This western Romanian city is often referred to as Little Vienna, with its grand Habsburg Secessionist buildings and circular city centre. In truth, it’s not as glossily refined as the Austrian capital, but really that’s the point. Even in its grand centre, the first place in Europe to have electric street lights, Timișoara doesn’t feel like a tourist trap. And, like other Romanian cities, including Cluj-Napoca and Sibiu, there’s a palpable sense of youthful optimism in this student town. Many of the city’s establishments have the feel of someone’s living room – such as Scârț Loc Lejer, a bric-a-brac bar owned by an artist’s collective, with an overgrown garden, an adjoining theatre and a museum of Communist consumerism in the basement. Elsewhere, there are jumping club nights at underground Database and jam sessions at the graffiti’d Aethernativ Café, with faint echoes of early Noughties Berlin.
There are festivals in Timișoara for everything from world music to film, Romany art and jazz, the latter of which has always been big here, even when Ceaușescu pushed it underground. The National Opera House has opera and ballet classics, with tickets for the price of an IPA in London, and the art ranges from a street-art gallery in a road tunnel to the Muzeul de Arta’s collection of wry portraits by Corneliu Baba.