Useful Info


Whatever brings you to Romania, be it a hunt for the elusive count Dracula, enjoying the wonders of nature and wildlife, checking out the historic highlights of Eastern Europe or simply looking for adventure, Cluj should definitely be on your to-do-list. The city is one of the oldest in Romania and the second largest when it comes to population, and it’s been a favorite of princesses and members of the Romanian royal families for many centuries. Mix those with some of the most kind-hearted people you will ever meet (and, lucky you, they pretty much all speak English) and you have a recipe for amazing fun times.

1. Visiting and accommodation

Every season is great in Cluj because each offers different activities and attractions. If you start your trip here sometime around mid-April you will enjoy spring in full bloom and lots of outdoor festivals, stick around for the summer (the surroundings of Cluj are perfect for one day trips and hiking expeditions) and enjoy a mild autumn all the way till late October with breathtaking colors. Keep in mind that Cluj is the largest student town in Romania, with students from all over the country and Europe, so if you’re up for social shenanigans and meeting new people, winter, spring and autumn are your best choices.

Getting here is the easy part, as you have plenty of flight, bus or train connections, most of them coming from Budapest and main European cities. Once here, just follow these directions and you’ll get to Transylvania Hostel in an instant.

2. Tourist attractions

Plenty to see, plenty to do! Here are more tips about things to do in Cluj.

St. Michael’s Church– in the middle of the city, in Unirii Square, governs one of the biggest churches in Cluj- Napoca. A gothic- style church built between years 1442-1447, which has the tallest tower (80 meters with the cross on top). Talk about the tower, if you go there and ask the gatekeeper inside the church, he will let you to go inside the tower and literally lock you up there for a while! A less known fact is that the church has quite a few construction mistakes. So, can you make some of them out?

The Orthodox Cathedral– linked to St. Michael’s by a street, in Avram Iancu Square, is a Byzantine style Cathedral, inaugurated in 1993. It is 64 meters high, and has a 40 meters high dome, with a diameter of 12 meters. In front of it, in the square, you can admire the statue of Avram Iancu and an awesome fountain that changes colours at night and plays music in summer.

The National Theatre and Opera– Right across the street from the Cathedral you can admire the National Theatre building, or, why not, go and see one of the shows!

The Museum Square is a part of the medieval town, much of it having kept its medieval feel. Walk around, admire the Franciscan Church, pay a visit to the History Museum, see the house where a King of Transylvania was born (the House of Matei Corvin) or check out any of the multitude of awesome bar, terraces, pubs and restaurants around there, and you’ll feel like a knight in shiny armor or like a damsel (not in distress hopefully) at least for a short while.

The Banffy Palace– Built at the end of the 18th Century and situated in the Unirii Square, the Banffy palace is a Baroque style building, owned by the Banffy family, a family of dukes. Since we’re at it, most of the buildings around Unirii Square are considered palaces, having been built by wealthy families, royal even, during the Hungarian occupation.

The Tailor’s Tower– Built during the 15th Century, it’s one of the best preserved and maintained parts of the medieval wall. It served to protect the city and it sheltered the tailor’s guild. You can see a part of the wall and go inside the tower. If you’re lucky, you can see an exhibition or attend a cultural event in there, too.

3. Museums

The Art Museum– inside the Banffy Palace on Unirii square, houses a vast display of works belonging to some of the most famous Romanian painters, as well as some international works. Also worth checking out are the temporary exhibitions downstairs, which are more informal and will certainly challenge your artistic sense. Also, during summer, the inner garden is turned into a beer garden and it’s also used to screen movies during the annual Transylvania International Film Festival.
The Pharmacy Museum– although it’s situated right in the city center, it’s a place so elusive that even most locals pass by it on a daily basis without knowing it’s there. Which is a shame, since it’s probably one of the most interesting museums you will ever visit. Apart from the 500 year old building and the display of strange concoctions people used back in the days when Google was not yet invented (such as mummy dust or toads’ eyes), what really makes this place special is the museum guide, who is so enthusiastic about every square inch of the place and will manage to bring to life before your eyes the old times when alchemists used to gather in the building’s underground to pursue magical shenanigans. Legend says that he knows the recipe for a love potion that actually works, so if you’re lucky, he may just share his secret with you.
The Ethnographical museum– the indoors part in situated right in the center of the town, on Memorandumului Street, but the one really worth checking out is the outdoor museum, situated right next to the Hoia Forest, where you can see real replicas of the traditional houses built around Transylvania and Maramures.

4. Night life

Well, this is one of those things that you’ll have to see for yourself! The best advice we can give you is to just stray from the path and try to find new places on your own. Cluj is filled with little coffee shops and quaint restaurants, and there’s nothing more rewarding than grabbing a meal in the city’s smallest restaurant (it’s called Kaya Tanya and it only has two tables) or climbing up a flight of obscure stairs leading to this odd looking, funny smelling place with drawings of pigs having intercourse with sheep on the walls, only to find that you just stumbled upon the oldest pub in town (Insomnia Cafe, which also happens to be the scene of some really good artistic performances and home to some very interesting local figures).
But just in case you’re not feeling too adventurous, here’s some places that we recommend:
Enigma Café– if you love hot chocolate you should definitely check out this place; actually, scratch that, even if you don’t love it, you simply must taste one of the multitude of types of hot chocolate in this place!
Samsara Tea House- enjoy teas from all over the world, amazing tea cookies and hookah, all in one place. So take off your shoes, grab a pillow and let the psychedelic music carry you on a trip to meditation land.
L’atelier Café– the “cardboard bar” is definitely one of the most unique hangouts in town. Tracking it down can be a bit of a challenge, but it’s one rewarding find in the end. The place has chairs made out of cardboard and tables made out of old doors and it’s home to a very diverse cultural scene, from engaging live concerts to magic tricks and portrait nights, as well as a menu that varies from milk and cereals in the morning (or you can just grab a coffee and get a cigarette on the house to go with it), to some of the best unfiltered beer and cocktails.
BCJ and Janis pub– warm up with a nice beer in a hippie, summery atmosphere in BCJ and then bring the house down in Janis pub, drinking and dancing to all the hits of the last 30 years or so until the sun comes up ( no, really, we party until sunrise- it’s tradition!). Or if you’d rather avoid the mainstream crowd, head out to Gambrinus Pub or Flying Circus Pub for a good dose of underground, rock and punk music and concerts, as well as their unique themed parties.
As for restaurants, there’s so many of them we wouldn’t even know where to start. But our suggestion is that, while you’re in Romania, you might as well try some Romanian food, so head out to Casa Ardeleana for some authentic cuisine, topped with a shot of palinca on the house (they have menus in English, so you can get a sneak peak of the secret ingredients).

5. Nature

The Botanical Gardens– A combination of rare, exotic and indigenous plants and trees, with a multitude of smaller arranged gardens in different styles, greenhouses and a tower to bask in all this beauty make the Botanical gardens in Cluj- Napoca one of the most visited tourist attraction around.

The Central Park– walk around, watch people exercising, running and playing sports, take a swan –boat on the lake or just sit there making out with someone, we just love all these things, so why not you too? Also, check out the old Casino building, which has just been renovated and opened for cultural events.

The haunted forests of Hoia and Baciu– well, that’s what people say, what do you think? Care to meet some ghosts, or some aliens, or to end up in a parallel universe?

6. Surroundings

Napoca, this is the place! You can go to the Turda salt Mine (an enormous underground salt mine from the Roman times) and just walk around in the salty (and healthy) air, enjoy the underground amusement park (complete with a Ferris wheel,  mini golf course and bowling), or go even lower, to the lake room and take a boat on the underground salt lake. You can also check out the Roman site that’s in walking distance from the Salt Mine and see where and how the Romans took baths. Also, you cannot leave that place without going to the Turda Gorges ( in the Chei village, less than an hour away by bus from Turda) and enjoy the rugged nature and captivating sights inside the Gorges for an hour or so.

The Banffy Palace in Bontida– A palace that’s been almost burnt to the ground by the German troops during the Second World War, but that’s being gradually and constantly rebuilt to stand once again in its original shape. Every summer, volunteers from all around the world go there to help rebuild it, you could be one of them too! If not, you should definitely check out the summer events that take place there, we just loved the open- air cinema there!