Cluj-Napoca: this not-so-long-ago nothing more than a provincial town in the northwestern part of Romania has somehow managed to raise its name on the top cities in Europe list.
Smart city, home to some of the coolest music festivals in Europe, and a definite must-see when you visit Romania.
In case you are wondering about things to do, things to see and not miss in the heart of Transylvania, Cluj Napoca, we are here to give you lots of insights such as places to visit, in and around the city, the cool and innovative stuff (there are plenty of those), then tell your friends about this and the take many photos of that.
How to travel to Cluj-Napoca?
The geographic position makes Cluj-Napoca extremely accessible. At the junction of four European roads, you can get to Cluj Napoca by car, from anywhere in Europe. You can also get there by air if you are coming from destinations such as:
And many more. If you are wondering which airlines fly to Cluj, here are a few listed:
- Blue Air
- Turkish Airlines
- Fly Dubai
- Swift Air
Rent a car in Cluj Napoca
Now, if you are thinking about renting a car to drive around Cluj and surrounding areas, you should know there are plenty of rent a car options, in the airport:
Autonom Rent a Car Cluj Napoca
PHP Rent a car Aeroportul Internaţional „Avram Iancu” Cluj
- Address: Traian Vuia street, no. 149-151, 400397, Cluj-Napoca
- Contact: + 40 747 288 200
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: www.phprentacar.ro
AVIS Aeroportul Internaţional „Avram Iancu” Cluj
- Str. Traian Vuia, Nr. 149-151, 400397, Cluj-Napoca
- Tel: + 40 264 274 113
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: http://www.avis.ro
SIXT Aeroportul Internaţional „Avram Iancu” Cluj
- Str. Traian Vuia, nr.149-151, 400397, Cluj-Napoca
- Tel: + 40 264 274 046
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
And many more. You can always check for other alternatives here https://it.aiaic.ro/rentcar/
Things to do and see in Cluj-Napoca
Now it is time for us to get to the good stuff. So let us have a look at the top attractions to visit in Cluj Napoca, the best outdoor activities, and, of course, in the surrounding area. Oh, well!
There are quite a few so we are just going to have to divide them by category and make things easier for everyone. And so you can have a clear idea that yes, Cluj Napoca is worth visiting.
Museums to visit in Cluj-Napoca
1. Cluj-Napoca Bánffy Palace – The Art Museum of Cluj-Napoca
- Address: Unirii Square, no. 30
- Program: From Wednesday to Sunday, 10-17
- Entrance fee for the permanent exhibition: 8 RON, for pupils, students, adults with light/medium disabilities: 2 RON, pensioners 4 RON, groups of 10 pax.+ 6 RON
- Entrance fee for temporary exhibitions: 6 RON, for pupils and students, for adults with medium and light disabilities and for preschoolers: 1,5 RON, for pensioners: 3 RON, groups of 10 pax.+ 4 RON
- Contact: +40 (0)264 – 596.953, email@example.com
- Website: http://www.macluj.ro
2. The Zoological Museum
If animal regnum is of interest for you, you must visit this Cluj Napoca attraction. It contains over 300,000 pieces of dried, stuffed, or skeletons of animals and birds.
- Address: Clinicilor street, no.5-7
- Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday from 10-16, Sunday from 10-14
- Entrance fee: Adults: 5 RON, Children: 2,5 RON, Students: 2,5 RON, Biology students, military personnel, disabled: free entrance
- Contact: + 40 (0)264 – 595.739
3. Museum of Pharmacy
- Address: Unirii Square, no.28
- Entrance fee: Adults – 6 lei Pupils, students, pensioners – 3 lei
- Photo fee – 25 lei
- Contact: + 40 (0)264 – 597.567
- Website: farmacymuseum
4. Ethnographic Park Romulus Vuia
5. National Museum Of Transylvanian History
- Address: Constantin Daicoviciu street, no. 2
- Program: Tuesday-Sunday, in winter 10-18, in summer 11-18
- Entrance fee: adults 10 RON, children 5 RON
- Guided tours: You can get an English or Hungarian-speaking tour guide for an extra charge of 100 RON. It’s important to know that you are a party of 5+ you need to call in advance and book a time slot
- Contact: +40 752 108 723
- Website: https://www.mnit.ro
Outdoor activities in Cluj-Napoca
Like all Transylvania, Cluj is surrounded by forests and mountains. Needless to say, outdoor activities are not something rare or unknown in the area.
But besides wildlife, so to speak, the city of Cluj Napoca is lucky enough to have plenty of natural retreats such as parks and gardens in the city.
Whatever it is that you chose to go for, we will list the best things you can do when you want to enjoy nature in Cluj Napoca.
1. Saint Michaels’s Church
The Roman-Catholic church was built in the 15th century, in Gothic style, opened its gates in 1487. Its impressive 75 meters high clock tower watches over Unirii Square, which is the center of the city.
If you are planning a group visit, it is recommended to book your tour 24h in advance.
2. Alexandru Borza Botanical Garden Museum
Pack a sandwich, a bottle of water, and get ready to enjoy a full day in here. We can promise you will not get bored.
The botanical garden in Cluj-Napoca was established in 1920 and open for the public in 1925 and it is mainly a didactic and educational institution. The name Alexandru Borza is that of its founder- a prominent figure in the Romanian biology field.
The botanical garden covers over 14 hectares and it contains over 10,000 pieces of plants.
3. Cluj Napoca Central Park “Simion Bărnuțiu“
A delighting park in the heart of Cluj Napoca, founded in the 19th century, located on the northern shore of Someșul Mic River.
However, we feel that we must tell you that this is so much more than just a park. It is home to two amazing world-renowned festivals: Untold and Jazz in the Park- but more about these (and other festivals) in the festival section below.
Central Park of Cluj-Napoca is home to the skating pavilion, the Chios, the fountain, the brass band pavilion, and an exhibition of Transylvanian artists from the Art and Design University. The park was declared a historical monument.
The park is, obviously always open and there is no entrance fee. You can find plenty of cozy places to eat and drink.
4. Cetățuia Park in Cluj Napoca
A Habsburg fortification built between 1715-1735, in the shape of a star, the old fort initially had a tower and was surrounded by bastions. During the interwar period, Cetățuia was home to the poorest people of the city.
This changed when the communist party vanished the poor people from the area, brought the place back to life, and started the construction of the emblematic Belvedere Hotel.
Nowadays there few things that still stand: the south and north-eastern access gates, some of the walls, and a handful of buildings.
Cetățuia Park offers splendid panoramic views of the city and you should know that there are quite a few stairs that you need to climb, be prepared for that. You will thank yourself though; once there you feel as if you have entered a different, quiet world.
Is it was of the most famous attractions in Cluj-Napoca, and, of course, open all the time with no entrance fees.
5. Hoia-Baciu Forest
This is for adrenaline, fantastic and paranormal seekers out there. The Hoia-Baciu Forest, situated in the west of the city of Cluj Napoca, near the Ethnographic Museum of Transylvania, is famous for… being haunted, or a hotspot for paranormal activities.
This is the main reason why the forest is such a popular tourist attraction. For skeptics, however, the Hoia Forest is nothing else than a great place to walk around, enjoy nature, and recharge your batteries. Would you dare to go there? 🙂
Cultural activities in Cluj Napoca
Cluj-Napoca is as cool as it is multicultural. And not just now when the expat community is growing larger and larger. Cluj-Napoca was always a beautiful mix of Romanian, Hungarian, Austrian, and German influences and that is quite visible, either if we talk about food, architecture, or habits.
Here’s a list of cultural activities in Cluj-Napoca that you can choose from if this is what suits you:
1. The Cluj-Napoca Hungarian State Opera
The Cluj-Napoca Hungarian State Opera hosts the Hungarian Theater, as well. The structure was built between 1909-1910 and was initially designed to be a summer theater. Later on, between 1959-1961 it was reconstructed and it can host an impressive 862 people. An amazing building with an even more impressive interior, definitely worth visiting.
2. National Theater “Lucian Blaga“
Built between 1904-1906, in neo-baroque style by famous Austrian architects Ferdinand Fellner and Hermann Helmer, it officially opened on September 8th, 1919, simultaneously with the Romanian Opera and Gheorghe Dima Music Academy.
It is located in the center of the city, so there are many hotels and restaurants near the National Theater. So you don’t need to worry about that. If you are interested in booking a ticket, it is recommended to book in advance so you can secure your spot.
Things to do around Cluj
Where do we start? The area developed fast in the last decades, mainly because people have finally understood the tremendous potential lying around them.
We mentioned it before, but honestly, we cannot emphasize this enough: the surrounding areas of Cluj-Napoca are something out of this world. But hey, do not take out word for it, check it out yourself.
1. Lake Tarnița
Lake Tarnița is just 25 kilometers away from Cluj Napoca and you can easily get there by car or bus- in case you choose to go by bus, the ride will be a bit longer than if you chose to go by car.
Lake Tarnița is a reservoir that covers 215 ha, a length of 9 km, and a maximum depth of 70 meters. It became more famous in recent years, due to the cabins and villas built, the splendid view and awesome parties.
Finding accommodation at Lake Tarnița might be a struggle since not until recently, people have started renting their places to other people. Not long ago, it was forbidden for any non-owner to spend the night in a tent, for instance.
Tour from Cluj to Turda Salt Mine and Tarnita Lake
2. Turda Gorge
Just 15 km away from Cluj Napoca, you will find the natural heaven lookalike Turda Gorge. A natural reserve, with a canyon that surfaces 324 ha, formed through the erosion of the Jurassic limestone. It’s 2,900 m long and the walls have heights of 300 m.
Over 1000 plant species and 67 species of birds and animals (even endangered ones) grow and live in the area. Also, if you suffer from claustrophobia you have a large variety of caves to choose from over 60 of them.
Getting to the Turda Gorge from Cluj-Napoca is easy; you can get on a bus from Cluj to Turda (hourly) and take a taxi from Turda to Turda Gorge. And of course, the method that makes our lives easier, renting a car.
3. Rimetea and Colțești Village
For an authentic taste of the Transylvanian village, take a trip to Alba County, specifically to these two villages that are next to each other. They have been attested ever since Roman times and had an economy that grew around iron mining.
Today, 91,4% of the inhabitants are Hungarian, and only 8,6% Romanians. Other than just being mesmerized by the natural (and built) beauty of the place, you can check these out:
- Unitarian Church
- Rimetea Monastery
- Ethnographic Museum
For an absolutely astonishing place to stay, we highly recommend Conacul Colțești, and you can find more information about it here https://conaculsecuiesc.ro/en/
4. Turda Salt Mine
Documented since the Roman times, and, for a time, the most important source of salt of the region. It went through some rough times, and the council decided to close the mine in 1932, only to reopen it to the public in 1992- not before serving as a shelter during WW II, and a cheese warehouse.
In 2008 Turda Salt Mine entered a process of modernization and it is now an international attraction and an actual museum of salt mining. Its depth goes as far as 120 meters, there are more than 38 million tons of salt, 2 stars Michelin and welcomes over 680,000 visitors annually.
You can view timings, entrance fees, and other information, on their website https://www.salinaturda.eu/en/
5. Reven’s Nest
Or The Hidden Village– a fascinating village built up from scratch, using old barns, sheds, or stables. Located in the heart of the mountain, in Salciua, Alba County, Raven’s Next is that kind of a place that takes your breath away.
You are surrounded by nothing but nature and wilderness, the only noise you hear is that of birds and wild animals and the only thing you can smell is freedom.
A village built from scratch, out of furnished old barns using traditional methods and with the help of local craftsmen. Not one new idem placed anywhere.
All the information you might need about this beautiful place can be found here: https://ravensnest.eu
6. Banffy Castle
You might recognize the name. If you just can’t remember where you heard it, allow us to refresh your memory.
Banffy Castle and the estate is the place where Electric Castle Festival is held each year. More about the festival later in the article.
Banffy Castle is a fantastic monument situated in the village of Bonțida, near Cluj-Napoca. Built-in Renaissance, Baroque, neoclassical and neogothic styles, the castle belongs to the Hungarian Banffy family. It can be visited daily from 7-19.
Entrance fees are as low as 2 RON per person, and a guide can be requested.
How to get around in Cluj Napoca?
At the beginning of the article, we were mentioning something about Cluj-Napoca being a smart city. Unlike most Romanian cities (and not only Romanian), the people of Cluj understood the need of keeping up with the times, the technologisation, the eco-friendly, the user friendly and it has done a tremendous job so far.
- Buses and Trolleys: the majority of the buses are electric. The trolleys and other means of transportation are eco friendly and top-notch, in general. Fun fact: there is a machine in some bus stations. You can get a free bus ticket if you do 20 squats in front of the machine. How admirable and cool is that? Hats off.
- Uber: you can always use your existing Uber app, in case you don’t want to wait for a bus.
- Taxi: a little more expensive than Uber, but you can find them anywhere.
- Bike rentals: there are places around the city where you can rent bikes and ride along. In case you get tired and decide to wait for a bus but don’t know what to do about the bike, fear not. Most buses in Cluj have bike platforms.
More about public transportation in Cluj can be found here: http://www.ctpcj.ro/index.php/en/
Paying for your ticket is also super simple, and you have a large variety of ways to do it: SMS, mobilPay, Wallet, 24PAY, contactless, or with your credit card.
Major events in Cluj Napoca
Most people spend all year waiting for summer, for many reasons such as the warmth, the long days, vacations, and events. There are few major festivals than Cluj is pretty famous worldwide. But let’s break it down:
- Untold Festival: first edition in 2015, in the year when Cluj Napoca was chosen to be the European Capital of Youth. It has been chosen Best Major Festival within European Festival Awards 2015. And the maximum attendance recorded was 372.000 people. The most common music genres are EDM, trance, techno, but not limited to that. It has grown amazingly ever since its debut and it continues to do so, by the use of unlimited imagination and creativity.
- Electric Castle: a one-of-a-kind festival, in a one-of-a-kind location. The pioneer of music festivals in Romania, starting in 2013. It features a multitude of genres such as rock, indie, pop, electronic, techno, drum, and bass. More than just a music festival, Electric Castle is an art show. Electric Castle has been growing visitor-wise, stages-wise, and performers-wise each year, attendees number reaching a peak in 2019: 231,000.
- Jazz in the Park: for our bohemian readers. For jazz and blues lovers, or a late-night walk in the park with great music in the background lovers, Jazz in the Park is such a great event. A comfier, somewhat cozy, and homie festival, that combines amazing music, great food, and a lot of laughter.
Tours from Cluj-Napoca
Say you have been in Cluj-Napoca for quite some time now, but you still have a few days left in-store to visit a little more. If you are looking for day tours from Cluj-Napoca, tours in Transylvania from Cluj-Napoca, we are here to give you a helping hand.
How to visit Transylvania starting from Cluj?
2 Days Trip from Cluj – 600 km
Day 1: Cluj Napoca – Sibiu (Walking tour + Lunch) – Brasov (walking tour + free time and dinner)
Day 2: Brasov – Viscri – Sighisoara – Biertan – Cluj Napoca
3 Day Trip from Cluj
Day 1: Cluj – Sibiu – Brasov
Day 2: Brasov – Peles – Bran
Day3: Bran – Sighisoara – Cluj
Tours in Cluj Napoca
Even if you are visiting Cluj-Napoca all by yourself, we have something that might suit you.
- Half-Day Tour of Cluj with Traditional Dinner
- Half-Day tour (walking + Botanical Garden)
- Half-Day Tour to Turda Salt Mine
Main attractions near Cluj that can be visited on a 1-day trip
There are lots of attractions near Cluj-Napoca, so if you have a little extra time on your hands it would be a shame not to take advantage. Here a few day tours from Cluj-Napoca, some attractions not to miss, close by Cluj-Napoca.
Day Trip from Cluj Napoca – 420 km
Itinerary: Cluj Napoca – Alba Iulia Carolina (walking tour) – Castelul Corvinilor- Cluj Napoca
Tour from Cluj to Sighisoara – 350 km
Itinerary: Cluj – Sighisoara (walking tour/citadel visit) – Cluj
Tour from Cluj to Turda Salt Mine and Tarnita Lake
Itinerary: Cluj – Turda Salt Mine – Lake Tarnita – Cluj
Multi-day tours from Cluj Napoca
2 Day Trip Maramures – 600 km
Day 1: Cluj Napoca – Sapanta – Sighetul Marmatiei (visit the memorial of the communism victims) – Muzeul Satului Maramuresean
Day 2: Sighet – Oradea – Cluj
2 Day to Bucovina
Day1: Cluj – Ciocanesti – Gura Humorului
Day 2: Gura Humorului – Colibita – Cluj
Quite a lot for you to choose from, but take your time. Just know that there always are alternatives if you are not the type of person who likes to make itineraries. But if you are that type of person, please do not forget to put on your list:
- Alba Iulia
- Turda Salt Mine
Traditional Transylvanian Food
Hungry, anyone? We got to the good part. The element that brings us all together: food. Like in any other parts of the world, it is a little wrong to talk about food country-wise. Leaving point is all the same, but each region has that little something that makes it special and particular.
Food in Transylvania is even more special since the influences of Hungarian and German cuisine have had a tremendous impact on Transylvanian food. Let us have a closer look at the most emblematic traditional Transylvanian dishes and deserts.
1. Novac Afumat din Țara Bârsei
This fish specialty is deliciousness overload. Carp fish are filleted, salted, and smoked in traditional ways. The special aftertaste, besides the smoke, is that of celery. The carp in Țara Bârsei grows between mountains, so there will be no particular taste such as saltwater fish.
2. Salam de Sibiu
This type of salami, made accordingly to a 100 years old recipe from Sibiu county, has gained popularity for a very good reason. The salami is made exclusively from pork, including bacon, and selected pork chops with little pork fat. Seasoned with condiments such as salt, pepper, and garlic. A very particular part of the process of making Sibiu salami is the fact that it has to mature for 90 days straight.
3. Telemea de Ibănești
A type of cheese, that, for Romanians, is a traditional Romanian type of cheese, made from cow’s and sheep’s milk. The most famous one is the one made in Valea Gurghiului, specifically in the village of Ibănești. The taste is sweet-sour and salty, and it has to undergo a 20 days maturation process.
4. Brânză de burduf
Yet another traditional Transylvanian type of cheese, made from sheep’s and other times buffalo’s milk. Burduf stands for kneaded cheese which refers to the very traditional way of preserving the cheese. It is dense, yet creamy and spreadable, salty and goes amazing with freshly baked bread and tomatoes.
5.Varză a la Cluj
The name of the dish is very suggestive. A type of dish created in Cluj- Napoca, that occupies a special place in Romanian hearts. It is a mixture of minced pork mixed with condiments and cabbage- pretty much the same as sarmale- but arranged in layers, in a pot, all baked in an oven.
A dessert that is often associated with Cluj-Napoca. It consists of noodles boiled in milk, with whipped egg whites and curd cheese, all placed on phyllo pastry. Besides sugar, it is uncommon to add vanilla essence, cinnamon, and other sweet spices.
So, in case you were wondering what people eat in Transylvania, the answer is not blood (Dracula has ruined this for them!), but amazingly tasty food instead.
Where to stay in Cluj-Napoca?
There are so many alternatives here, it is all up to you really. Luckily, there is something for all budgets either you are looking for hotels near the botanical garden, hotels near Cluj-Napoca Central Park, luxury hotels, or apartments. Let’s break it down:
Cluj hotels near the Botanical Garden
Lol and Lola Hotel
Cluj hotels in city center/ near central park
Grand Hotel Napoca
DoubleTree by Hilton
Apartments to rent
Zen Central Apartments
Mid City Apartments
These are just a few examples, there are thousands of options for you to choose from. We do feel like we should give you a heads up: if you are planning a trip to Cluj in the summertime when the festivals are on, make sure you make your reservation weeks before.
Not only will it be hard for you to find accommodation, but it will also be much more expensive since the prices tend to go up during this time.
Where to eat in Cluj-Napoca?
We cannot emphasize this enough, but Cluj is a very cool city. Here is THE place for you to find cool places to eat in Cluj-Napoca (and drink, for that matter). So, in case you are wondering where to eat in Cluj, or what are the best places to eat in Cluj here are a few ideas:
London Brothers: Food Heaven and Food Hell
Tokyo Japaneese Restaurant
Tortellini Pasta Bar
- Address: Sculptor Fulicea Virgil street, no. 2
- Contact: +40 753 889 88
Specialty Coffee Shops in Cluj Napoca
The city of Cluj-Napoca offers a large variety of coffee shops, and in recent years we have seen tremendous growth in specialty coffee shops. Cool, cozy places that you simply don’t want to leave. And who are we to judge?
There is nothing better than grabbing your laptop and sit in a nice coffee shop for hours straight.
Yume Coffee Roasters
The Green Specialty Coffee
Cluj nightlife. Partying in Cluj
Cluj-Napoca was once chosen the European Capital of Youth for a good reason. The city is full of students from all across the country and the world. Needless to say, this calls for great nightlife. So, in case you are wondering where to party in Cluj-Napoca, here is your answer:
Club PHI 18
- Address: Republicii street, no.110
- Contact: 0728 123 100
Euphoria Music Hall
- Address: Republicii street, no. 110
- Contact: 0745 393 333
- Address: Brassai Samuel street, no. 12
- Contact: 0743 359 795
- Website: aftereight
- Address: Republicii Street, no.109
- Contact: 0748 290 090
- Website: www.clubnoa.ro
A little tip: If, for some reason you just can’t decide where to party, you should check out Piezișa– the all-mighty street of students, lots of bars and restaurants, partying and good times. You will have a blast just by walking around the area.
There you have it! The highlights of Cluj-Napoca. We have gone through the most important aspects of this magnificent city, which offers lessons of how it’s done, every single day. Whatever you do, you cannot miss Cluj-Napoca on your next trip to Romania. We offer tours out and around Cluj-Napoca.
You might find interesting also the top things to visit in Cluj County.
Feel free to contact us for any additional information you might need. Contact us!