Category: Contests

Targu Jiu, The Best City To Visit In 2015, Is Making Its Own Tourism Trail In Romania

targu jiu night winter romania

There may not be a whole lot going on in Targu Jiu, the city you voted as the best to visit in 2015, but much like Craiova, the residents of this southwestern corner of Romania are deeply passionate about it.

You hear a lot about ‘off the beaten path’ places everyone seems to know about. Want to get off the regular tourist trail? Targu Jiu, and the greater Oltenia region, should be in your Romania travel plans.

Targu Jiu, In Short

The population of this industrial city has been falling over the last decade as employment opportunities have shrunk in Targu Jiu, where there aren’t a lot of industries to begin with. The Jiu River, most notable as a tributary to the Danube, calmly flows through the city so innocently, it looks like an empty road at night.

jiu river targu jiu romania

Targu Jiu is quiet, at first.

Sculpting Tourism

A younger couple asks, as I look over the Jiu River from the park where The Avenue of the Heroes sculptures are located, what I’m doing there. The man is a Romanian who’s visiting his childhood home for the first time in years, noting it’s changed quite a bit, but perhaps not enough yet to attract tourists.

Across the street, Irish Pub quickly gathers a large crowd but the bartender is already a good friend. Step a block away though and you won’t notice it, the streets are empty, though only because the crowds are concentrated in small pockets of activity.

The Best Places To Eat In Targu Jiu

There are two really good choices for food in Targu Jiu though Antique, which doesn’t look like much from outside, is the one you’ll want to keep going back to. It has a good selection of Romanian foods traditional to this part of the country served in a cozy encompassed mansion basement. The service is great and (as you’ll get accustomed to if you visit Targu Jiu) the staff are friendly and inquisitive because there aren’t that many foreign visitors.

antique targu jiu restaurant

Your second option is Restaurant Ambassador, serving a blend of traditional and semi-food-you-find-everywhere though without the ambiance of Antique or small attention paid to the preparation of all the dishes. I mention it because Ambassador is a good choice in Targu Jiu, but Antique is a good choice in this region, reminiscent of the excellent Crama Ileana in Sibiu.

taragu jiu church romania

Slowly but surely, Targu Jiu begins to change from “wait, what, why, where?!” to “I am now starting to get why so many people voted it The Best City To Visit In 2015.

Travel Expansion

It was clear to me during my visit to nearby Craiova in 2014 that the local governments are trying to create a new tourist trail in the Oltenia region or Romania. By building new town squares as well as investing in promotion, cities like Targu Jiu are trying to emulate the successes of the Brasov, Sibiu, and others in Transylvania, which has become an sizeable source of income for central Romania.

targu jiu christmas romania travel

Without vampire or castles though, Oltenia is having to come up with modern attractions, advertised to the world through a grassroots campaign of locals who love their towns. Targu Jiu’s residents for the most part are enthusiastic – with typically eastern European realism – about what their city has (and doesn’t) to offer. I’m incredibly grateful to the people who voted and brought me to Targu Jiu in 2015, much like Craiova in 2014, its a place I hope more people see too.

A Look Back At The Winners Of The Best City Contest: An Instagram Photo Essay

best city winners instagram foxnomad

The Best City To Visit Travel Tournament is an annual occurrence on this site, one I’ve hosted every March since 2009. It gets rolling around early February, when you begin nominating cities, with votes every week to narrow down the selected cities to one best city. Over the past few weeks on my Instagram @foxnomad, account I’ve been taking a look back as I look forward to visiting the 2016 winner, Lisbon.

Best City 2009 – Sydney, Australia

A photo posted by Anil Polat (@foxnomad) on

Although The Best City To Visit Travel Tournaments began in 2009, I didn’t make it a tradition of visiting the winning city each year until 2011. However, I did make it to Sydney, which defeated Negril, Jamaica by a single vote, several years later. I still haven’t been to Zermatt, Switzerland, the 2010 winner though.

Best City 2011 – Porto, Portugal

A photo posted by Anil Polat (@foxnomad) on

2011 was the year I began visiting the winning city and the Portuguese voters made my trip to Porto an incredible time. I discovered the heart of Porto beats art, got special access to Harry Potter’s birthplace, and heard the story of Eiffel’s battle of bridges.

Best City 2012 – Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

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The nomination of Sarajevo in 2012 ignited the Best City Travel Tournaments to come. Mentions on local news media, talk shows, I was touched by the passion of the people who brought me to Sarajevo. Saying a place has “a lot of history” is often overused but in such a small area, few can match Sarajevo – including the bridge where World War I bizarrely began.

Best City 2013 – Sibiu, Romania

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A massive social media campaign by Sarajevo’s supporters was thought to be insurmountable, until the Romanians showed up in numbers to the Best City tournaments. Appropriately, the surprisingly optimistic Sibiu whose Christmas market transforms the town, was the first of three Romanian back-to-back wins.

Best City 2014 – Craiova, Romania

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When Craiova, a small industrial city hoping to turn itself into a tourism hub in southwestern Romania won the Best City Travel Tournament in 2014, many who didn’t vote for it were upset. I can easily say that’s because they never made a trip to visit the people who brought me there in the first place. Here’s more of what Craiova looks like, and it may surprise you.

Best City 2015 – Targu Jiu, Romania

A photo posted by Anil Polat (@foxnomad) on

Returning back to Romania was a pleasure, especially to explore a new city in the country. Targu Jiu is a tiny town that lights up during Christmas, with many good places to eat and a strong artistic heritage.

2016 – On To Lisbon

At the end of the 2015 Best City Travel Tournament, many thought the Romanian cities were unstoppable but then, a country with winning experience returned: Portugal. Ending the three-year Romanian streak Lisbon won Best City in 2016. I’m currently making plans to visit later this year to, among other things, donate $1,000 to a local charity in person.

Several things still hold true after a 7 years of best city contests: no city has ever won twice nor has any one person won more than one tournament. Sign up for my free bi-monthly newsletter so you don’t miss best city 2017 but for now, this year is all about Lisbon.

You can find and follow my travels on Instagram @foxnomad and let me know if you have any tips on things I shouldn’t miss in Lisbon in the comments below!

The Romanian Streak Ends: Lisbon, Portugal Wins The 2016 Best City To Visit Travel Tournament

lisbon at night

For the first time in 3 years, the winner of The Best City To Visit Travel Tournament is not a Romanian city. Despite Targu Mures moving all the way to the final, Portugal was able to win the competition for the second time ever. Back in 2011, Porto won The Best City contest, and your votes will send me to Lisbon some time this year. Lisbon got a lot of help from Visit Portugal, the country’s official tourism board to counter a great Romanian effort.

best city 2016 bracket

Romania Not Gone

Starting with Sibiu back in 2013, followed by Craiova in 2014, then Targu Jiu last year, Romanians enthusiastically voted their cities the best, sending me to the beautiful country multiple times. I’ll be writing about Targu Jiu in the coming weeks, as well as highlighting why Romania’s wins aren’t so surprising, especially if you’ve been there before. For now though, the Romanian three-in-a-row streak ends and several trends still hold.

  1. No city has ever won back to back tournaments.
  2. No person has ever won back to back tournaments.
  3. No city has ever won twice.
  4. Prior to them winning the tournament, I’ve never been to the winning city.

A Prize For Lisbon

Congratulations to Mira, who originally nominated Lisbon several weeks ago. Back then I announced the person who nominated the winning city would win $500; in addition I would donate $500 to a local charity. Mira’s asked me to use her portion of the prize to contribute to a non-profit she’s selected. I’ll be writing about the organization when I visit Lisbon this year, hopefully to make the $1,000 contribution in person.

Thank You Everyone

The Best City To Visit Travel Tournament has grown every year thanks to your nominations, votes, and participation. Your involvement over the past few weeks and every year is greatly appreciated and I look forward to an even bigger contest next year!

Let me know if you have any suggestions or would like to see any changes to the tournament in the comments below. And if you’ve been to Lisbon or are from there, send me your travel tips too!

[Top photo by: Lacobrigo]

Vote Now In The Best City To Visit 2016 Championship: Is It Targu Mures Or Lisbon?

best city 2016 championship

Welcome to The Best City To Visit Travel Tournament 2016 Championship. Both of these cities have been through 4 rounds of your votes, but neither London nor New York City could stop Lisbon or Targu Mures. Romanian cities have won the past 3 tournaments but remember that a big social media push by Porto won them the title Best City in 2011. Although there won’t be a new country named with a Best City this year, for both Targu Mures and Lisbon it would be a first. (And somehow for me too as I’ve never been to either city.)

How To Vote

To vote, click your favorite city in the poll below. You’ll be asked for an email address, once you’ve voted, that vote won’t be counted until you click a confirmation link in an email sent to you by Poll Daddy. Neither them or I collect your email address, they’re only used for vote confirmation. You have until Friday, 6pm US EST to vote.

Those of you reading through email and RSS will have to click-through to this page to vote.

Results Announced Next Week

You won’t see the final results of The Best City To Visit Championship 2016 until I announce the winner on Tuesday, April 12th. Be sure to check back then to see whether your votes name Lisbon or Targu Mures The Best City To Visit in 2016.

best city 2016 championship bracket

I’ll be visiting the winning city sometime this year, awarding $500 to the person who originally nominated the city as well as donating $500 to a local charity. Good luck to both Targu Mures and Lisbon!

The Best City To Visit Travel Tournament 2016: Final Four

best city 2016 final four

Another Best City Tournament where Istanbul advances far but can’t quite make it to the Final and enthusiastic Romanians vote one of their cities onward. Vote now to determine whether New York or Targu Mures will advance to face either Lisbon or London in the Best City 2016 Championship. I’ll visit the winning city sometime this year, as well as donating $500 to a local charity, so click to let me know one of the places I’m going in 2016.

You have until Friday, April 1st 6:00pm US EST to vote in each of the match ups below. Those of you reading through email and RSS will have to click-through to this page to vote.

Throughout the competition, I’ve been asking those who nominated cities to let me know of a local non-profit they’d like to sponsor. From Hand In Hand, an organization helping children with autism in Bishkek, to Dogs Trust in London, I’ve been highlighting many of these non-profits during the Best City 2016 Tournament. This week I want to let you know about Cercetasii Romaniei (Scouts Romania) chosen by Razvan. Scouts Romania’s goal is educating youth to help build a better world where people are fulfilled as individuals and play a constructive role in society.

best city 2016 bracket

Remember the 2016 Best City Championship between the two city’s to advance from this round begins next week on Tuesday, April 5th!

Vote Now In The Best City To Visit Travel Tournament 2016: Elite 8

best city 2016 elite 8

Vote now for your favorite 4 cities in the remaining Elite 8. Last week, Bishkek couldn’t keep up with Lisbon and Kotor almost pulled off an upset in The Best City Sweet 16. But now, Targu Mures is set against Istanbul – a city that could really use some tourism love these days. The polls are open below through this Friday, March 25th 6pm US EST, click below to advance your favorite cities to the next round!

Those of you reading through email and RSS will have to click-through to this page to vote.

The current Best City 2016 Tournament brackets:

best city 2016

Keep in mind the Final Four of The Best City To Visit Travel Tournament begins next Tuesday, March 29th!


About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutI'm the blogger and computer security engineer who writes foXnoMad while on a journey to visit every country in the world. I'll show you the tips, tricks, and tech you can use to travel smarter. Read More

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