Named Apulum during the Ancient times, Alba Iulia is one of the oldest settlements in Romania, mentioned for the first time during Marcus Aurelius as the capital of the Dacia Apulensis.
During the Roman occupation Alba Iulia served as a very important military and economic center: temples, amphitheaters, a governor’s Palace, statues and thermae were all built here as for a smaller Rome. Alba means white and comes from the time when the Slavics called the settlement Balgrad (“White Castle”); Iulia comes from the name of a Romanian Prince Gelu (Iulius in Latin) who ruled over the land around Alba Iulia during the 10th century. Almost completely destroyed by the Tartars in 1241, Alba Iulia reached its peak between 1542-1690, serving as the capital of the independent Principality of Transylvania and the residence of the Transylvanian princes. In 1599, Mihai Viteazul (Michael the Brave) achieved here for a brief period of time the union of the three main provinces of Romania: Walachia, Transylvania, and Moldavia. The XVIII cen. peasant uprising led by Horea, Closca and Crisan turned the city into a symbol of the fight for justice and freedom. It was also here where on the 1st of December 1918 the province of Transylvania announced its unification with Romania. In 1922 Prince Ferdinand was crowned King of Romania in an act which mirrored the union achieved more than four centuries earlier by Mihai Viteazul.
In the old town visitors can stroll along the wide, tree-lined streets of the Habsburg citadel, one of the most impressive in Europe: built between 1714 and 1739 after the plans of the military architect Giovanni Morando Visconti, the Fortress is considered to be the most representative Vauban bastion fortification in Transylvania; with its 12 kilometers long walls and covering almost 100 hectare, the fortress is formed of a central fort and seven bastions with Baroque gates. Other important places of interest are the Roman Catholic Cathedral – the oldest and most valuable monument of architecture in Transylvania, the Batthyaneum Library, the Orthodox Cathedral of the Reunification, the Babilon Building – housing the National Museum of Unification, the Union Hall, the Apor Palace, the Princely Palace and the University of Alba Iulia.