1. Visiting and accommodation
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
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.
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
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).
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?
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!