Cluj-Napoca is the treasure city of Romania. Located in the heart of Transylvania, famous all around the world for its tales about Dracula and vampires, Cluj is the second biggest city in Romania and it was nominated European Youth Capital in 2015.
I know for sure that you’ve been curious about it since you first read the word Transylvania, so let’s see what are the top things thing to do in Cluj Napoca.
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Where to Stay in Cluj Napoca
Here are our top suggestions for where to stay in Cluj Napoca for your next visit to Romania. In general, budget means hotel stays for around $30 a night, mid-range is about $35-70 per night, and luxury will cost over $80 per night.
Great Things to Do in Cluj Napoca
In no particular order, these are some of the top things to do in Cluj Napoca when venturing into wonderful Romania…
Discover Piata Unirii
Like any other enthusiast traveler, the first things you want to see in a new place are the landmarks and the structures the city has to offer. There is no better place to start with than Union Square.
A full-day walking and sightseeing is waiting, so you better fuel up with a tasty breakfast and a cup of coffee. And there is no better place to do so than in Union Square.
Enjoy a perfect view of the center of Cluj-Napoca, while you walk in the area. Here, it’s possible to admire the curious combination of architectural styles from Baroque to Gothic, from Neoclassical to Renaissance.
If you are not really sure where to start from, we suggest you check a tour like this one, that will take you on a walk around town to see the main attractions.
Visit St. Michael’s Church
Be ready to be astonished at the grand Saint Michael Church situated in the center of Cluj, in Union Square. This building is centuries-old, dating back from the 15th century, and it is the second tallest church in Romania.
Tourists as well as locals, no matter who passes by, will lift their heads to admire this grand majestic church. One thing to keep in mind, that not even many locals know, is that you can actually climb the tower and admire the city from above. Be ready, though, you will need to climb 175 steps to get there.
No matter whether you choose to see the church from the outside, the inside, or up from the tower, it’s a promise that you’ll be bewildered by the building!
Check Banffy Palace
Right across Piata Unirii is Banffy Palace. The building was designed by German architect Eberhard Blaumann and built back in the 18th century. As of 1951, the palace houses the National Museum of Art, which holds an extraordinary heritage of paintings, sculptures, and other works of art.
After a tour of the museum, if it’s your lucky day, you can come back at night for the many events that are held in the central yard of the Museum; from shows and exhibitions to concerts and party events.
Go for a Gala Evening at the National Opera
The National Opera stands gloriously to its range as it is considered to be a European Cultural Institution. It has featured over 200 different titles of operas, operettas, and ballet.
One of the best goosebumps moments in my life happened while I was watching the Swan Lake play and you could not hear a peak from anywhere as the audience was astonished by the greatness of the performance.
If you enjoy ballet as well, you can choose between Swan Lake, Giselle, The Nut Cracker, Don Quijote, and many others.
Learn About the Pharmaceutical History of Transylvania
The oldest pharmacy in Cluj-Napoca is hosted in Casa Hintz and has an impressive collection of 3000 pieces, the oldest dating from 1573. It is separated into 4 rooms and it illustrates the pharmaceutical activity of Transylvania since the 15th century.
One of the fun reasons why a lot of people visit is that it’s possible to find there bizarre things like powdered human mummies, potion antidotes, and lobster eyes.
During the annual Night of Museums, an Egyptian mummy was brought here to be exhibited, and over 25.000 people from Cluj spent the night visiting the pharmacy and other museums of Cluj.
Take a Walk in Central Park
As you will get to notice, people from Cluj are calm and for sure they don’t like to rush and ran around. Follow their example and go for a walk in Central Park. Hey, you can even feed the ducks if it helps you relax. During summer, you can take hire a pedal boat from the jetty on the lake or just sit back and enjoy nature.
Don’t worry if you are visiting in winter, you can still walk the alleys and sit on a bench right in front of the Casino, only a marble fountain separates you from the building.
Experience Paranormal Activity in Hoia Baciu
Hoia Baciu forest is the perfect spot to unwind and relax. Or not? It is said that this beautiful forest is haunted since the beginning of time and people claim to have seen UFOs and experienced nausea, anxiety, and sickness symptoms.
The story began when a shepherd stepped into the forest with a flock with more than 200 sheep and never came out. The forest carries his name and since then, it is considered one of the most haunted forests in the world.
One of the weirdest things about it is that the trees grow in a clockwise spiral form, and none of the specialists that investigated this phenomenon can explain the reason.
Some say that this forest might be a portal to another world, but this won’t stop the young souls from celebrating the WoodTech festival in Hoia Baciu!
Spend an Afternoon at the Botanical Garden
You cannot overlook the Botanical Garden in Cluj Napoca. 10 000 different plant species live in one of the biggest public botanical gardens in Romania. Dull of breathtaking beauty, any nature enthusiast will love this place!
You can enjoy the Japanese Themed Garden with a classic pond with soft aesthetics and aromatic air or the Greenhouse where you’ll find huge palm trees and exotic plants.
One of the main attractions is a lotus from Amazon who grows to 1,5m in diameter and can hold as much weight child. After your walk in the garden, you can climb up the water tower to get a full look at the Botanical Garden and watch the sunset from there.
Quick tip! On some days, if you have a book with you, you can get in for free!
Get Inspired by the Panoramic Views of Cluj
Once upon a time, Cetatuia was a fortress, turned into a prison, and now is the most romantic place in Cluj.
You’ll first love will be Cluj, but most of everybody’s love stories in this city started with a date on Cetatuie. Here is where you can get the best panoramic view of Cluj, to see the rise of the airplanes at sunset, wait for the starlight sky, and admire the city lights in the evening.
This is the perfect spot to end the landmarks tour in Cluj-Napoca so you can get to the fun part.
Let’s have some fun, shall we? The 13th biggest festival in the world, Untold can host none less than 370,000 people from 110 different countries in only 4 days, this was the last festival’s record back in 2019.
As many say, it’s not just a festival, is a true experience. In Central Park, you will find out that there is so much stuff you can do between concerts and you won’t get the chance to get bored while waiting for the music to start.
You get to choose between VR experiences, getting inside a bubble, and even fire acrobats that will shock you with daring shows. If you want to experience a more traditional side to it, they even bring a Maramureseana House where you can enjoy traditional plates of food and attend yoga, ceramics, painting, and crochet classes. Crazy, right?
You can come bare face at the festival cause there are people here to transform you with make-up and hairstyle in a Festival Queen. Therefore, there is no need to worry about your style cause fashion designers have an outdoor shop for you to choose your next outfit.
In Candyland, you can go back to your dream childhood while savoring a triple flavored ice cream while riding an English Carrousel.
Are you waiting for the concert now? Many famous names have stepped on the stages of Untold, like Robbie William, Armin van Buuren, Steve Aoki, James Arthur, Martin Garix, Tov Lo, David Guetta.
How about the tickets? They sell as fast as hot bread! You can buy your pass online but the organization decided to give people more opportunities to attend the festival.
You can donate blood and you receive a 1-day pass, volunteering also sounds like an amazing option, right? One of the craziest things I ever witnessed in Cluj was going grocery shopping at Kaufland Market and getting a full-day ticket pass at Untold!
The funny thing is that it wasn’t announced so it caught me off guard while I was at the cashier and they told me to go and grab my ticket to Untold… and I have only bought a pack of gum!. In just 30 minutes, every Kaufland Market got full of people, and tickets sold out in 10 minutes. There is so much to say about this festival… but you better experience it for yourself!
Bar Crawling on Piezisa Street
Festival or not, Cluj is a vibrant city.
Piezisa street waits for students every autumn. It’s a relaxed and bohemian place, where young people feel happy and free, ready to live and have fun. In the beginning, it was just a normal street but due to its intense traffic, people started to open their business on the side of the street, and fast forward, the street was closed to vehicles.
Now, it’s a students’ paradise and from down and up to the hill, there are a lot of options to start your night with.
Cleo Pub is a bar with personality. It’s a place where you can spend your days and nights, having a coffee or a cheap beer, playing cards, or enjoying a shisha. You can even attend the Quiz Night held every Wednesday, the bar gets full of people ready to win the game!
Just a few meters up on Piezisa street is Booha Bar. One of the most famous bars in Cluj-Napoca and for all the right reasons. Here is the place where you need to come in time to get your spot and where they play the best music.
Prices are a bit higher than the normal rates on the street but it isn’t that important for people because it’s worth every penny. The music varies based on the events they organize, mostly Indie and Drum’s Bass.
If there is a place that knows how to throw a party, that’s Booha Bar. They started a new concept called Booha College Party and it extended all over the country.
Booha College Party brings all the good DJs and themes at every festival and once a month in different locations. Your tickets must be purchased when they announce the event cause otherwise, you may not get a spot at the most awaited events of Cluj!
Visit the Beer Factory
The Ursus Beer Factory first appears in the city records in the 18th century as the first beer factory opened in town. After 150 years of producing one of the best beer in Romania, it finally came to an end back in 2010.
Even though this brought sadness among locals, the restaurant is still open.
There you still can a cold beer and the house specialty “Rib Eye Stick”, a combination of grilled veal, served with creamy mushrooms, garlic bread, and buttercream with Chippolino.
Food for Every Taste!
Maybe you loved Cluj so much that you extended your stay here but the only thing you miss from home is your food! No problem, Cluj has it all!
If you came a long way from Tokyo, Tokyo Japanese Restaurant is the only 5 stars certified in town and of course, the chef is a Japanese Master Chef. The atmosphere in this place is a quiet and romantic one, the staff is very friendly and attentive to customer needs. Besides, dishes are presented in a delicate yet spectacular way.
India is already known for the tasteful and diverse dishes from the country, but the good thing is that you don’t need to go there just now to have a taste of Indian food! Indigo is one of the first Indian restaurants to be opened in 2010 in Cluj and it’s the only one to serve the famous Thali.
Experience Samsara Food House and Samsara Chilled Tea House
Why do I say experience? Well, let’s start with the first one. Samsara FoodHouse the biggest vegetarian and vegan restaurant in the country and you don’t even need to be vegetarian to have a bite! Samsara FoodHouse will make you believe that food can be delicious without meat too!
Samara Chilled TeaHouse is nearby and the place is actually located in a house! It is separated into 4 different rooms, each one having its own theme. As you walk in, you will feel like you are in your own home, thanks to their policy about removing your shoes.
You can choose between the rooms and one of the things that make it feel like a home is that you will be sitting on the ground on the mattresses and pillows. Sounds cozy, right?
The music is Ambiental and combined with the exotic tea and flavored shisha, you will just disconnect from your day-to-day worries.
See the Earth
LightsOnCluj is the festival of light and it started as a project for designers to expose their work, but it turned out to be one of the most creative and beautiful events in Cluj.
Every installation is placed in different places in the city and has the intention to catch the eyes of people and help the authorities with more ingenious lighting solutions.
One of the main attractions of 2019, was the Gaia installation of the British artist Luke Jeram.
It’s the layout of the Earth and its scale is 1.8 million if compared to our planet. Have you ever imagined seeing the earth as an astronaut? Here is your chance.
Explore Turda Salina
Located at 120 below the ground lever, Turda Salina was a salt mine back in1932 but now it has transformed into a full and eclectic experience for visitors.
It’s an underground museum but there is so much more you will discover here! There is an elevator that will take you down and to the amusement park with a Farris Wheel, a mini-golf course, pool tables, bowley alleys, and an amphitheater. There’s even an underground lake that you can explore on a paddleboard.
If you’re not sure whether you should visit or not, why not checking the premises and the unique atmosphere with an organized tour? We recommend this one, which will show you the best of Turda Salina in just a few hours.
Experience the Dungeons
The Dungeon is the first escape room in Cluj and it has been welcomed with enthusiasm by everyone!
When you visit, the staff will tell you everything you need to know to learn how everything works.
More or less, this is how it goes: you are locked in a basement and here is your chance to test your detective skills and the main goal is to find a key to get out. Easy peasy, right? But is it actually like that?
I guess there is only one way to find out!
As you can see, there’s a lot to do in Cluj Napoca, and it can be a great destination any time of the year you want to visit!
What to Pack for Romania
Don’t forget! Romania is a 4-season country, so before you are visiting, make sure you check up the weather! Luckily for you, Cluj is always hotter than other cities so don’t be scared if you forgot about this aspect.
We have a full Romania packing list, but in case you just want the quick version, here are a few essentials you shouldn’t forget to pack!
A good guidebook: While travel blogs are great, we still think a good guidebook is always handy. We own and recommend Lonely Planet Romania & Bulgaria for travel in Romania and beyond!
One or two swimsuits: If you’re staying in a resort with a sauna, indoor pool, or steam room — or just visiting Bucharest’s epic Therme spa — you’ll likely want one! We suggest bringing two so you never have to put a cold wet one back on. We love this one.
Moisturizer: Travel will beat your skin up in the best of times. If you’ve never used a moisturizer before, you really should start. You’ll be happy to give your face a boost before heading outside in the cold all day.
Sunscreen: We strongly suggest wearing sunscreen when you spend time outdoors, no matter the weather outside. I love this solid Neutrogena sunscreen – it’s mess-free, works well in carry-ons, is ultra-protective, and blends in well.
Romania Travel Resources
If you’re going to Romania, we have a goldmine of resources for you to take advantage of! First, check out this guide to planning a trip to Romania. It’s a good starting point for planning your trip.
You can also read about the best Romanian castles, the Romanian food you should try on your trip, the best Romanian souvenirs, and inspirational travel quotes about Romania. Plus, how to plan some epic day trips from Bucharest.
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance
I’m sure you’re aware that travel insurance is a good idea for traveling in Romania (or really, any part of the world)! Stephanie and I have both been paying customers of World Nomads for the last three years. We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption.
While the Balkans are perfectly safe to travel around, there’s always a risk inherent in everyday travel, so it’s better to play it safe. The saying goes “if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel” is true!