Sometimes, the best discoveries are made when we don’t have any expectations and just start looking around. This was the case for my walk in Cluj-Napoca, a city in the heart of Transylvania, where you can observe the reminiscence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire on all the major buildings.
Read on to join me and be insipired with this suggested walking tour in Cluj-Napoca.
Making it to the top
You can start your walk in Piata Mihai Viteazul (“Michael the Brave” Square), named after one of the bravest Romanian leaders from the Middle Ages. From here, make your way to Cetatuia Hill, probably the most popular spot in the city. If you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful panoramic view of the city.
The more focused you are, the more interesting things you will find. Just like when I stumbled upon this shop window that seemed cropped from a magazine from the past. Old dolls, waiting for some kids who may never come, because they’re too busy scoring on their tablet games.
Two Austrian-Hungarian fragments
As you make your way through the city, you can feel the busy-ness of a place eager to please its students, businesses and travelers. No major car horn craziness, just a lot of people going in all directions, too rushed to see you, the traveler, observing them in the middle of the day.
In the background of the image above, you can see the Széki Palace, built in 1893 by a pharmacist named Miklós Széki. Interestingly enough, at the ground floor of the palace the pharmacy is still open and has maintained some of the original furniture. A bit to the right of the Széki Palace, you can see the Babos Palace, built at the beginning of the 1890s, during the Belle Époque period. These two palaces are fascinating to look at because they provide a glimpse of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire’s elegant architectural style.
The top of the hill
I crossed the Somes River on the bridge toward Horea street and made left. The stairs that lead to Cetatuia Hill are in sight and it’s quite an easy walk.
Cetatuia means “fortress” and it was built during the 17th century, after Transylvania was occupied by the Austrian-Hungarians. The fortress also served as a prison. The remains of the old fortress are nearly gone and on the top of the hill there’s Belvedere Hotel, built during the 1970s.
You can also see a huge iron cross close to the hotel. In 1995, the city built this 23-m (75 feet) high cross to replace the wooden cross, allegedly destroyed by the communists in 1950.
Making it all the way up to the hill (approximately 405m or 1328 feet high) is a lot of fun and you can see lots of people coming up and down the main stairs. This climb is suitable for both old folks and kids, the stairs are in very good condition and you can rest on one of the side benches if you want to. There’s also the Panoramic restaurant close to the hotel, where you can have a very enjoyable meal overlooking the city lights. You can sample some Romanian pancakes with local jam, goulash soup or beef Stroganoff.
Walking tour in Cluj-Napoca
Cluj-Napoca boasts historic and cultural sites and a simple walk in the city can reveal a lot of its secret layers and attractions. One of the simplest ways to get to know a place when you’re traveling is to just wander the streets, look at people, leisurely gaze at the shop windows and visit the local market. These are the places where you’ll see most of the local colors and unique flavors of a city.
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