A holiday to Transylvania could be incomplete if you don’t visit Cluj-Napoca. Even if you stay briefly in the largest city in Transylvania, you may want to know what are the most visited tourist attractions in Cluj Napoca.
How to get to Cluj Napoca:
Cluj Napoca airport is not a big one, but it has several international flights. If you are lucky, you can find one directly from your city. The other option to get to Cluj Napoca by plane is to land in Bucharest, the capital of Romania, and book a flight from there. You will find daily flights to take you here.
Usually, international travellers land in Bucharest and come by car from there to Cluj Napoca. It is a long ride, but you can stop on the way and visit other places in Transylvania until you arrive in Cluj Napoca. Another option is to come from Budapest, Hungary.
Once you arrive in Cluj Napoca, you will find here a modern, youthful city, with a bohemian vibe and certain arrogance. Locals know that prices are higher than in Bucharest, the restaurants more varied, and wages similar. It has a Western European feel with its imposing cathedrals and its cobblestone streets, more than once reminding of Vienna.
If you spend one day in Cluj or several, here is a list of attractions and places to see in Cluj Napoca:
Saint Michael’s Church
Saint Michael’s Church is erected in the Union Square of Cluj Napoca and has gothic architecture. Its construction began in 1316 on the site of an old cemetery and was completed in 1487, being built in two stages. The current clock tower, the tallest church tower in Romania, was supposed to have a twin structure, but the second tower was never built.
This edifice has been used by many religious communities, but nowadays it’s Catholic. The church organ is the original one from 1753, but it has been restored numerous times. The baptism of Matei Corvin was celebrated here.
Even on a short visit to Cluj, it’s difficult to miss the most symbolic cathedral of the city. It’s not only imposing due to its size but also thanks to the large square that highlights it. The statue that guards it against one side represents Matei Corvin and his four generals.
If you go inside the Saint Michael’s Cathedral, its cool and dark interior will take you by surprise, especially during hot, summer days.
Thing to see in Cluj Napoca: Matei Corvin’s House
One of the best-known tourist attractions in Cluj and also the oldest, since people coming here, would want to visit it from as early as the 18th century; the Matia House is known to be the birthplace of Matei Corvin or Matthias in Hungarian. Matthias Corvinus, also called Matthias I was King of Hungary and Croatia from 1458 to 1490.
From Central Square, as you go towards Museum Square, it’s impossible to miss it: a large, white building, with an immense, old gate, and with a commemorative plaque at its entrance.
Over the years, it has been used as an inn, a hospital, a prison, and a school. Nowadays, it belongs to the Art and Design University and although it’s so well known, it is not open to the public with the exception of the main hallway that can be visited.
Museum Square with the Franciscan Church
The most bohemian place in the city, the Museum Square of Cluj Napoca is full of various terraces, with colourful décor. Covered in cobblestones, Museum Square is the oldest square in the city, also known as Small Square (Piata Mica). Its name comes from the Museum of Transylvania which can be found on one side of it.
The Franciscan Church is located across from the museum. Built-in the 13th century, the church is one of the oldest in the city. Its interior is bright and intensely coloured, but unfortunately, as you enter you will see the signs of time over it.
The Carolina Obelisk stands in the middle of the square and is dedicated to Empress Carolina Augusta who visited Cluj in 1817 and made considerable donations to the city. You cannot visit Cluj Napoca and not walk through Museum Square. You will enjoy here the relaxed atmosphere and a sense of youthfulness.
Visit Cluj Napoca: the Mirror Street
From Central Square, going towards Avram Iancu Square, you will walk along a famous street in Cluj, Iuliu Maniu Street, also known as “Mirror Street”. Its name comes from a few twin buildings erected on either side of the street as if they were in a mirror.
If you don’t pay attention to the details, it’s easy to walk by without noticing the similarity of the buildings, but the best place to view them from is Central Square at one end of Iuliu Maniu Street.
Instagrammable places in Cluj Napoca: The Central Park of Cluj and the Casino
Another important attraction to see in Cluj-Napoca is Simion Barnutiu Central Park. You will be attracted here by the tranquillity of the park, the lake with its pavilion or the white casino building.
The park’s history goes back more than 180 years and for a long time, the lake was used for ice skating, even having a skating pavilion built on the island (now the Chiosc restaurant). Nowadays you can enjoy a tour of the lake by rowboat or paddleboat.
The Central park of Cluj is the place that hosts every day the most important festival in Cluj: Untold.
The casino built at the end of the 19th century was badly degraded. It was renovated with European funds and was reopened to the public a few years ago, now a centre for events and cultural activities.
Cluj Napoca sightseeing: the Elisabeth Bridge
Not having any real reason to go to this part of town, you can find the Elisabeth Bridge only by accident. During a stroll through the central park, go to check the water of the Somes River. Crossing the river you will find a secret gem in Cluj Napoca: the Elisabeth Bridge.
You will see the hundreds of locks hanging from the bridge’s rails, knowing the emotions felt as each lock would have been placed there with trembling hands which then would have proceeded to throw the key into the river below, swearing eternal love.
The Elisabeth Bridge in Cluj is the oldest functioning bridge over the Somes River and is named after Princess Sissi of Austria. It has become a spot for romantic rendezvous with the help of the city hall, which in 2011 put up hearts at each end of the bridge for lovers to hang their locks on.
This type of bridge of locks that tied couples’ hearts together can be found in other European cities, and the tradition had made its way here, so for lovers, this spot is definitely a must-see in Cluj.
Avram Iancu Square and the Orthodox Cathedral
Another imposing square in the busy city is Avram Iancu Square, known as the home of the Orthodox Cathedral, built-in 1920 after the unification of Transylvania with Romania.
Avram Iancu Square got its name in ’93, having previously been named after a Soviet marshal, a prince of Transylvania, Cuza Voda, and even after Hilter during the Second World War.
If you make it here you will see the statue of Avram Iancu and the fountain in the centre. The scene is nicer after dusk.
Hidden gems in Cluj Napoca – the Mill Canal
Another place to visit in Cluj is Andrei Saguna Street. A little bit of Venice, a little bit of old-time Bucharest, a little bit of modern Cluj, Andrei Saguna Street has it all! The Mill Canal, with its bridges that take you directly into the surrounding buildings, will remind you of Venice.
The cobblestones and the old signboards of some stores seem to be brought here from interwar Bucharest. But you will also find a few places that will bring you back to reality and show you where you really are: modern Cluj.
A coffee shop, a second-hand store, and even a sex shop are squeezed in between the older stores.
Cetatuia Park of Cluj Napoca
And if you would like to see Cluj Napoca from above, you must go to Cetatuia Park (Citadel Park). Its name comes from the old fortification that was built here in the 18th century with the role of protecting the city after Transylvania came under Austrian rule. There are only a few ruins left from the old fortress, but Belvedere Hotel was built on this hill, along with a Cross erected to honour the martyrs of the 1848 revolution.
You can admire the view during the day, but the best one is by night when the sight will leave you speechless.
The Botanical Garden of Cluj
The best time of the year to visit the Botanical Garden of Cluj is during Spring so you can see the Japanese Garden with its red pavilions and cherry blossoms. The greenhouses are lush year-round.
If you spend more than a day in the city, there are other things to do in Cluj Napoca. A multitude of museums, restaurants, and other attractions will make you enjoy your time here.
For art lovers there is the Paintbrush Factory (Fabrica de pensule), a space for contemporary art that hosts art exhibits, artists’ workshops, and various cultural events. This centre was established in a former paintbrush factory, hence its name.
For those who want to discover Romanian traditions, Cluj Napoca has Romulus Vuia Park to offer, the first outdoor museum ever to be opened in Romania. The park is a museum of the Romanian village and showcases households from various areas of Transylvania.
Hoia Baciu haunted forest
Meanwhile, for lovers of the paranormal, Cluj hides the Hoia Baciu haunted forest. Found on all international lists of the most haunted places, the Hoia Baciu forest is recognized as a place where all sorts of paranormal activities take place: ghosts, weird apparitions, trees in unusual shapes, and otherworldly occurrences have all been reported here. If you want to experience this, just go and visit the forest. You don’t need to wait for the evening!
Is Cluj Napoca worth visiting?
Being the most modern city in Romania (read also what are the most beautiful cities in Romania), Cluj Napoca is definitely a place worth visiting.
Reasons to travel to Cluj Napoca would be its museums and interesting attractions to see, but also the natural places and some unusual ones that will make you remember your trip here. Also, if you are a gourmand, you can find in Cluj Napoca some of the best restaurants in Romania.
There are also nice places to visit near Cluj Napoca, like Bontida castle.
I don’t think one day in Cluj Napoca is enough to get to know it well because it is a fascinating city! If you just want to check the main attractions in Cluj Napoca off your list, a day is enough. But don’t forget that you are in Transylvania and here, life happens at a slower pace, and Cluj is laid-back, so take your time. After all, what’s the hurry?
Does Cluj Napoca seem interesting to you?