Difference between revisions of "Cluj-Napoca"
Latest revision as of 13:22, 4 December 2019
Cluj-Napoca (Hungarian: Kolozsvár) , as capital of historical region Transylvania, is one of the most visited cities in Romania. The city, with 324,576 people, is very pleasant, and it is certainly a great experience for those who want to see urban Transylvanian life at its best. Along with fine dining, excellent cultural activities, a wonderful historical legacy and a great atmosphere, the city will certainly not disappoint those who add it to their travel itinerary. What's more is the fact that Cluj (as it's called for short) is so easy to access and get around.
The official language is Romanian. Most educated people born after about 1970 will speak reasonably good English and will likely be proficient in one or more second Romance languages; most educated people born before about 1970 will speak reasonably good French and Italian. Hungarian is a common language, spoken by the relatively large Hungarian minority. The Roma people (Gypsies) speak their native Romany, as well as Romanian, and sometimes English as well. Beyond that, as in any major city, there will be a smattering of other languages.
Getting to Cluj-Napoca is easy due to its position and its status as a major Romanian city.
There are train connections to most Romanian cities, including fast InterCity connections to Oradea, Arad, Timisoara, Brasov, Sighisoara, Ploiesti and Bucharest. A direct train between Vienna and Cluj via Budapest was introduced 2018 with a journey time of ca. 10 hours 45 minutes and tickets starting with 34€. Check out the website of the Austrian Railways https://www.oebb.at/. The average trip from Cluj to Budapest is around 8 hours. Cluj to Bucharest can vary between 8 and 14 hours. Recommend a cheap Wizz airline flight.
When planning a train trip in Romania, allow 2 hours for each hundred kilometres of journey.
The International Airport of Cluj-Napoca[ has flights to Bucharest, Istanbul, Munich, London/Luton, Vienna, Milano/Bergamo, Bologna, Bari, Rome, Venice/Treviso, Paris/Beauvais, Brussels/Charleroi, Bratislava, Eindhoven, Barcelona, Valencia, Madrid, Zaragoza, Geneva, Basel, Malmo, Stockholm/Skavsta, Billund, Nuremberg, Cologne/Bonn, Dortmund and Tel Aviv. Airlines are Wizzair, TAROM, Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa and Vueling.
WizzAir, the Polish-Hungarian budget airline, started flying to Cluj-Napoca in October 2007.
For budget European travellers, a cheap alternative is to fly to Budapest Ferihegy Airport with a low-cost company, and then shuttle to Cluj-Napoca. The shuttle takes six to eight hours to make the travel. Many companies travel this route. You can find shuttles from early morning till late night. Reservations have to be made in advance. Make sure you leave at least two hours between your flight arrival and the departure of the shuttle, to allow for any flight delays. Prices are around 60 to 80 RON (25 EUR).
Car rental by Avis, Budget, Europcar, VAG24 and several local providers is available, as well as on request by Hertz.
A regular taxi fare from the airport to the city center (about 10 km) is around 15-25 RON (4-6 EUR) - the current tariff (2017) is about 2.25 RON/km (~ 0,5 EUR/km). Look only for company taxis and clearly ask the driver for the price! The airport is within Cluj-Napoca city limits and extra-urban charges should not be applied. In Romania the taxi (cab) should have a valid badge, and taximeter. Do not look for bargains, it's not worth it, the official rates are low!
Cluj-Napoca has good road connections. European road E60 links it to Bucharest and Brasov to the south, Oradea and Budapest to the west, through Bors customs. E81 leads to Zalau and Satu Mare to the north, Brasov and Bucharest to the south. E58 links Cluj-Napoca to Dej, Bistrita, Baia Mare and Vatra Dornei.
OrangeWays  has modern but "low cost" style buses that circulate between Budapest and Cluj-Napoca. You can catch a bus to Cluj-Napoca from the Nepliget bus station in Budapest. Online booking available.
Royal GTS  offers daily comfortable afternoon bus from Budapest Nepliget bus station stopping in Cluj before Billa supermarket in Mănăștur. This coach doesn't start in Cluj so phone reservation is necessary for the way back.
Eurobusways  offers door to door transfers from any address in Budapest or Vienna airport, directly to address in Cluj Napoca, WiFi, english speaking drivers.
Minibus connections to Budapest have Huben , Optimus trans (online booking) , President tour (online booking) and Kolumbus Express . Mercedes-Benz Sprinter minibuses are mostly used for this way. Going by minibus is less comfortable but about 1 hour shorter than by large coach.
There are lot of another buses and minibuses connecting Budapest with Transylvania, which depart between late afternoon/late evening from Nepliget parking place (about 5 min by walk from the bus station). Just choose the best looking coach and ask, if they will take you to Cluj, as they may go another way or on the highway around Cluj but mostly they will agree. On they way back is necessary phone reservation or just between 19:00 and 21:00 passing bus stop before Billa supermarket in Mănăștur lot of coaches and minibuses on their way from another places in Transylvania. Just wait when some of them will come to pick up passengers with their phone reservation.
By public transport
Public transport in the city is good - 25 bus lines, 7 trolleybus lines, and 3 tram lines, all operated by the RATUC company (Regia Autonomă de Transport Urban de Călători). Complete routes can be found on the company's website . Schedules are available online . For most lines servicing the city center, you won't need to wait more than 15 minutes. The tariff is 5 RON (about 1.05 euro) for two travels (= one ticket for two travels costs 5 RON). Tickets can be bought for cash at special booths at most stops, identifiable by the RATUC logo and possibly the text "Bilete si Abonamente" (meaning "short and long-term tickets"). Be careful to correctly punch an unused half of your ticket once in the vehicle, ticket control is relatively common and the fines are sizable. At some stops, there are also new modern-looking ticket machines accepting coins, banknotes and debit/credit cards. There are also machines directly on the buses that accept contactless payments, the tariff is 2.5 RON per journey and you receive a receipt that you can use if ticket control comes. If you have a Romanian SIM-card, it is possible to buy SMS tickets.
Transport in the Cluj-Napoca metropolitan area is covered by many private bus companies, one of the most important is FANY  which provides numerous daily connections to neighbouring towns and villages. More information about the transportation to and from the metropolitan area is available online .
Taxis are relatively more expensive than in other parts of Romania, but still cheap by European levels, and very convenient. The tariff is around RON2.25 (c. 50 eurocents/ USD0.70) per kilometre, and the same is applied as start fee. All the respectable companies charge the same price. Typically you won't pay more than RON10-15 (€3-4) for a travel between the city centre and some point in the suburbs. Payment is always done in cash, and paying by credit card is not possible. It is customary, though not mandatory, that the sum is rounded up to RON0.5 multiples (e.g., if the meter shows RON3.2 you will probably be expected to pay RON3.5, leaving the extra RON0.3 as a tip). If you do not have exact change, the driver might keep this tip himself when paying back the change. If he tries to keep too much (like rounding from RON3.5-5, for example), do ask for the change.
Taxi cabs come in all shapes and colours, they are identified by the company logo on the sign on top of the car, which will also be placed somewhere on the car body. Taxis cluster around important locations in the city, and clusters are usually no more than 1 kilometre apart. Take care to always use respectable companies, such as Atlas, Diesel Rapid, Diesel Taxi, Pritax, Nova, Terra & Fan, Pro Rapid. There might be underground, "shark" drivers as they are called, which try to exploit unknowledgeable strangers by overcharging. You should avoid them as they charge at least several times the normal fee. They mostly hang around the train station and the airport. Shark drivers might sometimes "helpfully" offer a ride themselves; you won't see a usual driver do that. Usually shark drivers' cars are marked TAXI and nothing else. Search for the name of the company on the door of car! Respectable firms typically have several cars parked at each station; that's an easy way to identify them. Also, the price per kilometre is sometimes displayed on the cab door. It should be no more than RON2.25.
Cabs can also be phoned in. You typically need to give a name, and wait for the number of the car to be relayed to you. Cars will arrive after a period on the order of minutes.
It may happen that you will be driven around on a longer route if you don't know the city. This may happen even with respectable firms. You can't do much to help that, unless you are able to read a map very well, especially if you're easy to spot as a foreigner. The best thing to do is to appear confident, jump in the car and state your destination unhesitatingly, as if you knew exactly where it was.
Some of the taxi companies in Cluj-Napoca:
Cars can be rented from the numerous operators throughout the city. Many small tourism agencies also act as intermediaries for renting cars, and you might be able to get better rates there. You can find such agencies scattered throughout the city centre.
A good idea to get around the city is by bike. There are many opportunities to rent a bike in cost-free bike-sharing system from Down Town Rent a Bike, I’Velo or StudentObike, Other rent offices are at Raiffeisen Bank agencies. There is a developing public-funded program of a 50 self-service bike-renting-stations and 500 bicycles network in the city, to be full operable in June 2015. A similar announcement was made before. In March 2015 it proved impossible to rent a bike anywhere because of the "winter" period. When going by bike take care of the traffic! There are yet only a few special bicycle lanes in the city - usually sharing the road with the vehicles - and the drivers are hardly accommodated to cyclists, so look twice and think about the driver who is driving on automatic as well! Even if the drivers in Cluj are known for being polite and calm and the traffic is not suffocating even during the rush hours, commuting by bike from a place to another can be sometimes dangerous. Also keep in mind that, although the downtown is flat, Cluj-Napoca is a city in a valley, surrounded by high hills. Even some districts of appartments and student campuses are on the hills. It's OK if you plan to go on a ride with an MTB on the hills (you have plenty of excellent biking opportunities and there are specialized clubs which can help - see www.clujulpedaleaza.ro) but if you plan a pleasure cruise, stay on the valley.
What to see
You should see Matthias Corvinus' mounted statue and the old St. Michael's Church in the Union Square -- right in the middle of the city. This Gothic architecture piece is one of the most valuable in Transylvania. Its murals date from the 15th century, and the 50m neogothic tower was built in 1860. The statue is always scaled by tourists, although officially this is not allowed.
The area around the Union Square is also a must see for the visitor, with the Teleki and Banffy Palaces (the former now housing the National Art Museum), the Franciscan Monastery, the first Unitarian Church in the world, the Piarist Churches, the Mirror Street (Iuliu Maniu Street - a unique architectural accomplishment dating back to the late 1800s) and Matthias Corvinus' place of birth, a former 15th Century hotel now home to the Visual Arts Academy.
Smaller streets around the Square can take you into splendid inner courts, old houses and isolated Churches. The Tailors' Bastion and the corresponding section of the medieval wall is very well preserved, South-East of the Union Square.
The Museum Square, a 2 minute walk from the Union Square, is home to the Franciscan Monastery (a combination of baroque and gothic architecture dating back to the 14th Century), the Transylvanian History Museum and the old Obelisk of the City, offered to the City as acknowledgement of its statute by the Austrian Emperor Franz Ferdinand in the 19th Century. You can have a nice coffee right by the Obelisk, as during daytime the surrounding clubs and cafes move out of their inside locations into cool, relaxing terraces.
The Botanical Garden  (Republicii no. 42) spreads over 14 hectares and contains among others a small Japanese garden, greenhouses for ecuatorial and tropical plants, a small water course through its middle, and a tower which can be climbed to get a better view of the garden arrangements.
The Central Park is a welcome break from the rush of the city. The middle of the park hosts a small lake and the Chios Casino, from the terrace of which you can rent rowboats and hydrobicycles to circle the small island in the centre of the lake.
The Cetatuia hill (Fortress Hill) used to hold a stronghold, as its name implies. People were also jailed there. Not much of the old fortress remains, but the Transylvania Hotel (also known to the locals as Belvedere) was built on top of the hill, and besides the great view offers a good restaurant as well. The hill can be climbed by stairs from the centre of the city. On the way you will also find a large iron cross monument. A walkway circles the crown of the hill just below the Hotel, offering a nice view to the city.
Other objectives include:
Fabrica de Pensule (Paintbrush Factory), Strada Henri Barbusse 59-61: Contemporary arts center. The artists, galleries and organizations – active in the fields of theater, contemporary dance, visual arts, arts in public space, music – are jointly engaged into delivering relevant cultural content, both for the artistic community and the wide audience. Besides artist studios and production spaces, Fabrica de Pensule also hosts events of local and international partners. It acts as a major player in cultural and urban policies in the Romanian context. 
The Ethnographic Museums provide an interesting distraction for visitors to Cluj Napoca in either cold or sunny weather. The centrally located Ethnographic Museum of Transylvania was the first ethnographic museum in Romania and hosts a stunning variety of local crafts, including an extensive exhibition of traditional clothes, fabrics, ceramics and tools as well as a fascinating insight into local customs and festivals. Open Tuesday-Sunday: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed on 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th of May 2013
The "Romulus Vuia" National Ethnographic Park is somewhat difficult to find, but provides a welcome break in the summer heat. This little oasis away from the bustle of the city features beautifully preserved buildings from the surrounding area, including wooden churches and artisan houses furnished with traditional wooden furniture and textiles. Open from May: Tuesday-Sunday: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (Last entry at 4 p.m.) Access: buses - line 37 which stops at Tetarom, at the NE corner of the park.
You can see many objectives live on the LiveCam  on top of a tall building on C. Daicoviciu Str. Cetatuia hill, Transilvania Hotel, the St. Michael Cathedral, the Hungarian State Theatre, as well as most of the city centre, can be seen by rotating and tilting the camera via the webpage controls (you might need to wait to get your turn in controlling it).
Cluj-Napoca is one of the best cities in Romania for shopping, with two of the largest malls: Iulius Mall and Polus Center. You can also visit Sora Shopping Center, Central and Galeriile Ferdinand. There are various smaller shops in the city center (especially in the Mihai Viteazu Square area) and Marasti Square (sometimes a cheaper alternative).
Cluj dining is some of the best in Romania. Ranging from traditional Romanian, Hungarian and Transylvanian (a combination of the previous two) to Italian (very good Italian food), Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Middle Eastern, American and International Cuisine, the city can offer great dining for all tastes. Fancy restaurants are available as well as local fast food shops and a few international chains (McDonald's, Pizza Hut). You will find budget fixed menus as well as a-la-carte menus in almost each part of the city. The breakfast (typical continental or English) is around 10-15 RON (3-4 EUR) and a fixed lunch is 10-20 RON (2.5-5 EUR); A regular pizza (350-500 gr) or pasta costs between 12 to 30 RON; A soup (very usual in Romania as the first dish) you will find in sweet (supa) or sour (ciorba) variants for 8-15 RON; A main course (nothing extravagant, meat + side dish) between 12 - 30 RON; A large variety of other cuisines is available, but you may like to try the local flavours (Varza a la Cluj - sour cabbage with pork chops, mamaliga cu smantana - corn polenta with cream, goulasch - which you can find in Cluj in various variants - from soup to main dish - and ingredients - beans, potato, pork, veal, chicken, more or less spicy etc.).
0727-833.453. Located near a residential neighborhood a few kilometers from the city center, Shanghai has one of the most varied selections of Chinese dishes.
Cluj has a vibrant night life, guaranteed by the over 60000 University students living here. There are bars, cafés, clubs for all preferences and budgets.
The last three years have seen a boom in the Cluj lodging scene. There are lodging options for all budgets, including a newly opened 5 star hotel. Other than that, you can find something that suits your needs.
TEL: 0040-264-594.675 and FAX: 0040-264-594.677 
Cluj-Napoca is in general a safe city. Even after dark, it is safe to walk through the city center and some of the other neighbourhoods. To be on the safe side, unless you know exactly where you're going and how to get there, suburbs should be avoided at night, especially the neighbourhoods of Manastur, Marasti, and Iris, and the train and inter-city bus station areas.
You should, as always, take care of your belongings and pockets. In the unfortunate event that your wallet is stolen or lost, it is likely that it will resurface after a while, but without the money and credit cards (so be sure to call your credit card company and lock the credit card as soon as you notice it's missing).
As throughout the rest of the European Union, the police, ambulance, and fire department are reachable at the number 112.