Wizz Air launches Sunday-to-Friday flights from Southend to Sibiu at the end of October, in time for the Christmas Market's grand opening on 15 November (until 3 January 2020). Flights start from just £25 each way.
Set in the Piata Mare grand square against a backdrop of baroque, art nouveau and renaissance style-buildings, Sibiu's festive market is one of the biggest in Eastern Europe.
Creators from across Romania are invited to apply for stall spaces, with 100 artisans selected to ensure a wide range of handcrafted gifts and speciality foods are on display. Among the perfect presents are ceramics, handmade jewellery and beautiful wood-carved items for the home.
The market is covered by a canopy of lights and spectacular fairy tale-themed illuminations are beamed onto the surrounding buildings. A giant Ferris wheel has been added for the first time and children's activities include workshops to craft candles and decorations, a big ice rink and miniature train.
A full-size, hand-sculpted lime-wood nativity scene provides a striking centre piece underneath the market's huge Christmas tree.
Food is a big part of the event, with festive favourites including freshly-made caramelised fruits and nuts, and langos, which is a fried flatbread served with different toppings - locals favour garlic.
Sibiu is best explored on foot, and highlights of the beautiful medieval city include one of central Europe's oldest museums, the National Brukenthal Museum, and the ASTRA Folk Museum, which is Europe's biggest open-air recreation of traditional village life and features old mills, wooden churches and traditional houses that have been relocated from across the country.
Foodies can choose from a feast of independent restaurants serving regional favourites with pork taking centre stage for the season and meals such as cracklings and stuffed cabbage rolls a winter speciality.
Sibiu is known as the gateway to Transylvania and visitors with time to explore more widely can go to Arena Platos (30 minutes), where the ski season starts on 1 December and day passes costs as little as £11 per adult.
For the most wintery experience, the glacier lake at Balea in the Făgăraș Mountains (90 minutes), has a cable car to takes visitors to a winter park that has a hotel, church and restaurant made from ice, and activities include skating, tubing and snowmobiling.
Andrei Dragan Radulet, one of the organisers of Sibiu Christmas Market says: “Sibiu is one of Europe's unknown gems and the city's festive celebrations are a wonderful way to kick-off the season. Visitors can expect a warm welcome, gifts they can't find anywhere else and we may even have snow.
“Romania is the perfect alternative for seasoned Christmas markets fans and Sibiu, the gateway to Transylvania, is the perfect base for first time visitors.”
Entry to Sibiu Christmas Market is free.
Market opens from 15 November to 3 January 2020.
Wizz Air flies from Southend to Sibiu, with return flights from less than £50pp.
There's a wide selection of hotels available in Sibiu centre and Old Town, with 3* prices from around 65€ for two sharing and 5* prices around 120€.
Evening meals at local restaurants cost around £9 per person.