Home Romania Don’t Miss These Places Sightseeing in Cluj-Napoca, Romania

Don’t Miss These Places Sightseeing in Cluj-Napoca, Romania

by David
Sights to See in Cluj-Napoca

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Given the many cities I travelled to in Romania, it’s a little surprising that the city of Cluj-Napoca was perhaps my favourite big city stop. Found in the country’s northwest, it is considered the unofficial capital of Transylvania and is one of the more popular tourist destinations in the country.

The most likely focus of a visit to the city will be around its central Old Town, made up of several pedestrian streets and squares that have a welcoming atmosphere to them. As it happened, the city was having a massive festival going on during my visit and that only added to its upbeat, positive atmosphere. I never got a clear answer on what the festival was for, but it was good fun regardless. Anyway, here is my list of 11 sights to see in Cluj-Napoca.

 

1. Cluj-Napoca Central Park

Central Park Cluj-Napoca

It may seem kind of lame to start with a park, but I honestly really liked this park and always got the sense that Romanians really value these green spaces. That’s partly because they are never empty, there are always people sitting chatting or getting some exercise and just a general community feel.

The park runs along the river and stretches out towards a small lake that is a very popular spot for wedding receptions and photo shoots.

 

2. Morii Canal

Just over the road from the park towards Old Town was this cute little canal. Morii Canal may seem like a small spot, but it’s a nice little canal that flows through the old town and was a nice, unexpected find.

You can find the canal again further to the east on Andrei Șaguna Street, where things have a little less polish and you get a more realistic, balanced look at Cluj’s development and progress over the recent years.

 

3. St. Michael’s Church

Sightseeing Cluj-Napoca

Quite likely the major landmark of Cluj-Napoca, St Michael’s Church is quite an impressive church in particular for its style and shape. You don’t often see the church spire coming from the centre of the church like this and its roof was exactly what I thought of when I heard the word “Transylvania”.

Before the church is the dignified statue of Matthias Corvinus, a medieval king of Hungary who was born in the city of Cluj in 1443. The name will no doubt ring a bell if you’ve thought about visiting Corvin Castle at all.

Corvin Statue

 

4. Piața Unirii

Banffy Palace

Cluj-Napoca is home to some beautiful buildings from a range of architectural periods, but for Baroque architecture, the central Unirii Square is the place to be.

From this square, you can see spy some graceful buildings like the Banffy Palace opposite the church. There are also the twin buildings on either side of Iuliu Maniu Street that represent the equally common eclectic style from the 19th century. It’s also the place to be when a festival is happening in town, with a free concert on while I was there.

 

5. Piața Muzeului

Piața Muzeului

This small square secluded within the streets of the Old Town is probably one of the prettiest spots in the city. Surrounded by an elegant church and plenty of restored buildings, plus full of outdoor seating for restaurants, Piața Muzeului is definitely a nice place to stop for a break while out exploring.

 

6. Old Town Streets

Working your way into the minor streets of the Old Town can help you escape the bustle of the modern city that surrounds it. Unlike many European old towns, you can still find plenty of buildings that have seen better days.

I found the atmosphere tends to fluctuate from quiet and peaceful before and after lunch to lively and social at lunch and in the evenings. As Cluj-Napoca has quite a large student population it can be a lot of fun in the Old Town with its many laid-back bars.

Old Town Street Cluj-Napoca

 

7. Old Fortifications

Walking around Cluj-Napoca, you don’t really find many too many spots that truly indicate its long history and that’s because they’re often tucked away or further out.

This definitely goes for the remains of the City Walls that are hidden in the pedestrian part of Strada Potaissa in a corner of the Old Town. There’s also the nearby Tailors’ Tower, with its rather wonky, abstract shape that now hosts a small museum I believe.

Places to Visit in Cluj-Napoca Romania

 

8. Cluj-Napoca National Theatre

One of the more beautiful buildings to admire in the city of Cluj-Napoca has to be the city’s National Theatre. It certainly has the style and colour scheme you often associate with Eastern European architecture and is surrounded on either side by some pleasant squares. The Courthouses over the road are also worth a look.

 

9. Dormition of the Theotokos Cathedral

Orthodox Cathedral Cluj-Napoca

Wholly different to St Michael’s Church is the Orthodox Dormition of the Theotokos Cathedral. This Byzantine-style cathedral built in the early 20th century, almost looks like a fortress with its imposing shape. Inside, you can see some gorgeous gilded murals and other fine craftsmanship. This is one church to go into – for free mind you.

 

10. Piața Mihai Viteazu

Piața Mihai Viteazu. Cluj Napoca Romania

There hasn’t been much in the way of Communist architecture up to this point, but that all changes around Piața Mihai Viteazu. This square sits in front of a rather unattractive building that harkens back to the socialist period.

The square itself is quite nice, with a small war memorial and a statue of Mihai Viteazu, a Romanian national hero who effectively ruled Transylvania during the 16th century. It’s an interesting monument that I really liked.

Mihai Viteazu, Things to Do in Cluj-Napoca Romania

 

11. Cetatuia Park

Viewpoint Cluj-Napoca Romania

Fittingly left to last because it makes for such a wonderful spot to watch the sunset, is the hilltop viewpoint of Cetatuia Park, where the old city fortress once lay.

While you can explore the park and the occasional ruins from the old fortress, its big selling point is the great views you get and it’s unsurprisingly a popular spot with both local students and families alike. Just be prepared for plenty of steps to get up there.

 

Travel Tips for Visiting Cluj Napoca

Cluj-Napoca View

Besides all the things to do in Cluj Napoca, one thing that surprised and impressed me was the city’s restaurants and cafe culture. Even during a short stay in the city, I came across some terrific places to eat in Cluj. Not all of them are still open in 2023, but some are.

I really do recommend the coffee at Bujole, as they do good coffee at a reasonable price, with even long blacks and flat whites on the menu. As for food, I quite liked the casual dining at Le Petit Paris, a bistro in the city centre. The pork neck was delicious and their selection of lemonades made for a nice change from beer.

As for the logistics of visiting Cluj Napoca, you should find it quite straightforward. The city has great bus connections to the northwest of Romania, including Oradea and Maramures, as well as down to Deva for Corvin Castle. Then there are the trains from Bucharest, which are slow but frequent.

As for where to stay in Cluj Napoca, you have options. I stayed out in the Gruia District, which was nice and relaxed, and not a long walk from the city centre. But the majority of accommodation in Cluj Napoca is indeed in the city centre, which makes sense.

 


Have you visited Cluj-Napoca before? If so, where else would you add to this list? If not, which of the above would be your first stop? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.


This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.

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16 comments

Sarah March 15, 2017 - 11:25 am

I love the mix of old and new architecture 🙂

Reply
California Globetrotter March 15, 2017 - 9:18 am

Looks like an interesting town! So much different architectural styles! I especially like the look of the markets along the Old Fortifications. It really feels quite Medieval! #WanderfulWednesday

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Wherejogoes March 15, 2017 - 10:15 am

A lot to see in this town and such a variety. Thanks for sharing with WanderfulWednesdays

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Ladies What Travel (@LadiesWTravel) March 15, 2017 - 10:32 am

What amazing architecture! I think St Michael’s Church is the most beautiful though, looks a wonderful area to explore. #WanderfulWednesday

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Amy @ Amy and the Great World March 15, 2017 - 3:12 pm

I’ve heard good things about Cluj! 🙂 Didn’t make it there, we were centered in Brasov, but it’s not too far from Budapest so I’ll have to go!

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Tanja March 15, 2017 - 4:10 pm

I didn’t know it was this pretty:) #wanderfulwednesday

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vanbrune March 15, 2017 - 4:34 pm

Okay I can’t pronounce any of these names, let alone remember them but they all look incredibly charming! I absolutely love old towns with market squares and little alleyways though so the Piata would be where you could find me first!

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RobRob @TravelLatte(.net) March 15, 2017 - 6:28 pm

Glad you included a post on the town! Looks very appealing, and I can see why the focus is on the Old Town – very charming! It definitely looks like the sort of area we’d enjoy exploring. The more we see and learn of Eastern European countries, the more intrigued we become and the more we feel drawn to the area. Thanks for showing us around!

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Ruth March 16, 2017 - 4:52 am

I am glad your shared your recommendations for this city since I barely know anything about it. I think people who visit Transylvania do not necessarily stop in here. Big city stops are sometimes needed! #WednesdayWanderlust

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Cynthia March 17, 2017 - 3:12 pm

I’d love to go to Romania sometime! When I do, I’ll be back for more tips 😉

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Photo(Geo)grapher March 17, 2017 - 6:20 pm

This year I will be in Romania, in the area of Sibiu and Sighisoara. I think I need to visit a Cluj-Napoca too. It looks very beautiful city in your photos.

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Rhonda Albom March 18, 2017 - 10:29 am

I have not yet been to Romania but it is on my list. I like that there is still plenty of legacy buildings and architecture left after the communist rule. Old and “seen better days” may mean that the town has not been gentrified and turned into a tourist mecca – that’s my kind of place to visit.

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Jim ~ Reflections Enroute March 19, 2017 - 10:06 am

I’m so glad you posted this article David. Cluj-Napoca is one of the destinations available to us on Wizz Air for a ridiculously cheap fare. Now . know there is plenty to do we’ll make this a weekend trip in the future. Thanks for linking up, see you next weekend! #wkendtravelinspiration

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Paula McInerney March 23, 2017 - 7:08 am

I love how European people appreciate concerts and attend them. Cluj-Napoca looks a lovely place to visit.

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tony logan November 24, 2017 - 7:35 am

I really like Cluj Napoca too and spent 5 days there about 2 years ago in Fall. The people are very friendly and it is very walkable to most places of interest. Check it out!

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NapocaRent October 31, 2023 - 1:38 am

Hi David!
Around Cluj there is a lot of places to Visit, next time you visit Romania contact us for a free car rental to visit Salina Turda, Baisoara and other places close to Cluj easy to drive to 🙂

Reply

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