Top 6 must see places in Old Town Constanta, Romania
April 17, 2019
by Alexandra Carastoian
If you are a traveler who likes to visit cities which are less known internationally, then, Constanta, historically known as Tomis, is for sure one of those cities. A must, to your bucket list.
Situated in the Dobrogea region, on the Black Sea’s coast in Romania, Constanta is the oldest inhabited city in Romania and one of the most populated cities in the country. A place where locals enjoy sunbathing in the summer and stay indoors in the winter. We are terrified with the wind during winters, it can be quite harsh. That is why I believe visiting Constanta during Spring or Autumn is ideal because summers can get quite crowded.
If you are keen on discovering local culture, history, religion, and architecture, here is a list of places to visit. This can be easily covered in one day. Luckily, they are in a cluster in the Old Town area, also known as the Peninsula district. I have ordered them geographically, starting from the farthest point to the closest to town, so my advice is to visit them in the order that follows so that at the end you can just sit down and grab something to eat on your way out of the Old Town.
1. The Old Casino
Built three times, the Old Casino’s first wood structure was opened in 1880 and was called the Cazin Kursaal. The Cazin Kursaal was the first Romanian building on the shore of the Black Sea when Dobruja region (Dobrogea today) became part of the Romanian administration at the end of the Romanian War of Independence, also known as the Russo-Turkish War.
The second version of The Cazin opened its doors in 1893 and was also a wood structure.
The third version, which is also the one that can be seen today, was designed and built by Daniel Renard as an Art Nouveau structure piece, it was meant to be a space for the upper-class community.
Today the Casino is the most emblematic building of the city, but it has also been abandoned. Despite the locals’ efforts to make it a functional space once again, the political confusion of the town and country has influence over the rehabilitation process. Because of the risk it imposes, the building cannot be visited on the inside, but photographers will be happy with the outside images of this amazing building, whether it is dusk, dawn or the middle of the day.
If you would like to see the inside of the Casino, check Romain Veillon‘s series about the degradation of the building.
2. The Genoese Lighthouse
Adjacent to the Old Casino there is a tiny, yet also a historically emblematic lighthouse, the Genoese Lighthouse. Approximately 16 meters tall today, it was originally built in 1300 it served the purpose of guiding ships into the, back then, tiny port of Constanta. The original foundation later served the engineer Artin Aslan who rebuilt it in honor of the merchants of Genoa who first built it to open a door to sea trading in the area. The lighthouse was once more erected in 1860 and in 1905 it was replaced with a modern one.
3. The Orthodox Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul
The Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul is the seat of the Romanian Orthodox Archbishop of Tomis. It was built in 1885 and partially destroyed by bombardment during World War II. Later on, it was rebuilt and repainted. At the entrance, heaven and hell are portrayed in detail. In addition, if you visit the inside of the church, make sure to look at the details of the furniture.
The church was built right next to the ruins of the ancient city of Tomis, do not miss those!
4. Saint Anthony’s Catholic Church
Walking up the street on the left you will see the back of the Saint Anthony’s Catholic Church. Make sure you walk around to see the façade. Finalized in 1936 it will catch your eye since the narrow street will make the building seem like it is falling over you because of not being able to see it from afar.
The architect Romano de Simon was inspired by the churches built in the north of Italy. Simple, yet majestic at the same time, the red brick makes the building pop out. For photographers, I do advise a wide lens.
Make sure you step inside as well and if you are lucky to be there during religious service, you might hear the amazing choir of the church.
5. The Lion House
You will not find too much info about this building and many might just pass by it and not give too much importance to it because it has also been abandoned and cannot be visited on the inside. But I always make sure I bring my tourist friends to see this architectural beauty
The House with Lions or the Lions House was designed by Ion Berindei and built in 1898. Its name is obvious since on top of the building there are four sculpted lions, the symbol used by this architect in various works.
The house was built for the Armenian merchant Dicran Emirzan and his family in Italian Neo-Renaissance style with neo-classical elements. Dicran was a well-seen merchant in Constanta and the story says that he rented out the house to Lazar Munteanu. Lazar, who was passionate about art and owned a large collection of Romanian paintings, exposed them on the ground floor of the house so that anyone could gaze through the windows and enjoy the art.
Be sure not to miss out the amazing view of the commercial port right on the right side of the Lions House.
6. The Grand Mosque
Also known as the Carol I Mosque, with a sober interior, it was built in Neo-Byzantine and Neo-Egyptian styles with elements of Neo-Romanesque and it is meant to be a slight copy of the Konya Mosque in Anatolia. It was opened in 1913.
The visiting schedule may vary; during summer it is extended between 8 AM and 8 PM and the rest of the year between 8 AM and 5 PM and it will cost the small amount of 5 RON for adults and 3 RON for children.
I would not miss this one if I were you, inside you will be able to see one of the biggest carpets in Europe (144 square meters, weighing almost 500 kilos), plus you will finish your tour with a panoramic view of the city if you climb the 140 steps up the minaret and if you are lucky to see the sunset, even better.
There are many other amazing places to see in Constanta if you have more than just one day to spend here, my personal opinion is that it is best in May and September.