craiova prefecture

The Best City To Visit Travel Tournament that’s run every spring on this site has become more controversial every year since I began running it 2009. During the past two years (some) people have been upset primarily because the cities advancing have been Romanian. What most of the complainers seem to ignore is that winning in The Best City To Visit Tournament isn’t just clicks on a mouse – there are passionate people behind what is often part of a larger campaign to bring travelers to a town.

Anyone who thinks Craiova isn’t deserving of winning the title of best city to visit in 2014 especially needs to plan a trip there so you can be introduced to all of the reasons why it is.

Fighting Under Its Weight

Craiova is the very unassuming 6th largest city in Romania that has to work hard to compete in a country where tourism is booming. Government officials estimate the number of foreigners visiting has doubled over the last 12 years so Craiova is not only working to differentiate itself from the Paris’ of the world but also the Brasov and Sibiu’s nearby. Though rather than trying to emulate stale croissants in a snobby atmosphere that many large cities pollute themselves with over time, Craiova embodies what travelers crave most – a local experience.

craiova polenta

Saturday’s Blogger Meetup

Many of us dig through layers of a town to reach its kernel, which isn’t found inside large statues or restaurants overflowing with tourists but instead in small groups of people enjoying their version of every day life. Craiova doesn’t really have overpowering monuments or any pillar historical buildings on par with “those” places you think of when it comes to tourism, which means finding its essence isn’t much of a search at all.

craiova blogger meetup

On most Saturday nights in Club Q, you can meet up with the dedicated group of bloggers who love Craiova about a much as they like having fun. There are discussions about pretty much anything. When I visited there was a group of international students hanging out with the Craiova locals, reflective of the open invitation to anybody in town. The mayor, Lia Olguta Vasilescu, even stopped by and when I finally realized everyone wasn’t playing a prank on me, I was struck by what a unique experience Craiova can offer.

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Refreshing On Both Ends

Craiova is an industrial city that’s now working as hard to build itself into a tourist destination as it does in producing cars. The old city is being completely rebuilt in hopes of a successful 2021 European Capital of Culture bid; a compliment to the larger Mihai Viteazu Square whose thoroughfare is lined with cafes like Restaurant Viena, leading back to it.

craiova flowers

The Constantin Mihail Palace is being renovated to accommodate paintings that will eventually fill its new role as the local Art Museum.

craiova art museum

Over 90 hectares makes the 111 year old Parcul Nicolae Romanescu one of the largest urban parks in Eastern Europe, accounting for 2% of the total national park area of Romania.

Parcul Nicolae Romanescu

Historical Persistence

Craiova also has a number of churches, the oldest being the Cosuna Monastery, built around 1483 from a past that’s surprisingly Craiovan. A three hour drive from Bucharest, four by car to Sofia, and five to Belgrade, given its location Craiova has been a crossroads – or more of a dead end – for conquerors. Notoriously stubborn, Craiova’s was burned down in 1802 by frustrated Ottoman forces, and just north of the city you can take a small boat on the Danube River into caves where rebel forces fired canon balls upon trespassers.

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craiova Cosuna Monastery

What remains today is exactly why you should visit Craiova and part of the reason some were against the city winning in the first place. Craiova is growing and eventually, with all hopes, be the type of tourist destination many paying people will want to see. Before others catch on however, you can visit a city whose core is at its surface and meet a population of residents who are downright passionate about Craiova, a sentiment that leaves you infectiously feeling like a local. Mulțumesc Craiova.

I’ll be writing more about Craiova in the coming weeks, including what to see and do in the city but wanted again to thank everyone there for their kind hospitality. I’m thrilled The Best City To Visit Travel Tournament brought me to Craiova in 2014 look forward visiting again.