Western Romania, with its geographic and cultural ties to neighbouring Hungary and Serbia and its historical links to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, enjoys an ethnic diversity that much of the rest of the country lacks. Timişoara, the regional hub, has a nationwide reputation as a beautiful and lively metropolis, and for a series of 'firsts'. It was the world's first city to adopt electric street lights (in 1884) and, more importantly, the first city to rise up against dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu in 1989.
The three major centres of Timişoara, Oradea and Arad all boast some wonderful examples of art nouveau (or Secession) architecture and many buildings are now getting a long-awaited facelift. Outside these metropolitan areas, there are spas at Băile Felix, while the remote and pristine western ranges of the Apuseni Mountains are criss-crossed with kilometres of isolated hiking trails and dozens of amazing caves that cry out for exploration.