Staycation during the Hungarian Cultural Days of Kolozsvár

Text & photos Copyright © Estrella Azul

KOLOZSVÁR IS HUNGARIAN for Cluj-Napoca, Romania (the city’s Romanian name). Because in this article I’ll be talking about the Hungarian Cultural Days, I will use the city’s name in Hungarian.

A view of Kolozsvár from St. Michael’s Church tower

The Hungarian Cultural Days of Kolozsvár is the largest week-long (or extended week) Hungarian festival held in Transylvania. It has been held yearly since 2010, always during the month of August.

While the dates vary each year, the festival is always organized around the major Hungarian holiday on August 20, Saint Stephen’s Day, dedicated to Stephen I, also known as King Saint Stephen who, according to Wikipedia, was the last Grand Prince of the Hungarians, and the first King of Hungary until his death in 1038. He was canonized in 1083.

Handmade traditional Hungarian crockery

The majority who attend are from the Hungarian community, but even the city’s Romanian population attends in large numbers, as well as tourists who happen to visit in that time frame—they all enjoy the festival together. For this reason, besides Hungarian, certain programs (such as the guided tours, for example) are held additionally in Romanian and English.

A view of tombs at Házsongárd

In 2013, I didn’t have the means to travel anywhere on a vacation, so I decided to take my time off during the Hungarian Cultural Days and turn it into a staycation.

This was an easy choice because, on dozens of festival locations, the organizers come up with tons of events, ranging from concerts to educational to recreational, and interesting programs with every new edition of the festival.

Kolozsvár, as seen on a guided city tour

Participants can choose from a large number of exhibitions held on various themes at the city’s public and private museums. They can go on cemetery tours, church tours or guided tours of the city; go to commemorations, book launch parties or theater plays and movies; sample the handmade fair, handicraft workshops, food tasting, or wine and drinks workshops. Classical and contemporary concerts, parties, and activities for all age groups run simultaneously throughout the city.

Most events are free or offered at a reduced price for the duration of the festival.

The most clever sun umbrella at a hat stand

While 2013 was the year I spent truly exploring the varied programme, I have enjoyed the festival before that as well. I still attend my favorites ever since, while trying to also find new experiences.

This article would run too long if I talked about each one in particular, so I’ll highlight some of my favorites throughout the years, from several categories of events.

Homemade syrup, jam and other deliciousness

To start with my absolute favorite, Operettissimo is a Hungarian band that assembles its program by alternating several genres: traditional songs such as folk music, the operetta, the musical and the revue. They regularly perform throughout the country, and even abroad.

Theyre very talented! Last year it rained for the duration of the concert and this year it rained for about 10 minutes, but the people attending didn’t care—they simply opened their umbrellas, sang along with the band and enjoyed the show, regardless of the weather conditions.

This concert is always held on the smaller Wolf Street Stage, and I’ve attended every year so far. Their renditions of Hungarian operettas—now considered Hungaricums that represent special values in the society—are my favorites to listen to.

Operettissimo concert

To keep with the musical theme, another favorite is the Tower Music concert. Held on the clock tower balcony of St. Michael’s Church, it’s performed by Neumarkt Brass Quintet, a brass band from Marosvásárhely

It was definitely something new to me when I attended for the first time; I’d never heard of such a concert before. Since the church’s clock tower is 84 meters high, however, it could be heard even better if traffic were to be restricted during the 30-minute concert.

St. Michael’s Church

One year I took the Házsongárd (Central) Cemetery guided tour and loved it. During a casual stroll through the cemetery, our knowledgeable tour guide explained the tomb and mausoleum styles and the history of the cemetery and city. Our guide also showed us the grave sites of notable historical figures.

While the cemetery can be visited for a self-guided tour by tourists and locals at any time, we got to enter a few mausoleums—something allowed only on guided tours.

One of my favorite shots – an Angel at Házsongárd Cemetery

Interesting tombstones and inside a crypt

I also enjoyed some guided city tours—such as one that focuses on Renaissance architecture and architecture from the reign of King Matthias Corvinus, another one that focused on the Baroque jewels of the city, as well as regular sightseeing tours.

Statue of Mátyás Király (King Matthias Corvinus)

Another different kind of program was the Organ Tour. A graduate of the Music Academy in Kolozsvár was the best person to guide us and explain the history and mechanism of the old organs.

We visited three churches, all of which have different types of organs from different periods. When he played each one for us, we felt as if we’d been transported hundreds of years back in time with the melody.

Different types of organs in the churches of Kolozsvár

Every year one can visit the clock tower of St. Michael’s Church and walk around its balcony. As mentioned earlier, the tower is 84 meters tall, so there are quite a few staircases leading up. Thankfully, there’s room to rest at every level. The view from the tower is breathtaking and well worth the trip up: one can truly see a 360 of the city.

(Naturally, I would not recommend this activity to someone with a fear of heights.)

View of the city from the church tower

The handmade fair is well worth mentioning. Set up on Farkas Utca (Wolf Street), one can find all sorts of handmade items made of diverse materials: from jewelry, clothes, bags, toys, kitchen items, traditionally painted and glazed terracotta pans, pots and flower pots, to all sorts of decorations and touristy items such as fridge magnets.

This year there were even two stands with plants and herbs. I bought a pot of basil so big it basically qualifies as a bush.

Homemade fair sights

Food stands and food trucks are also present, offering everything from current delicacies back to traditional Hungarian cuisine, such as Chicken Paprikás (read my variation of the recipe here: Chicken Paprikash) and Gulyásleves, Hungarian soup made of beef, vegetables, ground paprika and other spices.

You can also try sweets such as Kürtőskalács, which is my favorite. Known as Chimney Cake, it’s a sweet bread dough rolled through sugar that caramelizes on top as it’s grilled on a type of rotisserie.

Chimney cakes being made

Whether targeting particular events or exploring as many as you’d like, the Hungarian Cultural Days of Kolozsvár is a perfect choice for a quick activity, an evening out, or a week-long staycation.


Estrella in the Greek Amphitheatre ruins, Taormina, Sicily

Estrella Azul is a young emerging writer, passionate about reading, floral art and photography, with an artistic personality and a soulful outlook on life. She is a Hungarian girl living and writing from Cluj-Napoca, Romania, the capital of historical region Transylvania. Estrella is our European correspondent, she currently serves as the photo editor here at Milliver’s Travels, and she dreams of embarking on a round-the-world trip. To read more of her creative writing, her thoughts and daily happenings, visit Life’s a stage – WebBlog©. Read more of her stories on Milliver’s Travels by visiting Estrella’s story index.

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *