Cluj-Napoca is known as the unofficial capital of Transylvania mostly because is one of the biggest cities from the region and it also hosts many minorities and cultures. It would be unfair to say that this is the most beautiful town in Transylvania, but it sure is the most iconic one. Let’s have a look at the top 10 best things to on a vacation in Cluj-Napoca.
1. Take a walk in the Botanical Garden
The last time I visited the Botanical Garden of Cluj-Napoca was over ten years ago, but I still remember how amazed I was at all the plants that I was able to see there. These plants made me realize how diverse the flora of this world can be. And that sentiment came from a simple botanical garden in Romania.
The garden is spread over 14 acres (5.6 hectares) in five big sectors of plants. Over 10,000 species from all over the world can be found in the following sectors: ornamental, geobotanical, systematic, economic, and medicinal.
The Botanical Garden of Cluj-Napoca
Address: Strada Republicii 42, Cluj-Napoca 400015
Price: from 10 RON (2.3 USD) for adults, 5 RON (1.16 USD) for children
Opening Hours: Mon to Sun 8:00 am to 8:00 pm
Duration: around 1.5 hours on average.
Access: 11 min walk from Memorandului Bus Station
Contact: +40 264 592 152
2. Look at the stars through the Astronomical Observatory
At the edge of the botanical garden, lies the astronomical observatory of the Babeş-Bolyai University of Cluj-Napoca. Although it is a working observatory, this place is open to the public, and tourists can take a look.
You can’t watch stars with so many lights in the city, but still, you can observe the most significant meteor showers, the phases of the moon, eclipses, and other annual events in the sky.
The Astronomical Observatory
Address: Strada Cireșilor 19, Cluj-Napoca 400487
Price: from 5 RON (1.16 USD)
Opening Hours: Fri 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Access: 7 min walk from Spital Recuperare I Bus Station
Contact: +40 264 594 592
3. Visit Unirii Square
The Unirii Square was always the center of Cluj-Napoca city, although it had several names in the past such as King Matia Square or the Grand Square.
In the square, you will find more places to visit such as Saint Michael Church, the Statue of Matia Corvin, the Art Museum, the Old Town Hall, and the National Bank.
4. Visit one of the oldest Gothic churches in Romania
St. Michael Church is one of the most representative Gothic buildings in Transylvania, and at 70 m (230 ft) tall, it the fifth tallest religious building in Romania, after churches from Brasov, Alba-Iulia, Sibiu, and Oradea. The building of this church lasted for more than two centuries and was finished under the reign of Sigismund of Luxembourg of the Holy Roman Empire.
Near Unirii Square, you can take half an hour to view all the architectural elements of this church and its decorations that have lasted for centuries.
St. Michael Gothic Church
Address: Piața Unirii, Cluj-Napoca 400015
Access: 3 min walk from the Memorandumului Bus Station
Contact: +40 264 592 089
5. Take a walk in the Central Park of Cluj
The most significant green space from Cluj-Napoca has a history of over 180 years when an organization decided to close the area to construct a recreational park. Here you can visit an old casino, the park’s lake, a fountain, the statues of famous Romanian writers, restaurants, and of course, its main paths.
The Central Park of Cluj-Napoca
Opening Hours: 24 h
Duration: 1 h on average.
Access: 6 min walk from “Spitalul de Copii” Bus Station
6. Walk around Museum Square and its nearby streets
The Museum Square is one of the few streets from Cluj-Napoca’s Old Town where cars aren’t allowed, and you can enjoy a peaceful walk or a drink at one of the coffee shops in this area. Even if the name suggests that it is a museum, the cafes and the boutique shops of this square get more visitors than the History Museum.
7. Visit the National Theatre and the Romanian Opera
Both the National Theatre and the Romanian Opera have their primary place in this building, which was designed by two architects from the 20th century. If the architecture of the exterior amazed you, wait till you see the interior with your own eyes. A theater play here will bring you back to the bohemian times from the beginning of 20th century.
The National Theatre
Address: Piața Ștefan cel Mare 2-4, Cluj-Napoca 400192
Opening Hours: open only during performances
Access: 1 min walk from Opera Bus Station
Contact: +40 264 590 272
Website: National Theatre
8. Have fun at famous Transylvanian festivals: Untold and Electric Castle
These two festival have made the Cluj County even more crowded than it was by gathering the most passionate music fans from all over the country and even from abroad. Every year some famous DJs and bands come here to the delight of many young visitors. If you’re not into these festivals and you want to visit Cluj-Napoca in the same period of the year, you better book your stay sooner because the city is always fully booked during these festivals.
9. Take a day to visit the Ethnographic Park
Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing
The old village of Transylvania is always a great attraction for tourists that come here every year. The traditional rural regions start to modernize, and the customs tend to disappear. That’s why many ethnographic parks started to rise in the most visited cities in Romania, to preserve the heritage of the traditional village.
You’ll need a full day to visit the entire Ethnographic Park of Cluj-Napoca, but it might be worth it if you like to learn more about the traditional parts of a country. In the 70 acres (28.3 hectares) of the park, you may find 13 households with over 90 buildings specific to the regions of the Apuseni Mountains, Nasaud, Bistrita, Transylvania’s Plain, Maramures, Szekler region, and many other minor regions from Transylvania.
Romulus Vuia Ethnographic Park
Address: Aleea Muzeului Etnografic, Cluj-Napoca
Price: from 6 RON (1.4 USD)
Opening Hours: Mon to Fri 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
Access: 2 min walk from the Tetarom Bus Station
Contact: +40 371 113 733
Website: Ethnographic Park
10. If you love history, you should visit the National Museum of Transylvanian History
If you had a great coffee (check #6) and you’re a fan of history, you might want to check out the National Museum of Transylvanian History. This museum holds over 24,000 archeological objects from domains such as botany, zoology, and mineralogy.
The objects were gathered here for over 140 years under the lead of the University of Cluj. After you walk by the first displays, you may realize that you can’t get enough of these exhibits and the history behind them.
The National Museum of Transylvanian History
Address: Strada Constantin Daicoviciu 2, Cluj-Napoca
Price: from 3 RON (0.7 USD) for access and 25 RON (5.8 USD) for photography
Opening Hours: Tue to Sun 10:00 am to 4:00 pm | Monday closed
Duration: around 2.5 hours required.
Access: 3 min walk from “Opera Maghiara Est” Bus Station
Contact: +04 264 595 677
Fulfill your passions
After a walk through all ten of these attractions, we can all agree that Cluj-Napoca is a place to visit for every person passionate about nature, customs, architecture, astronomy, history, or even festivals. It might not be the best city in Transylvania, but it is one of the greatest.
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