An important industrial center and transportation hub, Arad is also the seat of a Romanian Orthodox archbishop and features two universities, a Romanian Orthodox theological seminary, a training school for teachers, and a music conservatory. The city has a population of approximately 168,000, making it the fourteenth largest city in Romania. Arad is the third largest city in the western part of the country following nearby Timişoara and Oradea.
Arad was first mentioned in documents in the 11th century. The Mongol invasion of the Kingdom of Hungary in 1241 showed the importance of the fortifications on this place, to which were added in the second half of the 13th century more stone fortresses at Soimos (Solymos), Şiria (Világos), and Dezna (Dézna). The Ottoman Empire conquered the region from Hungary in 1551 and kept it until the Peace of Karlowitz of 1699. Arad or Varad became an eyalet center, which comprised the sanjaks of Varad (Arad), Logoş, Kacaş, Beşlek and Yanova from 1660 till 1697, when it was captured by Austrians during Ottoman-Habsburg wars (1683–1699). After 1699, the city was ruled by the Habsburg Monarchy. According to 1720 data, the population of the city was composed of 177 Romanian families, 162 Serbian, and 35 Hungarian.
The new fortress was built between 1763 and 1783. Although it was small, it proved formidable having played a great role in the Hungarian struggle for independence in 1849. The city possesses a museum containing relics of this war of independence.
Bravely defended by the Austrian general Berger until the end of July 1849, it was captured by the Hungarian rebels, who made it their headquarters during the latter part of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. It was from Arad that Lajos Kossuth issued his famous proclamation (11 August 1849), and where he handed over the supreme military and civil power to Artúr Görgey.
The fortress was recaptured shortly after the surrender at Világos (now Şiria, Romania), with the surrender of Görgey to the Russians. It became an ammunition depot.
Thirteen rebel generals were executed there on 6 October 1849, by order of the Austrian general Julius Jacob von Haynau. These men are known collectively as the 13 Martyrs of Arad, and since then Arad is considered the "Hungarian Golgotha". One of the public squares contains a martyrs' monument, erected in their memory. It consists of a colossal figure of Hungary, with four allegorical groups, and medallions of the executed generals.
Arad enjoyed a great economic development. In 1834 it was declared a "free royal town" by Emperor Francis I of Austria.
Aradu Nou ("New Arad"), situated on the opposite bank of the Mureş/Maros, is a suburb of Arad, to which it is connected by a bridge. It was founded during the Turkish wars of the 17th century. The works erected by the Turks for the capture of the fortress of Arad formed the nucleus of the new settlement.
- The Fortified Town of Arad is one of the Transylvanian fotresses built in the Vauban star-shaped style, in the second half of the 18th century. It was used as a prison for the rebels led by Horia, Cloşca, and Crişan
- Administrative Palace, built in 1872-74, renaissance architecture
- Ioan Slavici Classical Theatre, built in 1874, neoclassical architecture, architect Anton Czigler
- Neuman Palace, built in 1891, eclecticism
- Judiciary Palace, built in 1892, eclecticism
- Cenad Palace, built in 1894, eclecticism and neoclassical architecture
- National Bank Palace, built in 1906, neoclassical architecture
- Bohuş Palace built in 1910, Vienna Secession. (For the first time in Arad, reinforced concrete was used)
- Szantay Palace, built in 1911, Vienna Secession
- Cultural Palace, built in 1913, neoclassical, gothic, renaissance architecture, and Corinthian capitals
- Cloşca Street, Vienna Secession
- The House with Cannon Balls, built in 1800. Its name derives from the fights between 1848 and 1849. Seventeen cannon balls are incorporated in its walls.
- The High Teacher Training School (Clădirea Preparandiei), the first school for Romanian-language teachers from Transylvania, 1812
- The House with the Padlock, built in 1815
- The Old Theatre (Hirschl), built by Jacob Hirschl in 1817, the oldest stone theatre in Romania
- Water Tower, built in 1896, medieval dungeon architectural style
- The Old Custom House, built in 1907, used as a customs point for goods entering the Arad markets
- The Statue of St. John of Nepomuk, raised in 1729, baroque sculpture
- The monument of the Holy Trinity, raised in 1746 to commemorate the plague that swept the town in 1738-1740
- The Statue of Liberty, raised in 1890 by György Zala in the memory of the heroes of the Hungarian revolutionary army
- The Arch of Triumph, raised in 2004 by Ioan Bolborea in memory of the heroes of the 1848 - 1849 Romanian Revolution (fighting against the Hungarians)
- Martyrs' Cross, raised in 1936, in memory of the priests martyred between November 1918 and spring 1919
- The Bust of Vasile Goldiş (1862–1934) * The Bust of Moise Nicoară (1784–1861)
- The "St. Peter and Paul" Serbian Church, raised in 1698-1702, early Baroque architecture
- "St. Simon" Monastery , raised in 1762, Baroque architecture
- "St. Anthony of Padua" Cathedral (Roman Catholic). The Order of Minorite Monks raised this cathedral in 1904, in a renaissance architecture style
- The "Birth of Saint John the Baptist" Cathedral (Romanian Orthodox), raised in 1862-1865, Baroque architecture, architect Antoniu Czigler. The mural painter, Anastase Damian, started his work in 1957 and finished it one year later
- The Red Church (Evangelical-Lutheran), built in 1906, Neo-gothic architecture
- The Neolog Synagogue, built in 1834, Greek, Tuscan architectural style
- The Bodrog Monastery built in 1111
- Neptun Swimming Place, known in Romanian as "Strandul Neptun", one of the most beautiful places of amusement of this kind in Romania
- The Mureş Embankment
- The Grove
- The Ceala Forest with Măltăreţ Lake and Mureş Isle
- The Vladimirescu Forest
- Ghioroc Lake
- Miniş - Măderat Vineyard, situated about 30 km east of Arad