Despite being so small that you need just a day or two to explore it, Sighișoara, Romania, is not a city to be underestimated. Located in the famed Transylvania region, it is much respected by Romanians, lauded for protecting the area from Turkish invasions long, long ago. But the real star of the show is the very thing that made this possible, its UNESCO World Heritage status citadel, which dates back to the 12th century. With its narrow streets, surprising nooks and crannies, and pretty cafes, Sighișoara is a dream for any keen photographer, history nerd or literature fan.
The historic centre of Sighișoara is a three-square-mile web of beautifully preserved medieval houses, narrow streets, small archways, ornate churches and decorative towers. First founded as a fortress in the 12th century by the Transylvanian Saxons (a group of craftsmen and guardsmen of German origin), it was used to defend Transylvania from foreign invaders and was further strengthened in the 15th century as the city became an important hub for artisan trade.
Among the highlights of this small area is the clock tower, which can be climbed, the ancient Church of the Hill, and the Venetian House, a 16th-century residence with distinctive windows reputedly designed to win the affections of an Italian woman. The house in which Vlad Ţepeş, a notoriously brutal and bloodthirsty ruler (also known as Vlad Dracula or Vlad the Impaler, who provided the inspiration for Bram Stoker's character Count Dracula) was born can also be found here.
Still inhabited to this day, the citadel was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, with the body describing it as an "outstanding testimony" to the culture and achievements of this group. Note: This entire area is full of steep hills and steps, so may not be ideal for those with mobility issues.
Sighișoara enjoys train links with many other towns in Romania, but there are a couple that you should definitely pay attention to: