Alba Iulia - General Information
Location: Central Romania (County: Alba)
Size: 3.7 sq. miles (9.7 sq. kilometers)
Elevation: 710 - 790 ft. (222 - 247 meters)
Population: 67,000
Inhabited since: 106-107 BC
First documented: 1097

City Highlights 

The gentle climate and the richness of the soil made the area around Alba Iulia inhabitable since ancient times and established Alba as a leading wine growing region since 1st century AD. Northwest of Alba Iulia are the Apuseni Mountains and in the east the Transylvanian Plateau with its rolling hills and deep, wide valleys.

One of the oldest settlements in Romania, known in ancient time as Apulum, Alba Iulia served as the largest military and economic center during the Roman occupation. Temples, mosaics, thermae and statues, amphitheaters, the governor's palace "Daciarum Trium" – all rendered the original Dacian Apulul as the miniature copy of the mother Rome.

An Episcopal citadel and an important political, military and cultural center, Alba Iulia reached its peak between 1542-1690, serving as the capital of the independent Principality of Transylvania and the residence of the Transylvanian princes. In 1599, Mihai Viteazul (Michael the Brave) achieved here for a brief period of time the union of the three main provinces of Romania: Walachia, Transylvania, and Moldavia. The town later became an important printing centre. Nowadays the local universities continue the tradition of the old academic schools.

The peasant revolt led by Horea, Closca and Crisan, executed on February 28, 1785 on the Pitchfork Hill (Dealul Furcii) turned the city into a symbol of the fight for justice and freedom.

It was here that on December 1st 1918 the province of Transylvania announced its unification with Romania. In 1922 Prince Ferdinand was crowned King of Romania in an act which mirrored the union achieved more than four centuries earlier by Mihai Viteazul.

Alba means white and comes from the time when the Slavics called the settlement Belgrade ("White Castle"). Iulia comes from the name of Romanian Prince Gelu (Iulius in Latin) who ruled over the land around Alba Iulia during the 10th century. The Habsburgs tried to impose the name Alba Carolina (Karlsburg) in honor of the emperor Charles VI. In 1918 the town became once again Alba Iulia.

In the old town visitors can stroll along the wide, tree-lined streets of the Habsburg citadel, one of the most impressive in Europe, to discover the historical, cultural and architectural places of interest of Alba Iulia: the Roman Catholic Cathedral – the oldest and most valuable monument of architecture in Transylvania., the Batthyaneum Library, the Orthodox Cathedral of the Reunification, the Babilon Building – housing the National Museum of Unification, the Union Hall, the Apor Palace, the Princely Palace, and the University of Alba Iulia.

For those interested in natural attractions and outdoor adventures, Alba Iulia is a good starting point for exploring the Apuseni and Retezat parks.


The Citadel

(Cetatea Alba Iulia)
The Alba Iulia citadel, designed by Italian architect Giovanni Morando Visconti, was built between 1716 and 1735, using the Vauban military architectural system—the largest of this kind in Southeastern Europe. The fortress is outstanding both for its architectural elements and for the beauty of its six gates, unique in European military structures. Doubtless the artists, sculptors Johann Koning, Johan Vischer and Giuseppe Tencalla, had been inspired by ancient mythology.

About 7.2 miles of ramparts made of brick and quarry stones form a seven-point star shape with seven bastions (Eugene of Savoia, St. Stefan, The Trinity, St. Michael, St. Carol, St. Capistrano and St. Elisabeth) guarded
by six monumental gates. 

The gates, valuable samples of early baroque style, have served as a model for 18th century Transylvanian architecture.

Princely Palace

(Palatul Princiar)
The Princely Palace, built in the 16th century, was Prince Mihai Viteazul's residence during the first political unification of Romanians in the 1600s. Following Ottoman and Tatar invasions the palace was destroyed. During the rule of princes Gábor Bethlen and George II Rakoczi the palace was restored but not to its previous condition. From 1700 on, the building was used as military barracks.

Opposite the palace is the Union Hall (Sala Unirii), where the unification act between Romania's other historical provinces and Transylvania was signed during the Great Assembly of December 1st 1918.

Batthyaneum Library

(Biblioteca Batthyaneum)
In 1780, Ignac Batthyany, bishop of Transylvania, transformed a former Unitarian church into one of the most famous libraries in Transylvania. The Batthyaneum library is known all over the world for its rare manuscripts - over 60,000 documents, including the Codex Aureus (9th century), also known as the Lorsch Gospel, containing the Gospel of Mark and Matthew, David's Psalms, Codex Burgundus (15th century), Biblia Sacra (13th century) the Pentateuch from Orăştie (1850), Şerban Cantacuzino's Bible, and the New Testament from Balgrad (1648).
The first astronomical observatory in Transylvania was founded here in 1792.

Apor Palace

Apor Palace is located nearby the Bathyaneum Library. Built in the second half of the 17th century, it served as the residence of Prince Apor, and at the beginning of the 18th century as that of Austrian army leader, Prince Steinville. Apor Palace was renovated in 2007.

Historic Churches

Orthodox Cathedral of the Reunification

Address: Str. Mihai Viteazu 21
Open: Mon– Sun 8:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Located near the western entrance of the citadel, the impressive Orthodox Cathedral was built between 1921 and 1923 to celebrate Transylvania's reunification with Romania. The first monarchs of unified Romania, King Ferdinand I and Queen Marie were crowned there on 15 October 1922.

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