Nestled between the gentle hills of western Romania, Oradea is one of the most important economic and cultural centres in the region. Thanks to its strong manufacturing and services sectors, Oradea has become an economic powerhouse that competes with other prosperous Transylvanian cities like Arad and Cluj-Napoca. Oradea is home to the University of Oradea, one of the largest in Eastern Europe, with 15 faculties and 123 fields of study.
Oradea is the capital city of Bihor County and the historical Crisana region and is the tenth largest city in Romania, covering an area of 11,566 hectares. The population of Oradea was 196,367 in 2011, out of which 73.1 percent are Romanians, 24.9 percent Hungarians, and 1.2 percent Romani. People of many other ethnicities call this multicultural city their home.
The city on the Crisul Repede river was first mentioned in 1113, under the Latin name of Varadinum. Under Hungarian domination, Oradea started to develop economically and culturally in the 13th century, the period when the Citadel of Oradea was built in order to protect the settlement from the Mongol invasion. The city flourished over the following centuries when numerous monuments and buildings were erected throughout the city.
Oradea is located near the western border of Romania, on the hills surrounding the Apuseni Mountains, only 10 kilometres away from Bors, the most important border crossing point between Romania and Hungary. As such, Oradea is the main gateway to Europe for travelers who leave the country by car, as well as for commercial transport. Crisul Repede divides the city in two, almost equal parts, offering scenic landscapes on both sides.
The names of the city
Oradea is a city of many names, reflecting the multiple factions that ruled it over the centuries. Today, we know Oradea under the names of Großwardein – in German, Nagyvárad – in Hungarian, Groysvardeyn – in Yiddish, or Varat – in Turkish. Until 1848, Oradea actually consisted of four separate towns: Várad-Újváros, Várad-Olaszi, Várad-Velence and Várad-Váralja. In 1925, Oradea Mare (Great Oradea) became simply Oradea.
The Jewish Holy Society was founded in Oradea in 1735, and the first synagogue was built in the city in 1803, followed by the first Jewish communal school in 1839. After being restricted to living in a specific quarter of the city, the Jewish population was allowed to live and do business throughout the city in 1835. As a consequence of the Holocaust and emigration, only 300 Jews are still living in Oradea today.
The fortress as we know it today was built between 1570 and 1618, in a pentagonal shape, with battlements at its corners and a water ditch. Today, art exhibitions, craft fairs, and other cultural events are held inside the restored fortress throughout the year.
The Moskovitz Building
Completed in 1905 in the Art Nouveau architectural style, the building displays a beautiful façade ornamented with tiles coloured in yellow and blue.
The State Theatre
An imposing building completed in 1900, by the same architects who designed the Vienna Opera House. Dominating Ferdinand Square, the Theatre is representative for the eclectic architectural style. In front of it, a statuary group showcases the two muses of the Dramatic Art – Tragedy, represented by Melomene, and Comedy, represented by Thalia.
Oradea City Hall
Designed by the renowned architect Kalman Rimanoczy Jr. and completed in 1903, the building boasts a 150-meter-tall tower and three observation decks. The clock inside the City Hall tower plays fragments from the patriotic song March of Iancu at fixed hours.
Black Eagle Palace
Located in Union Square, it’s an edifice that awes with its intricate architectural details. Constructed between 1907-1908, the Black Eagle Palace is composed of two buildings linked together by a famous glass passage. The building takes its name from the emblem of a black eagle flying, which was added to the construction in 1909.
The Roman Catholic Cathedral
The largest and most representative baroque monument in Romania, it took almost 30 years to complete, from 1752 to 1780. The cathedral is the centrepiece of the Baroque Complex of Oradea and is considered a magnum opus of Austrian architect Franz Anton Hillebrandt.
Neolog Zion Synagogue
Built in 1878, in neo-Moorish style. You don’t have to be an art connoisseur in order to take in the grandeur of this temple.
Oradea is the perfect starting point for a nature adventure, thanks to its proximity to the scenic Apuseni Mountains.
Considered one of the seven natural wonders of Romania, located in the northern part of the Apuseni Mountains, this fairy-tale-like natural formation features massive stone walls and impressive karstic elements.
The Padis Plateau is located in the centre of the Apuseni Natural Park, and is accessible from Oradea following the roads to Deva or Cluj Napoca. One of the most beautiful attractions in the Padis area are the Yellow Gorges, which include the Living Fire Cave, which takes its name from the sun-lit glacier inside it.
With an area of over 140 hectares, the reservoir was created in 1973 in order to supply the Lesu hydropower station with water. The surroundings of the lake are a must-see for all nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts.
Called Saint Ladislau Square before World War I, the square started to take shape at the beginning of the 18th century, when street lighting was first introduced in the city. Historical buildings and monuments guard the square, telling their fascinating stories in a wealth of architectural styles.
Church of the Moon
Built at the end of the 18th century, in the baroque architectural style with neo-classical elements. Its clock mechanism features a half-gold and half-black sphere that reproduces the phases of the moon.
The Adorjan row of houses
Built between 1907 and 1908 by the same architects who designed the Black Eagle Palace, Jakab and Komor. The floral motifs and the undulating adornments displayed on the façade give tourists a spectacular view.
In the area
Radeasa Fortress Cave
One of a kind in Romania thanks to the chimney-like shapes on the ceiling, the cave is located in the northern part of the Padis Plateau.
Rametea and Rosia villages
A one-day trip to these traditional villages will take you on a fantastic voyage through the traditional past of the area. You can mix authentic culture with natural exploration: a vast number of caves are accessible from Rosia village.
How to get there
Oradea can easily be accessed by car, bus, train or aeroplane. The International Airport of Oradea is located five kilometres southeast of the city centre. Direct bus and train lines link Oradea to other major cities in Romania on a daily basis.