Tired of crowded touristy places and of shallow travel experiences? Want to see something different and need somewhere to start from? You are not the only one. Luckily, you came to the right place. Welcome to Cluj and to its Alternative Cluj City Guide! Some of the most captivating places and their histories are presented here so you can enjoy and understand the city like locals do.
Alternative Cluj Step 1: Admire a local monument
The Abandoned Municipal Pool
Admire a local monument if you want to learn something about the city. The former Municipal Pool is a silent testimony of local history; a unique sight you will not find in the history books.
In the heart of the City, the ruin of what used to be one of the main summer attractions hide in plain sight. It originated as public bath in the 1840s and, since its beginnings, it was the perfect refuge during a hot summer day. During the 1850s, the bath got upgraded and it was functioning throughout the year. It has been affected by a fire a few years later, yet reconstructed in 1875 and continued to be the chic place to be during a torrid summer.
During the communist times, the public bath became the Municipal Pool. After the 1950s, the pool was equipped with “German” changing rooms, a chic bar and ping-pong tables. Also, the chess and Rummikub (ro. remy; – a popular Romanian board game which combines elements from the card game Rummy and Mahjong) were among the guests’ favourite games.
The water used to be changed once a week. Heating was unavailable; the water would heat from the Sun during the week to reach the perfect temperature for the weekend.
After the fall of the communist regime, the municipal pool was forgotten. Decades have passed and the abandoned pool has been reclaimed by nature; and by graffiti artists. Located in the town centre, at the end of the Central Park and next to the Cluj Arena, the former pool is ignored by the pedestrians on a daily basis.
Anyway, if you like it, we have good news. It is for sale! The site is owned by a private tourism company who did not get approval from the local council for its project, so now it is selling it with 650 euro/ sqm. It has a surface of 12,378 sqm.
If you are interested in a more in depth exploration of the city, check out our post about the Architecture of Cluj.
Aleea Stadionului, Cluj-Napoca
Alternative Cluj Step 2: Visit a Museum
The Communist Film Depot
To visit a museum is requires by any traveller’s check list. The communist film depot has the characteristics of a museum without actually being one; its vast film reel collection is filling several rooms, literally.
156 million movie tickets were sold in 1989 in Romania. In 2013, Romania sold 9 million movie tickets: 147 million tickets less. At the outskirts of the city, the Communist Film Depot acts today as a cemetery for the glory days of the communist film.
Before 1989, the depot used to be the administrative hub for the films sent from the capital, with responsibilities like safekeeping and censoring the films.
The standard length of a 35mm film reel is 1,000feet (305 m), which runs approximately 11 minutes for sound film, according to Wikipedia. The Communist Film Depot in Cluj has several rooms flooded with 35mm film reel; a one of a kind view.
Transylvania International Film Festival fundraised 9,000 euro for a basic restoration. With a bit of attention, the Communist Film Depot came back to life and managed to sneak back into locals’ minds. With the hope to become a Hisotry of Film Museum one day, the place remains a good reason why Cluj is such a great place to explore.
Want to venture further and explore Cluj’s surroundings? We have a few suggestions here.
Septimiu Muresan 31 – 35(fostul Maiakovski), Cluj-Napoca
Alternative Cluj Step 3: Do some Shopping
The Oser Flea Market
After getting immersed in the local culture, some relaxation is in order. And what is more relaxing that a shopping spree? an alternative one in the local free market!
With uncertain history and etymology, the Oser is the ultimate alternative Cluj Shopping Mall on a Saturday morning. Like any respectable flea market, there are small chances to find something you are actually looking for. Still, be prepared to find things that seemed unimaginable before.
Go for a treasure hunt!
With a bit of personality, the flea market’s size and content varies from one weekend to another. The first stalls are set up at around 7 a.m so make sure you get there early in order to get the best deals. The rules are simple: you can either sell or buy, but always bargain.
Romania is a very underrated touristic destination. Check out the most common 7 Misconceptions about Romania.
Saturday 7:00 – 18:00 ( Summer; official opening hours but sellers start to leave after 12:00)
8:00 – 18:00 (Winter; sellers start to leave after 12:00)
1 Leu (0,22 Euro)
Which one is your favourite Alternative Cluj attraction? Found out more about why Cluj is such a great place to visit here.
Thanks so much for this! Managed to get to the flea market and the film depot, and both were completely brilliant 🙂
Hi! I was just wondering what is the best way to get to the Film Depot & the flea market from the center of Cluj? And whether you have any idea of opening times of the depot? I cant find much info about it online but it looks really cool!
This blog is fascinating one and it induce me to know more about it. Thanks for the sharing this blog and keep on sharing these kind of useful blogs.
Thank you so much for the kind words! We hope our guide helped you discover a little more about Cluj, beyond the touristic trails.