Previous to our visit, I had been in contact with the City Manager Nicolae Moldovan and listened to him at the conference, so I had high hopes about Alba Iulia before even going there. It seemed to me, as if they got many things right in Alba Iulia. They had managed to refurbish the city well and it is now a very dynamic town, with lots of events going on. In addition they have managed greatly with the destination branding, making ancient Alba Iulia an attractive, modern tourist destination. When you are in Alba Iulia you wish to leave it as clean and neat as you found it !
I interviewed Cristina Cofaru, Information, orientation and advising expert in Alba Iulia to find out more about this wonderful city. Here is what she says.
” A journey in Alba Iulia can offer a multi-sensory experience of a city imbued with history, a charming, picturesque combination of new and old. In many ways, you will easily fall in love with the town while capturing a feel of Alba Carolina’s eternal beauty of magnificent Baroque architecture. All your five senses will be able to preserve a beautiful experience that will blissfully lie into your memory.
Within the citadel the sense of present dissipates as you reach and literally touch the historical past through incredible examples of Baroque architecture and lots of Roman vestiges spread all over the place. You can spend peaceful hours just wandering the gorgeous winding cobblestone streets and admiring the charming architecture of the nineteenth century buildings. From the tower of St. Michael’s Cathedral, you might as well capture a panoramic view of this incredible place and at night you can see the city ablaze with shimmering lights.
In Alba Iulia you can choose either to enjoy a quieter, peaceful stroll around the citadel or head up to listen the clatter of drums and hoofbeats or harmonious waltz rhythms while attending the generous array of events and re-enactments that take place throughout the year. Moreover, lovely restaurants and cafes will pamper your tastes with gorgeous traditional dishes and you cannot leave without trying from the citadel’s own bread and wine. Needless to say in Alba Iulia you can breathe the air of history flicking through a rich textbook of centuries of awe-inspiring Romanian history and architecture.
Alba Iulia is probably the most interesting ”capital” that many people have never heard of even if it has everything that needs to delight any traveller with its architecture and charm, providing a rewarding experience. It is a beautiful city that has been awaiting to distinguish itself and we have been striving to invite more and more people to uncover it.”
The history of Romania is best evidenced in Alba Iulia, which boasts the Alba Carolina Citadel, the most representative Vauban bastion fortification in Romania. Significant events have taken place here since Roman times (2000 years ago), when Apulum (the ancient name of Alba Iulia) was capital and the richest city of the Roman Province Dacia, until the moment of the coronation ceremony for the kings of Greater Romania.
The rebirth of Alba Iulia as a city of strategic importance dates back to the period 1715-1738, when the Habsburg Empire under the patronage of emperor Charles VI built the star-shaped bastion-type fortress. The fortress was named Alba Carolina and became the engine of cultural life in the city, hosting the most prestigious library in Transylvania, the Batthyaneum Library, with more than 70% of the oldest manuscripts of Romania, and also hosting the oldest functional weather station in Romania at the time. At present, the value of this stunning cultural cradle is starting to be unveiled: https://batthyaneumblog.wordpress.com/
Alba Iulia remains an iconic city for all the Romanians, the spiritual capital, being the place where the Unification of Greater Romania was signed in 1918. These are some of the reasons why we dare to call our city the other capital.
For more information concerning our history and heritage, you can access our official web page:
Here is a really well-informed article about our history and tourist opportunities, written by two foreign tourists that have visited Alba Iulia and kindly shared their experience afterwards:
More and more people have been visiting our city and a few of them share their experience through information and stunning photos. We are feeling so grateful to all.
Alba Carolina Citadel
Built 300 years ago, Alba Carolina Citadel is the most representative Vauban bastion fortification in Romania and one of the largest in Central and South-Eastern Europe. Made up of a central fort and 7 bastions with unique Baroque gates in Europe, Alba Carolina Citadel has recently been rehabilitated with national and EU funds, becoming a modern tourist attraction, where visitors can breathe the air of history. Inside its 12 kilometres long walls, the visitor can benefit of an authentic lesson of history, passing from Roman to medieval and modern architectural styles.
Some more words on:
World Bank Agreement
It is also unique in being the first city in Romania and in Central and South-Eastern Europe to have paid from its own budget to enter into a miscellaneous reimbursable agreement (MRA) with the World Bank. Through the MRA, the Bank provided advisory services between June 2014 and July 2015 to boost Alba Iulia’s potential to access EU funds in the 2014-20 period. The World Bank helped the city to assess its long-term development plans, strategies, and projects, and ultimately, prioritize 13 projects from a long-list of over 350 projects for implementation through 2020. The city of Alba Iulia ranks first among Romanian county capitals in per capita EU funds absorption. Although relatively small in size with a population of only about 68,000, it has managed to absorb or leverage €150 million in EU funds.
Appreciation and rewards:
In the past few years the rehabilitation works of the Vauban Alba Carolina Citadel – for which more than 150 million Euros were invested – and the efforts carried out by Alba Iulia Municipality for enhancing the tourism potential and for increasing the visibility of the local heritage (focusing on history and culture) were appreciated at national and international level through various awards and distinguished appreciations:
In 2012, the municipality was awarded with the prestigious title of European Destination of Excellence (EDEN) conferred by the European Commission through the Ministry of Regional Development and Tourism for the rehabilitation and conservation works inside the citadel; Following this important recognition the destination benefits from a permanent place on the European Commission website.
· In March 2013, Alba Iulia Municipality was awarded the Jury’s Special Mention Award from EUROPA NOSTRA Organisation which is the largest European Association focused on Tourism Conservation, a pan-European network composed of more than 250 member organisations (heritage associations and foundations with a combined
· in December 2014, Alba Carolina Fortress was awarded with First Prize of the European Structural Funding Gala, in the ”welcoming guests” section; the fortress has also been named one of the seven wonders of Romania by a national newspaper;
· Also in 2014, Alba Iulia Municipality was awarded with the title “A city renewal” within the Gala “Best Cities Awards” 2014 by Forbes Romania and the Mayor of Alba Iulia Municipality was awarded with the title “People and ideas who move things forward Romania” within the Gala Foreign Policy Romania 2014.
· 2016 is the second consecutive year when Alba Iulia has received the certificate of excellence from TripAdvisor, as it has been ranked second most popular among tourists after Peleş Castle. Alba Iulia was also the first city in Romania to appear in UNESCO’s World Heritage magazine. In addition, our city has been mentioned by many other famous publications like National Geographic Traveller, Huffington Post and Forbes România. Also, according to the World Bank and Moody’s credit rating agency, Alba Iulia Municipality is a city with a strong institutional capacity for planning urban development and attracting finance for urban projects.
Tourist information materials
We do have a beautiful city, a stupendous citadel and hospitable people, and now we are concentrating on making all these attributes more visible. In this respect, Alba Iulia is the first Romanian City to adopt its own City Branding Manual, of international standards, which can be used free of charges by stakeholders at request. It has been completed during the implementation of CityLOGO project and here you can download it:
Alba Iulia also provides an official blog (www.viziteazaalbaiulia.ro), Facebook pages both in Romanian (Municipiul Alba Iulia) and English (Visit Alba Iulia) and a mobile application which can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play, and which we kindly invite you to use for more information (www.visitalbaiulia.com).
Short- and long-term plans:
One of Alba Iulia Municipality’s priorities in the short term is to establish an association of a public-private partnership to promote the city as a tourist destination, supporting the upward trend of tourists’ arrival and expansion of accommodation establishments involved. Following the investments of over 150 million euro from EU funds in the last seven years, the number of tourists has increased more than 10 times. In 2008, the city of Alba Iulia was visited annually by only 32,000 tourists. Now, after investments of over €150 million from EU funds, the number of visitors has increased to 400,000.
Just a few main tourist attractions and sightseeing tips:
• Travel back in time along two millenniums on The Route of the Three Fortifications among the vestiges of three fortifications from three different periods, built successively on the same location, each new citadel including the old one: The Roman Castrum (106 A.D.), The Medieval Citadel (16th-17th Centuries) and Alba Carolina Citadel, a Vauban type fortification (18th Century)
• See The Changing of the Guard each day, but especially on Saturdays, when at 12 o’clock you can admire the canon salutes, a unique show bringing life inside the three-century old fortification walls
• Follow the Route of the 7 Gates of the Citadel
• See Horea’s Cell-the leader of the Peasants’ Revolt of 1784
• Visit the Orthodox Cathedral, the place where King Ferdinand I and Queen Mary were crowned on October 15, 1922
• Explore the 1000 year old Roman-Catholic Cathedral, where many Transylvanian rulers were buried!
• Visit the National Museum of the Union and the Union Hall
• Have a relaxing walk within the Dendrological Park “Dr. Ion Vlad” of Alba Iulia or go biking on the bike lanes in the area
• Celebrate the National Day on the 1st of December. In 2018, we will celebrate the centenary of Romania’s Great Union.
Events in Alba Iulia
Our city has enjoyed appreciation nationally and internationally for many cultural events organized annually in order to reanimate the city: the ”Dilema Veche” Festival (http://festival.dilemaveche.ro/), organized by the intellectual elite of Romania; the Apulum Festival (http://festivalulromanapulum.ro/), celebrating the old times with demonstrations of roman military soldiers, workshops and battles between Romans and Dacians; Feeric Fashion Week (the greatest fashion week in Eastern Europe – http://www.feeric.ro/en/), ”Stories”, the International Theatre Festival for Children; Alba Iulia Music & Film Festival; Alba Jazz Festival; ”Ziua de Mâine” Folk Festival and many more other social and business festivals and events. We would also like to mention two recent events at the fortress that have drawn attention to the city: ”The Great Appearance,” an innovative type of marketing event which regarded a gigantic poster created by the municipality with portraits of over 1,000 inhabitants of Alba Iulia, reflecting the love and appreciation between them and the city; ”The Big Hug” in 2009, in which 10,000 people participated in the largest human hug in history (they literally hugged the citadel), as confirmed by Guinness World Records. According to the Guinness Book, the big hug was attended by no less than 9,758 people, including the former president, Traian Băsescu, to break the Mexico’s previous record of over six thousand people, that had been carried out in 2005.
We invite everyone to discover a city that strives to become both a landmark on the map of the top tourist destinations and a valuable European city characterized by sustainable competitive valences and a solid plan for economic development performance. “