Oradea is the capital of the Crisana region. It’s location, only a few kilometers east of the Hungarian border, makes it a popular Romania entry point when arriving by train. There’s certainly worse places to arrive (cough, Bucharest, cough!).
This region has been inhabited since the Bronze Age and eventually developed into an important commercial, trade and communications point in the 11th-century. In the 18th-century, Viennese engineer Franz Anton Hillebrandt put his mark on the city in the form of several Baroque structures, such as the Roman Catholic Cathedral and the Bishop’s Palace (now the Museum of the Land of the Cris Rivers). It doesn’t hurt that the river Crisul Repede runs through the city centre, accentuating the architectural beauty of the area.
Of all the cities of the Austro-Hungarian empire, Oradea has best retained its 19th-century romantic style and still looks great, despite its underlying, faded grandeur.
In addition to a day or two of time-warp wandering, you’ll want to make the most of your time here by eating at one of Romania’s precious few vegetarian restaurants, Restaurant Vegetarian Cris, at George Enescu 30, north of the center. Entrée prices average less than two euros and the menu features unlikely dishes like minced pumpkinballs, macaroni and cabbage, celery schnitzel and mushroom haggis. They’re closed Saturdays.