Foray into the heart of Transylvania. Cluj-Napoca, a true open-air museum

A thriving and bustling city, Cluj has increasingly captured the imagination and attention of both Romanians and foreigners alike. The following piece is a report originally published by Radio Chișinău detailing Ina Guțu’s visit to the Treasure City of Transylvania. 

The old buildings and historical monuments, especially the festivals and cultural events with a long tradition in this city attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists annually, mostly Europeans but also from the far corners of the world like China, Japan or New Zealand. Did you know, for example, that last year Cluj was the European Youth Capital, and the largest electronic music festival in the world-Festival “Untold” was held here? Furthermore, Cluj is also the city where the most important event dedicated to Romanian film was born – the Transylvania International Film Festival.

An open-air museum. The city can be characterized with the Daco-Roman name in the heart of Transylvania, by anyone who walks the streets, especially those in the center, which is the main shopping and cultural, financial, administrative, and commercial heart of the city.

St. Michaels Cathedral Cluj

A number of historical monuments, centuries-old buildings constructed in baroque, Gothic or Renaissance styles, are a treasure trove for lovers of history and architecture, but also for visitors less familiar with these areas.

The bustle of a metropolis that keeps alive the traces of history, and that various languages can be heard on every street corner – hundreds of foreign students come to study here make the city of Cluj-Napoca look like a real Babylon of the modern world.

Untold

The Untold Music Festival, Transylvania Film Festival, and Comedy Cluj, are some of the events that attract tourists. The youth, multiculturalism, and cultural life with many events and festivals that make Cluj a special town tells Raul Pantea, a travel agency representative in Cluj’s Old Town.

“Most tourists who come, come for a few days. It is a form of business tourism. They come, stay a few days, go and explore the surrounding areas, downtown, and the salt mine. Indeed in recent years the number of tourists have greatly, and because Cluj was the 2015 European Youth Capital. There are many Italian tourists who come for business, Germans have always been in Transylvania, many French people as a result of student life, there are many students who bring their relatives and friends. Untold, which is the largest electronic music festival in Europe was visited by tourists from even China, Japan or New Zealand,” says Raul Pantea.

Despite the fact that he has yet to visit the Republic of Moldova, Raul Pantea says that the country is on the list of countries that he would like to visit.

“Everyone has heard of the wine, of Chisinau. The Republic of Moldova is a part of Romania, we identify with them and they identify with us, more or less, and as a result the country creates a certain curiosity,” states Raul Pantea.

Each year the number of tourists who choose to visit Cluj for business or cultural events organized in other Romanian capital, as it is often said, is increasingly higher, he says the Center Tourist Information Cluj Napoca, Marius Lazin. It recommends some of the objectives included in the top attractions.

“The markets of Central Cluj: Piața Unirii, Piața Avram Iancu, Piața Muzeului; old medieval fortress with pedestrian areas, Cetățuia Hill, Botanical Gardens, Ethnographic Park, and the Central Park are just some of the attractions visitors Cluj and are proposed as the top attractions on the map in detail the central area of the city.”

In Cluj, the Tourist Information Centre has operated for nearly 9 years. Here visitors can find useful information such as a map of the city and main objectives, brochures with the main events organized in the city.

Most foreign tourists who choose to visit Cluj are French, followed by German, Spanish and British. Furthermore, dozens of Moldovans have visited the Information Center in this year according to Marius Lazin.

“The number of requests from people in the Republic of Moldova is quite small. Only 38 people came this year, so far. However, they probably have a number of other sources of information about Cluj. Being Romanian speakers, and having ties with a number of other institutions probably helps them more easily find the information they need.”

In 2015, the year when Cluj was the European Youth Capital, a record number of over 400 thousand tourists, of which nearly a quarter of foreigners, visited the lance tip of the North West region of Romania. According to statistics this year, these figures were already exceeded by October.

Cluj from Above

Instead of a conclusion, here are some interesting things about the city of Cluj:

  • The first written history of settlements on the territory of present Cluj, named Napuca dates from 107 AD.
  • It is the second largest city in Romania after Bucharest, with a population of over 320,000 inhabitants.
  • The only Pharmacy Museum in Romania is located in Cluj.
  • The city received the nickname of Silicon Valley due to the numerous IT companies that operate here.
  • It was “Capital of Tolerance” and held the title of “The friendliest European city” in 2014.

This article was written by Ina Guțu for Radio Chișinău.

Written Introduction and translation by Darius Roby, Editor at Cluj.com