Alba Carolina citadel in Alba Iulia

Welcome to Alba Carolina citadel in Alba Iulia! A dream come true welcomes each tourist visiting this place. Finally the uniqueness of this citadel has been once again highlighted and open to the public in all its glory.

We visited Alba Iulia multiple times but only in December 2013 were we able to see for the first time this citadel completely restored. Since 1998, when the restoration works started at Gate III, until 2013, when the entire citadel was completely restored, 15 years have passed. Quite a long time but the result is amazing and it is now one of Transylvania’s most important tourist attractions.

one of the entrances

The Great Union of 1918

On the 1st of December 1918 here, in Alba Iulia, the Great Union between Transylvania and Romania took place and was forever sealed. It was a historic and life changing event for all Romanians and for the future of this beautiful country. As a matter of fact the 1st of December is the National Day of Romania.
Alba Iulia was chosen for this great event by the Romanian National Council, which has its headquarters in Arad, for two historical reasons. First, because on the 1st of November 1599 Mihai Viteazul (Michael the Brave) marched in Alba Iulia citadel, this citadel being the capital for the brief period when the 3 Romanian Principalities were united (Muntenia, Moldova and Transylvania). The second reason is that Horea and Cloșca (two Romanian heroes) were broken on the wheel, after they were condemned, near the citadel on Furcilor Hill.

The Orthodox Cathedral
Tourist in Alba Iulia

In Alba Iulia it’s easy to come but hard to leave 🙂 It’s 340 km away from Bucharest, under 100 km from Cluj – Napoca and Tîrgu Mureș International Airports and under 70 km from Sibiu International Airport. So it’s well connected in order for any tourist to get here easily.
If you come to Alba Iulia, of course that the most important tourist attraction is Alba Carolina citadel. It’s shaped like a heptagon, the seven bastions offering a star like look. A similar citadel can be found in Arad but this one is still used as a military base.

Retracting bridge system
The Roman-Catholic cathedral

The easiest way to get into the citadel is from Mihai Viteazul street very close to Unification Park in the centre of the city. Here you can find a big parking lot and when we were here it was free. You can first visit the Orthodox Cathedral which was also restored and then you get inside the citadel. The most striking building is the Roman – Catholic cathedral. The earliest parts of this building originate from the year 1000. So it’s over 1000 years old! It’s the most valuable Transylvanian architectural monument representing the medieval period. It harmoniously mixes Roman and Gothic elements. Inside you can see Iancu of Hunedoara’s sarcophagus.

The Roman-Catholic cathedral
The Roman-Catholic cathedral
Christmas decorations

Going further on the main street we intersect with the Museum street on the left hand side. Here you can visit two iconic and important buildings: The National Unification Museum (on the left) and The Unification Hall (on the right). In the National Unification Museum you get the chance to see a lot of historic artefacts some closely related to the Unification in 1918.

The museum is very big and you need at least 2 – 3 hours to see all the rooms. Across from the museum you can visit the Unification Hall. Here you have the possibility to see the exact room where the Unification Act was signed and the exact table on which it was signed. You can also study tens of documents from the Unification period.

The Unification Hall
The National Unification Museum (left) & The Unification Hall (right)
bronze statues all over the citadel
bronze statues all over the citadel
bronze statues all over the citadel

You can do two touristic tours which take you to the most beautiful places in the citadel: The Three Fortifications Tour and The Citadel Gates Tour. For the Three Fortification tour you have to pay a ticket. You can start this tour just after the Museum street to your right. It’s a must to do this tour since you’ll see the most spectacular places in this citadel. You’ll get to the area where the old steel canons are fired, you’ll climb down in the moats on stairs hidden in the thick defence walls. You’ll cross the space between the defence walls on a spectacular footbridge. You’ll also be able to see the hanging place and the horse stables.

Speaking of the horses, you’ll see them in the citadel together with the guards. They are the most beautiful horses I’ve ever seen with an imposing posture and very well trained. The guards are festively dressed with beautifully tailored vintage uniforms. Each Saturday you can witness the change of the guards.

The Three Fortifications Tour – the canons
The Three Fortifications Tour – the footbridge between the defence walls
The Three Fortifications Tour – the hanging place
The Three Fortifications Tour – the restaurant of the medieval hotel inside the citadel
The Three Fortifications Tour – the torture chamber
The Three Fortifications Tour – on Gate III, view towards the citadel’s main street

Continuing the Three Fortifications Tour you’ll get to the torture chamber. Climb down through the defence walls to a balcony inside the wall that offers you a view towards the torture chamber. You can see many tools used for torturing including a suspended cage as you can see in the images above.

Then you go back to the surface and continue the tour until you are above Gate III. Up here you can visit the prison cell in which Horia was kept. Here Horia, the main leader of the peasants uprising  between 1748 and 1785, was locked until he was broken on the wheel. Gate III is the real symbol of Alba Iulia and of this citadel because it’s the most impressive of all the gates. On the top of the gate you can see equestrian statue of Carol the 6th. He was the Austrian Empire’s emperor and the citadel was built during his ruling.

Gate III
Gate III

Since you’re already at Gate III we recommend a great place for resting and serving a delicious lunch. The place is called Pub 13 and is 50 meters away from Gate III in the citadel walls. When you get in you’ll be quite amazed by the size of this place. It’s hard to imagine how much space you can find in the citadel’s defence walls. The main room has a the shape of an inverted cone and where the tip of the cone should be you’ll see the round bar.

The walls are filled with chivalry decorations including full body armours. This restaurant is absolutely impressive and the food is great. I hope you don’t miss this place, I’m sure you will never forget it 🙂

Pub 13
Some more pictures with Alba Carolina citadel:

Leave a Reply