With 311,586 inhabitants (2009), Timişoara, the second largest Romanian city, is the main economic and cultural center in Transylvania, in the western part of the country.
Timişoara was first mentioned as a place in either 1212 or 1266. The territory later to be known as Transylvania was conquered and annexed by the Kingdom of Hungary in 1030. Timişoara grew considerably during the reign of Charles I, who, upon his visit here in 1307, ordered the construction of a royal palace. Timişoara's importance also grew thanks to its strategic location, which facilitated control over the Banat plain. John Hunyadi established a permanent military encampment here, and moved here together with his family. In 1552, Ahmed Pasha conquered the city with a 160,000-strong Ottoman army and transforms it into a vilayet capital. The local military commander, Stefan Losonczy, was captured and beheaded on July 27, 1552 after resisting the Ottoman invasion with just over 2,300 men.
Timişoara remained under Ottoman rule for nearly 160 years, controlled directly by the Sultan and enjoying a special status, similar to other cities in the region such as Budapest and Belgrade. During this period, Timişoara underwent a process of Islamization, until Prince Eugene of Savoy conquered it in 1716. Subsequently, the city came under Austro-Hungarian rule, and it remained so until the early 20th century. During this time, Timişoara evolved from a strategic fortress to an economic and industrial center: numerous factories were built, electric illumination and public transport were introduced, and railroad connections were established. The city was defortified, and several major road arteries were built to connect the suburbs with the city center, paving the way for further expansion of the city limits.
It was the first mainland European city to be lit by electric street lamps in 1884. It was also the second European and the first city in what is now Romania with horse drawn trams in 1867. There are numerous claims that Gustave Eiffel, the creator of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, built one of Timişoara's footbridges over the Bega.
On October 31, 1918, local military and political elites establish the Banat National Council, together with representatives of the region's main ethnic groups: Hungarians, Romanians, Serbs and Germans. In the aftermath of World War I, the Transylvania region was divided between the Kingdom of Romania and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, and Timişoara came under Romanian administration. In 1920, King Ferdinand I awarded Timişoara the status of a University Center, and the interwar years saw continuous economic and cultural development. A number of anti-fascist and anti-revisionist demonstrations also took place during this time.
During World War II, Timişoara suffered damage from both Allied and Axis bombing raids, especially during the second half of 1944. On August 23, 1944, Romania, which until then was a member of the Axis, declared war on Nazi Germany and joined the Allies. Surprised, the local Wehrmacht garrison surrendered without a fight, and German and Hungarian troops attempted to take the city by force throughout September, without success.
After the war, the People's Republic of Romania was proclaimed, and Timişoara underwent sovietization and later, systematization. The city's population tripled between 1948 and 1992. In December 1989, Timişoara witnessed a series of mass street protests by both Romanians and Hungarians, in what was to become the Romanian Revolution of 1989.
The city center largely consists of buildings from the Austro-Hungarian era. The old city consists of several historic areas. These are: Cetate (Belváros in Hungarian, Innere Stadt in German), Iosefin (Józsefváros, Josephstadt), Elisabetin (Erzsébetváros, Elisabethstadt), Fabric (Gyárváros, Fabrikstadt). Numerous bars, clubs and restaurants have opened in the old Baroque square (Unirii Square).
- Timişoara Orthodox Cathedral
- Timişoara State Theater
- The Roman Catholic Cathedral (The Dome)
- Millennium Church
- Huniade Castle