Alba Iulia is the capital city of Alba County, Romania, located in the west of Transylvania, about 100 km (62 miles) south of Cluj-Napoca and 350 km (217 miles) north-west of the capital of Romania, which is Bucharest. Being one of the biggest cities of Transylvania, with a population of 63.000, Alba Iulia is massively appreciated for its historical meaning and its contribution to our country’s culture.
Let`s begin our tour here with a little reminder of the most important historical events that are related to Alba Iulia :
- The First and very important settlement in Alba Iulia was around 5000-1900 B.C.
- The establishment of the Apoulon 30 ha settlement, 4 km away from Alba Iulia, around the 1st millennium B.C.
- The founding of Iula/Gyula’s basilica, in the 10th century.
- Alba Iulia, as the capital of Transylvania (between 1542-1690)
- Michael The Great enters the Citadel (1599)
- Alba Carolina Citadel was built, between 1716-1735 The Roman-Catholic Cathedral was built in the 18th century.
- The Unification of the 3 Romanian historical provinces in Alba Iulia, on the 1st of December 1918.
- The Coronation Cathedral’s construction, around 1921-1923.
On the 7th of November 1599, Michael The Great, or as the Romanians call him, ‘Mihai Viteazul’, comes to Alba Iulia, uniting, all by himself, politically speaking, Transylvania, Moldavia and Wallachia. The keys of the city were given to him by Demetrius Napragyi, the chancellor of Transylvania at that time.
One of the greatest tourist attractions are The Tărtăria Tablets, which are considered by some to be ‘’the first written message in the world’’(7500 years ago), while they have also been the subject of considerable controversy. These tablets were revealed in 1961, 20 km away from Alba Iulia, on Route 7 (E68), in Tartaria village.
Another important tourist attraction is The Alba Carolina Citadel, which was built between 1715-1738, for the protection and strategic defense of The Habsburg Monarchy against The Ottoman Empire. It has 7 gates and is also the emblem of the city while inside the citadel, there are many important edificies of Alba Iulia, such as : Michael`s The Great Statue (1558-1601) – It is located in the front of The Palace of Alba Carolina, with a height of 8,46 meters, made of bronze and built by Oscar Han. The Museum of Unification – It consists of 2 buildings, which are The Room and The Museum of Unification and both are historical monuments. The ‘Babilon’ Building or the Museum, has been founded between 1851-1853 and it was used as a place to live for the officers, and in 1967-1968 it was changed into a museum. The Coronation Cathedral of Alba Iulia, first opened in September 1922, and in the 15th of October 1922, over 100,000 people came as a celebration for the coronation of King Ferdinand and Queen Mary, as sovereigns of The Great Romania. The Saint Michael’s Cathedral, located inside the Alba Carolina Citadel is the most precious Romanesques style architectural building of Transylvania. As a mark of its greatness, it has been nominated as the oldest and, at the same time, the longest cathedral in Romania. It was created between 1246-1291 and the interior is overwhelming also because of the huge organ with its 2209 pipes. The last throughout Alba
Carolina Citadel restoration finished in 2014, costing about 150 million euros, finally gave back the citadel its 18th century look and feeling. At first, the citadel had 6 gates, while today, only 3 of them have been kept in their initial form, The First Gate, The Third Gate and The Forth Gate. The Third Gate is the most important access point into the Citadel, because it takes you right in the heart of Alba Carolina. There, you can find a lot of sculptures, like scenes of fights, weapons, flags or trophies and many other decorations, which bring you a lot of excitement, amazement and many other mixed feelings. The main attraction about this gate is the fact that everyday, around 12 o’clock, the guardsmen change shifts, which is considered an amazing tourist attraction, not only by the locals, but also by the tourists that come here from all around the world.
As cultural events, you can find a lot of interesting things to do and see in Alba Iulia, such as :
- The Alba Iulia Music and Film Festival , which takes place every year in September
- The City’s Day, which is celebrated every year at the end of May.
- The National Day of Romania Celebration on the 1st of December, when hundreds of thousands from all over the country gathers here to celebrate.
- The Folk Festival, which takes place in November
The closest airports to Alba Iulia are the ones in Cluj-Napoca and Sibiu, which are equally close located, around 100 km (62 miles) away. From here, you can take the train or the bus, on Route 1 (E81) for 100 km south, from Cluj-Napoca, on Route 7 (E68) from Sibiu to Sebeş, where both highways meet, and then you travel on E81 for 15 km north.