Cluj-Napoca and Its Climbing Walls

A cathedral in Cluj-Napoca during heavy snow

Recently I had the pleasure of visiting Romania and spent a few weeks in Cluj-Napoca. It's not really somewhere that springs to mind as a holiday destination for most Brits, but I think it has lots to offer and it's a very budget friendly option!

Cluj is a modern, clean city. It has the reputation of being a tech-city thanks to the presence of various large multi-national employers in the area and there's a thriving meetup scene, with some really interesting talks happening in English. In general everyone seemed to speak flawless English, which was super helpful!

Getting around is easy thanks to the modernised public transport with a mix of buses, trams and trains running frequently throughout the city. You can buy tickets or an access card (similar to an Oyster card) at various bus stops but I found it easiest to pay on the bus with contactless.

A kind local mentioned that apparently all the transport is free on a Friday. Weirdly I never actually saw that information written down, even looking around online, but it did seem that no-one was paying on Fridays so I went along with it!

I'm sure it is official but it reminds me of my first job where despite the dress code being business-casual the employees organically adopted casual Fridays. It ended up being very resistant to management's attempts to get rid of it! It's cool how much the pandemic changed work for me, I can imagine going into the office again a few days a week for the right company, but I don't think I'll ever wear a shirt to work again.


Initially I was drawn to Romania for remote working since they have really good internet and aren't in the Schengen zone for now, so it's a great place to reset your EU tourist visa allowance. It turns out that Romania also has some amazing mountains as a reason to visit though! In particular Cluj is close to the Apuseni national park which I'd thoroughly recommend checking out.

Whilst the mountains are great for the weekends it's nice to be able to get some climbing in during the week and Cluj has four different centres. I couldn't find much information about them online so thought I would share my opinions here.

One weird thing about all the gyms is they have these open wooden boxes to leave your chalk bag in while climbing. I'm not entirely clear on why but it's kind of annoying as it leads to people walking back to them lots, so it can be hard to see which walls are in use. Not everyone was using them though so I just kept my chalk with me and it seemed fine.

Central Climbing

The inside of Central climbing

This was the first gym I visited and it's roughly a 30 minute walk from the centre of town. To enter it feels like you're walking into a residential block as the buildings form a sort of square, but you go past the first door on the right which looks like a little kiosk and enter a warehouse using the second door on the right. The inside of the warehouse is massive and people even park inside it, then the gym is a building within a building nestled in the corner.

In the main area there is a mix of top rope, lead and bouldering plus a training area and a moonboard setup (although it doesn't have lights/app functionality). Then there are two separate mezzanine areas, one with some cardio equipment and the other with a spray wall.

The bouldering is mostly overhanging with quite a burly style. The grading is based on coloured tags (with no associated grades), it felt a bit all over the place so just give everything a go! Holds weren't pristine in terms of cleanliness, but better than some of the others (brushing holds doesn't seem very popular in Romania!).

I found the people here really friendly and had some good sessions. A big plus is that it seemed to get significantly less busy than some of the other gyms despite being closer to the centre, so this was one of our mainstays for after work.

Free Wall

Free wall is a little further away but still walkable and you can go through the park and past the arena which is quite a nice route. It's located in a somewhat industrial looking yard and the entrance isn't super obvious, you have to walk up some steps and through a white plastic door which takes you to a stairwell. The changing rooms are upstairs and the climbing is downstairs (some signage would be nice!).

The best way I can describe Free Wall is that if this was your mates basement it would be the sickest thing ever, but as a commercial climbing wall it leaves a bit to be desired. It's quite small inside and the ceiling is fairly low. Roughly 1/3rd of the area has marked routes and the rest is just spray wall style.

One nice thing is that the person behind the counter would make routes for you and that gave it a chill community feel. You could get an alright session in here thanks to ~50 degree wall in the corner, but overall I'd probably give this a miss unless you happen to be staying really close by.


Gravity is a bit further away out to the west of Cluj, but there's a regular bus which takes about 30 minutes from the centre. It's in an outdoor sports complex where there is also a gym, tennis courts, football, etc. There's bouldering, lead and top rope with a small training area upstairs, the gym isn't massive inside but I did have a couple of good sessions here. The bouldering routes are graded with coloured tags and the colours have font grades which felt fairly consistent and accurate to me.

They seem to have a big focus on youth development and there were some really strong squad kids crushing our projects. The downside of that is it turns into a bit of a mad house at times with kids charging round everywhere and whereas most gyms I've been to you can escape the kids in the training area, here they seem to use it as a full on playground!

That brings me to the main downside of Gravity, it was way too busy. Maybe I just chose bad times to visit but it was a bit overwhelming since there were so many people and the music was cranked really loud.

The saving grace and definite highlight of Gravity was the outdoor comp wall. It had a giant tarp over it when I was there which kept most of the weather off and being outside seemed to discourage most of the crowds (except for one bloke who tried to make up for it with his volumeā€¦). It was a nice space to hang out in and if the weather had been a bit nicer that probably would have swung it as my favourite.

SKAI Urban Crag

The bouldering in SKAI

Ultimately though SKAI was our favourite. I think it's the newest gym in Cluj and apparently the owner sets all over Europe and used to be on the world cup circuit. That definitely shows in the style of routes here since it was super modern and parkour-y. Generally that's not my favourite style but it's well executed here and felt really creative so it was fun to play on.

SKAI also features bouldering and roped climbing, although probably more of a focus on bouldering than at Central. Upstairs has a moon board (without lights again) and a really nice spray wall, which together helped get my fix of more classic climbing movement in. It has the best training area of the lot upstairs too.

Getting to SKAI is a bit more inconvenient, but still fine on the bus. It's set on some sort of industrial estate and it's a bit intimidating when you walk in for the first time because you have to walk past a security guard in a booth, but it's fine and you are allowed to be there (the guards didn't speak English but 'escalada?' got the job done!).

Wrap up

I had a great time in Cluj and would recommend it for a visit. I probably wouldn't go back to Free Wall but all of the others were definitely worth checking out. Happy Climbing!