Cluj-Napoca, or simply Cluj, is a city located in the northwest of Romania. Cluj-Napoca is home to many universities and vibrant nightlife. The city also has some of the most well-preserved architecture on this side of Transilvania, as well as an infamous haunted forest.
Getting there wasn’t easy…..
I was about to learn a lesson that most Romanians already know. Travelling by train is definitely not the easiest or most punctual way to travel in Romania…. My train departed at 2PM, and even though I asked whether I was boarding the right train, I would wonder where the heck I was going a few hours later.
The ride was to take an exhausting 8 hours. As I had the cabin for myself, I decided to nap to somewhat catch up on some sleep from the night before.
As I awoke, I looked at the map on my phone to see exactly where the train is, and that is when I begin to freak out.
We were nowhere near Cluj-Napoca!!! Instead of going north, the train kept heading east, to a destination I did not know about.
Did I take the wrong train??? No! It can’t be, I even asked the train guy….. So now what???
As the day turned into night, I started to think of a plan B.
I can take a taxi to Cluj. I have no idea where we were nor where we were going to end up, and taking a taxi could easily be a 2 hour ride if not more.
Maybe I can stay the night at wherever we stop. Yes, as long as the station has wifi and it’s not a rural station.
Maybe I can just sleep at the station and hope not to freeze. You will die….
Eventually, the train would start heading north, and with a sight of relief it started to make its way to Cluf-Napoca, 30 minutes past the scheduled arrival time.
Needless to say, that night, I slept like a baby.
The City Of Cluj-Napoca
I started my day early and headed towards Cluj-Napoca’s Central Park. The park is located west of the Old Town, between the historic center and the stadium.
It was nice to get up early and stroll around the park, looking at locals go about the start of their day.
From the park, I moved on to the Old Town.
The first big sight appearing before me was the impressive St. Michael’s church, a massive catholic church built in the 15th century.
Opposite from the church is Cluj-Napoca’s central plaza, Piata Urinii, which showcases a monument commemorating Matthias Corvinus, king of Hungary and Serbia from mid-to-end of 15th century.
As rain started to pour on my head, I took refuge in one of the many cafés on Eroilor boulevard, one of the main streets crossing through the Old Town.
As the rain stopped and I continued my walk, I stumbled upon two of the most impressive structures I saw during my entire stay in Cluj-Napoca. The Assumption Cathedral and the National Theatre.
Located in front of one another, both of these structures are a marvel to look at.
As I started looking for a place to eat, I stumbled upon a street filled with food trucks on Str. Potaissa. The food is good and the juices fresh, and all are sold at a fair price.
Next up I hit the Alexandru Borza Botanical Garden. I am not one for gardens but I had read that there was a Japanese garden, which reminded me of the beautiful one I saw in Wroclaw. Although the park is big, unfortunately the it would also happen to be far from impressive, possibly because of the season I chose to go in.
Finally, I headed up to Cetatuia Park for some mountain views of the city. The mini-hike to the top of the park takes about 15 minutes. The mountain offers some very nice views of Cluj-Napoca; the rooftops of the Old Town with the impressive tower of St. Michael’s church looming above everything else, all topped by some mountains in the background…..simply an amazing sight.
As I headed back to my hostel, I realized the city of Cluj-Napoca is home to the “World’s Most Haunted Forest”, Hoia Baciu. Made famous by one Emil Barnea for capturing a picture of a UFO in 1968, the forest is said to be ground of several paranormal phenomena. I hiked to the forest on my second day in Cluf. to see what this was all about, more on my experience on my next article.
To my surprise, other than a few odd groups here and there, Cluj was not swarming with tourists.
Before arriving, I had thought the city would be busier, this being the “unofficial capital of Transilvania” and all.
Travellers prefer bigger cities like Brasov and Bucharest, and often will only stop by Cluj for one night en route to or from Budapest in Hungary.
However Cluj is worth the time to be discovered, and even though I did not find it rivalled the city of Timișoara, I still found Cluj-Napoca to be full of charm and of interesting things to do and see.
Have you been to Cluj-Napoca? What were your thoughts of this city? And of this Cluj-Napoca travel blog?