The path from merely a medieval city to the European Capital of Culture was not an easy or a simple one; however, Sibiu has taken this road for the past hundreds of years, thus setting a good example for the whole country. Actually, Sibiu has always been a city where culture ranks high. One can easily testify this by mentioning the name of Baron Samuel von Brukenthal, one of the most outstanding men of culture in Transylvania, or to mention that Franz Liszt and Johann Strauss performed in Sibiu.
Ever since the Middle Ages, the inhabitants of Sibiu have evinced a great desire for culture. The Theatre in Sibiu was founded in the 16th century thus initiating a long and successful tradition. The first actors were students of various schools, who attempted to reenact in their performances the battles they learned about in their history classes. Gradually, theatre appealed more and more to the Sibiu audience and, consequently, a great many wealthy people were willing to either accommodate or financially support theatrical performances. In 1778 a theatre review, called “Theatral Wochenblatt” was published in Sibiu. The first location of the Sibiu Theatre was set up in 1789 in the Fat Tower of the city, being run by Martin Hochmeister. During the 17th century significant theatrical performances took place in the Large Square of the city. The fragmentary performances took place on a mobile, rotating stage in front of a numerous audience, while the actors performed the same part of the play. “Radu Stanca” National Theatre, well known to all theatre lovers, and the “Gong” Theatre, as well as the Philarmonics, were all founded in 1949.
The “Astra” library – set up has in 1861 by the “Astra” Association - always been an important centre of the cultural life in Sibiu. Nowadays, the “Astra” library accommodates over 750,000 volumes thus being the largest library in Sibiu. The “Astra” Library boasts the oldest book printed in Romanian in 1580 – “Sbornicul slavonesc” – as well as numerous other volumes of great significance for both national and European culture.
Nowadays, Sibiu is a prominent cultural centre of Romania and boasts important international festivals that take place every year such as: the International Jazz Festival, the International Theatre Festival or the International Anthropological Film Festival, “Astra Film Fest”, attracting thousands of tourists to Sibiu. Mention should be made that the International Anthropological Film Festival, “Astra Film Fest” is one of the most valuable festivals, in a class by itself, appealing to a large audience and attracting participants – directors and students - from all continents.
In 2007 Sibiu boasted two theatres, one philarmonics, five libraries, five cultural centres, six cultural institutes, three universities and two museums – including more than ten museum sections. Sibiu was a European Capital of Cultural thoughout the year 2007.