The city was founded by Saxon settlers in the XII century on the bank of the Bistrita river. In the Middle Ages it became the most powerful Transylvanian citadel and an important handicraft centre having 20 guilds. Due to the constant threat of invaders the citizens began to build the walls of the citadel so by 1465 the city had 18 towers and bastions defended by the craftsmen guilds. Only one tower was preserved until today, the Dogarilor Tower which houses a unique puppets and masks exposition.
Another important monument of Bistrita is the gothic style Evangelical Church with an imposing 75 m tower. The construction of the church began in 1470 and lasted almost 100 years (1564). Inside visitors can see the oldest equestrian sculpture in Transylvania.
57 km away from Bistrita, in Borgo Pass (1116 m) is located the famous Dracula Castle. It is here that Bram Stoker placed the bloody hero of his novel, the vampire Count Dracula.