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Here it is! The long-awaited guide to Cluj-Napoca, Romania, the city that has become my most recent home. I’ve been living here since June 2020, never expecting that this would be where I wound up. Cluj-Napoca is an amazingly friendly city, and one of the best destinations for digital nomads. It’s affordable, got widespread and reliable internet, and making friends here is easy. Plus, there are a ton of amazing day trips from Cluj-Napoca.
My experience in Romania has been a whirlwind. I’ve lived in Sibiu, Cluj-Napoca, and Sighisoara. I’ve adopted 2 additional dogs, had a baby, got married, and have another baby on the way (little brother coming June 2023). It’s given me an incredibly different perspective than your typical tourist, or than a local who was born and raised here. So, without further ado, please enjoy my unique perspective of Cluj as both a foreigner and a resident.
- Things to Do in Cluj Napoca: Explore the City
- People Watch at Piaţă Unirii
- Picnic at Parcul Central Simion Bărnuțiu
- Check Out Piaţă Muzeului at Night
- Take In the Views from Parcul Cetățuia
- Photograph Piaţă Mihai Viteazul
- Pick Up Authentic Romanian Gifts at Piaţă Avram Iancu
- Spend a Saturday Morning at Piaţă Oser
- Stroll Along the Someş
- Lock Down Your Love on Elisabeth Bridge
- Take a Flamingo Boat Ride at Iulius Park
- Check Out the Matthias Corvinus Statue
- Stop and Smell the Roses at Grădina Botanică
- Admire the Matthias Corvinus House
- Catch an Event at Cluj Arena
- Visit the Flower Market on Strada Potaissa
- Indulge at One of the City’s Best Place to Eat or Drink
- Get Lost in Hoia Forest
- Take a Free Walking Tour of Cluj
- Visit the Exhibits at Tailors’ Bastion
- Sample Varza a la Cluj
- Things to Do in Cluj Napoca: Museums & Entertainment
- Catch a Performance at the Romanian National Opera
- …Or at the Hungarian Opera House
- Take a Day Trip to Bánffy Castle
- Explore the Oldest Pharmacy in Cluj
- Visit the Transylvanian Museum of Ethnography
- Experience Traditional Romanian Village Life at the Romulus Vuia Park
- Hear Tales of Yore at the Jewish Museum
- Things to Do in Cluj Napoca: Religious Institutions
- Things to Do in Cluj Napoca: Events & Festivals
Things to Do in Cluj Napoca: Explore the City
People Watch at Piaţă Unirii
Piaţă Unirii (Union Square) is a great place to visit when in Cluj-Napoca. Located in the center of the city, it’s always full of life and activity. The square features an ornate sculpture of Matthias Corvinus. Beautiful trees and benches line the perimeter for visitors to relax and enjoy the scenery. In the backdrop lies St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church.
There are also plenty of restaurants, bars, cafes, and shops around the square that offer something for everyone. These restaurants tend to be among the most expensive in Cluj given their prime tourist retail, and the quality there can be a bit generic. Nuka is great for breakfast, but there are plenty of other eateries with lower prices and better quality throughout the city. Still, Union Square itself is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike who come to take in all that Cluj-Napoca has to offer.
There are always fun happenings in Piaţă Unirii, from book markets, to the annual Cluj-Napoca Christmas Market, to TIFF (Transylvania International Film Festival), and more.
Picnic at Parcul Central Simion Bărnuțiu
Enjoying a picnic at Parcul Central Simion Bărnuțiu is the perfect place for a day out with friends or family. With its picturesque views, running paths and tree-lined lanes, it’s the ideal spot to escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Enjoy the tranquility of nature by having a picnic near the lake. The restaurant nearby provides delicious food with breathtaking views of the park. So why not come down and enjoy some quality time in this beautiful area? Bring your own snacks, or pick up something from one of the local vendors to make your picnic complete!
Check Out Piaţă Muzeului at Night
When you visit Piaţă Muzeului at night, it’s truly a magical experience. The cobblestone streets are lit up with the iconic strung lights, creating an enchanting atmosphere. The restaurants and pubs have a lively ambiance that spills into the street. They’re always packed with locals and tourists who come to enjoy a good meal or just to hang out.
My personal favorite place here is Casa Veche. They offer delicious traditional Romanian food and friendly service (which, I’ll admit, is sorely lacking in Romania). And if you’re looking for something cultural, don’t miss Matthias Corvinus House during the day, where one of Hungary’s most famous kings was born! It’s worth visiting this historical site while exploring Piaţă Muzeului, though entrance is only permitted during the day.
Take In the Views from Parcul Cetățuia
Cetățuia was my go-to spot, as I spent a considerable amount of time there when my husband was working at the Food Truck Park. It’s an idyllic hill located on the other side of the river from Old Town. The stairs may be intimidating at first glance, but they are well worth it to experience its beauty and tranquility!
Cluj’s most breathtaking vistas can be seen from here, as well as the Cetățuia Food Truck Park. However, if you have limited mobility, it is suggested that you take a Bolt to get there as public transportation may require climbing stairs.
Photograph Piaţă Mihai Viteazul
Set your sights on Piaţă Mihai Viteazul for stunning photographs! Located in the heart of town, this square is a popular hub with many bus stops located nearby. You can marvel at the grand statue and fountain as well as bask in vibrant colors from cheerful buildings that adorn the area—a delightful backdrop perfect for any photography enthusiast.
The imposing statue is that of Mihai Viteazul (Mihai the Brave) himself, perched atop his noble steed. Born as Mihai Pătrașcu, Michael the Brave is renowned in Romania as one of their most heroic figures. He was a brilliant prince who held positions and power in Wallachia, Moldavia, and Transylvania. Throughout the country, you’ll see squares and streets that boast his name. He is a great source of pride for Romania.
Pick Up Authentic Romanian Gifts at Piaţă Avram Iancu
Located directly in front of Cluj’s breathtakingly grandiose Dormition of the Theotokos Cathedral, Piaţă Avram Iancu is a sight to behold. During summer months, visitors can bask in the cooling mist which emanates from its captivating turquoise fountain- offering a welcome respite from the scorching heat!
During the summer months, you don’t have to look far for a memorable market experience. At an open-air kiosk from local vendors in Romania, I found amazing buys. Everything from authentic Romanian dishes and local honey to spices at great prices! Last year I bought some beautiful bone earrings that are my absolute favorite (for just 60 lei or around $13.25 USD). If you’re looking for unique goods and experiences with friendly merchants that won’t break your budget – this is not only one of the best options but it’s also very authentic.
Spend a Saturday Morning at Piaţă Oser
Piaţă Oser is a great place to spend a Saturday morning! You’ll find everything from fresh produce, clothes and shoes, to antique home décor. The atmosphere is vibrant and buzzing with activity–you can hear the sound of merchants haggling over prices and locals chatting about their day.
Pick up some grilled mici for lunch (some of the best in town), or just take in the sights and sounds of this bustling market. Whether you’re looking for a quick bite or an interesting conversation, Piaţă Oser has something for everyone.
Definitely wear a mask if you’re not comfortable in such close proximity to strangers. There is little-to-no personal space at Piaţă Oser, and it can feel a bit cramped.
Also, be sure to go around 7:00 AM if you want the best selection of goods without spending so much time waiting for parking. If you’re not going to shop, you can get there later in the afternoon to avoid the crowds. At this time, however, many of the great finds may already be sold.
Stroll Along the Someş
Take a leisurely walk and explore the beauty of Someşul, Cluj’s city river. While there may not be many attractions in the immediate vicinity, make sure to hunt for Elisabeth Bridge if you are making your way from Parcul Central to Parcul Cetățuia—you won’t regret it!
It’s the perfect place to get lost in your head and escape the hustle and bustle of Cluj.
Lock Down Your Love on Elisabeth Bridge
On my first outing in Cluj, the place that would eventually become home to me, I found a stunning sight. Lovers had taken great care when affixing their locks onto the bridge as a representation of their never-ending loyalty for one another (Szilard and I don’t have our lock on the bridge – not yet, anyway!). I couldn’t help but be entranced by this romantic idea and spent ample time taking it all in.
Whether you’re visiting here alone or with a partner, it’s a really romantic location that deserves a stop and a moment of contemplation.
Take a Flamingo Boat Ride at Iulius Park
Experience a calm and romantic boat ride at Iulius Park, located next to Iulius Mall in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Take in the beauty of the the small pond among the swans while you enjoy a leisurely hour on the Flamingo or Swan Pedal Boats. The boats are equipped with comfortable seating and easy-to-use pedals to wander your way around the pond.
You’ll have plenty of time to take pictures and admire the stunning views of nature all around you. And don’t forget to bring along your camera; you won’t want to miss out on any photo opportunities! So, grab some friends and come experience all that Iulius Park has to offer for an unforgettable boat ride.
Once you’re done, grab a snack at one of the many food trucks. Alternatively, head across the street to Iulius Mall to check out what sales are going on at your favorite stores.
Check Out the Matthias Corvinus Statue
Matthias Corvinus, born in 1443, was a Hungarian king who reigned from 1458 until 1490. He is often referred to as “Matthias the Just” for his fairness when ruling and treating his subjects.
During his reign, he successfully defended Hungary against Ottoman invasions, expanded royal power throughout much of central Europe, and encouraged economic development through progressive taxation laws. His efforts made him one of the most powerful rulers of the 15th century.
After he died in 1490, Matthias Corvinus was posthumously recognized as one of Hungary’s greatest kings and revered by many Romanians and other Europeans alike. He was born in Cluj-Napoca, with his birth house being just down the street at Piaţă Muzeului.
The statue located at Piaţă Unirii serves not only as a reminder of his accomplishments, but also pays homage to him as a symbol of strength and justice. The Matthias Corvinus Monument is a great stop for anyone looking to learn more about the history of the region or take some memorable photos!
Stop and Smell the Roses at Grădina Botanică
Behold the extraordinary beauty of Cluj’s Botanical Garden! Not only is it admired by locals, but also residents from other counties and tourists visiting from abroad. Spanning across 14 hectares (34.5 acres) with both indoor and outdoor gardens, this treasure encompasses an impressive 10,000 species of plants from around the globe – making spring a particularly magical time to visit when most varieties are in full bloom.
Genral entry for one adult is only 11 lei (roughly $2.75 USD). Reduced rates are available as well: children, students and seniors can access the area at a discounted price of 5 lei!
Admire the Matthias Corvinus House
The Matthias Corvinus House is a must-see destination when in Cluj-Napoca! Its fascinating history dates back to the 15th century, and it has served many different purposes over time. Today, you can visit the building and explore its interesting exhibits related to Matthias Corvinus’s life.
As an added bonus, the institute hosts events throughout the year such as seminars, lectures, exhibitions, and more. So even if you’re not interested in learning about Hungary’s past kings, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
Catch an Event at Cluj Arena
Cluj Arena is the perfect place for a night out, whether you’re looking for some good music or a competitive football (soccer) game. Besides Untold Festival (pictured) and concerts from world-renowned artists such as Sting and Andrea Bocelli, there are plenty of other great events held here as well!
From exciting sports tournaments to live comedy shows, there’s never an excuse not to stay entertained in Cluj. Make sure to check out the Cluj Arena event calendar before planning your trip, so that you don’t miss out on any amazing opportunities!
Visit the Flower Market on Strada Potaissa
For an abundance of blooming beauty, make sure to visit Potaissa Street when you’re vacationing in Cluj during the hot months. It is one of the most attractive streets in town and hosts Altfel Flower Market every weekend from 10:00 AM till 11:00 PM. Be prepared for a visual feast!
As the market has flourished in recent years, vehicular traffic is now limited. However, you can still find workshops and performances as well as beautiful bouquets of flowers, potted plants for your home or herbs to cultivate a gardening paradise!
Indulge at One of the City’s Best Place to Eat or Drink
While Cluj isn’t as gastronomic a city as Sibiu, for example, there are still fun places to go that serve up quality food and delicious drinks. For more detailed information, check out our article on where to eat and drink in Cluj.
My personal favorites for food include Casa Veche, Roata Faget, Casa Boema, Rod, Little Hanoi, and Boega del Taco. For a fun-filled night of libations, try Insomnia, Sisters, Joben Experience Bar, or Klausen Pub. Pictured above is the totally Instagram-worthy stair entrance to Insomnia.
Get Lost in Hoia Forest
Hoia Forest has attained a notorious renown throughout the years. It is regularly listed among the most haunted forests on Earth. Known for its paranormal events and UFO sightings, this eerie woodlands remains popular to travelers seeking supernatural thrills.
Since the first UFO sighting in the late 1960s, Hoia-Baciu Forest has become a mecca for avid supernatural fans. It’s no surprise that mysterious lights, energies and other unexplainable phenomena have been relayed from within its borders ever since.
Never venture alone in any forest, be it haunted or not! Hoia Forest is situated near the open-air part of the ethnography museum. Take advantage of that and pay a visit to both spots on one day.
I’d recommend carrying a large stick or something of those sorts. The last time I went, the entrance to Hoia was ‘guarded’ by a pack of street dogs. They felt threatening enough that I didn’t go any further.
Take a Free Walking Tour of Cluj
Uncover the secrets of Cluj and its inhabitants by taking a city tour. Whether you choose to follow a guide or go on a self-guided walking journey, there are plenty of options for exploration! Marvel at the multitude of stunning architecture and learn about the unique history that makes this diverse city so special.
Free walking tours are great initiations to new cities. It’s the perfect way to get the lay of the land as well as a bit of history about the area. If you’re taking a guided free tour, don’t forget to tip your guide!
Visit the Exhibits at Tailors’ Bastion
Once forgotten and abandoned, the Cluj-Napoca Tailors’ Bastion has been restored to its former glory. Located near the southeastern tip of Old Cluj, this tower now serves as a Center for Urban Culture with impressively interactive exhibits on each floor. A visit here will give you a glimpse into local culture that is sure to be both fascinating and memorable!
If you find yourself liking the city and want to familiarize yourself a bit more, the Center for Urban Culture at Tailors’ Bastion is one of the best things to do in Cluj.
Sample Varza a la Cluj
From its aromatic smell to its succulent taste, cabbage undeniably reigns as a staple ingredient in Romanian cuisine. Yet, there’s something special about the Cluj-Napoca rendition! It is crafted with ground meat, onion, cabbage and rice and finished off with a very unique sour cream mix.
Every family and restaurant has their own twist on this recipe. You’ll definitely find some variations if you sample it from different places around town. The absolute best Varza a la Cluj can be found at Zama or Roata (in my honest opinion). Pictured is take-out from Zama.
Things to Do in Cluj Napoca: Museums & Entertainment
Catch a Performance at the Romanian National Opera
The Romanian National Opera in Cluj-Napoca is a stunning building steeped in history. Located across from Piaţă Avram Iancu, it was established at the start of the 20th century and has been delivering performances ever since.
The neoclassical architecture heavily influences the interior design of the theatre, with sweeping staircases and opulent ceilings. The auditorium itself is impressive – there are around 1,100 seats split between two levels, offering an intimate space for performance art.
At the Romanian National Opera you’ll find both opera and ballet performances throughout the year. You can purchase tickets online or just turn up on the day and see what’s playing – either way you’re sure to have a memorable experience.
…Or at the Hungarian Opera House
The Hungarian Opera House in Cluj-Napoca is a city institution which shares the same popular location as Parcul Central. It’s close to many restaurants, downtown, and nearby hotels. Though the façade is anything but ornate, you can still catch quality performances here.
This theatre hosts some of the most prestigious shows in Romania; from classical music events such as Mozart’s Requiem to theatrical spectacles like Rigoletto. Whether you’re looking for a casual night out or seeking cultural enrichment, this venue has something for everyone.
If you’re looking to catch a performance at the Hungarian Opera House in Cluj-Napoca, make sure to check out the online schedule. Tickets are usually reasonably priced and range from small concerts to full scale operas and ballets. So, get ready for a night filled with culture and entertainment!
Take a Day Trip to Bánffy Castle
Located in the village of Bonţida, Bánffy Castle is a spectacular Transylvanian castle that lies just beyond Cluj’s city limits. Though it was ravaged by German troops in the 1940s, this magnificent edifice has since been restored to its former glory.
For centuries, this historic building has been utilized in a variety of ways. It’s served as everything from medical facility to driving school, and even as a co-op farm! More recently it was transformed into Cluj’s acclaimed Electric Castle Festival. Since 2013 the site continues to make its mark on history with this much beloved event.
Explore the Oldest Pharmacy in Cluj
Set inside the ‘La Sfântul Gheorghe’ or Hintz Pharmacy, the oldest pharmacy building in Cluj, is a museum dedicated to preserving and showcasing its history: The Pharmacy History Museum.
Since the 16th century, the museum has held onto some truly remarkable sources of healing within its walls. To treat rheumatic disorders there was Syrian asphalt, plus to increase calcium intake they used coral powder and lobster eyes! It is astonishing how long these methods have been around without fail.
Visit the Transylvanian Museum of Ethnography
The Transylvanian Museum of Ethnography in Cluj is composed of two distinct sites. Firstly, the Reduta Palace downtown houses captivating displays that encompass items and garments typically employed by rural Romanian people as well as an awe-inspiring historical photo archive.
Experience Traditional Romanian Village Life at the Romulus Vuia Park
Gather your family and explore the second site of the Transylvanian Museum of Ethnography. It’s slightly further afield, located at Romulus Vuia Park. Here you can immerse yourself in a unique open-air museum. The site features authentic farms from various parts of Transylvania, historic mills, wooden churches, and interesting workshops that showcase traditional rural life.
Hear Tales of Yore at the Jewish Museum
The Jewish Museum in Cluj-Napoca, Romania is a unique museum located in the heart of the city. It houses many interesting artifacts, but its main focus is on stories of past generations. Muzeon brings to life tales from centuries ago through personal anecdotes and family histories recorded and preserved over time. Visitors can explore the history of Jewish culture in Romania by listening to these stories told by knowledgeable guides who help bring them to life.
The exhibits are interactive and often include multimedia elements such as videos, audio recordings, photographs, and other materials. The experience is enhanced with guided tours that provide insight into the historical context behind each story. Aside from this, there are various activities available for visitors like workshops or seminars hosted by local experts.
Whether you’re interested in Jewish history or simply looking for a unique experience, the Jewish Museum in Cluj-Napoca is worth visiting. It provides an immersive journey through the past and invites visitors to explore the lives of generations long gone. With its engaging storytelling approach, it truly is something special!
Things to Do in Cluj Napoca: Religious Institutions
Visit the Second Largest Church in Transylvania
A visit to St. Michael’s Church in Cluj-Napoca is an opportunity to experience a piece of Transylvanian history. The imposing Gothic structure, built in the late 1500s and second only in size to the Black Church of Brasov, stands tall as a testament to centuries past.
Though renovations are still ongoing, visitors can take some time to appreciate the beauty of its architecture. Imagine how it must have looked during elections for the Princes of Transilvania hundreds of years ago!
The church holds another momentous spot in history: on May 24th 1944, Áron Márton, then bishop of the Roman Catholic Church in Transilvania, gave a speech here that condemned the deportation of Jews and brought hope to those affected by Nazi oppression.
It’s easy to see why St. Michael’s Church is such an important landmark in Cluj-Napoca. If you find yourself in Transylvania, be sure to make a stop here! The scaffolding finally seems to be disappearing so you can actually see this magnificent structure.
Explore Jewish Heritage at the Neolog Synagogue
The Neolog Synagogue is an important part of Romanian history, and serves as a reminder of the city’s Jewish heritage. Visitors can explore its intricate Moorish-style architecture, as well as learn about its turbulent past. Guided tours are available to provide further information on how this synagogue has been affected by both World Wars, the Iron Guard attacks in 1927, and other significant events throughout its history.
The synagogue is a popular attraction for things to do in Cluj-Napoca. Not only does it provide insight into the city’s Jewish history, but its picturesque façade makes for an excellent photographic opportunity too. So don’t forget your camera when you visit!
Check out the Reformed Church in Cluj-Napoca
The Reformed Church in Cluj-Napoca is a great place to visit if you’re looking for things to do in the city. Its impressive architecture and history make it an interesting attraction. The church claims ownership of much of Cluj-Napoca. This includes several key landmarks like the Statue of Matthias Corvinus, the Palace of Justice and many churches throughout the city.
Visitors can learn about its rich heritage and explore its stunning interior with guided tours available by appointment. The church is also a popular spot for religious events and activities, such as baptisms, weddings or memorial services.
Admire the Architecture of the Dormition of the Theotokos Cathedral
The Dormition of the Theotokos Cathedral is a must-see when visiting Cluj-Napoca. Built in the 1500s, it is an impressive example of Renaissance and Byzantine architecture. From its two bell towers to its ornate façade, this stunning building will leave you in awe!
Inside the cathedral, you’ll find beautiful frescoes, intricate mosaics, and stained glass windows. Its ornately decorated interior makes it one of the most magnificent things to see in Cluj-Napoca.
Be sure to take some time to explore the area around the cathedral too. There’s a fountain adjacent to the main entrance where you can relax and enjoy the atmosphere. Plus, Piață Avram Iancu has market stalls during the summer months.
If you’re looking for things to do in Cluj-Napoca, be sure to add a visit to the Dormition of Theotokos Cathedral to your itinerary! With its remarkable architecture, fascinating history, and spectacular interior design, plus the fact that it’s my absolute favorite building in Cluj, mean it’s sure to make for a memorable experience.
Things to Do in Cluj Napoca: Events & Festivals
See World-Renowned Musicians at Electric Castle
Every year, Electric Castle comes alive at Bánffy Castle to bring all kinds of musical genres together – rock, indie, hip hop, electronic music and techno beats collide with art installations for a festival experience reminiscent of its US counterparts.
With ten stages, every show is an unforgettable experience! Catch international superstars such as Florence + the Machine, Skrillex, Deadmau5, alt-J and more at this incredible event. Take a ride on the iconic Ferris Wheel, dance the night away with friends, and create memories to last a lifetime – all with the perfect soundtrack to go along with it.
Mark your calendars for mid-late July 2022! Get ready to rock as Electric Castle announces their headliners: The Deftones, Gorillaz and Twenty-One Pilots – a show you won’t want to miss.
**It’s now around a year after this article was originally posted. Deftones wound up canceling for the 2022 lineup, but we had a great time seeing Disclosure and Aurora, in addition to Gorillaz and Twenty-One Pilots!
2023 artists have begun to be unveiled! The lineup features Iggy Pop, Tash Sultana, The Chemical Brothers, George Ezra, Sigur Ros, and Nothing But Thieves (among plenty others).
Get Your Dance On at Untold
Untold Festival is one of the premier music festivals in Romania, taking place at Cluj Arena each August. It’s a must-visit event for electronic music fans from all over Europe and beyond.
The festival’s lineup boasts some of the biggest names in EDM like Armin van Buuren, Avicii (RIP), Chainsmokers, Tiesto, David Guetta, Bonobo, Afrojack and Steve Aoki. With such an incredible lineup of artists every year, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience!
Confirmed (so far) for 2023 are Steve Aoki and Imagine Dragons. I know, I know, not exactly EDM – but definitely a good time!
My best advice for Untold is this – book your accommodation SUPER early! Considering what an inexpensive and affordable country Romania usually is, the prices of accommodation for Untold will come as a serious shock.
Catch a Film at TIFF
Cluj’s famed Transylvania International Film Festival, or TIFF as it is better known, has been the most celebrated film event in Romania ever since its inaugural year of 2002.
Every year, the TIFF festival is celebrated throughout multiple sites across Cluj city, from open-air to hidden spots. In 2020, due to social distancing requirements that would have been more difficult with EC or Untold festivals, it was decided that the only event taking place in Cluj should be TIFF.
Keep an eye out for celebs – the likes of Nicholas Cage and Catherine Deneuve have been spotted here.