Bistrita, the capital city of the Bistrita-Nasaud County still maintains a medieval appearance in some areas, thanks to the beautiful houses that local merchants built in the 13th and 14th centuries.
One of the Seven Citadels of Transylvania, Bistrita is situated in the northern part of Romania, in the vicinity of the scenic Bargau Mountains (part of the northern ridge of the Carpathians) and nearby the Bargau Pass, which connects Transylvania to Bucovina.
Archaeologists found in the area signs of inhabitation dating back to the Neolithic, while in the time of the Roman occupation of Dacia, the area was inhabited by free Dacian tribes.
However, the first document mentioning Bistrita dates from the 13th century, with the settlement being called Villa Bistiche.
Names of the settlement
Saxon colonists who settled in the town in this period called it Civitas Bysterce and later Bistritz. The Saxons were Germans endowed by Hungarian kings with economic and politic privileges to settle in the border areas of Transylvania in order to protect it from invaders.
The County Museum
One of the main attractions of the city of Bistrita is the County Museum, which houses a rich collection of Romanian, Hungarian, and Saxon folk art. The museum is open throughout the week, except for Mondays, between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
The Cooper’s Tower
Another landmark of Bistrita that is open for visitation is the Cooper’s Tower, the only tower remaining from the 18 fortified bastions that were built to protect the city against invaders in the Middle Ages.
Other landmarks are the Orthodox Church, with its well preserved 14th-century murals, and the Saxon Evangelical Church, built in the Gothic style with Renaissance influences.
Bistrita is also home to several memorial houses that honour the legacy of major Romanian writers who lived in the city – Andrei Muresanu, George Cosbuc, and Liviu Rebreanu.
Nature enthusiasts can explore the area’s hiking trails.
Bistrita is a great starting point for a hiking trip to the spectacular Bargau Valley. This is one of the wildest and most impressive landscapes in all the Carpathians, and the area served as an inspiration for Bram Stoker’s famous Dracula. Indeed, the Bargau Castle, built to protect the pass with the same name, is often associated with the legendary vampire lord.
Tausoare Cave – the deepest cave in Romania (478 meters), located in this area
The Salt Mountain – located in Saratel
In the area
Bistrita is a pleasant and interesting place to visit, but tourists will find plenty of worthwhile places to visit in the vicinity of the city.
The Saxon villages – For those interested in the traditional way of life, the hilly area around Bistrita is dotted with centuries-old villages, many of which preserve the distinctive traditional Saxon architecture. Saxon houses feature high walls around the yards, and brightly painted gates, a style that can be observed throughout Transylvania. While many Saxons (ethnic Germans) emigrated to Germany after the fall of the communist regime in Romania, a small number have remained, keeping the Saxon culture alive in this area.
The Saxon cities – The town can be included in a tour of the Saxon cities of Transylvania
Nearby regions – Bistrita is also a great stopping point for tourists exploring Transylvania and wishing to visit Maramures, located just to the north of Bistrita Nasaud County.
How to get there
Bistrita can be reached by car or train, with an international airport located relatively close in the city of Cluj Napoca