Located in the North-West of Romania, one of the richest areas of the country, Cluj-Napoca is roughly equidistant from Bucharest (441 km / 276 mi), Budapest (409 km / 256 mi) and Belgrade (465 km / 291 mi). Situated in the Someşul Mic River valley, Cluj-Napoca is one of the most important economic and academic centers of Eastern Europe.
The city is situated at the crossroads of some national and international leads of interest, and it has always been a centre of attraction both for its history and for the rich cultural and scientific life. All these are mirrored in inestimable values found in museums and libraries, in dramatic and lyric theatres of national and international resonance. Consequently, the city is considered the unofficial capital of the historical province of Transylvania.
Cluj-Napoca offers a great diversity of social and cultural activities that focus on a very important segment of its population: students and young professionals. Every year, a large number of students come here to study from all over the country and also from numerous other countries. Through their activity, they contribute to the constant development and the liveliness of the city. As a result, Cluj-Napoca held the title of European Youth Capital of 2015.
Cluj-Napoca is the beneficiary of a rich and interesting cultural heritage, the architecture and the archaeological sites preserving its memory and its identity, defining its personality and offering the modern society a unique experience from an aesthetic and emotional point of view.
We have chosen a few of the many places worth visiting in Cluj-Napoca and we wish to present them briefly. Of course, all through a chemist’s eyes!
The Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral built between 1923-1933 according to the plans of the architects Constantin Pompoiu and George Cristinel is one of the most important religious buildings from Cluj-Napoca municipality. It is dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos.
The “Alexandru Borza” Botanical Garden in Cluj is a very appreciated place of recreation and a valuable research resource for students and researchers, having connections with 450 similar institutions in 80 countries. Occupying 14 hectares of abrupt and hilly land in the south of the city, it is the largest green area of Cluj-Napoca, displaying a large variety of flora specific to every season. Founded in 1920, by professor Alexandru Borza, the Garden belongs at present to the “Babes-Bolyai” University. The Garden hosts the Botanical Institute, the Botanical Museum, a Herbarium, with over 650.000 exhibits, 3 hothouses, a Roman and a Japanese Garden.
Cluj-Napoca is the only city in Romania with two national theaters and opera houses (a Romanian and a Hungarian one) and a lively cultural life. The Romanian Opera House in Cluj is the oldest in Greater Romania. The ‘Lucian Blaga’ National Theater and the Opera House are hosted by the centennial building raised in the beginning of the 20th century wooden market. Its respectable age and remarkable conservation is a good enough reason to just visit the baroque-secession imposing building, not to mention the beauty of the performances that it stages, together with the dedication and talent of the staff who bring the characters to life.
St. Michael’s Church is one of the oldest and most appreciated Transylvanian monuments of Gothic architecture. It stands majestically in the very heart of the town and was built between 1350 and 1487, probably immediately after the settlement had officially become a town, in 1316.The altar is the oldest part of nowadays’ building, dating back to 1390 and measuring 24 meters. The new-Gothic style tower (1837-1859) is the last built. The latter measures 80 meters, together with the 4-meter high cross. The nave of the church is 50 meters long and the walls – 10 meters high. The church is well preserved, as it was professionally restored between 1956-1963.
The National Ethnographic Vuia, established in 1929, bears the name of its founder and first museum manager, Professor Romulus Vuia. The exhibited pieces are in fact old traditional buildings, grouped according to their regional establishments, folk architecture monuments, folk installations, craftsman workshops, wells, gateways, big wooden crosses and indoor textiles. The Ethnographic Museum is the oldest from Romania; The oldest exhibit pieces date back from 1678;
The Memorial Matthias Corvinus House is known as the oldest lay building in Cluj-Napoca, well preserved and having many functions along the time. Built around XIV-XVth centuries in Gothic style, it never belonged though to the Corvin family. Matthias Corvin, the son of Iancu of Hunedoara (Great Voivode of Transilvania and governor of Hungary), was born here by chance, when his pregnant mother sought shelter at the inn that functioned in the building. Since Matthias was born and spent a few of his first months of life here, the house was declared “The Memorial Matthias Corvinus House”.
Few of the tourists who visit Cluj-Napoca and even locals will miss a climb on the “Fortress Hill” (Dealul Cetățuia), in order to admire one of the best panoramas of the city and the surrounding hills, rivers and even mountains. With an altitude of 405 meters above sea level, and 60 m above the city, the hill got its name from the Austrian fortress built there, the oldest representative of baroque secular architecture in Transylvania. Dominating the historical canter of the city, the fortress was built in the 18th century, in order to ensure the control of the city, more than for defensive purposes, occasionally serving as a prison.
The Mihai Viteazul Square is dominated by the equestrian statue of Michael the Brave (Mihai Viteazul 1558-1601) and is bordered by a few former palaces of fine architecture, but contains as well elements of communist architecture.The square – until then named Széchényi István – was changed to Michael the Brave in 1919, shortly after the Great Union (1918), in the memory of the first Romanian who united all the Romanians under his rule.
The Hungarian authorities decided, in 1894, to raise a bronze statue in the memory of Matthias Corvinus, to commemorate 450 years from his birth and 400 years from his death. The majestic statue is 12 meters high and covers 20 square meters. Born in Cluj, Matthias Corvinus was the second son of the Romanian leader Iancu of Hunedoara, former king of Hungary, and Elisabeth Szilágyi. The name “Corvin” derives from his heraldinc bearings, displaying a raven (corvus, in latin). Matei ruled Hungary between 1458, when he was made a king at the age of 15, until 1490. Yet he was crowned later, in 1464. In 1485, he and his army reached Vienna, and established there the capital city of his kingdom.
Built after the year 1405, Tailors Tower is part of the second chamber through the fortified walls and fortifications of the city raised in the first half of the XVth century and continued until the XVIIIth century. The Bastion was named after the guild tailors who maintained and guarded the city, that was required at that point. It’s the only bastion of the fortress which was fully preserved. In 1975 in front of the Tower it was raised a statue, carved by Virgil Fulica, in memory of Baba Novac, general of Mihai Viteazul. He was caught, tortured and executed by the Transylvanian nobles in the city of Cluj. Today the tower received a new destination as a ”Urban Culture Center “.
The Palace, built in the 18th century by the nobiliary Bánffys, is representative of the Transylvanian baroque. Nowadays it hosts the Art Museum which has a collection of over 12.000 paintings, sculptures, graphic arts and decorative pieces and it is considered one of the most important museums in Romania including many masterpieces from famous romanian artists such as Nicolae Grigorescu, Ştefan Luchian, Theodor Aman and Nicolae Tonitza.