The first reaction I get when I tell people traveling to eastern Europe that they must visit Craiova, Romania, is a genuinely interested “huh?” Craiova, the 6th largest city in Romania, has a remarkably enthusiastic population of 270,000 working diligently on social media to promote it as a tourist destination. Although I met the reasons you voted Craiova the Best City to Visit of 2014, here’s what that city (which is in rapid travel destination transformation) looks like under the summer sun.

craiova baniei house

Looking around the Craiova Art Museum, once the active Constantin Mihail Palace, now gearing up to host a number of pieces of artwork from Romanian sculptors and painters.

craiova art museum

Big square.

craiova square

Big meal, with polenta, of course.

polenta craiova romania

Inside the Madona Dudu Church, whose structure was partially rebuilt in 1844 to repair earthquake damage sustained a decade prior.

madona dudu church craiova

Walking around the Parcul Nicolae Romanescu (Romanescu Park) which has small monuments, cafes, and street food stalls scattered throughout. There’s enough organization so you don’t feel lost but at the same time are exploring, as there’s a lot to be discovered (and eaten) inside.

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romanescu park craiova romania

A look into Craiova’s City Hall, open to the public when there aren’t any active sessions or debates taking place.

craiova city hall

Nearby, along the Danube River about a 40 minute drive away is Europe’s tallest rock sculpture. This depiction honors Decebalus, (87-106 A.D.), who was able to preserve Dacia’s (the precursor to modern Romania) independence against Roman rule through three wars.

Decebalus statue

A streak of independence still flows through the blood of most Craiovans, who are proud of a heritage they want to share in the most modern ways. At least once a month many of the city’s bloggers gather at Club Q, essentially turning into a large meet and greet open to everyone. In the time since I took these photos, a large pedestrian area has been opened, lined with a number of virgin bars, restaurants, and cafes all anticipating new business. (Facebar in particular has really grown into one of the best places to eat, drink, and party in town.)

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Craiova is easy to reach by train from Bucharest (about 4 hours and $15) or backward nodding Sofia, and Wizz Air recently began flights a number of cities including London, Rome, and Barcelona. You’ll find that Craiova is right in the middle of a special zone for travelers – a place you should add to your plans if you’re looking for an inexpensive but unique experience in Europe.