Discover Cluj: Transylvania’s Gateway
Transylvania’s unofficial capital is full of charm, culture and art. Cluj is one of Romania’s most visited cities and with its cool urban atmosphere it’s not hard to see why. From steampunk-themed cafés to haunted forests there are so many reasons to add Cluj to your travel itinerary. Discover this animated city during the Transylvania international Film Festival or Transylvania Jazz Festival to soak up the bohemian atmosphere.
Visiting for the first time?
Absorb its history: Stop by the city’s historic centre, Piaţa Unirii, a large square overlooked by a tall church tower. From there, wander to the well-curated Ethnographic Museum of Transylvania, where you can see the region’s past laid out in artefacts. The museum also has a good gift shop for souvenirs. The Romulus Vuia National Ethnographic Park features beautifully preserved buildings such as artisan houses and is a welcome retreat from the busy city.
Splash the Cash: Hosting two of the largest malls, Cluj is one of the best cities in Romania for shopping. Engage in some retail therapy by visiting lulius Mall where fun and dining are combined with premium shopping. For smaller shops, and sometimes a cheaper alternative, take a trip to Marasti Square.
Appreciate the art: Cluj has a vibrant art scene. Start with the National Art Museum, housed in a baroque palace and filled with 19th and 20th century Romanian art. Then venture to Fabrica de Pensule, a paintbrush factory turned contemporary art hub. Attend an event or book a free tour of the gallery-cum-studio.
Try Hungarian cuisine: With its long history as part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Cluj’s population is roughly twenty per cent Hungarian. Get a taste of Hungary at popular spots like Café Bulgakov or Tamas Bistro, where you can try classic dishes like stuffed cabbage rolls and sip on pálinka, a strong fruit brandy, if you dare!
Looking for something different?
Escape the city pace: It’s an odd place for one of the city’s most scenic spots, but Hajongard Cemetery is a peaceful green space with several outdoor sculptures. Fortress Hill is another romantic spot, known for its panoramic views of the city.
Rock out at a music festival: EDM fans shouldn’t miss Cluj’s three electronic music festivals held each year – old-standby Delahoya, with a focus on local DJs; the established Electric Castle, where big names perform in a magnificent castle; and massive newbie Untold, with musical giants like David Guetta, Tiësto and Avicii.
Relax with stunning views: The Central Park is a great choice if you want to escape the bustle of the city and have some amazing views, rent a rowboat and explore the small lake located in the middle of the park. Take a trip to the Botanical Gardens where you can admire many tropical plants, including huge Amazonian water lilies.
Go to the theatre: Housed in a faded but elegant 19th century building, Cluj’s National Theatre presents classical and contemporary theatre and opera. If you’ve got children in tow, visit Puck Puppet Theatre for inventive, highly visual shows.
Visit a haunted forest: Nicknamed Romania’s ‘Bermuda Triangle’ because of reported paranormal activity, Hoia Forest is not somewhere you’d want to get lost overnight. If you’re brave enough to enter, you can do paintballing and archery.
Catch a film: Cluj is mainly known for its music festivals, but it’s got great international film ones as well. Cinephiles can check out feature length films at Transilvania International Film Festival and short films at ClujShorts.
Chill in a café: With its large student population, Cluj is full of affordable, bohemian cafés. Try L’Atelier Café, where all the furniture is made of cardboard, the moody Casa Jazz or the hidden Yolka Bar, which serves the best coffee in town.
Want to go further?
Horror fans should visit Sighişoara, birthplace of vicious Vlad the Impaler who inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula. With a rich trade history, fairy tale cobblestone streets and a UNESCO-protected medieval citadel, it’s worth the two-and-a-half-hour drive.
Locals and tourists alike love the Apuseni Mountains, southwest of Cluj. Their unique geological formation means lots of caves and forested trails to explore. Expect to see foxes, wild goats and the occasional bear.
Want to know a secret?
Enigma Café is a kinetic steampunk-themed café in Cluj’s centre. The food doesn’t have a great reputation, but having a drink here is like being inside a mechanical machine – turning cogs, moving cranks and rotating wheels line the walls and ceiling. There’s even a robot riding a bicycle. Molotov Pub is situated in a medieval house with Bohemian decoration and specialises in the famous, personal, recipe of the ‘Molotov Cocktail’.
Fly directly to Cluj from Birmingham Airport with Blue air, operating thrice weekly service.