Top 10 Best Things To Do in Cluj-Napoca
If you are planning a trip to Transylvania, be sure to save a few days for Cluj-Napoca. For sure, you’ll want to see every corner, from admiring the surroundings and visiting the historical heritage to getting a taste of the fun nights so enthusiastically promoted by our youth. Follow our insider guide of the best things to do in Cluj-Napoca to make the best out of your time in this trendy city that dates back to the 2nd century. The city grew to be as full of life as it is of history and became the European Youth Capital in 2015.
See the city from above
Not only this should be on your bucket list of things to do in Cluj-Napoca, but we highly advise you to begin your journey with a beautiful panorama over the city to give yourself a tease and raise your curiosity. The good news is that Cluj-Napoca has the perfect spot, built exactly for the purpose of getting the best view over the city.
Photo by Eduard Benedek
In 1735, after passing Transylvania under its dominion, the Habsburg Empire built a fortification on the top of one of the hills surrounding the city, nowadays known as Cetatuia, meant to be a strategic point of defense and observation over Cluj-Napoca. You can also try to be an early-bird and catch the sunrise on top of Cetatuia for a mesmerizing experience that will give you a boost for the day.
Visit the Botanical Garden
This is one of the must-see attractions in Cluj-Napoca and a good choice for all tastes. The Botanical Garden was founded by Professor Alexandru Borza from the University of Cluj-Napoca. Its first purpose is educational, for biology, medicine and pharmacy students.
You can also find rare plants and vulnerable or endangered species. If you aren’t passionate about botany, visiting the Botanical Garden is still one of the best things you can do in Cluj-Napoca because you can take a pleasant walk in nature, recharging your batteries for the night ahead.
Go to the National Theater and the Romanian Opera
You will find them under the same roof, in fact a true architectural masterpiece. Built right after Transylvania’s union with Romania in 1918, in the Baroque-Rococo style, the building is a true delight for everyone’s eyes. And since you are here, cross the street to the Avram Iancu Square and admire the Metropolitan Cathedral, built from 1920 to 1930, the third largest cathedral in Romania and a true symbol of the Orthodox Church.
The full schedule of the plays on www.operacluj.ro
Visit the Saint Michael Church in the Union Square
The Union Square is the central attraction of the city, and the place where you can find the second largest Gothic church in Romania. The construction of Saint Michael Church began in the 14th century and the monument continues to be one of the most impressive in the country. It still conserves the original organ from 1753, eight shrines and stairs that two men can climb and descend simultaneously without meeting. The most controversial thing here is the underground vault.
This unique architectural treasure is out of the reach of architects because of the priests’ opposition who deny its existence despite the actual proof of its presence. But the top of the church is more accessible. You can take the stairs or an elevator to reach the top of the church’s tower. Another impressive thing you will see next to the church in the Union Square is the statue of Matthias Corvin, the greatest ruler of the Hungarian Kingdom, the son of Ioan of Hunedoara, a true hero of the anti-Ottoman wars.
Relax in the Museum Square
The streets in this area concentrate 700 years of history, and you’ll find many Gothic buildings along the way. The most notable ones are Matthias Corvin’s house and the Franciscan church, both worth a visit. In the small center of the square you’ll find the obelisk, a monument from 1817 built in the memory of the visit of Francisc the 1st of the Habsburg Empire and his wife, Carolina.
You can find many cozy boutiques and coffeehouses and you can visit the Museum of History to find out a little bit more about Transylvania.
Travel back in time
A visit to the open-air ‘Romulus Vuia’ National Ethnographic Museum is on our list of the best things to do in Cluj-Napoca. Every building from the museum is fully equipped with traditional objects and installations people used back in the day, giving you the chance of an interesting and interactive history trip. You will see what methods were used for woodworking, grinding grain, modeling clay, how gold used to be obtained and many other activities. The museum showcases the evolution of Transylvania’s rural architecture from the 17th century to the 20th century.
Discover it on foot
Cluj-Napoca has lots to offer, especially when you lay back, take a walk and you let it surprise you. Go to the Central Park, ride a bike or just experience the feeling of being surrounded by nature right in the middle of a crowded city. Lose yourself on the streets and don’t be afraid to ask for advice.
Locals are very welcoming and will help you with directions, answers or recommendations, so all you have to do is ask. A must-do is to take a walk on Piezisa Street, in the student campus. You will find a lot of cheap coffeehouses, pubs, bistros and student restaurants but the best part is all the fun you’ll have Cluj-Napoca is a popular destination for many students from all over the world, creating a wonderful mix of culture and diversity.
Engage in an original pubbing experience
Not only the city has some of the best universities in the country, but also some of the coolest pubs you can find. For sure, one of the best things to do in Cluj-Napoca is to explore its most originals places to grab a beer or enjoy a delicious meal. You have plenty of options to keep your evenings occupied and top of the list is Janis, an authentic pub named after the great American singer Janis Joplin.
Photo Credits Janis
Even the DJ booth is a Volkswagen Beetle from 1961, painted to be exactly like the one that belonged to Janis Joplin. Worth mentioning is that all the doodles of famous bands on the walls, the sun flowers painted on the ceiling and even the carved totem poles were realized by talented and passionate art students. Check for yourself Janis to enjoy an original experience.
Join the festival fever
Romania is quickly becoming a regional hub for festival with many big cities aspiring to entertain hundreds of thousands of people. Cluj-Napoca is not the exception, on the contrary is one of the cities that hosts some of the best and most popular festivals. It doesn’t matter what you are looking for, you will find it here for sure because the festivals’ themes are as diverse as the population.
Are you a film fan? There is Transylvania’s International Film Festival with a select international participation. Do you love jazz music? There is Jazz in the Park. Or you can let the wind of youth guide you to the most popular festivals of this generation, like Untold and Electric Castle. And the list doesn’t end here, there are plenty of festivals to keep you occupied all year long.
Photo source Full Fat
Some of them take place in locations you wouldn’t think of as the set for day and night long musical festivals. Electric Castle is for sure one of them. The spectacular Banffy Castle, one of the finest in Transylvania and just a short drive from the city, will host yet again this 5 days event from 12th-16th of July, 2017. If you’re planning to go, buy your tickets and book your accommodation right away, this is one of the most popular festivals in Romania.
Go outside Cluj
There is plenty to see and plenty to do everywhere in Transylvania, including in the nearby surroundings of Cluj-Napoca. You can visit the world-famous salt mine from Turda where can even row a boat on the interior lake or you can take a ride on the Ferris Wheel and see everything from above. Belis is another interesting place to spend at least one day if you want to take a short hike there, swim, fish or go for a boat ride on the lake called ‘the sea inside the mountains’. You can also go horse riding or paragliding. Don’t miss the Blue Lagoon, only 30 km away from Cluj-Napoca, a more off the beaten track destination that locals love.
Photo by Cristian Bortes via ro.wikipedia.org
Our guide of the top best things to do in Cluj-Napoca only scratches the surface because the city has so much more to offer. There are pleasant surprises every step of the way whether you’ll love it for its young people, for all the history or for its culture and diversity. Try to discover as much as you can, and make sure to include all these must-see attractions.