Why visit Cluj-Napoca: see what 11 international tourists think about the European Youth Capital in 2015

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Cluj-Napoca is a beautiful city in Romania, considered the unofficial capital of Transylvania. Cluj holds the title of the European YouthCapital in 2015, won during a competition that had 49 European countries as participants. Because of this recognition, some of the objectives for this year are for the city to become a major European centre for events, appointments and conferences, to involve yougsters and youth organizations in the urban development process and to involve the local community in youth projects and youth activities. Therefore, you can imagine Cluj as a vibrant, young city where a variety of interesting events are happening this year.

You can read more about Cluj as the European Youth Capital, at www.cluj2015.eu, where there is also available a calendar with all the events that are happening during this year.

In April, I spent time with a group of international youth that visited Cluj-Napoca. They had a beautiful experience and agreed to share with you their thoughts about the 2015 European Youth Capital. And if you are still thinking whether to visit Cluj or not, maybe their testimonials will convince you to do it.

Emma Karlsson – The Netherlands

“Cluj is the perfect destination for a city trip. It has interesting history, culture, nice bars and restaurants, or you can just do like the locals and hang out in the Central Park. I am recommending all my friends to go there.”

Perica Štefan - Croatia

"As soon as we landed in Cluj Airport, I felt good vibrations around me. I was very surprised by the local people’s kindness and their eagerness to help me to find the hotel. Moreover, two people gave me their valid tickets for free so I didn't have to buy them. Another pleasant surprise was the level of English knowledge of local people.

I visited many spots in Cluj, but I regret I couldn't stay longer to explore all sights worth seeing. The big park with small lake was also memorable and since I do a lot of sports, I was thrilled to see many old people working out in open gym. All in all, Cluj experience was really nice and hopefully I will visit Cluj and Romania again."

Mustafa Gündoğdu -Turkey

"Before my visit to Cluj-Napoca, I expected to see a «smaller Bucharest» with less people, less buildings and less action. Due to my first expectations, I could not stop comparing these two cities. But Cluj clearly showed me that in many aspects, Europe is not actually divided by the national boundaries, but it is a continent of diversity not only among its countries but also within its cities: Cluj and Bucharest were very different from each other and they had their own specific beauties.

Contrary to what I expected, Cluj is not full of Soviet-style buildings. Yes, this was the first thing that surprised me in this city. Actually, its architecture made me feel as if I was somewhere in Western Europe. After my conversations with local people, I learned more about the historical German influence in this region. The unexpected architectural style must be a result of this. Regarding the architecture, you can also easily notice the contrast between the old and the new. It is possible to see a fascinating old-style building next to a bigger building full of glass and advertisements all around.

After I spent more time in the city, the second thing I observed was how kind and welcoming the people were. Well…in smaller cities, you mostly do not have high expectations to be welcomed as a foreigner. But here you can have this expectation because the friendly attitude of local people makes you feel at home. And you will probably have no language problem in this city because most of the people can understand and speak English. Maybe it is because Cluj is known to be a «University city» with a high population of young people.

I think it would be a good city to live in. Although it is relatively small, you can find anything you will need: when I wanted to have some rest in a peaceful place among the trees, I could go to the Central Park or to the several small lakes close to the city centre; when I wanted to enjoy the night, I could find many pubs, night clubs in the city (some of them are open every day until morning!); when I wanted to have a good view of the city, I could simply walk 10 minutes to climb the small hill near the city centre, at «Cetățuie» etc. If you get out of the city, you will also see lots of beautiful villages among the aesthetically-scattered small mountains.

In short, Cluj is like a geographical and cultural connection point between the Eastern and the Western Europe. It is a good place to visit for several reasons: friendly and welcoming people, a unique atmosphere, cheap prices, and active entertainment life, etc."

Panoramic view from Cetățuie hill
Nefeli Papagiannakou - Greece

"My first steps in Cluj ground were quite impressive. I remember staring outside the taxi's window at the buildings, the people and the park. I was so amazed from this specific park! It was big, full of people, having their stroll around the lake, playing with the pedalos, or others, staring at the sky lying on the hammocks.

My first thoughts were «I wish I had such parks back home». What I have in mind about Cluj: is a big city which offers «shots» of nature, combining lakes, parks and street walks.

I will totally recommend Cluj to my friends."

Ana Mirza - Moldova

"Cluj-Napoca - one of my favorite places in Romania, even though I didn't see many places from Romania :). Why I'm thinking like that? Well, because Cluj is Cool, Likeable, Uptrend and... and Jolly (I could not find a better word). It seemed to like a small, friendly, young and warm city. One of my favourite places in Cluj-Napoca, that I recommend you to visit as well, is the Central Park.

I really liked the fusion of an old Renaissance atmosphere (maybe because of the architecture) and 'Young Blood' air. I should come back... I will come back to Cluj."

Central Park - Photos made by Ana Mirza

Lilit Adamyan - Armenia

"During my stay in Cluj I felt empowered by a vibrant atmosphere all around the city. I felt like young people were at the heart of their city, they brought the city alive through their active involvement.

I visited the City Hall, the Matthias Corvinus Monument in front of St. Michael's Church. Generally, it was great to see architecturally impressive and beautiful Romanian Orthodox churches and cathedrals located in gorgeous Cluj-Napoca! I walked along the splendid Central Park of the city, admiring the surrounding beautiful venue.

It was also impressive to find out that the citizens of Cluj and, generally, the youth turned out to be really kind, friendly, helpful and cordial.

I was also lucky to visit one of the largest European salt mines called Salina Turda Salt Mine in Cluj. I was fascinated when I came into the mine, admired by both its beauty and geology. I enjoyed every second I was there.

Surely, I recommend everyone to visit Cluj-Napoca. It is a fabulous place. I wish I could stay some more days to discover more and more. They were unforgettable days for me."

Harry Saunders - UK

"Cluj-Napoca was nice, a very different experience to some other places due to the absence of many western tourists... This makes it feel like a more authentic experience seeing local people.

I really liked some of the cool bars. So yes I'd recommend it, but not to too many people otherwise it will become full of tourists!"

Theresa Song Loong – The Netherlands

“I really like Cluj, I already recommended it to friends who now made the decision to go there on holidays.

I liked it because it is a very young city and I felt laid back and safe. As a tourist you can explore the city, go hiking in the surroundings and go clubbing also.”

Viktoriia Ivanova - Ukraine

“It was my second time in Romania and the first time in Cluj-Napoca, Transylvania. I really enjoyed the city! It is very friendly, peaceful and surprising. I think yes, surprising is just the best word to describe it. Honestly, before coming to Cluj I expected to see completely different city but in reality it was not so gorgeous as people told me. At first I was even a little bit disappointed.  But day after day I discovered more and more about the city. Really, it has some kind of magic. And the people are really friendly and will help you for sure!

Cluj-Napoca is full of contrasts. Its architecture is quite strange because on the same street you can see old baroque buildings and next to them is a Soviet one, go ahead and you will see high office center made of glass. But it gives the streets some special charm. The tiny streets, trees and plants everywhere, lots of cafes, strange architecture style, big monuments and busy roads – that is my words to describe Cluj-Napoca.

I even got a chance to visit two concerts. The first one was in the local philharmonics and it was modern orchestra music. Strange experience for me because I’m not really a fan of it. The next day I went to the free Haydn concert in the main Catholic Cathedral. It was magnificent. I enjoyed the walks in the Central park; it’s quite big and green. A lot of students like to spend there their free time, read books, have picnics or hanging in the hammocks. For me it was like another planet because in my native city we don’t have such parks and you will hardly meet someone reading or just sitting on the grass. People usually do it just in the city center. If you go to Cluj you should definitely go up to Belvedere view point, from which you can see the whole city from the height. It is unforgettable experience, especially at night.

I strongly recommend visiting Cluj! Everyone can find something to do in this city. And my advice is not to judge it from the first impression. Give it time and you will totally fall in love forever and will come back again and again. Trust me :)”

Kasia Piatek - Poland

"Cluj-Napoca is a beautiful city with really friendly and open people. I was impressed by organization of all the things in the frames of European Capital of Youth. I adored the city park and I wish I could stay longer and discover more."

Kamilla Ozbek – Saudi Arabia

"I liked Cluj-Napoca too much; it was an unforgettable experience for me because Cluj is a city just for young people from different cultures, so it makes feel very excited to meet different people with different cultures. It is not possible to not get attracted about it."

I want to thank my friends for sharing their experiences and I hope that their words have inspired you to also come and visit Cluj-Napoca.