Things to do in Cluj-Napoca
Most parts of the city of Cluj-Napoca can easily be accessed by foot. Of course, there is also an extensive transport system within the city, of which more information can be found here.
Unirii Square has represented, since ancient times, the heart of the economic, spiritual and administrative life of the city. Among the many architectural ensembles in various styles, tourists can admire: St. Michael's Church, the statue of Matthias Corvinus, the Bánffy Palace – housing the Art Museum, Iuliu Maniu Street (also known as the Mirroring Street) and the Continental Hotel.
Avram Iancu Square
Spiritual, administrative and judicial centre of the city, the square is richly decorated by the Neoclassical palaces built in the early 20th century (the Palace of Finance and the Palace of Justice). Tourists can also visit the National Theatre and Romanian Opera and the Metropolitan Orthodox Cathedral and Archdiocese. Avram Iancu Square is a focal point for the most important events of the city.
Is the oldest square of the city, richly embellished with Gothic and Baroque architectonic and religious monuments and Roman archaeological sites. Here, tourists can find the Carolina Obelisk – the first laic monument of the city, the Franciscan Church, the History Museum of Transylvania and the House of Matthias Corvinus – birthplace of the Hungarian king.
The Botanical Garden
Founded in 1872, it is nowadays one of the most beautiful and complex of its kind in Southeastern Europe. The Botanical Garden, spreading more than 14 ha, holds attraction points such as the Japanese and the Roman gardens, along with the complex of greenhouses displaying equatorial and tropical plants. The Botanical Museum and the “Babeş-Bolyai” University Herbarium host 11.000 exhibits from all around the world.
Situated at an altitude of 405 m, the Vauban fortress was built in the 18th century by the Austrians and used to house the administrative buildings, the garrison and the weapons store.
The Tailors' Tower
It was built on the south-east corner of the city’s defensive wall, sometime after 1405, as a result of the privileges granted by King Sigismund of Luxembourg. In medieval times its maintenance was entrusted to the tailor’s guild. In 2009, the Tailors' Tower was restored and refurbished, and since then it houses a free access Urban Culture Centre.
The Ethnographic Museum of Transylvania and the Ethnographic Park
The two were founded between 1920 and 1930, being the first of their kind in Romania. Over time, they gathered tens of thousand of testimonials of traditional culture in the Transylvania area, forming a vast documents archive regarding Romanians and co-habiting nationalities (Hungarians, Germans). All of the artifacts and documents are showcased in the exhibition pavilion and in the open-air section, and open to professional study by specialists.
The Reformed Church
Built in late Gothic style at the end of the 15th century and beginning of the 16th century, the church was initially constructed as a monastery for the Minor-Franciscans monks, with the support of King Matthias Corvinus. It is one of the largest Gothic buildings in Transylvania and it boasts an excellent acoustics system that allows it to host numerous organ concerts.
Built between 1774-1785 on the order of Count Banffy, future governor of Transylvania, Banffy Palace is the first and the most beautiful Baroque edifice in Transylvania. It was designed by the German Architect J.E. Blaumann.
A unique visual effect is created by the mythological statues placed on the frontispiece, beside the Banffy coat of arms.
The palace hosted numerous prominent guests, including the penultimate emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Franz Josef and the empress Sissi. Moreover, composer Franz Liszt gave a series of concerts in the palace halls. This building has housed the Cluj Museum of Art for the last fifty years.
The Pharmacy History Collection
The Pharmacy History Collection can be found in the oldest pharmacy building of Cluj-Napoca, called "La Sfantul Gheorghe", but is also known as the Hintz pharmacy, which dates back to 1573.
The museum first opened in 1954, and later, in 1963, it changed its name to The Pharmacy History Collection and continued its activity under the administration of The National History Museum of Transylvania.
The collection of Transylvanian pharmaceutical objects that used to belong to Professor Iuliu Orient (1869-1940), exhibited since 1904 in one of the Transylvanian Museum halls, constitutes the original fund of this museum. This collection, consisting of 1800 pieces, was donated to the museum and was enriched, over time, with other valuable donations that illustrate the pharmaceutical activity in Transylvania between the 16th and 20th centuries. The Oficina (the room where medicines were sold) is decorated with Baroque mural paintings that date back to 1766. This type of decoration for an Oficina is one of a kind in Romania.
“Simion Bsrnuţiu” Central Park
180 years old, the park is one of the main recreation areas in Cluj-Napoca, located on the bank of Somesul Mic River.
The history of the park begins in 1827, when the Women Charity Association rented the land, intending to set up a recreation area. The park became open to the public in the early 1830s and was initially named The People’s Park.
Later, the alleys and the lake were created and the music pavilion was built. This was also the place where the Summer Theatre was inaugurated (also incorporating a cinematography section), that has now become the property of the Hungarian State Theatre.
The Casino was built in 1897. In the interwar period, the Fine Arts School functioned here, an institution that, through its prestigious activity, completed the cultural destiny of the city.
In 2012 the rehabilitation of the park was completed, the alleys and the public lighting were restored and the old Casino building was updated and transformed into an Urban Culture Centre.
The City Walls
Like most medieval towns, the city used to be fortified with imposing stone walls and defence towers, which were built some time after 1241. For their construction big blocks of stone were used, resulting in massive walls with buttresses, pinnacles and ramparts, with watch-roads above the walls leading to retreat stairs. The fortifications were impressive and the area inside the walls spread 45 ha. Today, the most impressive part of the remaining wall can be seen on Potaissa Street.
The Central Cemetery
A true open-air museum, the Central Cemetery, also known by the name of Hajongard, has been housing the elite of the city for more than four centuries. The tragedy of the plague of 1585 was the reason for its establishment. The large number of personalities that are buried here and the diversity of religions co-existing in this space (Catholic, Lutheran, Greek-Catholic, Protestant, Jew and Orthodox), transform the Central Cemetery into a true "Pantheon of Transylvania".
Among the most important personalities buried here: Ion Agarbiceanu (writer), Gyorgy Banffy II (founder of Banffy Palace), Janos Apaczai Csere (mathematician), Samuel Brassai (professor, renowned linguist), Adrian Marino (essayist, literary critic), Gheorghe Dima (composer, conductor), Emil Racovita (explorer – he traveled to Antarctica together with Amundsen, being among the first people to reach the South Pole).
The Matthias Corvinus House
The city’s inn at the time, this is the house where Matthias Corvinus, son of the great prince of Transylvania, John Hunyadi, was born, on 23 February 1443. Matthias Corvinus was the greatest king in the history of Hungary, reigning between 1458 and 1490. Scholar, patron of the arts, a wise and just man, he is still remembered today in songs and legends.
The Matthias Corvinus House has had many uses through time, functioning as a college at one point, and later hosting the ethnographic collections of the Transylvanian Carpathian Society. Over time, the building has undergone numerous transformations, adapting to the ever-changing architectural styles.
Theatres and Operas
The National Theatre and Romanian Opera
It is the most important theatrical institution in Transylvania and among the most prestigious in Romania. The inauguration of the theatre took place on the 1st and 2nd of December 1919 and the heritage building, built between 1904 and 1906, is the work of the renowned Austrian architects Helmer and Fellner; the inauguration of the building took place on 8 September, 1906. The hall has a capacity of 928 seats, was designed in Neo-Baroque style, with a twist of Secessionist style in decorating the hall. Also operating in this building since 2003 is the Impossible Theatre – an independent theatre company that aims to promote young designers and the latest trends in the arts, with a particular focus on the new playwrights texts, the synchronisation of the art with current realities and on the exploration of unconventional spaces. The Romanian National Opera of Cluj-Napoca is the first state lyrical-dramatic institution in Romania. It was founded on 18 September 1919, along with the theatre. Since its founding, over 200 operas, operettas and ballets from the universal repertoire have been presented on the stage of the Romanian National Opera of Cluj-Napoca, thus demonstrating an openness to all artistic styles.
The Hungarian Theatre and Opera
Founded in 1792, the Hungarian State Theatre of Cluj-Napoca is the oldest theatre to play in Hungarian. The Hungarian State Opera in Cluj-Napoca was founded on December 17th, 1948. On the site of the current Hungarian theatre, there was initially a summer theatre, built in 1874, after the plans of the architect Henrich Zimmermann. After the First World War, the Hungarian Theatre group moved in the Janovics building, on Emil Isac Street, where it functioned for a time. In 1961 the body of the Hungarian Theatre was reconstructed and the façade was completely restored. Currently, this building hosts a choir, an orchestra, the ballet corps and the theatre.
Cluj-Napoca can cater to all taste-buds, whether it be international cuisine of local regional dishes that the diner is seeking. Learn of some of Cluj-Napoca's best restaurants here.