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Steve and Emma's Travel Tales

Easter Weekend in Oradea

ROMANIA | Tuesday, 6 April 2021 | Views [37]

Astoria Grand Hotel, our home in Oradea.

Astoria Grand Hotel, our home in Oradea.

The quarantine restrictions in Timisoara were relaxed just in time for the long Catholic Easter weekend. Not sure why we were let out as the covid cases hadn’t gone down in the 2 week shut down, but we weren’t going to argue as it meant we could get away for the long weekend. We didn’t do anything too ambitious as we weren’t sure we would be able to get out until the last minute so we plumped for a 2 night stay in Oradea.

Oradea is a city 3 hours by train north of Timisoara and the guide book promised us a pleasant city with some nice old architecture. We found out that the Rough Guide had definitely undersold the hidden gem of Oradea. We got an early direct train from Timisoara and we disembarked at a decidedly chilly Oradea station at 10 in the morning. The weather had been quite mild recently and we had been fooled into thinking that spring was here, but today winter was back with a vengeance and we were under dressed. We meandered our way from the station towards town past the impressive Bishop’s Palace and catholic church, through a park and along deserted streets. It was Saturday morning and felt eerily quiet. We soon hit the main pedestrian drag of Strada Republica and were mightily impressed with the stunningly restored Secession buildings dating back to before the first world war. We found Piata Regale Ferdinand, a square dominated by the magnificent State Theatre and on one corner the Astoria Grand Hotel, our home for the next two nights.

We had decided to have a belated anniversary treat as we were in lockdown for our actual anniversary, we were very happy with our choice. The Astoria Grand is a wonderful old hotel which oozes class and charm so no idea why they let us in, but they did. This being Romania, the treat actually only cost 40 quid a night even though we had upgraded to a luxury room with balcony. The room was spacious with hefty old wooden furniture, a small balcony with a view of the square and a fridge. Everything we needed, well a kettle would have been nice but we are wise and brought our faithful travel kettle. We dumped our bags and set out to explore the town.

We spent the rest of the day wandering around the town being amazed at all the incredible buildings. Why is Oradea not a famous tourist destination? It is absolutely lovely. Most of the buildings have been restored with just a bit of work being finished off here and there, so they are ahead of the game compared to Timisoara. Oradea definitely went to near the top of the fave Romania towns, competing with Sibiu for top spot, possibly. The river flows through the centre of town and we crossed the bridge to Piata Unirii which is surrounded by numerous glorious buildings, with the Greek Bishop’s Palace being our favourite. The clock tower at the city hall was under wraps and when that is finished the square will be even better. We walked tough 1 December park and back along the riverside walk way. Everywhere was immaculately clean and the green spaces, of which there are many, are well cared for. We just loved wandering around Oradea. It didn’t matter that there are not many famous sights and the museums were closed due to the pandemic, we just enjoyed being out and about. The sun even put in an appearance and we soaked up the rays, some grub and a few drinks at Dock Bistro which is a very pleasant place right on the river with views of Union Square.

After a very comfortable night in our posh gaff we decided to explore another part of the city. The plan was, after a lazy morning, to head to the old citadel then have a walk along the river and head up Mushroom Hill for a view of the city. We found the old citadel and headed through the thick city walls. The wind was biting as we strolled around, not another soul was out and about. In the centre there is a restored palace and in normal times there would be tours, but not in the pandemic. The church was open and a fair few were engaged in the Easter Sunday service. We mooched around the walls and then detoured out via the park, which again was beautifully kept. We headed down to the river and walked along the riverside path for a few kilometres before crossing over and heading back in the direction of the city. Just like in Timisoara, there is a great walking/cycling track along side both banks of the river which pass through many parks and green areas. We were heading for Mushroom Hill but we needed to get to the other side of the tracks. Google maps took us to a bridge over the railway but google didn’t inform us that it was padlocked. It looked like a major detour to get over the tracks so we decoded to sack it and head back to town as our tummies were rumbling.

We decided to treat ourselves to a slap up lunch at The Astoria Grand Hotel restaurant and bagged a table on the terrace overlooking the Piata Regele Ferdinand. It turned out to be a great call as the food was amazing, we shared a huge garlic bread ( still is the future) for starters, I had baked salmon and Emma had chicken stuffed with cheese. Very posh and very tasty but also very very reasonably priced. We washed it down with a bottle of Pinot grigio from the Cramele Recas winery. A great way to round off a brilliant weekend in the extremely underrated Oradea.


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