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Oradea, Art Nouveau Capital of Romania

The buildings in Oradea have always stood out for their beauty

Oradea, Art Nouveau Capital of Romania
Oradea, Art Nouveau Capital of Romania

, 29.05.2024, 14:33

Without impressing in size or opulence, the buildings in Oradea have always stood out for their beauty. The city can be a perfect city-break destination. In fact, Oradea even took first place in the European Best Destinations ranking, in the Best Art Nouveau Destination in Europe category. Today we find out which are the main tourist attractions in the Art Nouveau capital of Romania, but also some of the attractions in the surroundings.

The heritage has been very well preserved and rehabilitated, especially in the last decade. Thus, the city of Oradea is an open-air museum, which can ideally be visited in three days. If someone has a limited period of time, in which they have to see the most representative buildings and sights, the first recommendation would be Union Square, says Alexandru Chira, the executive director of the Association for the Promotion of Tourism in Oradea and the Region.

“Union Square in Oradea represents the architectural and cultural center of the city, with the most representative and imposing Art Nouveau building, the Black Eagle Palace. It is an absolutely impressive building, with a passageway modeled after the Vittorio Emanuele galleries in Italy. If visitors arrive at Union Square, there they can visit both the exterior and interior of the Moon Church, which takes its name from the mechanism that shows the phases of the moon. It is a mechanism that is three centuries old and perfectly functional. If we stay in the Union Square area, I recommend the Vasile Alecsandri pedestrian street, with multiple examples of Art Nouveau buildings, the most important of which is Deutsch House, an old glassware shop. On the Vasile Alecsandri pedestrian street, tourists can enjoy a lot of restaurants and cafes. Then, we go further from Union Square to Ferdinand Square, where we find a series of buildings extremely important for this movement. It is the Poynár House and the Republicii pedestrian street, with three extremely important palaces, which have become, in the meantime, the most instagrammable place in the area, because they are all located at an intersection of two streets. We are talking about the Apollo Palace, the Moskovitz Miksa Palace, and the Stern Palace, in Art Nouveau and Secession style, but with a completely different approach to both color and architectural elements.”

In Oradea, there is also the only Art Nouveau museum in Romania, the Darvas-La Roche House.

It is a house that has been recently restored. It was inaugurated in the middle of the pandemic, in the summer of 2021, and is one of the most visited sights in Oradea. It is a house that showcases the lifestyle of the period, with preserved pieces of both furniture and architectural elements, ironwork, original doors, and an impressive series of stained glass windows, which fortunately have survived. The Darvas-La Roche House can be visited all year round, and in the warm season, already from the beginning of May, the garden of the house is also open to visitors. If we are to go further, Oradea offers a plethora of atypical museums. And here I refer to the Temple of Freemasonry. I don’t know if such an objective still exists in Romania. Then, the Zion Synagogue is no longer a place of prayer, it is a place that was granted to the Oradea City Hall for a period of 30 years by the Jewish Community of Oradea, who, through their generosity, allowed this space to become an exhibition space for concerts and events. We have the Museum of the History of the Jews, which is in the vicinity of the City Hall, on the same street as City Hall, and the Museum of Cris Country, a gigantic building that houses collections of furniture, paintings, extremely rare fabrics, and valuable traditional garb. Then, an unmissable place on the list of all my recommendations is the Complex of the Roman Catholic Bishopric.”

The complex of the Roman Catholic Diocese is among the most representative Baroque-style buildings in Romania. It was completely restored by the Roman Catholic Diocese, and here you can visit the old bishops’ rooms on the first floor, which have been converted into exhibition spaces. The second floor is a space that periodically hosts exhibitions of contemporary art, sculpture, or painting. In the palace gardens we have the imposing Roman Catholic Basilica, where, if they are lucky, tourists can also listen to an organ concert. The organ was completely restored a year ago, and is an extremely important piece of heritage, which was donated by Empress Maria Theresa when the basilica was consecrated.

Alexandru Chira, the executive director of the Association for the Promotion of Tourism in Oradea and the Region, recommends that we combine the discovery of the architectural heritage with a visit to the largest Aqua Park in the area.

If the visit is in the summer, there are six outdoor hectares with different pools and facilities that can offer a wide range of ways to spend your free time. Inside, there are pools that can be used in the cold season: a series of saunas, steam rooms, etc. In addition to Aqua Parc, there are many wellness, SPA and recovery centers both in the Oradea area and in the Băile Felix area. For those who have more time, I recommend venturing up to an hour away by car. We can discover wonders in any season. There are obviously those who are passionate about speotourism, hiking, cycling. There is this option, but I would also like to give them recommendations from the gastronomic sphere. For example, in the Bihor area, Colești commune is an extremely popular restaurant for lovers of authentic regional food. There is another area in the Briheni commune, where there is a group of pie makers who cook even today, according to the original recipe, a famous pie, Briheni Pie, which can only be found in this region. Just yesterday I was also in the position of a tourist in the Şinteu area, where the Slovak community has built an impressive complex, where you can taste Slovak cuisine.”

The city’s cultural agenda is rich. On June 14-16, the third edition of the Sounds of Oradea Festival takes place, during which the famous soprano Angela Gheorghiu is invited. Another important event is the Medieval Festival of the Oradea Citadel, between July 6-8. More than 400 guests from different European countries will reproduce the medieval lifestyle specific to the 13th-15th centuries. Then, FestiFall will celebrate City Day from October 11-13. For details, you can access the website visitoradea.com.

At the same time, the “Oradea with Love” program continues this year. Tourists who spend two consecutive nights in Oradea receive free access to all tourist attractions in the city and free transport for 24 hours on the public transport network. Then, from June 15, on Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday morning, free guided tours are organized in Romanian, Hungarian and English, starting from Union Square.

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