I have to confess I’m beginning to like Cluj. Especially now that Strada Horea has been repaired. It’s not a big place, but cities are soon too big and buzzing to my taste. But now that I’ve found a few places that I feel comfortable at I have actually come to enjoy spending a couple of days there. Cluj is often the starting point of my travels; it’s a good place to do some grocery shopping and acclimatize myself to everything Romanian before I move on to the countryside. In my book, accclimatizing mostly involves sitting at a cafe and letting it al sink in. So here are a few places that I think are worth stopping by.
Koffer, B-dul 21 Decembrie 1989 46/1
At Koffer (Hungarian for suitcase), you’ll find they are pretty serious about coffee. They have a great selection of coffees and teas, including decaf options. They also make wonderful juices and I’ve tasted a pretty amazing slice of serrano, mushroom and cheese quiche there. If you want something to go with your coffee, they serve very tempting-looking carrot cake and brownies. Also, before I forget to mention it: they double as a bookshop and have the most wonderful interior. Truly a living room in town – but probably better than your own. If you get hooked, ask for their loyalty card.
Insomnia Cafe, Str. Universităţii 2
I think Insomnia would probably be my favourite bar if I lived in Cluj. Apart from the fact they have an interesting logo, they have a great courtyard that keeps the city noise out. But don’t forget to go go upstairs and inside; you’ll be surprised at how much space there is and at all the little corners and rooms. It really is a great place to have that beer. And another one.
Cafe Bulgakov, Strada Inocențiu Micu Klein 17
Cafe Bulgakov describes itself as ‘Irodalmi Kávéház és Kultúrbisztró’ – Hungarian for ‘literary cafe and culture bistro’. So if you want a high-brow place this is where you go. Although if you just want a beer it’s still great. It has a courtyard surrounded by a half-open covered corridor, and an indoor cafe. The name refers to Mikhail Bulgakov, author of The Master and Margarita; a novel about the devil visiting the USSR, featuring a demonic cat – hence the cafe’s logo. It’s a restaurant as well as a bar; whether it is breakfast, lunch, dinner or a drink you need, they are open! They have a rather impressive-looking array of wines, so perhaps you should skip the beer for once. They also have some nice takes on the traditional limonadă. Although I will almost always go for the plain lemon limonadă, or socata – the variety with elderflower.
Klausen, Strada Georges Clemenceau 1
Klausenburg is the German name of Cluj-Napoca. Back in the twelfth century, King Geza II of Hungary imported Saxons to defend the border of the Hungarian empire. Although most German-speaking Romanians emigrated back to Germany after 1989, there is still a small though noticable German-speaking community in Romania. If you want some German gemütlichkeit, Klausen is the place to be. Comfy seats, large beers.
Tabiet Cafe Bistro, Strada Sculptor Fulicea Virgil 2
Tabiet Cafe Bistro is a trendy-looking place that describes itself as a gastropub. Only a stone’s throw from King Matei Corvin’s house (Hungarian: Hunyadi Mátyás) and more or less next door to Klausen and The Soviet, it is right in the culinary and cultural centre of Cluj. They serve coffee as well as cocktails – but you can also order a burger or a smoothie. Oh, and free wifi.
Cluj-Napoca at a glance
- Second biggest city in Romania (340,000 inhabitants)
- Historical region: Transylvania
- Hungarian name: Kolozsvár
- German name: Klausenburg
- Flights from: London, Amsterdam, Eindhoven, Brussels, Köln (and more)
The Soviet, Str. Clemenceau 2
Next door to Klausen, but very different in atmosphere, you will find The Soviet: welcome to little Russia. A Russian-style bar has to live up to its name – and they don’t disappoint: lots of booze to choose from. See their website for a long list of cocktails with interesting names such as Sex on the Tundra and Europa Liberă. By the way, their tagline is ‘Uzina de Cocktailuri’ – cocktail factory.
So you see, Cluj is quite a welcoming place, really! Finally, here is a promotional video about Cluj to give you some idea of what the city as a whole looks like. Cluj is waiting for you!
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