HI, I'M... CLUJ-NAPOCA
But you can call me Cluj…
Cheeky-cheeky Cluj (as it’s known by the locals) is Romania’s second largest city.
As the unofficial capital of Transylvania, it’s bursting with gothic architecture and vampire tat. But it’s also a bit of a party town - a fifth of the population are students, bringing books, arty culture and booze every night of the week.
See thisPiaţa Unirii will satisfy any history buffs. The main square of the city is home to a Gothic church (the tallest in Transylvania), a smattering of mini-palaces and a Hungarian king (borders shift a lot here).
If you prefer your churches on the wacky-vampire end of the scale, pop down the road to the bonkers wooden church.
There are loads of galleries and museums in Cluj, but the best is Fabrica de Pensule, a work-in-progress studio and industrial warehouse hang-space for local artists. That's right, Cluj is frosty cool.
Eat thisA lot of the local Clujian delicacies aren’t that… delicate. But don’t be a prude, you didn’t come to Transylvania for its macaroons.
Start with sarmale (cabbage rolls), mamaliga cu smantana (polenta with sour cream), gulas de cartofi (potato goulash) and then varza a la Cluj (cabbage the Cluj way). Finish up with kurtoskalacs - a vertical chimney of pastry. Sold.
Roata is the best restaurant for local food, and every meal starts with a shot of plum brandy. Win.
Bricks (M)eating Point serves - you guessed it - meat, meat and more meat. It’s delicious, and comes with live jazz music and the best view in town over the Soames River. Just ignore the pun-slinging.
Veggies and vegans could be forgiven for thinking Romania isn’t for them. But Cluj has the amazing Samsara FoodHouse, serving up meat-free goodness that isn't just chips and iceberg lettuce.
Drink thisCafe culture is big in Cluj. Even betterer - most of the cafes turn into bars when the sun goes down 🧛
For the best coffee in town, head to Yolka Bar. It’s got a wall made of plants and a mural with a tree hanging off it on the ceiling, so you know you’re in a trendy spot. The coffee does not disappoint.
The Soviet is a bit like the cafe of a communist theme park… but in a good way. Get the beers in and party like you’re an Eastern Bloc country that’s just broken away from the aggressive economic stranglehold of Russia. Catchy.
For grown up dancing, head to Casa Tauffer for live soul and jazz sets by candlelight.
Not finished the party? Strada Piezișa is the street that never sleeps. You’ve been warned.
Day TrippingCluj is stuffed with goodies, but it’s also worth peeking out into the countryside and enjoying the rest of Transylvania.
Sighisoara and Sibiu are nearby medieval towns that are better preserved than Dracula himself.
Turda’s 2,000 year old salt mine has been turned into a theme park, and it’s kind of incredible.
Try to get a lick of the salty walls as you whizz past on a ferris wheel.
Cluj-Napoca is also a great base for exploring the spooky castles and national parks of Transylvania (the land beyond the forest). Watch out for wolves...