Cluj-Napoca Tourist Guide

Alive, multi-religious, rich in objectives

About Cluj-Napoca

Let’s get this straight first. Cluj or Cluj-Napoca? Cluj is the county whose residence is the city of Cluj-Napoca. For ease of use and because it is usual, I will use the term Cluj, although I will refer exclusively to the municipality of Cluj-Napoca, located at 400 m above sea level, on the Somesului Mic Valley. The Hungarian name is Kolozsvar and the German Klausenburg. Cluj is also known as the “Heart of Transylvania” or the “Treasure City”. Cluj has about 400,000 inhabitants and is one of Romania’s largest cities.

Past and present

  • The beginnings of life on these lands take us to the time of the Dacian and Celtic tribes. The settlement was then conquered by the Romans, becoming from Napuca Napoca the capital of the province of Dacia Porolissensis.
  • Cluj is attested in 1213.
  • The next conquerors of these lands were the Hungarians, when the city became the capital of the Principality of Transylvania.
  • Cluj “arrives” in Romania with the annexation of Transylvania in 1918.
  • Today’s Cluj, administered since 2012 by Mayor Emil Boc, is probably the second city in the country in terms of purchasing power, thanks to the investments made by important companies in the city, but also in the county.

Cluj is, and this is very evident, a university city that attracts students from many countries. Cluj is alive, it is “alive”, it is young, it is multi-religious, multicultural and very open minded.

Cluj has a very good image thanks to its professional promotion on many channels, which has attracted tourists from all over, in the city you can hear Hungarian, German, English, French, Portuguese and other languages everywhere. The infrastructure is good and being modernized (the metro will be built), there are lanes for urban transport, for cyclists, pedestrian areas, parks, lots of greenery, historic buildings, many terraces, many cultural and musical events, cleanliness, safety and light on the streets. I liked it. Now the marketing image of the city is beyond reality, in my opinion, but it is undeniably a city with open minded people, with many foreigners and young people, a place with a strong “Western Europe” influence.
I would love to be chosen as the European Capital of Culture and I think it would fully deserve it. No offense, but it is so obvious the difference between south and west, I recognize it even though I was born and lived in Bucharest.

Route Map

(click on objectives for extended version)

1. Tourist Info Center

For a tour of the city stop first at the Tourist Information Centre, 6-8 Eroilor Boulevard. Here I found what I would like to find in all tourist info sisters, i.e. lots of information, maps, explanations and welcoming people eager to help you. I filled myself with free documentation, which really helped me to go through the route I propose. Come with me!

Tourist Info Center

2. Unirii Square

300 m. We turn back on Eroilor Boulevard in the opposite direction to the one-way traffic and in two times and three movements we are in the most visited and hectic point of the city – Unirii Square, in the SE corner of the square. In the centre of the square, paved with cubic stone and accessible only by foot, stands the Roman Catholic Church “Saint Michael”, an important landmark in Cluj and a useful landmark thanks to its high tower. The church was built in the 14th-15th centuries, is a historical monument and is one of the most important Gothic buildings in the country, having the highest tower in Transylvania.

In front of the church is the Statuary Ensemble Matia Corvin or Matias Rex. The sculptor Fradusz, winner of the grand prize at the Paris exhibition in 1900, is the creator. The statue represents King Matthias Corvinus on horseback surrounded by four rulers.

In this perimeter I met a group of high school students accompanied by a teacher, who were promoting their own creation, a robot, in the public square. From the middle of the eastern flank of the market starts Strada în Oglindă (Street in the Mirror). Still on the east side, we have, next, a beautiful building Banffy Palace, which houses the Museum of Art. It is an 18th-century Baroque construction built by the German architect Blaumann. The Art Museum has been located here for over 50 years and is the second largest in Romania in terms of diversity of Romanian art objects.

In the NE corner of Unirii Square on the opposite sidewalk, right on the corner, is the building that houses the Pharmacy History Collection. This collection can be found in the oldest documented pharmacy in Cluj, from the 16th century. It is the most important collection of its kind in Romania.
Union Square is also a place with several open terraces on its western side.

Roman Catholic Church

Roman Catholic Church ""St. Michael""

Matia Corvin Statuary Ensemble

Banffy Palace

Pharmacy Museum

street in the mirror

3. Matei Corvin House and Museum Square

400 m. We will leave the Unirii Square through the corner of the north-west, cross the boulevard and continue through the pedestrian crossing and take the busy pedestrian street in front of Casa Matei Corvin or Casa Matia. Here was born Matthias Corvinus in 1443, famous king of Hungary, son of John of Hunedoara. The building is a historical monument and built in the 15th century. Today the University of Arts and Design is active in this house.

We have to go around the Matei Corvin House on one side and get behind it in the Museum Square, the oldest of Cluj. It is another popular place for tourists and locals.

On the left is the National Museum of Transylvanian History, in the centre of the square is the Carolina Obelisk and on the right is the Franciscan Church. In the perimeter from Unirii Square to Museum Square, there are many terraces, the advantage of which is that they are located in an area free of cars. This is where you really react, that “Cluj is alive” atmosphere that reaches its peak in the evening. At most intersections you can also follow the tourist signs, another point worth appreciating in Cluj.

Matei Corvin's house

National History Museum of Transylvania

Carolina Obelisk

Franciscan Church

4. Horea Bridge and palaces

500 m. We leave the Museum Square continuing in the direction from which we came, which soon takes us to a small park, where you can rest on a bench or admire statuesque busts. Although we did, it’s not the most pleasant place to rest on the proposed route here. At the park turn right on George Baritiu street and then left on Regele Ferdinand street, at the Horea Bridge over Someșul Mic river. The bridge is flanked by 4 palaces: the Szeki Palace, the Babos Palace, the Elian Palace and the Berde Palace.

 

Szeki Palace

Babos Palace

Elian Palace

Berde Palace

Horea Bridge

5. Neolog Synagogue

300 m. After the bridge, we follow the main boulevard, which is called, on this section, Horia Street and on the left we see the Neolog Synagogue.

Neolog Synagogue

6. Citadel

800 m. This objective is slightly off-centre in our route, which forces us to return to Horea Bridge on the same street. We don’t cross the bridge, but before it we turn right along the river until we see some stairs going up the hill on the right. We are at the foot of the Citadel Hill, which I propose to climb. There is a more “tame” option by following the road signs, but also a longer one. On the stairs we will see a lot of animation, people eager for a walk or even sports, going up and down the hundreds of stairs here. There are several alleys with stairs, some older, some newer. After an exhausting (for some) climb, we reach the top of the hill, in Cetățuia Park. It is located at an altitude of 405 m, more than 50 meters above the Someș Mic Valley. The view from the vantage points over the city is superb. You can also come here in the evening, there is a terrace upstairs, but I have a very bad opinion of it.

panorama of Cluj

view from Cetătuia Hill

7. Elizabeth Bridge and Central Park

1 km. What can follow after a climb? Another climb. Or a downhill. Bingo! Down with us. I smell some stairs going down a little further upstream, but a little, to have the joy of crossing the Little Somes on a pedestrian bridge, full of lackeys, you know, that they practice, stuff about vows, happiness etc. It’s the Elizabeth Bridge. We also cross Splaiul Independentei Street and admire the Opera House and the Hungarian State Theatre building on the left, in a curve. We are at the entrance to the Central Park “Simion Bărnuțiu”. At the same end of the park is the Monument to the Anti-Communist Resistance.

Elizabeth Bridge

Hungarian State Opera and Theatre

The Anti-Communist Resistance Monument

8. Central Park and Stadium Park

1.3 km. We are at the entrance to the old Central Park. The park originated in the 19th century at the initiative of the Women’s Welfare Association. We plan to cross Central Park on its main path, which in fact … there are 3, a central macadam path and 2 parallel to it, paved. It’s not a big park, but it offers plenty of shade and places to rest. This is where I did my daily portion of mileage at the morning clocks. Somewhere a little past the halfway point of the park, on the left hand side, is Lake Chios and near it the Casino Urban Culture Centre, a monumental building, in front of which there is a beautiful fountain and a bandstand, where we saw some outdoor events (weddings). We exit the park at the opposite end and cross George Cosbuc Street, then we follow a smaller park, Stadion Park, which unlike the Central Park has a playground.

We are next to the grand and superb modern sports facilities Cluj Arena Stadium, with 30,000 seats and up to 55,000 for shows, and the Multipurpose Hall BT Arena, managed by the city hall, which host the games of the “U” Cluj teams for different sports disciplines. The Polyvalent Hall is the largest in Romania.

At the base of these arenas you will find many beautifully arranged kiosks where you can buy kurtos kalacs, langos, ice creams, salads, coffees, etc.

Lake Chios

Casino Urban Culture Center

Central Park

Cluj Arena stadium

BT Arena Multipurpose Hall

9. Reformed Church-Calvin with the Hunchback

700 m. From here we radically change direction. One option is to return to Cosbuc Street, which we follow to the right, over the Morii Canal, and where it ends we turn right onto Calea Moților. In a few meters we will see the Reformed-Calvinist Church with the Hunchback.

Reformed-Calvin Church with Rooster

10. University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine and Botanical Garden

700 m. If we continue along Calea Motilor we reach the courtyard of the University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine. And this objective is in the far west and quite remote so if you want you can skip it. But it is in close proximity to a much sought-after destination in Cluj-Napoca. Yes, the city’s Botanical Garden is not to be missed. I will present a separate article on this. Its address is Strada Republicii 42, 1 km from the info center, situated on the hill, somewhere between the student complex and the central cemetery, in the central-southern part of Cluj.

University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine

Botanical Garden

flowers in the Botanical Garden

11. Student Complex, Zoological Museum and Clinics

1.2 km. We turn a little on Calea Moților and we turn right and right again, climbing up Piezișă Street, which invites us to the Hașdeu Student Complex. I wanted to make this detour to take the pulse of the students of Cluj, crossing diagonally the ensemble among the dorms and faculties. Right next to the Emil Racovita Institute of Speleology is the Faculty of Zoology, which houses a superb museum, which I recommend especially for children, a smaller Antipa, the Zoological Museum and the Vivarium. About the museum, recently reopened, I will write separately. The downward path takes us back to the street. We are now on Clinics Street where we admire the buildings of the University Clinics Complex.

Zoological Museum

University Clinics Ensemble

12. Lucian Blaga Square

900 m. At the end of this street we find ourselves in Lucian Blaga Square, where you can find the Students’ Culture House and the Central University Library “Lucian Blaga”.

House of Culture of Students

"Lucian Blaga" Central University Library

13. City Hall Palace

100 m. On the left, Petru Maior Street leads us to the City Hall Palace, where it meets Calea Moților.

 

City Hall Palace

14. Ethnographic Museum of Transylvania

200 m. To the right on Calea Motilor we have the Ethnographic Museum of Transylvania. It is located at 21 Memorandum Street in the Reduta Palace, a grey blue building with 2 floors. It features some 100,000 items of popular culture, as well as a tactile exhibition for the blind.

Ethnographic Museum of Transylvania

15. Church “Bob”

200 m. From here we turn a little to Samuel Micu Street, which we follow and then to the left on Bishop Ioan Bob Street we arrive behind the museum where there is a more hidden church, the “Bob” Church.

"Bob" Church

16. Fortress Walls

400 m. From here we have several options to reach the walls. Right after the church we can follow str. Ion Ratiu, we then cross a main street, Napoca street, and somewhat ahead we continue on Fortăreței street until Potaissa street where the walls of the fortress are well preserved. The walls were built for fortification purposes after the Tatar invasion in the 13th century.

walls of the Citadel

17. Orthodox Church of the Hill

200 m. Continue on Fortăreței Street until it enters Avram Iancu Street, then turn left and immediately right, on Orthodox Church Street we reach …. Orthodox Church on the Hill.

Orthodox Church in the hill

18. Central Cemetery

600 m if you also enter the hill inside. We go down the same street, return to Avram Iancu, follow to the right and on our right side we can see the entrance to the Central Cemetery.

Central Cemetery

19. Roman Catholic Church of Piarists, “Babeș-Bolyai” University and Reformed Church

800 m. I turn back once on Avram Iancu, which I follow a little to the left, cross it and go perpendicular on University Street. And here we are in a square where there is the Roman Catholic Church of Piarists, and to the right on Mihail Kogalniceanu Street “Babeș-Bolyai” University. Babes Bolyai is the most famous university in Ardele with its 21 member faculties and has several branches in Cluj, another one being in the student complex and another one at the edge of the central park.

Towards the end of the street is the Reformed Church in front of which is the statue “St George slaying the dragon”. The church was built with the support of King Matthias Corvinus in the 15th-16th centuries. It is built in Gothic style and is renowned for its acoustics. The statue of St. George is a bronze equestrian statue, a copy of the famous one in Prague.

Roman Catholic Church of the Piarists

Babes-Bolyai University

Reformed Church

statue "St. Gheorghe slaying the dragon""

20. The Tailors’ Tower and the Greek-Catholic Cathedral

500 m. The street we came on leads us to other walls of the citadel, which on the right shows us the Tailors’ Tower, which hosts Art Exhibitions in the so-called Urban Culture Centre. It was built in the 15th century as a defence tower in the SE of the medieval fortress.

We go around it and see the Statue of Baba Novac, but also a large roundabout intersection, the Timotei Cipariu Square, in the middle of which a large religious building is being built, the Greek-Catholic Cathedral.

Tailors' Tower

statue of Baba Novac

Greek Catholic Cathedral

21. National Theatre and Palace of Justice

400 m. From here we can go left on any of the one-way avenues that border the cathedral. We pass the Opera Park or Stefan cel Mare Square, as the area is called, and we are near the National Theatre “Lucian Blaga” and the Romanian National Opera, one of the most beautiful buildings in Cluj built at the beginning of the 20th century by the Austrian architects Helmer and Fellner. The architecture is neo-baroque. The two famous cultural centres have already passed their second century of existence.

On the opposite pavement, right next to the theatre, also up to the intersection is the Palace of Justice, which houses the Cluj Court of Appeal.

"Lucian Blaga" National Theater and the Romanian National Opera

Palace of Justice

22. Statue of Avram Iancu and the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral

200 m. We are at the intersection of Heroes Boulevard. After admiring the theatre from the front, we make a left-right turn, on the spot, and we have in front of us the symbol of Cluj, the Statue of Avram Iancu and the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral. We cross and pose next to them. The cathedral is dedicated to “The Assumption of the Virgin Mary” and has a Romanesque architecture with Byzantine and Brancovenian elements. In its treasury there is a monumental iconography made with the Murano mosaic technique.

And these objectives are framed by the 2 parallel streets from earlier, the area here is called Avram Iancu Square.

statue of Avram Iancu

Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral

23. Calvin Reformed Church in Lower Town

300 m. We turn the wheel of the Orthodox cathedral to get to the front of it, on Heroes. If we also want to mark the Calvin Reformed Church in the Lower Town, we go to the right, but then turn right at the cathedral.

Reformed-Calvinian Church from the Lower City

24. Prefecture Palace

300 m. On the northwest corner of Avram Iancu Square, 300 m from the Calvin Church, is the Prefecture Palace.

Prefecture Palace

25. Fire Tower

400 m. We cross the very busy street, Eroilor, and follow Cuza Voda and then Tipografilor, which slightly branches off to the left of it, be careful not to miss the street tempted to stay on the wider street that is Cuza Voda. On Tipografilor Street, which is narrow, there is the Fire Tower.

Firemen's Tower

Firemen's Tower

26. Unitarian Church

200 m. Here we turn left onto the first David Ferenc Street and then continue along a narrow lane that leads us into Eroilor, near the Unitarian Church.

Unitarian Church

27. Tourist Information Centre

400 m. If we continue on Eroilor we will reach Unirii Square, and if we cross and continue to the left on Bolyai Janos and its extension we will reach the Tourist Information Centre, from where we started this big loop, but so comprehensive and full of sights.

Tourist Info Center

Invitation and promotion

I invite you to visit Cluj-Napoca, a city that looks better and better and deserves to be named European cultural capital. The vibe of Cluj is typical of a big city, full of tourists of all nations, young and active people.

Visit the Botanical Garden and the Zoological Museum!

All the best!

Steps: