Cluj-Napoca (Cluj for short) is very pleasant university town located in Romania’s northeast and a big stopping point for people coming west from Hungary. The city dates back centuries, and there are a lot of historical churches, museums, and ruins (especially on Cetatuia Hill) to visit. Because of the university here, there are a lot of affordable restaurants and a very happening nightlife in the city. I really liked the few days I spent here and, while not as historic and medieval as many of Romania’s other cities if you’re looking for a city with a Romanian atmosphere, this place is it!
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Cluj-Napoca
1. Alexandru Borza Botanic Gardens
2. Walk through Union Square
3. See St. Micael’s Church
4. Tour the National Art Museum
5. Visit the Synagogue of Deportees
Other Things to See and Do
(Click the title to expand the text)
1. Explore the Museum of Zoology
This museum features hundreds of jarred and stuffed animal specimens, all displayed in an interesting array of exhibits. This is definitely one of the more fascinating museums out there. Not for the faint of heart. Admission costs 5 RON and it’s open daily (except Mondays) at 10am and closes at 4pm Tuesday-Friday and 2pm on Saturday and Sunday.
2. Revel in the nightlife
Cluj is a town full of youthful, college types, which means there are plenty of places to go at night for a good time. The weekends are pretty lively, as the drinks flow freely and the resident DJs spin late into the night.
3. Check out the pharmaceutical museum
The building used to be the home of Cluj’s first (and Romania’s fourth) apothecary. There are tons of interesting bottles, filled with weird things like 18th-century aphrodisiacs and ground mummy dust. The museum only has three rooms. Admission is 6 RON and it’s open weekdays 10am-4pm except on Thursdays when it’s open 12pm-6pm.
4. Catch an opera
Opera is pretty popular throughout Romania. There are several places in Cluj where you can catch a show. The Hungarian State Theatre & Opera is close to the river and hosts Hungarian plays and operas. Tickets must be purchased in advance. The National Theatre Lucain Blaga is another place to see a performance.
5. Shop at the central market
Located behind the Complex Commercial Mihai Viteazul shopping center, this is cool market is a fun place to walk around. Many local pick up fresh produce here and you can find a wide variety of foods if you feel like cooking up your own meal.
6. Climb Cetatuia Hill
Also known as fortress hill, this spot offers some fantastic views of the city. The name refers to an 18th-century fortress that was constructed at the peak of the hill and was also used as a prison. The climb is 200 ft.
7. Admire the Calvinist Reform Church
This beautiful late Gothic-style church was constructed in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. The church is situated on Kogalniceanu Street. In front, lies a statue of St. George slaying the dragon.
8. Visit the Ethnographic Museum
This museum aims to preserve the culture and history of the region. It’s a small but interesting place and will give you some good insight into typical rural life in the area. Admission is 6 RON and it’s open 10am-6pm Wednesday-Sunday.
9. Explore Hoia Forest
Located near the Ethnographic museum is this forest that has a history of paranormal activity. From ghost sightings to UFOs, this forest is known for its otherworldly connection. Take a stroll through the woods during the day for free or try taking a night tour – if you’re brave enough! Night tours cost 60-170 RON per person.
10. See the Salt Mine
About 40 minutes outside the city is Salina Turda, a giant salt mine that is now a tourist attraction. You can explore the old tunnels, rent a boat to row around the water at the bottom, and even play games like table tennis and mini golf, making it a good place to take the kids. Be sure to get the audio guide if you want to make the most of your trip! Admission is 30 RON and the bus to get there is 7 RON.
This is my favorite hostel in the city. It has a community feeling with a cozy garden, two common rooms, free breakfast, free traditional Romania alcohol in the evening, and nightly events run by the staff.
Budget hotel prices – A room in a budget hotel starts at 125 RON per night. A hotel in this price range typically offers a private bathroom, a TV, and free WiFi. On Airbnb, you can find a shared room starting around 40 RON and an entire home starting around 95 RON.
Average cost of food – Like the rest of Romania, food in the city is very affordable. Most small meals cost around 20 RON. Fancier meals with a drink can cost around 60 RON. A half liter bottle of beer will cost under 8 RON. Soup is a good option for saving money, as it costs around 6-10 RON and is pretty hearty in Romania. If you cook your meals, expect to pay about 180 RIO per week for groceries that will include pasta, vegetables, chicken, and other basic foods. Save money by shopping at discount supermarkets like Profi, Lidl, and Penny Market.
Transportation costs – Public transport in the city is possible by bus, trolley bus, or tram. Tickets are 2 RON. Taxis are relatively more expensive than in other parts of Romania. Taxis start at 2.25 RON, and increase by the same rate every kilometer. Typically you won’t pay more than 12 RON for a travel between the city center and some point in the suburbs. UberX is available in Cluj too.
Suggested daily budget
130 -175 RON / $30-40 USD (Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating out more local places , cooking some meals, and using local transportation. Using the budget tips below, you can always lower this number.)
Money Saving Tips
- Couchsurf – If you’re looking for a local host, check out Couchsurfing. You’ll get a free place to stay and a local to show you around! It’s a great way to make friends!
- Do a free walking tour – This is a great way to learn the history behind the places you are seeing and to avoid missing any must-see stops. Cluj Guided Tours offer free guided tours every day starting at 6pm (with reservations needed in the winter months).
- Eat lunch out – Although food in Romania is inexpensive in general, you can save more money by cooking your own dinners and eating your lunches out. A lunch menu in Romania typically consists of three courses (soup, main, dessert), and can cost as little as 20-30 RON.
- Shop at discount grocers – If you’re going to cook or even are just grabbing a snack, save money by shopping at discount supermarkets like Profi, Lidl, and Penny Market.
- Save money on rideshares – Uber is way cheaper than taxis and are the best way to get around a city if you don’t want to wait for a bus or pay for a taxi. The Uber Pool option is where can you share a ride to get even better savings (though you can get your own car too). You can save $15 off your first Uber ride with this code: jlx6v.
My Must Have Guides For Traveling to Cluj-Napoca
This book shows you how to take money out of the travel equation and and master the points and miles game. It will show you how to easily collect and redeem travel points for free airfare and accommodation so you can get you out of your house faster, cheaper, and in comfort.
Kristin Addis writes the solo female travel column for this website and her detailed guide addresses all the concerns women have about traveling and gives the specific advice and tips you need to conquer the world and stay safe.
This book will teach you everything you need to know about landing your dream job and features interviews with dozens of teachers, recruiters, detailed information on the top teaching destinations, sample resumes, advice on nailing your interview, and much more.
My New York Times best-selling paperback guide to world travel will teach how to master the art of travel so that, no matter how long you want to travel for, you’ll save money, get off the beaten path, and have a more local, richer travel experience.