We have celebrated Valentine’s day in Chișinău this February. Not an obvious choice, right?! So, let’s see our Chișinău Bucket List!
Obviously we have tried to get ready for the trip in advance and kept browsing different reviews, opinions about the capital of Moldova. If you look for reviews about Chișinău, the most common adjectives that you can find are: “boring”, “nothing-to-do” or even “poor“. Let’s change this outdated perspective finally, please! The visit to the capital of Moldova was one of most interesting city breaks we could have recently.
Chișinău is not the place where you should travel for its beauty – as per the standards of the Western world. But instead, finally you will be able to enjoy something different, learn about the world out there – which is still Europe, and experience something authentic. Chișinău is not for outsiders. Actually this is the less visited European capital by tourists. So keep in mind, if you want Paris, go to Paris and don’t complain after. But if you want to visit a historically and presently super interesting and different place, you have it: Chișinău!
- 1 Chișinău Bucket List
- 1.1 Cathedral of Christ’s Nativity
- 1.2 Triumphal Arch
- 1.3 The Sculpture of Lovers
- 1.4 The Statue of Ștefan cel Mare
- 1.5 The State Circus
- 1.6 Brutalist Architecture
- 1.7 Chișinău City Hall
- 1.8 St. Theodor Tiron Convent
- 1.9 Transfiguration Church
- 1.10 St. Mary’s Armenian Apostolic Church
- 1.11 Presidental Palace of the Republic of Moldova
- 1.12 Eternity Memorial
- 1.13 Try the wine of Moldova!
- 1.14 Try the local food!
- 1.15 A day trip to Tiraspol
- 1.16 Visit Mileştii Mici Winery
- 1.17 Visit Cricova Winery
- 2 Best experiences in Chișinău
- 3 Where to stay in Chișinău
Chișinău Bucket List
The Cathedral of Christ’s Nativity is the main cathedral of the Moldovan Orthodox Church in Central Chișinău. It was commissioned by the governor of New Russia, Prince Mikhail Semyonovich Vorontsov, and Metropolitan Gavril Bănulescu-Bodoni in 1830. The cathedral was bombed during World War II, and its bell tower was destroyed by the local Communists in 1962. The new bell tower they constructed in 1997. During the Soviet period, worship was prohibited and therefore they transformed the cathedral into an exhibition center.
Melnikov’s design is Neoclassical. The façade is very simple and clear with six Doric column for the entrance. Because of the numerous destructions which the cathedral suffered throughout time, the building has received several restorations and shifts in its shape. The inside was completely blank during the Soviet period but nowadays it has painted walls in pure Orthodox style.
The Triumphal Arch was built in 1840 by the architect I. Zauschevi. It commemorates the victory of the Russian Empire over the Ottoman Empire during the Russo-Turkish War (1828–29). From its construction to 2011 the monument sheltered at its second level a huge bell of nearly 6.400 kg.
This statue is on the opposite side of Cathedral park. The statues display a boy waiting for a girl with flowers. It seems to attract lots of people who want to take a photo with them. Indeed, an excellent snapshot, he waiting for a girl, eagerly looking at his watch and she comes slowly with shoes in hand.
The monument to Stephen the Great was designed by architect Alexandru Plămădeală in 1923. It was erected near the main entrance of the Stephen the Great Park in Central Chișinău. The monument was completed in 1927 and opened on 29 April 1928 (to replace the monument to Alexander II of Russia, destroyed by the Romanian authorities in 1918). A few days before the 1940 Soviet occupation of Bessarabia and northern Bukovina, they relocated the monument to Vaslui. On August 25, 1942, they returned the monument to Chișinău and took back to Romania in 1944. In 1945, the Soviet authorities ordered the restoration of the monument to Chișinău. On 31 August 1989 the monument to Stephen the Great returned to its original location, chosen by Alexandru Plămădeală in the 1920s. They also restored the initial inscriptions.
The Chisinau Circus was built in 1981 by the architects Ala Kirichenko and Simion Shoyhet and engineers A. Snipelishsky, T. Grryunov. The project was innovative and risky, considering that from the beginning, conflicts erupted between the sponsors “Союзгосцирк” (the Circus Union of USSR) from Moscow and the design team from Chisinau. Nevertheless, Chisinau State Circus was opened in 1982. The money required for the construction was allocated from the budget of the USSR as a gift for the celebration of 545 years since the first mention of Chisinau city.
The Chisinau State Circus has hosted concerts and performances of both local and international artists (Belarus, China, Finland, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, etc.). Although the other circuses of the former Soviet bloc were having up to 14 performances per year, the Chisinau Circus used to hold the record with up to 57 shows a year, with a staff of about 60 people.
At present, the building of the Chisinau Circus is in an advanced state of decay. The technical status of the building is quite good. However, it requires urgent intervention, the building being unusable at present.
Chisinau offers an intriguing mix of Soviet-style brutalist architecture from 19th and 20th centuries as well. The city’s 19th century Russian architecture still present and we can find crazy amount of giant blocks of flats from the 20th century as well.
But, the majority of the Soviet architectural legacy in Moldova has not made it onto the list of heritage sites. Some structures are now in a dilapidated state, and hardly anyone cares about preserving them. Here you can read about the most interesting Soviet buildings in Chisinau.
Chișinău City Hall is a historical and architectural monument built in Italian Gothic style located in Central Chișinău. Originally constructed to house the city Duma in 1901, but they nearly destroyed it during World War II. They rebuilt it in the postwar period based on surviving images and construction plans. We can find it on the Boulevard of Stefan cel Mare, impossible to miss it.
This church is popularly known as “Ciuflea Monastery”. The construction of the cathedral began in 1854 and finished in 1858. The founders of the sanctuary, siblings Theodor and Anastasie, are buried near the south wall, as evidenced by the inscription on the marble plaque inside the monastery cathedral.
During the Cold War the space race was raging between United States and USSR. After the success of Yuri Gagarin in 1961 a great propaganda campaign started across the Soviet Union and many planetaria began to appear. They also transformed churches into planetaria because of their domes. This was the fate of the Transfiguration Church from 1962 until a fire ravaged it in 1990. The devices for the planetarium were too expensive to make the rebuilding profitable and the attraction closed for good on 24 October 1991. After several refurbishment works during the post-Soviet years, they completely renovated the church and opened again to the public.
According to some sources, the Armenian church in Chisinau was built on the ruins of an ancient Moldovan temple which burned down along with the rest of the city in 1739. The new, Armenian church was built in its place in 1804.
The architectural plan, featuring the nave with semicircular apse and the bell tower bunk extension to the west, reveals XVIII century construction style. The church’s main body represents an elongated box rounded to the east and the high bell tower over the west porch, culminating with a tent ceiling. Typically Armenian are the south aisle arches with decorative columns and clean masonry walls.
Between 1984 and 1987, Yuri Tumanean, Arkady Zaltman, and Viktor Iavorski were the architects responsible for the constructions of the Presidential Palace. After Moldova gained its independence, the building became the residence of the president of Moldova starting in 2001 with President Vladimir Voronin. The building suffered damages during protests on April 7, 2009 against President Voronin. As a result of the protest, they closed the palace.
In the early years of the Dodon presidency, they renovated the palace with the help of the Turkish government. They opened the new palace on October 17, 2018, in the presence of President Dodon and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Eternity – a memorial complex dedicated to the soldiers who fell in World War II and the military conflict in Transnistria. The memorial is located along P. Halippa Street (formerly Marshal Malinovsky Street). The central part of the memorial is a pyramid of five 25-meter tall stone rifles. A 5-pointed star with an eternal flame in the center of the monument. The Moldovan Army guard the entire park. Wreath-laying ceremonies are regularly taking place at the center of the memorial on national holidays.
Try the wine of Moldova!
Moldova has a well-established wine industry. With a production of around 2 million hectolitres of wine. It is the 11th largest European wine-producing country. Moldova has a vineyard area of 148,500 hectares of which 107,800 hectares they use for commercial production. The remaining 40,700 hectares are vineyards around family houses to make home-made wine. Many families have their own recipes and strands of grapes that they passed down through the generations.
Try the local food!
We have spent only a long weekend in Moldova. So we didn’t have enough time to discover all the local dishes. But some of them we tried and we have been in nice restaurants too. Hence we decided to include them into this article and share as our favourites in Chișinău. But if you have more time there, don’t hesitate to explore further, as Moldovan kitchen is really delicious. Try at least the followings:
- Plăcinte – The Moldovan pie
- Mămăligă cu brânză și smântână – Polenta with Cheese and Sour Cream
- Sarmale – Filled Cabbage Rolls
- Oladii din dovlecei cu somon – Pumpkin pancakes with salmon
- Ciorbă de legume / Ciorbă tradițională cu carne – Traditional vegetable or meat soup
A visit to Tiraspol is like travelling back in time. Tiraspol is the capital of Transnistria (de facto), a breakaway state in Moldova, where it is the second largest city. The city is located on the eastern bank of the Dniester River.
In order to get to Tiraspol you either need to book a tour in advance or find a Yandex driver who is willing to take you there. It’s approx 1-1,5 hour by car to get there. Take your passport with you, as there is a real border control before entering Transnistria. And you need not more than couple of hours to walk around and visit the most important monuments.
In front of the Transnistrian Government building there is a statue of Vladimir Lenin. On the opposite side of the central square, a monument plaza features a Soviet T-34 tank, commemorating the Soviet victory in World War II. An eternal flame to those who fell defending the city in 1941 and liberating it in 1944. As well as several monuments dedicated to more recent conflicts, including the Soviet–Afghan War and the War of Transnistria.
Mileștii Mici is the biggest wine cellar in the world. This is a winery located about 20 kilometers from the capital, Chisinau, whose foundation dates back to 1969. It is possible to visit the cellar on a guided tour using a touristy train as a vehicle. There are some different tour options and different prices depending on what you are getting. You can check all of the options on Mileștii Mici official website.
The Cricova winery is located 17 km north of Chisinau. This is the second biggest wine cellar in Moldova and a must-do visit if you are in the capital of the country. You may hear that it is not as authentic as Mileștii Mici, just go and find it out by yourself. You can check all options here.
Best experiences in Chișinău
Where to stay in Chișinău
We have stayed in the Wine Hotel of Chișinău. For a very reasonable price we could benefit from nice services. The only weird thing is that the hotel itself is on the 4th floor of an office building with no elevator. Even its reception. So you can feel lost for the first time when you try to get in. If this hotel is not enough convincing for you, take a look at the below map with other options.
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