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!
Hostel prices – You can find dorm rooms with 6-8 beds for about 60 RON per night and private rooms for around 140-170 RON. Hostels typically offer free linens, free towels, free WiFi, and many offer free breakfast.
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!
- Go on 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.
Top Things to See and Do in Cluj-Napoca
- Wander the Alexandru Borza Botanic Gardens – This garden is covered in beautifully-manicured, shaded lawns. It is host to an amazing Japanese garden, as well as a rose garden that features over 600 different varieties and an observation tower. Admission costs 10 RON and it’s open from 8am-8pm in the summer and 9am-6pm in the winter.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- See St. Micael’s Church – This 14th-century building is considered the finest example of Gothic architecture in Romania. The church itself is huge and dominates Piata Unirii. There is also a neo-Gothic tower, which tops the Gothic hall.
- 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.
- Visit the Synagogue of Deportees – One of three remaining synagogues in Cluj, this grand Moorish-style building was built is 1987. It was erected in the memory of the 16,700 Jews that were deported to Auschwitz, from Cluj, in 1944. This is a wonderful historical site to check out.
- Tour the National Art Museum – Housed inside of the baroque Banffy Palace, this museum has about 24 rooms through which to walk. One of the prized exhibits is a church altar from the 16th century. Admission is 8 RON and it’s open Wednesday-Sunday from 10am-5pm.
- 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.
- 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.
- Walk through Union Square – Union Square, known as Piata Unirii in Romanian, serves as a great example of the wide range of architectural styles in the town. Here, you can find buildings in the Gothic, renaissance, neoclassical, and baroque styles. The square contains Banffy Palace, St. Michael’s Church, the Pharmacy Museum and Hotel Continental. The latter served as the local Nazi headquarters during the war.
- 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.
- 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.