to keep us on your shortlist.
Fusion. For 2023 expect to expand the definition of local multiculturality with subcultures and countercultures: from digital nomads to vegan curators and techies, from bohemian festival goers to cut-to-the-chase movie producers. If you want to experience 50 shades of English accent, look no further than any terrace bordering Piața Unirii. If you want to see how heritage pairs with craft beers while respecting the genuine texture of a historic neighbourhood, don’t miss Piața Traian or Piața Maria. Don’t be shy to ask for recommendations, to join a conversation or an opening for an art show. We are a friendly city and a user-friendly European Capital of Culture.
Networking. There is no shame in looking for opportunities and in talking shop after the applause ends. Timișoara is an emerging hub for contemporary arts, design, architecture, publishing, photography, art-sci projects and crafts, so 2023 is your best chance to gather portfolios and business cards. Recurring events dedicated to upcycled fashion or independent publishing, or boutique festivals are the best places to meet the makers. Let them help you discover coworking hubs, artist-run spaces or local studios. Expect to meet promising local artists and entrepreneurs, as well as to extend your network in other Romanian and European cities.
Going off the beaten path. Timișoara 2023 can also be the perfect excuse, if you need one, to explore the region. Some of the events will take place in villages and cities nearby such as Dumbrăvița, Lugoj, Jimbolia, Arad, but the European Capital of Culture year will also give you the opportunity to discover some unexpected gems of contemporary art in the post-industrial city of Reșița or the artistic communities in the Instagram-ready villages of Caraș Severin. On the other hand, we designed our decentralised programme to honour a complementary cultural map of the city, creating cultural sparks in dormant, while charming, neighbourhoods, while providing context and contemporary content to the historical districts of the city.
7 new statues in Timisoara
7 new statues can be found on the renovated streets of the old city center of Timisoara. All 7 are modern sculptures made by 4 Romanian artists.
Of course, when it comes about modern art, everybody has an opinion. Almost half of the population (at least in Romania) rejects it. The other half has shared opinions. But how come Timisoara got 7 new statues all of a sudden? Well, 10 streets and 3 squares in Timisoara “suffered” a serious renovation, functionally and aesthetically. In the end, the streets and squares got new urban furniture and statues. The City Hall questioned the people of Timisoara about what should represent the new statues. Most of the people choices were for historical figure or celebrities born in Timisoara (like Johnny Weissmuller – the actor who played Tarzan for the first time). Other options were for statues-furniture, like persons dressed in vintage clothes, but there are already too many statues of this kind in many cities. Most of the historical figures already have statues in various places and eventually the architects coordinating the restoration project choose the modern art. I’m glad with this choice. Modern art is refreshing, intelligent and visually challenging.
But enough talking, let’s see who the artists are and what sculptures they’ve made.
Virgil Scripcariu – Supermam, Eva
Mircea Roman – Coaja de om (Human Shell), Marea Piramida (The Great Pyramid), Totem – still under construction.
Ion Nicodim – Ansamblu de Coloane (Columns)
Bogdan Rață – De-a telefonul (Playing “The Phone”)
New and old in Timisoara
10 streets and 3 squares are old and new in the same time
New because they are recently renovated (the entire pavement was changed and they are now paved with cobblestone), old because these streets and squares were built almost 3 centuries ago. The renovations are part of a project granted with European funds. The works started 2 and half years ago, and finish them was a real challenge. This was because in most part of Timisoara’s city center underground (sometimes in less than 1 meter) you can find the old Turkish city. Streets, foundations of the old houses or public houses (like the Turkish bath), mosques and even cemeteries (some hundreds of skeletons were excavated) all can be found under the streets of Timisoara. Every time when workers found something like this, they had to stop working and to call the archaeologists to do the investigations. Lots of Turkish artifacts were excavated and taken to the History Museum. A temporary exhibition was made with some of them; most of them will be exposed in the History Museum – which is now closed for major renovations.
Besides the archaeological objects and the facts are the stories about the Turkish period of Timisoara. These stories can be heard during the city tours – I recommend you the classic tour for this.
What to eat and drink when in Timisoara or Romania?
Because the drinks are served first, while the food is prepared, let’s talk about the drinks.
The most typical local drink, one you can find in any proper house hold, is ţuica [tsuˈika].
Ţuica is a plums distillate and most of the people in countryside prepare their own. Some have a small distillery installation for this, in some villages there’s a bigger distillery used in common by all the villagers.
The volume can vary depending on the region in Romania, from 30 to 60% of alcohol. The name of the distillate varies also with the volume and with the region. Usually the 30% alcohol version is called răchie and is common for the southern regions. The 40% volume is called ţuică and is common in Transylvania and also in the hilly or mountain regions. The 50-60 % volume is usually double distilled and is specific to northern Romania (Maramures, Oas, Salaj, Bistrita). Every time when you visit a household, the owner will invite you to taste his ţuica.
Afinata is a liqueur made with blueberries and distillate. Blueberries are macerated with sugar and then the distillate is added. The volume is around 30%. The same is vişinata, but made of sour cherries.
If you have the opportunity, taste these spirits in the households: they are made with natural ingredients and nothing else is added. Also most of the good traditional restaurants buy these spirits from small producers, people they know; just to be sure they are genuine.
Romania has one of the oldest traditions in world in wine making (6000 years) and is also on the 6th place among the European producers of wine. You can still find wines made of local grapes like Feteasca Alba, Feteasca Regala, Galbena de Odobesti or Busuioaca de Bohotin, among the white ones, or Feteasca Neagra, Babeasca Neagra or Cadarca for the red wines. There are about 8 wine regions in Romania, each with its own distinctive wines and flavors. If you don’t know what to order with your food, just ask the waiter and he will help you to take the wright decision. Most of the restaurants in Romania are serving Romanian wines.
If you want to know more about Romanian vines, go for a vine tasting. Most of the wine producers are organizing this. Around Timisoara you can do this at Recas, Silagiu, Paulis or Petrovaselo.
There are many local brands for beer, most of them owned by big international holdings. Timisoreana brand is not an exception. But Timisoreana is proud to be the first beer factory on today’s Romanian territory. 1718 was the year when was founded. When in Timisoara you must drink a Timisoareana. In some places you can also find unpasteurized Timisoreana beer, fresh, right from the factory, but mostly in summer time due to the short period of conservation.
Last but not least, in Timisoara you can also find a locally artisanal produced beer:
Terapia (Therapy). The beer is produced in a small factory, the brewing process is natural and takes a couple of weeks (most of the commercial beers produced now are brewed in 3 days). You can choose from one of the 3 sorts available: Platinium (white), Gold (blonde) and Rubinium (red ale), all 3 not flirted beers, with a body full of taste. This beer also can be found only in selected places.
Cheers ! Noroc!