Cluj city guide: Where to eat, drink, shop and stay in Romania’s buzzy student hub

Cluj-Napoca is finest generally known as the capital of Transylvania – however on the bottom, it’s extra generally known as Cluj. Napoca was the identify of the Roman citadel which sat right here some 2,000 years in the past, and saying “Cluj-Napoca” out loud is a little bit like calling your mom by her full identify over a espresso.

Most individuals who hear “Transylvania” suppose “Dracula”, and the area is dwelling to quite a few outstanding mediaeval castles, if not bloodthirsty counts. It sits in central Romania, and past the mythology it’s additionally the place you’ll discover the southern Carpathian mountains – a wilderness the place bears, bison and wolves nonetheless roam free. Add in some charming cities, and the truth that the pound goes a great distance in Romania, and it is a true, off-the-beaten-track journey.

At this time, Cluj’s centre is dwelling to a energetic previous city and, removed from being cluttered by vampire tat, the streets right here serve the folks. Suppose fashionable eating places hidden down alleyways and busy bars on slender, cobblestone streets which gentle up at evening. Residence to the most important college in Romania, it is a pupil metropolis the place tradition thrives, and sweeping views out over the Someșul Mic river and Baroque and Gothic structure are solely a brief stroll away. In the event you’ve bought a spare couple of days to kill both facet of a visit to Dracula’s fortress or the character past, you may depend on Cluj to impress.

What to do

Discover Unirii Sq. and the Outdated City

There are many day journeys from town to Bran Citadel (usually known as Dracula’s fortress), and to varied different spots within the Carpathian Mountains, however don’t mistake Cluj for a Transylvanian bus terminal. The extra southerly Brasov, one other stunning metropolis, is actually the gateway to Bran Citadel.

When you hit the mediaeval Unirii Sq. within the centre of Cluj, you’ll be in no rush to depart. The gothic St Michael’s Church is guarded by a dramatic monument honouring Matthias Corvinus, the Fifteenth-century Hungarian king. The home Corvinus was born in lies simply past, on the cobblestones of Strada Matei Corvin. On the best of Unirii Sq. is the Nationwide Artwork Museum (8 lei/£1.30), within the Outdated Banffy palace, and to the left are numerous cafes with outside seating. Peek down Strada Episcop Ioan Bob, hidden between the seating, and you may even see an old school bookseller establishing store.

Fountains in Unirii Sq.

(Romania Tourism)

Get panoramic hillside views

Leaving the previous city, cross the Someșul Mic river and also you’ll end up on the fringe of Cetățuia Hill. A couple of hundred steps uphill, you’ll be looking over the whole lot of Cluj, which appears to be like an entire lot greener from the hill than from town. The view provides you an concept of how town sits and slopes, with homes rising steeply on the encircling hills (one thing you’ll know in the event you’ve needed to climb one to get to your resort). To your left and straight beneath is the Outdated City, and to your proper you’ll get an impressive view of the mild curves of the Cluj Enviornment, dwelling to CFR Cluj and probably the most stunning and distinctive soccer stadiums in Europe.

Lengthen your stroll through the Elisabeta Bridge for a stroll round Simion Bărnuțiu Central Park.

Indulge within the artwork

The Nationwide Museum is a should go to for classical artwork followers, however extra on the leading edge facet is Fabrica de Pensule – a recent artwork community which (in non-Covid instances) boasts a busy calendar starting from concert events to talks, exhibitions, performances and workshops. For regional artwork, go to the Galeria Quadro, which focuses on fashionable artwork from Transylvania and the Japanese Bloc.

If the timing of your go to is versatile, attempt to coincide with one in every of Cluj’s many artsy festivals. Untold dance pageant (from €199 for a four-day move) brings within the greatest names in EDM; Electrical Citadel musical pageant (from £110 for a five-day move) is half an hour away at Banffy Citadel, with Gorillaz, Twenty One Pilots and the Deftones headlining in 2022; whereas Jazz within the Park (not but on sale for 2022) was voted Europe’s finest small pageant in 2019. The Transilvania Worldwide Movie Pageant, set for June, can also be Romania’s first feature-film pageant.

Cluj’s previous city at evening

(Stuart Kenny)

The place to remain

ApartHotel Gutinului is a unusual, lately renovated block of flats lower than 10 minutes from town centre. It’s inexpensive with dependable wifi, and every room is themed on a special nation. You would end up sleeping beneath a Moroccan arch or subsequent to partitions coated in Japanese iconography. Doubles from £42, room solely.

Zen Hostel is slap bang within the metropolis centre. Stuffed with vibrant murals and do-it-yourself furnishings, the area feels alive. That homespun aesthetic can imply you’ll be sleeping on a mattress caught on high of some wood crates, after all, however it’s comfortable sufficient. There are a few very sociable frequent areas, too – for leisure, head straight to the hammocks. Doubles from £25, room solely.

For luxurious head to Lodge Platinia (Doubles from £167, B&B). A brand new five-star resort, the vibe is fashionable and classy, with a lot of wooden and area used correctly. Principally, it’s fancy – in a cool method.

The place to eat

Seize brunch from waste-free café District of Toast. The halloumi sandwich is mouthwatering, the omelettes come stacked with toppings and the bread comes from the native Diószegi bakery. Or, in the event you’re lacking Greggs, there are many hatches across the metropolis promoting pastries to go.

For conventional delicacies head straight to Roata. If you end up down a residential facet road and suppose you’re misplaced, then good – you’re virtually there. Attempt the varză (cabbage) a la Cluj. A minute down the highway you’ll additionally discover Jaxx, a rock-themed joint excellent for a greasy chunk and a beer.

For a feast with a view, take a look at the penthouse Klausenburger, a craft brew joint accessed through an elevator subsequent to the Centrul shopping center. A contemporary area with bar meals and extra conventional fare, the goulash is healthful and the views from the rooftop terrace far-reaching.

Samsara Foodhouse affords an enormous menu of vegan and veggie meals. A bare-brick wall at one finish and olive tree within the centre trace on the earthy vibe. Attempt the roasted pumpkin or parmigiana di melanzane.

(District of Toast)

The place to drink

Meron will kind out your caffeine repair. They promote espresso freshly flamed at their very personal roastery in Transylvania. Easy and classy, the main target right here is on the drinks. Meron rotates its espresso choice as soon as a month, and the employees are pleasant, chatty and readily available to assist ought to you’ll want to ask what the heck a V60 espresso dripper is.

When it’s time for a beer, head over to the eclectic Insomnia Cafe. There’s a vibrant outside ingesting space and inside you’ll discover all kinds of psychedelic paintings and wonky décor. The area really was an artwork gallery, and it nonetheless reveals right now.

An alternative choice for a energetic night is to go to Shto Bar, a tightly packed ingesting corridor the place the conversations movement as shortly because the beer does. One other stable tactic is just wandering the streets of the Outdated City at evening and selecting out whichever cosy bar takes your fancy.

The place to buy

There are numerous procuring malls in Cluj. The latest on the town is the Platinia Purchasing Centre. A lately renovated web site now open week-round, you’ll discover all the pieces from worldwide manufacturers like Anna Lafaet to Romanian manufacturers like fashionistas Urma and bookshop Cărturești.

For extra whimsical finds, head over to the Saturday morning Oser Flea Market (Strada Bobâlnei 65), the place you’ll discover meals, antiques and brick-a-brac galore.

Architectural spotlight

A 360-degree spin in Avram Iancu Sq. lends you views of two distinctive architectural kinds: the neo-Baroque type of the Nationwide Opera Home and The Dormition of the Theotokos Cathedral, which mixes Renaissance and Byzantine structure within the ‘Romanian Brâncovenesc’ fashion. The elegant arches and facades of the previous are topped by statues of Terpsichore, muse of poetry and dance, and Thalia, muse of comedy and theatre. The dome of the Cathedral is impressed by Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia.

Nuts and bolts

What foreign money do I would like?

Romanian Leu (although euros are generally accepted).

What language do they communicate?


Ought to I tip?


What’s the time distinction?

Japanese European Commonplace Time – GMT+2.

How ought to I get round?

One of the best ways to discover is on foot, however the fashionable community of electrical buses solely prices 2.5 leu (40p) a visit. Visitors can get unhealthy.

What’s the most effective view?

Cetățuia Hill.

Insider tip?

Hit up ArtCrawl for an in depth tour of the up to date artwork scene with an area who is aware of the areas (€20 per individual). However keep away from Sundays, when a number of galleries are shut.

Getting there

Making an attempt to fly much less?

You would work your method throughout Europe to Romania by practice, crossing by way of Belgium, Germany, Austria and Hungary within the course of (nice potential for a multi-stop tour). Take the Eurostar to Brussels, from which an Ice practice serves Frankfurt, then Nuremberg. Right here you may change for Vienna, the place you may decide up a practice by way of Hungary to Cluj.

Nice with flying?

Wizz Air and Blue Air each have flights to Cluj from the UK.

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