Transylvania's former capital effortlessly brings together medieval and Baroque architecture, and is home to Romania's second largest Gothic church – St. Michael's. Downtown Cluj-Napoca is somewhat of an open-air museum, one that breathes a nostalgic air of epochs forgone and contains no shortage of actual museums and attractions. Transylvania's notorious historic ruler – Vlad III, also known as Vlad the Impaler or Vlad Dracula – served as inspiration to the figure of Dracula in, first, Bram Stocker's sensational novel, and later the public imaginary and pop culture.
Little reminds visitors to today's Cluj (Transylvania's former capital) of the region's sinister past – European Youth Capital of 2015 buzzes with life, much due to its ever-increasing student population, which favours Cluj-Napoca's bohemian cafes, hip bars and – most notably – vibrant nightlife establishments. Due to its relative obscurity, Cluj remains an off-the-beaten path destination with prices that seem too low to be true – food and drink tend to be laughably cheap, and so are accommodation and transportation – at least for the time being. Cluj also plays host to quite a few cultural festivals throughout the year, so timing your trip to coincide with one of those is surely something to consider.
Refreshingly shaded in the summer and still well-visited during the colder winter months, Cluj-Napoca's Central Park is a lively social hub that hosts concerts, contains free-to-use sporting machines, and even offers boats for hire (to be put to use on the park's own lake).
The green oasis of tranquillity that is Alexandru Borza Botanical Garden lies just outside Cluj's Old Town. Inside, a multitude of flora species are on display, from tropical flowers to Nordic mosses sprawling over rock arrangements. There is an on-site museum of plant kingdom curiosities and even a compact Japanese Garden.
Sax Speakeasy Wine Bar
Access to this covert bar is limited to only those in-the-know - one needs a password to get in (which is divulged upon phone or web reservation, along with exact details on how to reach the bar), after which entry is granted and an impeccable evening of wine savouring (over 250 varieties grace the list) and live music ensues.
Good to know
Most attractions within the city center are easy to reach on foot. For longer distance travel, make use of the excellent public transportation system comprised of buses, trolleybuses and trams. Tickets must be purchased at special kiosks prior to boarding; some stops are equipped with ticket vending machines.
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