Charming rural landscapes and typical Transylvanian houses with facades in pastel colors make Biertan one of the most beautiful villages in all of Romania! You may be confused that you have landed somewhere in France or Germany, a feeling enhanced by the region’s deep winemaking traditions… And the main tourist attraction, the fortified church, has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1993!
Where is located, how to get there and where to stay
Biertan is part of the historical-geographical region of Transylvania and falls within the boundaries of Sibiu County, central Romania. The larger towns around are Sighisoara (30 km) and Medias (25 km), and Sibiu itself is around 80 km away.
The options for visits are organized tours from nearby cities or by private car, which would be most convenient. You can park right in the center of Piața 1 Decembrie, but don’t forget to pay your ticket at the machines on the side!
The rural idyll is so captivating that it makes Biertan a perfect option to stay when visiting the area. However, the possibilities for overnight stay are not many and it is good to make a reservation in advance!
See places to stay in Biertan
More about Transylvanian Saxons and Biertan
The exact period of origin of the settlement is unknown, but it is assumed to be between 1224 – 1283. The Saxons began to settle in Transylvania in the 12th century when they were invited by King Geza II of Hungary. They left the present-day lands of Germany, France and Belgium to establish their community in present-day Romania. The main objective of the king was to strengthen and stop Ottoman invasions towards the southeastern border of the kingdom.
In the following centuries, Biertan flourished, becoming a major trading settlement, and the population increased significantly. Between 1493 – 1522, the impressive fortified church was built, the most majestic of all in Transylvania! It also became the most important religious center for the Saxons in the area, being the seat of the Saxon bishop for three centuries (1572 – 1867). Decline came at the end of the Middle Ages, mostly because of the importance and prosperity of the two larger cities around it (Sighisoara and Medias).
Today, the local population is not many, and Biertan has become a beautiful village that has preserved many of its old houses. From here, several eco trails and cycle paths start and there are various options for rural tourism. The small wooden lodges in the square house a variety of artisans who can offer tourists their creations. It’s worth walking through the nearby streets to soak up its atmosphere!
The Fortified Church
The hilltop church dominates everything else in Biertan! To get to the courtyard of the complex, you have to go up a long covered wooden staircase, from where you have to get the entrance ticket. The main purpose of the massive structure was to protect the residents during sieges and attacks on the settlement, which is the role of any fortified church. But this is the best example of the typical Transylvanian Saxon building! A complex mix of three rows of outer fortifications with reinforcing arches, tunnels and towers was built.
The church was built in Gothic style and Baroque elements, and the interior is almost completely preserved in its original form. Authentic Ottoman carpets hung in places, the most famous being the only surviving Transylvanian carpet with birds. Impressive is the largest multi-layered altar in Transylvania, combining 28 wooden panels and made by Austrian and German craftsmen.
The yard with views
Take a full tour of the courtyard to explore the entire complex. Access to most of the towers is restricted, but you can peek into the Turnul Mausoleu, where the tombstones of nine Saxon bishops are on display. For me, the most memorable moment was when you can lean on the stone fences and look at the colorful country houses surrounded by bright green hills with many vineyards on them… Captivating silence! The rural grandeur of Biertan is locked in time…
The prison for unhappy families
Biertan is known to the world for one more thing… its “marriage prison”! You can take a peek inside the small building where there is a bed, a table, a chair, a plate, a cup and a spoon – just one of each! This medieval marriage therapy lasted for around 300 years, with the local bishop housing the couples for a period of six weeks where they shared everything in the room and tried to iron out their differences. It may sound a bit sinister, but the truth is that while this method was used, only one divorce was registered in Biertan!