Destination: Cluj-Napoca, Romania
In the heart of Transylvania (yes, Dracula’s birthplace), about 6 hours drive from Bucharest, the capital.
Cluj-Napoca was the International Youth Capital in 2015. The most beautiful city in Romania and one of the best cities in Europe, you definitely shouldn’t miss it.
When To Go:
Anytime, really. However, summer is the best. Most of the festivals take place then. Also, Cluj is a university city, so it will be less crowded in the summer when the students return home.
Getting There an Around:
By air – Avram Iancu International Airport, 10 minutes from the center of Cluj, is the best way to get there. You can easily fly from any country in Europe and most of the USA.
Getting around – Your best bet is public transportation. There are buses all the time, including the night, and the price of a ticket is under a dollar. However, walking is also an opportunity. You can easily rent a car but beware, traffic can be really crowded at rush-hours.
Best Attraction: Central Park
The “Simion Barnitiu” Central Park is situated downtown, on the edge of Somesul Mic. It is about 900 m long and is the house of most festivals and concerts in Cluj. You can find anything from alleys with benches to statues and playgrounds for children.
Take a boat on Chios Lake to take a closer look at the ducks in the summer and, in the winter, polish your skating skills. Cluj Arena, one of the most beautiful stadiums in Romania, is also situated in the park.
Best Unusual Attraction: Cetatuia (The Fortress)
The Fortress Hill is about 5 minutes from the city center and is easily accessible through a set of stairs. Located at 405 m high, it was built in the 18th century. Only a few walls are still standing but you can find The Cross On The Fortress, a testimony of the martyrs of 1828 Revolution.
The Fortress offers the best view of Cluj-Napoca, both during the day when the city shines with beauty and in the night, when the lights transport you to another world.
Best Alternative: Gradina Botanica (Botanical Graden)
“Alexandru Borza” Botanical Garden is spreading over 14ha and represents a landmark of Cluj-Napoca. Divided into several sections, the garden houses plants from all over the world as well as a 3500 square meters greenhouse. A drop of green in Cluj Napoca, the garden is the best place to recover if you want to escape the town noise.
Alexandru Borza” Botanical Garden
Republicii Street 42, Cluj-Napoca 400015
Best Activity: Visiting
Aside from the places mentioned before, while in Cluj, you shouldn’t miss:
Local Lore: The Hoia Baciu forest, situated outside the city, spreading on over 295ha, is a place of both wonder and mystery. The local lore says that, while inside the forest, your
deepest fears turn to reality. Sights of ghost and UFOs have also been reported. Even though the stories go back to the 1960s, the forest is still a place of fascination for both locals and foreigners.
Over 20.000 accommodation places are available in Cluj. From hostels to 5* Hotels, Cluj-Napoca has it all. If you’re not coming through a travel company, check online for the best places to spend the night. The place with the best view is Hotel Belvedere, situated on Fortress Hill, but you have a lot of other opportunities closer to the center.
Many of the locals rent rooms in their houses during crowded periods (for example, during the Untold Festival) so plan ahead. Also, staying at the locals is far cheaper, so don’t forget to check it out if you’re traveling on a budget.
Not far from the center of the town, you will find Piezisa street, a street full of restaurants and coffee shops, where it’s guaranteed that you will find a suitable place. Try the restaurants around Unirii Square also. Prices are almost the same, but you get to be in the middle of Cluj. However, it might be more crowded there.
You can also try my personal favorite, Livada (The Orchard), a quiet restaurant, not far from the city, where you can enjoy your dinner in a lovely atmosphere.
Livada (The Orchard) Restaurant and Music Lounge
14 Clinicilor St.
Tel: 0722-111.115 website
Best Shopping: The city has 2 big shopping places: Iulius Mall and Polus Center
Polus Center is the largest Romanian multifunctional complex built on a single level and also the largest commercial center in Transylvania. Situated outside of the town, you can get there using the 4 bus routes that will take you to the entrance of the Mall.
Polus Center, Cluj-Napoca
407280hb, Avram Iancu Street 492-500, Florești 407280
Iulius Mall is smaller but placed right in the city. Housing over 50.250 square meters of shopping opportunities, Iulius was opened in Cluj Napoca in 2007 and still represents one of the most important shopping centers in the city.
Iulius Mall, Cluj-Napoca
Alexandru Vaida-Voievod St., nr. 83B
Money and Communication: The local coin is RON (1 Ron = 0.225 USD) and can be bought from all over the town. If you don’t speak Romanian, no problem. Most of the people here speak English and Cluj-Napoca is the city of youth, so don’t worry, you’ll be able to exchange a word with the locals and find help if you need any.
Note: Check out two of the best festivals Romania has to offer, Electric Castle and Untold Festival. Held in Cluj-Napoca, they are the best way to integrate in the community while enjoying your favorite music.
Roxana Halati is a Romanian Math and Computer student, who loves writing and is obsessed with books. Traveling and hiking are two of her passions, inherited from her father, a former Alpinist. Currently at the beginning of her freelance writing career, she dreams of turning her passion into her job someday.