Chances are Cluj (full name: Cluj-Napoca), doesn’t promptly come to mind when one thinks about good places for digital nomads in Europe. Maybe this Romanian city is not a hotspot for remote workers yet, but it certainly will be soon! Located in the heart of Transylvania, Cluj has many of the characteristics location independent professionals tend to look for when checking out a new place to base themselves in for a while.
By European standards Cluj is affordable, even more than the capital of Romania, Bucharest, which many remote workers do spend time working from. Being a university city, the crowd of Cluj feels very young and dynamic. There seem to be plenty of opportunities to meet local people who more often than not do speak English well. Cultural and entertainment options abound, there are plenty of cafes, restaurants and nightlife. WIFI is also easy to come by – you can check this map with all the WIFI spots across the city. The start-up scene in Cluj is also alive and well, making this a great place to mingle with young entrepreneurs.
You can reach Cluj from Bucharest by taking a train journey that will last about 9 hours. Alternatively, you can fly in to Cluj’s international airport from Bucharest itself (flight time is about 1 hour), or directly from several other cities within Europe.
Folks in Cluj are a welcoming bunch! In fact, stats show that over 90% of locals wish there would be more foreigners living in their city. The number of international restaurants present in town are a proof that Cluj residents are open and internationally minded. For a fairly small city, the number of cuisines represented is quite good – you’ve got vegetarian, vegan and even raw-vegan places, good Thai, great Indian, plenty of Italian and, to my surprise, even a Portuguese grill house, to name just a few examples.
The natural beauty around Cluj adds points. Road-tripping around Transylvania and beyond is easy to do and very enjoyable too. It does get cold during the winter, but places tend to be well heated.
We spent over a month in Cluj and would definitely go back. The fact that we also landed a kick-ass Airbnb rental obviously helped us feel at home.
If you are looking for a non obvious spot for digital nomads in Europe, keep Cluj in mind!
These are the best places for Digital Nomads in Cluj:
Co-working Spaces in Cluj:
The international chain of co-working spaces Impact Hub is one of the most recent options for remote workers in Cluj. Even though they haven’t been around for long, the atmosphere at the large open space office sure feels happening, while there are also many themed start-up related events going on in the evenings.
Impact Hub is not in the most accessible location of Cluj. It is located within the Liberty Technology Park, which is actually the first technology park in Romania, and where many tech related companies operating in the country have their offices. Cluj is compact and most places can be reached by simply walking from the city center. To get to Impact Hub you need to take a quick bus ride (single tickets cost the equivalent of USD0.5), plus walk for about 10 to 15 minutes. Alternatively, an Uber ride from the very center won’t cost you much over the equivalent of USD2.
Getting to Impact Hub is worth it if you want to get to know other local entrepreneurs. Paying gives you access to the open space where you can sit wherever you please. Apart from desks of different heights and configurations, along with comfortable adjustable office chairs, you can have access to sound-proof booths to make your calls from, as well as chill-out areas where you can rest, work, grab a bite or simply get to know other co-workers.
If you have visited other Impact Hub spaces around the world, you will see that the one in Cluj works along the same lines. Here you’ll get to meet other entrepreneurs, techies, NGO workers, freelancers and creative folks. Most people are local (from Cluj or elsewhere in Romania). There aren’t that many foreigners around… well, not yet!
Where: Str. Gării nr. 21, Cluj-Napoca
Timings: Monday to Friday, 9AM to 7 PM
Prices: Packages start at 25 hours for 200 lei (aprox. USD47)
Goodies: Free access to community events + limited print outs.
More info: cluj.impacthub.ro
Cluj Hub is part co-working space, part start-up incubator. It’s a smaller place as compared to Impact Hub and, because of this, it somehow feels more local. This is a great space to start getting acquainted with the local start-up eco-system, as one of the persons who runs Cluj Hub, Tudor, is very knowledgeable regarding everything start-up related around here, and he’s happy to share details if you ask.
Cluj Hub is very easily reachable from the center of Cluj, and also right next to my favorite cafe to work from in town – see Phil’s Coffee below.
There are a few floors and you can pick the spot you’d like to work from. The tables and chairs are a mix and match of styles and designs. I didn’t find all of them to be particularly comfortable (specially the chairs), so have a look around and choose what you prefer. The lower floor feels certainly more chilled out than the one above, which is a tad more serious. That being said, I do like the fact that the floor above received more natural light. There is a garden and outdoor working area with good WIFI connection. As I visited during the winter, I didn’t have the chance to hang out there much, but I am sure that on a warm day, this would be a nice place to work from for a few hours.
Other colleagues at this space are mostly resident entrepreneurs and start-up folks. Even if they look too busy to talk while sitting at their desks, you can always do the social thing while hanging out in the common seating area by the coffee machine – kudos to Cluj Hub for the great coffee!
Where: Str. Pitesti 1, Cluj-Napoca
Timings: Monday to Friday, 9AM to 11PM
Prices: Day pass for 11 Euros. Light membership with 50hrs of co-working space per month costs 60 Euros.
Goodies: Free coffee and tea.
More info: clujhub.ro
If you like to work at big communal tables, face to face with other colleagues, Cluj Cowork is the space for you. There are a couple of rooms reserved for co-working inside the building, as well as other permanent offices where local start-ups operate.
If you visit for a day, chances are you’ll sit at the large table on the ground floor, along with other local freelancers and entrepreneurs. Seating arrangements involve various types of chairs, which are not office style chairs that you can adjust. While this may not exactly be the perfect set-up for those who need their own corner to concentrate and be productive, there’s no doubt that this makes things easier on the socializing front.
Cluj Cowork is the easiest to find co-working space in town. It’s right in the center, near public transportation, and beside several cafes and restaurants. This co-working space operates inside an old building, but there is good heating during winter. The atmosphere here is cozy and creative.
Where: 23rd Emil Isac, Cluj-Napoca
Timings: Monday to Friday, 8AM to 8PM
Prices: Day pass for 10 Euros. Weekly pass for 40 Euros. Monthly pass for 140 Euros.
Goodies: Free coffee and tea.
More info: clujcowork.ro
Cafes with Free WIFI in Cluj
My journey scoping out possible cafes with good WIFI to work from in Cluj didn’t start well at all. As this is a university city with many young people, cafes are plentiful. WIFI is also not a problem. But precisely because there are so many students all over town, it’s hard to find a cafe where you can actually enjoy some peace and quiet to get stuff done!
Before I go ahead suggesting the best cafes for digital nomads in Cluj, allow me to mention those that I would actually recommend against, and why: Papillon (it does have fast internet, but the chairs and tables are too rickety for you to be comfy); Sister’s (people seem love this place! For working purposes though, I found it way too full and loud); N8 Social (same as Sister’s… I guess it’s just way too social for work too!), TIFF (all the plug points were not working when I visited, which severely limited the time I could sit around).
Now, off we go to the best cafes for location independent folks working in Cluj…
Hands down, my favorite cafe in Cluj. Small, well lit, friendly staff and excellent coffee. As Phil’s Coffee is not right in the very center (but less than 10 minutes walk away form the main town square), the cafe doesn’t get ridiculously busy. No matter for how long you sit around, the staff will not look at you weird or pressure you to keep on ordering. And yes, there are plenty of plug points so that you can stick around for long.
They do not have much on the food front (they do serve alcohol, though!), but the quality of the coffee, the good WIFI and over-all great ambiance makes up for that. If you like to work in a hip yet relaxed environment, check out Phil’s Coffee while in Cluj!
Where: Strada Pitești 1, Cluj-Napoca
Timings: Monday to Saturday from 8AM to 7 PM
More info: facebook.com/philscoffeeshop
As Meron is located right next to Unirii Square and it also serves good coffee (something really not rare in Romania, by the way!), it is a rather popular spot. Considering it is a fairly large space though, you are likely to find a place to sit down to work. Couches by the wall are your best bet to be near a plug point. As you request drinks by the counter yourself and there is no table service, you will not be pressured to keep on ordering, so you can feel at ease sitting around for several hours.
Meron is a great place to work from for a while and move on to the next place to keep on working or simply go grab a bite – this is in downtown Cluj and everything is around here!
Where: Napoca 3, Cluj-Napoca
Timings: Monday to Sunday, 8AM to 11PM
More info: caffemeron.com
Looking for an off the beaten path cafe to work from in Cluj? Tie your shoelaces and make our way up hill towards Bookla. Located in a 2 floor villa, this bookshop and cafe hybrid makes you feel like you are working almost in the countryside. Yet, it shouldn’t take you much longer than 15 minutes walking from the center.
Lighting at Bookla is not very good when it starts getting dark, as the lamps are rather dim. But while the light is good outside, this is a great quiet spot to work from. Seating wise, there are individual cafe chairs with padding, as well as a couple of fluffy couches. They serve coffee, drinks and food – there are no other options right there, as Bookla is in a residential neighborhood.
If you are working with a group of friends or like particularly off beat places, Bookla will be your cup of tea.
Where: Strada Ion Andreescu 1, Cluj-Napoca
Timings: Monday to Sunday, 8.30AM to 10PM
More info: facebook.com/BooklaCluj
Koffer could be a nice spot to work from, but let’s be clear that it is not for everyone. Half book shop, half cafe, with a clear bohemian vibe, I can’t probably picture a serious programmer or someone who needs to take business calls working here, for example… but I can definitely see professionals like bloggers and writers enjoying the Koffer world.
The space is rather tiny and the chairs won’t invite you to stick around for long, but artsy folks may find their creative juices flowing at Koffer. I particularly enjoyed the seat by the window (as shown in the featured photo at the top of this article), where I could write while seeing life happening right outside. The delicious loose leaf teas are also a plus!
Where: Bulevardul 21 Decembrie 1989 46, Cluj-Napoca
Timings: Monday to Saturday, 8AM to 8PM
More info: facebook.com/koffercluj
From my experience, these are the best places to work from in Cluj, when you are simply passing by and do not wish to pay for a permanent space somewhere.