Between 2012 and 2014, I spent a few weeks in the unofficial capital of Transylvania. Business-oriented mainly, but still enough to understand why Cluj-Napoca (Cluj) is one of the most visited cities in Romania. Its glamour resides from the vibrant urban life, extensive educational and working opportunities, famous cultural festivals and many more. All of these make it the second metropolis in the country after Bucharest, but in several areas it kind of surpasses Romania's capital. Here are my 7 reasons to visit Cluj Napoca!
Cluj-Napoca is the city of students, with around 100.000 every year and the largest university in Romania;
Cluj-Napoca has a blooming IT sector, being often referred to as the Silicon Valley of Europe;
Cluj-Napoca has been elected the European Capital of Youth in 2015.
With all these highlights and changes in recent history, there is no wonder why everything in the city revolves around satisfying a certain category of people - youngsters who need diversity and fun in everything they do.
So, let's see the reasons why anyone should visit Cluj once in a lifetime, as quickly as possible!
1. Cluj-Napoca was listed the Capital of Tolerance for foreigners moving in, as well as the friendliest city for foreigners in the European Union. Locals indeed are happy to embrace people from abroad, maybe even more than they do with fellow Romanians outside Transylvania!
2. The city exists since ancient Dacian times, and the former settlement turned into an important center during Middle Ages. It was one of the seven cities that gave the German name of Transylvania (Siebenburgen - seven cities), and has always been held in high regard by the Habsburg Empire. Nowadays, a beautiful mixture of architectural masterpieces, with German, Austrian and Hungarian influences is to be seen all over the city.
Union Square - the heart of the city with the imposing St. Michael's Church and the Matthias Corvinus monument
3. Cluj is the city of museums. There is no other place in Romania where is worthy to dedicate a whole day to visiting a wide variety of museums:
The Pharmacy History Collection - where one can learn a thing or two about the development of pharmacy in Transylvania, as well as about some interesting old, traditional cures;
The Transylvanian Museum of Ethnography – the oldest ethnographic museum in Romania, winner of different international prizes of this kind; offers a unique perspective on traditional life and culture of Transylvania, plus a beautiful open space section (Romulus Vuia Ethnographic Park);
National Museum of Art – open by 1951 in the imposing Banffy Palace, the museum displays a beautiful mixture of Transylvanian and European art, and it is among the only ones in Romania also showcasing modern, postbellum art;
The Emil Racovita Speleology Museum - the only museum in Romania dedicated to the study of caves.
Apart from the Ethnographic Park, all of these are within walking distance from central Union Square.
4. 30 km away from Cluj, you will find the coolest underground place in the world! The old Turda Salt Mine has been transformed in an amusement park, encompassing a Ferris wheel, a mini-golf course, ping pong tables, a bowling alley, an underground lake with paddle and row boats, and many many more. Apart from having some fun in the most curious place on Earth, the salt museum is also interesting - a fine network of galleries and rooms, each of them displaying different parts of our mining history.
5. Cluj cuisine is probably the best and most diversified in Romania! There is no other city in Romania where you can eat so many types of meals, irrespective if you wish to try Romanian or Transylvanian food, Italian, Mexican, American, Chinese, Japanese... You name the country, there's probably a traditional restaurant in Cluj! Remember this - cabbage a la Cluj, you should try it sometimes!
6. The same goes with entertainment - whichever bar you enter, you will most likely attend a party you will remember for ages! In addition to this, Cluj is home to some of the most famous festivals in Europe:
Untold 2016, third day. Photo source: B365
Other popular events this year:
7. Cluj International Airport is the 2nd largest in Romania and the best connected to the world in Transylvania. Apart from visiting the city, it is the best place to start exploring some other outstanding places in the region: Apuseni Mountains (maybe the best place in Europe to fall in love with nature!), Maramures (the northwestern Romanian region, astonishing for its ravishing landscapes, centuries-old traditions and worldwide-known wooden gates), or Transylvania (check-out my suggested road-trip, here)
2 days are more than enough to explore the city. Add one more day for travelling to Turda, and around one week for each of the road trips mentioned above.
Thanks to its recent development, Cluj-Napoca has become a little expensive for Romania. Still cheap though for the rest of the world!
Top restaurants are more expensive than in other places - around 30 Euro per meal for two persons.
Regarding accommodation, you can find a few hints on this page.
Cluj-Napoca - a city with centuries of history behind, still holding on its old Dacian name and perfectly reshaped for modern times. It is by far the best place in Romania for entertainment and for starting exploring beautiful Transylvania.
If you need any other info about this marvelous city, please let me know!
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