When people are thinking about traveling Europe, Chișinău often isn’t the first destination that comes to their mind, I mean, many people probably would have never even heard of the city. This capital city doesn’t have an Eiffel Tower, a Buckingham Palace or the Colosseum, it does have stunning parks, beautiful Soviet architecture, delicious food and so much more to offer for those who are willing to give it a chance. In fact, Chișinău is the capital city of one of the poorest countries in Europe, and just this fact alone makes people question why Chișinău would be worth their time. And while Chișinău is rather small, and it can easily be explored within a couple of days, it is a perfect destination for those who love to go a bit more off the touristic path in Europe. So if that sounds like you, keep on reading to find out all the amazing things to do in Chișinău, how to get around Chișinău, where to stay in Chișinău and so much more!
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Where is Chișinău
Chișinău, pronounced “Kee-shee-now”, the capital of Moldova is located quite central in the country, offering quick and easy access (perhaps slightly bumpy) to nearby destinations such as Transnistria and Romania. The landlocked country is surrounded by Ukraine on one side, and Romania on the other side, making it easy to combine visiting Moldova with one of these other destinations, or perhaps even both! Have a look below to get a better idea of where Chișinău exactly is located.
Things to do in Chișinău
1. Valea Morilor Park
A visit to Chișinău would not be complete without a visit to the beautiful Valea Morilor Park. While located slightly further away from all the other sights it is also the place to come for a bit of peaceful and quietness, to escape the hustle and bustle of Chișinău. Walk along the paths through the park, admire the beautiful fountain along the steps, or simply admire the sun set at the lake. Valea Morilor Park was one of our favourite, and in our opinion one of the most beautiful, spots in Chișinău. Grab some food and head over to the park to enjoy a picnic, have a beautiful view over the lake and simply enjoy a little break before exploring the rest of Chișinău.
2. Tucano Coffee
One of the things we loved most about traveling Eastern Europe were the cafes that could simply be found everywhere. From small towns to larger cities, small coffee stalls or to extravagant cafes such as in Lviv, we had no problems finding our caffeine fix in Eastern Europe. Chișinău was no exception to the rule, and a visit to Chișinău would have not been complete without visiting the Moldovan coffee chain of Tucano Coffee. Tucano Coffee opened its doors in 2011 and has opened many more cafes in the last eight years, not only in Moldova, but also in Romania, Russia, Germany, Netherlands and so many more countries! A hip and laidback cafe concept that revolves itself around the culture of the coffee producing countries, the perfect place for a breakfast, a delicious cup of coffee or perhaps even a piece of cheesecake.
3. Nativity Cathedral in Chișinău
The Nativity Cathedral was one of the largest surprises of our trip to Chișinău, as while the building pictured below doesn’t seem like anything special, it is the inside of the cathedral that makes it worth your time. Upon entering you will simply be overwhelmed by all the gold that you will see left, right, up top and behind you… we were left simply in awe when visiting the Nativity Cathedral. In fact, the cathedral was built in 1830 but was the bell tower was sadly destroyed during a bombing in WWII, something that wasn’t rebuilt until 1997. Nowadays, it is the main Moldovan Orthodox church in Chișinău and it will be a rare occasion that you will find the cathedral empty. As photography and videography isn’t allowed inside the cathedral you will have to figure out for yourself how beautiful the inside truly is.
4. The Triumphal Arch of Chișinău
The Triumphal Arch must be one of Chișinău’s most iconic spots, and as such an absolute must see during your time in Chișinău. As it is located on the main street of Chișinău it will be extremely hard to miss, and it can be easily combined with a visit to the Nativity Cathedral. The Triumphal Arch was built a decade after the Nativity Cathedral, in the 1840’s, to celebrate the victory of the Russian Empire over the Ottoman Empire. As the arch was built right in line with the Nativity Cathedral it is sometimes also referred to as the Holy Gates. No matter what you call it, it is an impressive piece of architecture that should be on your Chișinău itinerary!
5. Parliament of the Republic of Moldova
If you are in the area make sure to drop by the Parliament Building of the Republic of Moldova. If you look close enough you will see Moldova spelled out neatly in small bushes right in front of the Parliament. While perhaps not the most exciting sight of Chișinău, it is worth stopping by if you like Soviet architecture, even if it is just to glance at it for a quick second as the building is just absolutely massive. This Parliament Building was actually where the central committee of the Moldovan Branch of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union used to meet.
6. La Placinte
Got hungry of all the sightseeing? Head over to La Placinte for some delicious Moldavian cuisine! We ordered a Moldavian Layer Pie filled with cherries, some dumplings and a Moldavian pie with cheese and herbs as can be seen in the photo below. However, La Placinte has so much more to offer, from delicious grilled vegetable plates to a large variety of meat dishes and salads. La Placinte is a great place to eat for those who are visiting Moldova on a budget, and if you are curious to see if they have anything you like be sure to check out their menu here. As La Placinte is a restaurant chain you will find them not only in Chișinău but also in Transnistria and Romania!
7. Soviet Architecture
Enjoyed your meal at La Placinte? Perfect! Time to explore a bit more of Chișinău. Wandering around the streets you might have noticed the large amount of Soviet architecture that can be found here. However, for the Soviet architecture lovers, you might want to add the following places to your list in case you don’t want to miss out:
- Presidency of the Republic of Moldova
- Cosmos Hotel
- National Bank of Moldova
- Turist Hotel
- Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry
- The abandoned National Hotel
We also had the Chișinău Circus on our list as well but sadly didn’t have the time for this in our itinerary as it is slightly out of the centre. However, just walking around Chișinău you will see that you can find the Soviet architecture almost everywhere. From mosaics to apartment buildings, governmental buildings to abandoned sights, the Soviet architecture in Chișinău alone can keep you busy for a day!
8. Go on a day trip to Transnistria
Haven’t seen enough Soviet architecture after visiting Chișinău then make sure you hop on a bus to the breakaway state of Transnistria, or better known as Pridnestrovie in the state itself. Transnistria is a breakaway state located on the border of Ukraine that has its own army, currency and even passports. Traveling to Transnistria is like traveling 30 years back in time as the city of Tiraspol is filled with Soviet architecture but also statues of Lenin and Soviet symbols. Intrigued? You can read everything you need to know about visiting Transnistria in our post on 10 unique things to do in Tiraspol, Transnistria’s capital!
9. Ciuflea Monastery
However, there is so much more then just Soviet architecture in Chișinău, such as the beautiful Ciuflea Monastery. A blue monastery, golden domes, a true piece of art. During Soviet times many religious sights had to close their doors or either had their purpose completely changed. For example the Nativity Cathedral mentioned above was used as an exhibition building during the Soviet period, and as such a new church had to be appointed, which in this city was the Ciuflea Monastery. The Ciuflea Monastery is one of the most colourful buildings you will find in the city, and for that reason alone it deserves a spot on your Chișinău itinerary!
10. Stefan Cel Mare Park & Boulevard
A visit to Chișinău would not be complete without stopping by the Stephen the Great (Stefan Cel Mare) statue, the park and the boulevard. You will find many of the main sights that have been mentioned above along the Stefan Cel Mare si Sfant Boulevard, such as the Parliament Building and the Triumphal Arch. But be sure to have a walk through the Stefan Cel Mare Park as well for a well deserved break, this must have been our favourite city park in Chișinău!
11. Piata Centrala
If there is one thing we loved doing in Eastern Europe then it was visiting the local market. We visited local markets in Wroclaw and Kiev, so when we came across Piata Centrala in Chișinău we just knew we had to stop by. You can find simply everything at these local markets, from cheese and meat to vegetables and candy, and it is always busy and packed for people trying to find the best deals. Fresh produce as far as the eye can see, the perfect place to go shopping for some healthy snacks or simply to explore the atmosphere of the local market.
12. Propaganda Cafe
If you are looking for a bit more of a unique place to go and grab a coffee, a drink, or perhaps even some food be sure to add Propaganda Cafe to your Chișinău itinerary! But many people don’t just come here for the food but also the design of the inside of the cafe. Music playing, flowered wall paper, antiquities all over the restaurant, the design is a feast for the eyes. We stopped here for a coffee before catching a train, but wished we would have came here for a dinner instead, who knows, maybe next time!
13. Catch the Train to Bucharest
Last, but definitely not least, is catching the train to Bucharest, if you have the time of course. And while train travel is our preferred way of travelling in general, there is a reason this train makes it to the list specifically and that is because this train journey is rather unique. A 30 year old Soviet train that makes it way slowly through Moldova and then, at the border, something unlike we had ever seen before happens. The train tracks in Moldova differ in size from the train tracks in Romania meaning that the train can’t simply continue its journey. The solution: they put the wagons one by one on a jack to change the wheels below the train, and during this whole process you will stay inside, now that is what we call a unique journey!
Transport in Chișinău
One of the easiest way to get around Chișinău is simply by walking. Many of the sights are within walking distances of each other, not only is it budget friendly, you will also see the most this way! However, public buses are widely available in Chișinău, but figuring out the bus schedule might be the hardest part as Google Maps doesn’t have a whole lot of information available currently. Instead, download the app Eway, which will help you figure out the bus routes, prices and schedules within the city. Should you want to go out of the city, then you will have to make your way to the bus station at Piata Centrala, from here you can find buses to Ukraine, Romania, Transnistria and various destinations within Moldova.
Where to stay in Chișinău
While Chișinău isn’t Europe’s most popular destination, it has a surprising amount of hotel, hostel and Airbnb options available. We stayed at Hostel City Center, a place that offered affordable accommodation at a central location. Staff was friendly, the hostel was clean and the beds were some of the most comfortable we stayed at. The best thing perhaps was that the hostel was located at the top of a mall where you could find a super market that has everything you need, from fruits to snacks, and some delicious pastry in case you get hungry. However, if dorms are not for you then perhaps you want to look at other options. Check out the map below to find the perfect accommodation for you!
Moldova Travel Budget
Moldova is one of the most affordable travel destinations in Europe, so visiting Moldova is suitable for both budget and non budget travellers. To give you a little bit of a better idea of how much you can expect to spent during your trip to Chișinău and perhaps more of Moldova, check out our exact spendings of our one 5 night/6 day trip to Chișinău and Transnistria down below:
|Cost 5 nights
|Food & Drinks
As we mainly spent our time wandering around the cities we had no activity expenditures during this trip, but even if you plan on see a few sights you can see you can easily travel Moldova on a $20 – $25 budget a day as long as you stay in a hostel, eat in budget restaurants and walk within the cities instead of taking taxis.
Where to go after Chișinău
And there you have it, 13 unique things to do in Chișinău! As Chișinău is landlocked between two countries it makes it incredibly easy to continue your journey onwards. Not sure where to go? Check out some of our other articles on nearby travel destinations for some travel inspiration:
- 44 Things You Need To Know Before Going to Ukraine
- 3 Days in Kiev – An Unforgettable Itinerary
- 12 Unforgettable Things To Do in Odessa
- Ukraine Travel Budget – How Much Does it Cost To Travel Ukraine?
- Getting Around Ukraine – The Ultimate Ukraine Transport Guide
We loved our time in Moldova, and in retrospect we wished we would have planned a longer stay here, but hey, this just means we have to go back in the future. How about you, have you been to Moldova before? Anything we need to add to our to do list for next time? Be sure to tell us in the comment section down below. And oh, don’t forget to save it to Pinterest for later!