Lying at the foot of the Gutâi Mountains, Baia Mare does not offer a particularly attractive first glimpse, but press on through the bleak husk of socialist tenements to the inner pearl of the medieval Old Town. Its centerpiece, the attractively renovated Piaţa Libertăţii, is flanked by cheerily hued 16th- and 17th-century buildings bursting with lively bars and chic cafes.

The town was first documented in 1329 and developed as a gold-mining centre in the 14th and 15th centuries. In 1469, under the rule of Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus, the town was fortified, and thrived for hundreds of years as a largely Hungarian city. Baia Mare prospered during the communist period, becoming the centre of the country’s non-ferrous mining and smelting industries.