Cluj-Napoca (Romanian) or Kolozsvár (Hungarian) , as capital of historical region Transylvania, is one of the most visited cities in Romania . The city, with 310,243 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, a Romance language which is unique in that it is the closest currently-spoken relative to Ancient Latin. 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 commonplace 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.
As with many other Romanian cities, train is the easiest way to reach Cluj from Bucharest . There are train connections to most Romanian cities, including fast InterCity connections to Oradea , Arad, Timisoara , Brasov , Sighisoara , Ploiesti and Bucharest . Many trains to Budapest leave early in the morning.
The International Someşeni Airport of Cluj-Napoca//www.airportcluj.ro] is offering flights to [[Bucharest, Timisoara , Budapest , Vienna , Frankfurt , Munich, Dusseldorf, Stuttgart, Dortmund ,Milano, Bologna, Ancona, Bergamo, Florence , Rome , Treviso, Verona , Lviv, Paris , Barcelona , Valencia, Madrid and London provided by TAROM, Austrian, Lufthansa, Iberia, Alitalia, Carpatair, Malev and Wizzair).
WizzAir, the Polish-Hungarian budget airline, started flying to Cluj-Napoca in October 2007.
For European travellers, a budget 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, for instance Amasis Tours, Calibra, Huben, Optimus. 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 account for any flight delays. Prices are around 60 to 80 RON (25 EUR), check AMASIS, KAMELEON, Nemeth Speed.
Car rental by Avis, Budget, Europcar and several local providers is available, as well as on request by Hertz.
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.
Public transport in the city is possible by means of 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 not available online, but for most lines servicing the city center you won't need to wait more than 15 minutes. The tariff is 3 RON (about 85 eurocents, or 1.3 USD) for two travels. Tickets can be bought for cash only 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.
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 neighboring towns and villages.
Taxis are relatively more expensive than in other parts of Romania, but still cheap, and very convenient. The tariff is around 1.79 RON (50 eurocents/ 0.7 $) per kilometer, and the same is applied as start fee. All the respectable companies charge the same price. Typically you won't pay more than 10 RON (3 EUR) for a travel between the city center 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 0.5 RON multiples (e.g., if the meter shows 3.2 RON you will probably be expected to pay 3.5 RON, leaving the extra 0.3 RON 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 3.5 to 5 RON, for example), do ask for the change.
Taxi cabs come in all shapes and colors, 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 kilometer 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 name of company on the door of car! Respectable firms typically have several cars parked at each station; that's an easy way to identify them. Elseway, the price per kilometer is sometimes displayed on the cab door. It should be no more than 1.79 RON (17900 lei, in the old currency).
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 unhesitantly as if you knew exactly where it was.
Some of the taxi companies in Cluj-Napoca:
Cars can be rented from the following operators:
Many small tourism agencies also intermediate for renting cars, and you might be able to get better rates there. You can find such agencies scattered throughout the city centre.
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:
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).
Nowadays Cluj Napoca is one of the most important shopping city in Romania, with two of the biggest malls: Iulius Mall and Polus Center.
You can also visit Sora Shopping Center, Central and Galeriile Ferdinand (very expensive).
For a lower budget you can find lots of cool clothes in Piata Marasti (shopping center).
Another 2 malls are going to be built in Cluj Napoca. Atrium Center and Akademia Center (the construction of Akademia will be completed by 2009)
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).
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.
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.
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