Kolozsvár – often called the “”Kincses Város” (Treasure City) – is a magnificent historic city and the unofficial capital of Transylvania. Before the Trianon Treaty in 1920, when it became part of Romania together with the historic region of Transylvania, it was one of the most important cultural and economic centres of the Kingdom of Hungary. Today, the city is a Hungarian, German and Romanian melting pot and multicultural metropolis characterised by impressive Gothic and Baroque style architecture, rich cultural life and young, vibrant nightlife. Its surroundings are well-worth exploring as well, as the city is situated in the valley of the Szamos/Somes River at the foot of the Apuseni Mountains offering unforgettable places, breath-taking views and beautiful, unspoilt nature perfect for a day trip.
St Michael’s Church
This imposing church, the second largest one in Transylvania, was built in the style of striking Gothic architecture in the 14th – 15th century. Both the inside and outside decorations are remarkable together with its Baroque style pulpit. The inside design bears Italian and South-German influences as well. In front of the church you can find the equestrian statue of the greatest Hungarian King, I. Mátyás/Mathias Corvinus.
The King Mátyás/Mathias Corvinus House
This Gothic style building was the birth house of the iconic 15th century king of Hungary, I. Mátyás, who is mentioned in numerous tales, songs and legends, even today. Over time, the building went through several modifications and restorations in Renaissance and Baroque style, and later elements of Secession were introduced as well. It is one of the oldest buildings in Kolozsvár. Originally, functioning as a guest house, during its history it served as a jail, hospital and museum. Today, it is home to a visual arts institute.
The city boasts a 14ha botanical garden situated near the centre. The garden consists of different sections such as – the Mediterranean Garden, Rosarium, the Japanese Garden, two groups of greenhouses containing tropical plants, the Botanical Museum and Herbarium.
Besides the botanical garden, the city has several green parks, the most notable of which is the Central Park situated along the bank of the Szamos/Somes River, with the Chios Casino. It is an excellent place for relaxing or paddle-boating on the artificial lake located in the park, which is considered to be the most important leisure spot and promenade of the city.
Torda/Thorenburg/Turda Canyon and Salt Mine
The beautiful Torda Canyon, a natural reserve, is situated just 15km south-east of Kolozsvár. The Canyon is some 3km long and its walls reach 300m in height, making it one of the most popular rock climbing destinations in the country. It contains one of the richest and most scenic karst landscapes in Romania, with a huge habitat of flora and fauna, caves, fossils and arcades. The canyon is perfect for a relaxing walk or for a more challenging hike as it has numerous different routes for all difficulty level.
In the town of Torda, you can find the Torda Salt Mine, an enormous underground salt mine converted into an incredible amusement park. After entering, you have to descend some 120 metres to reach the main chamber featuring an amphitheatre, bowling alley, mini golf course and ping-ping courts, and even a Ferris wheel. You can amaze at the stunning rugged caverns, the results of salt mining, from one of the boats on the underground lake. The whole mine is beautifully lit throughout and has a constant temperature of 12 degrees Celsius, open all year round. Its microclimate has therapeutic effects on several kinds of respiratory diseases.
Lake Tarnita & Lake Béles/Lake Belis-Fantanele
Lake Tarnita is a picturesque reservoir lake, located just 20 km west of Kolozsvár. It is a popular destination among people wanting to escape busy city life. This cool-watered mountain lake is perfect for a swim on a hot summer day or for a boat-ride, windsurfing or just relaxing and enjoying the beauty and peacefulness of this unspoilt, rural area and crisp air. It is also possible to take a hike or go cycling in the hills and mountains surrounding the lake. Tips – try local fish cuisine in one of the surrounding restaurants while admiring the lake and its reflections of nature from the outdoor terraces.
Lake Béles is situated a bit farther west, some 60 km of Kolozsvár, in the Apuseni Natural Park. This is another stunning lake in the area with a heart-breaking storey behind it: The low-lying, old village of Jósikafalva/Belis was flooded by the artificial lake created here in the 70s, forcing the inhabitants to move to the top of the hill. The old village still sits quietly at the bottom of the lake since then, fully intact underneath the water. During hot summers, when the water level is low, you can even see the old church cross piercing through the water surface. For a unique and rather unusual experience, you can go scuba diving and exploring the underwater houses of the old village. It is a truly quiet area with breath-taking scenery, unbelievably clean air and crystal clear water perfect for photography as well.
Kalotaszeg, an area of gentle hills, winding roads and sunflower fields, is located about 60km west of Kolozsvár. It’s famous for its rich Transylvanian Hungarian folk traditions, well-preserved medieval churches and ancient handicrafts still practised today in its sleepy Transylvanian villages and farms mostly inhabited by ethnic Hungarians.
Torockó – a place where the sun rises twice – is perhaps the most beautiful village in Transylvania and the most western spot of the Székely people, situated about 60km south of Kolozsvár, in Alba County. This Hungarian-populated village, lying in the Torockó Basin, at the foot of the Székelykő/Rock of the Szeklers/Piatra Secuiului, received the Europa Nostra Award in 1999. The village, in the last few years, became the centre of Transylvanian rural tourism thanks to its thousand-year old folk traditions still preserved and maintained today, its symbolic white-walled houses featuring traditional Transylvanian-Hungarian folk architecture and its magnificent surroundings offering so much from sport activities such as hiking, trekking and paragliding to visiting the medieval castle in nearby Torockószentgyörgy/Sankt Georgen/Coltesti.
The Székelykő (Szekler Rock), a barren hilltop dramatically rising over the village, dominates the landscape. Starting from the centre of the village, you can climb it following the blue cross sign. It is quite a challenging hike, taking around one and a half hours at average pace, as you have to overcome 550m of altitude difference, but the breath-taking view from the top at 1128 metres will surely compensate for it.