A long list of places to see and things to do in Chisinau, Moldova
I have lived in Chisinau for about 16 years, so I consider myself a local 🙂 During these years I visited many places around the city, but never wrote about them. I decided to rectify this error, so here is my list of things to do in Chisinau.
PS: weirdly, quite often foreigners know more about certain places than locals do, so, if you happened to visit Chisinau and think I missed an important place in this guide, please comment and I will add it.
Museums in Chisinau
Chisinau is a small city but we have numerous museums. There are not huge or rich museums as Louvre or Hermitage, but they deserve a visit.
1. National Museum of Ethnography and Natural History. This is my favorite museum in Chisinau. It has a huge collection of traditional objects and clothes, stuffed animals, excavated bones and a huge skeleton of a Deinotherium giganteum (resembles modern elephants).
2. National Museum of History of Moldova. This is the main museum of Chisinau. As the name suggests, here you can find objects pertaining to the history of Moldova, like documents, coins, portraits, religious paintings, etc. But my favorite is the weapon section with a huge collection of guns and swords. And don’t miss the diorama of the Iasi-Chisinau battle during World War II.
3. National Arts Museum. Well, I am not into arts, but I visited it anyway 🙂 Naturally, they exhibit paintings, both secular and religious, and sculptures.
4. Military Museum. Here they exhibit Soviet tanks, military equipment, war machines, weapons, etc. It’s not very big but you should definitely visit it.
5. Village Museum. Well, it is a kind of exaggeration to call it a museum, but it is a nice place. There is a wooden church behind the zoo, and they exhibit some elements of the village life. If you are in the area, don’t miss it.
6. Pushkin House Museum. Alexander Pushkin is the most famous writer and poet of Russia. And, as Moldova was a part of the Russian Empire, Pushkin was exiled to Chisinau. I am not going to lie that he was fond of Chisinau (compare it to St Petersburg), but he wrote/started to write some of his greatest works here. Now the house where he lived is a museum.
7. The Water Tower at the State University was built by the famous architect A. Bernardazzi in 1892. It is a monument of national significance and now it houses a small collection of objects about the history of Chisinau. And you can get a view of Chisinau from its top floor.
Parks in Chisinau
Chisinau is a green city: we have numerous parks and public gardens, and trees along the roads. There are big green areas in every part of the city so that people don’t have to go far. Here is my list of the best of them, and the first two are not free to visit (so the entrance fee is ridiculous: less than a euro). Some of the parks have lakes, but don’t dare to bathe there 🙂
8. Dendrarium Park. In my opinion, this is the most beautiful park in the city. It is huge and has an enormous variety of flowers and trees. They have dozens of rose bushes and lilac trees, and you can just imagine the fragrance!
9. Botanical Garden. You will see this park when you enter Chisinau on the way from the airport. It’s not as colorful as the one above, they concentrate mostly on growing trees, but the place is spectacular as well.
10. Cathedral Park. This park is around the main cathedral of Chisinau right in the city center. It is a lively area with benches under the trees, a couple of fountains and flower beds.
11. Stefan cel Mare Park. This park is really close to Cathedral Park. Another lovely and popular area with a fountain, flower beds and the Alley of Classics (granite busts of famous writers and statespeople).
12. Rose Valley Park. Another park popular among locals. Parts of it have recently been renovated, so now people flock there even more. There are three lakes there, a small amusement park and numerous cafes.
13. Riscani Park. This is a huge park in one of the most popular districts of the city. There are three lakes there, and it looks more like a forest. On the other side of Alecu Russo Street there is a smaller park, which is taken care of. There is a small beach on the shores of its lake, some paved paths and an amusement park.
14. Riscani Forest. Along Florilor Street we have a park but we call it a forest. It’s not really taken care of, but it is spectacular in autumn, when leaves turn yellow and red. I frequently go there to enjoy the beauty of nature.
15. Valea Morilor Park. A couple of years ago the lake of this park was Comsomolist Lake, but new lords, new laws 🙂 Now it is Valea Morilor (it is the Valley of Mills from Moldovan/Romanian). It is famous for the Cascade Stairs which has more steps than the renowned Potemkin Stairs in Odessa. During the soviet times this was a popular place for sport events.
16. Grigore Vieru Park. Well, it would be an exaggeration to call it a park 🙂 It is a long two-lane alley running along Grigore Vieru Boulevard. There are many benches here, and it is famous for the monument of the Leninist Komsomol.
17. Afghan Park. This park got its name thanks to the sculpture of a grieving mother and the white structure behind it as they were put there to commemorate Moldovan soldiers who died in the Afghan War. Locals love the park, there are many benches, a cascade of fountains, and the trees are spectacular in autumn.
We have numerous churches in Chisinau, and each one of them has its own special charm. Below are some of the most well-known ones.
18. The Cathedral of Nativity of the Lord is the main church in Chisinau. It was built in the 1830-ies, its facade is of bright yellow colour and has 6 white columns at the entrance. During the Soviet times it was converted into an exhibition center.
19. Mazarachi Church is the oldest building in Chisinau. Supposedly it was built in 1752 on a site of earlier structures. As it is old, there are many legends associated with it. Moldova was then under the Turkish rule, and one of these legends claims that a local ruler Mazarachii was wrongly accused and had to be judged. He promised that if he came out unscathed, he would build a church. Well, all ended well, considering there is a church.
20. Church of Saints Constantine and Helen, built in 1777, is the second oldest building in Chisinau. Like the church above, it was erected in the old Moldovan style. There was a graveyard next to it, but it was destroyed to lay a road.
21. The wooden church of the Dormition of Mary, built in 1642, is in the village museum I mentioned above. You may be asking now why I said then that Mazarachi Church is the oldest building in Chisinau. Well, the reason is that it was built in another place and moved to Chisinau in 2010.
22. St. Teodora de la Sihla Church was built by A. Bernardazzi in 1895 and has a mix of architectural elements. For many years it served as a chapel for the nearby school, but the Soviets opened a museum of scientific atheism there.
23. The Church of St Panteleimon is another creation of A. Bernardazzi. Built in 1891 in the neobyzantine style, it served as a church till 1940. During the Soviet time it was turned into a warehouse, and later used for exhibiting alcoholic drinks.
You just can’t miss our markets! Though they are usually crowded, here you can see real life 🙂
24. The Central Market. This is the bustling center of Chisinau. It is nothing like oriental bazaars, but life is buzzing here. You can find anything you may need here, starting with fruit and vegetables and ending with pants and batteries. And when you are there, make sure you move aside when you hear someone yelling ‘la o parte!’ (which means move away). Note that the place is extremely crowded, and is usually closed on Mondays.
25. Souvenir market. Frankly, there aren’t many places where people can buy souvenirs, but a perfect place to do that is a small square next to the Organ Hall. We lovingly call it Arbat (Arbat is a popular street in Moscow). You can find here lots of things such as paintings, towels and napkins with traditional embroidery, jugs, boxes, etc. Not far from this market, in the town hall building, there is a souvenir shop and a tourist information center.
NB: the market was moved to the park around the main cathedral.
26. Flower market. For something beautiful head to our flower market. Located at the intersection of Stefan cel Mare Boulevard and Banulescu Bodoni Street, it is a long row of small shops selling colourful flowers. Just stroll along and enjoy the views.
27. Local markets. There are smaller markets in almost every district of Chisinau, so if there is one nearby your hotel, go there for fresh fruit and vegetables.
It’s not that we have spectacular opportunities for shopping, and prices are usually quite high, but you can peek inside these centers just out of curiosity.
28. Malldova. This is the biggest shopping center in Chisinau. There are three floors with various shops and a huge supermarket, and the fourth one is a kind of entertainment unit. There is a cinema there (and sometimes they play movies in English), many restaurants, bowling, etc. As for clothing stores, there are many of them like Mango, Oggi, Benetton, etc. And for Christmas they put a Christmas tree.
29. Gemeni. This center is quite big as well and is in the city center, on the intersection of Stefan cel Mare Boulevard and Pushkin Street. This one is reserved specifically for shopping, so you won’t see any entertainment facilities. They sell clothes, shoes, jewellery, bags, cosmetics, stationery, etc. but you won’t find any renowned brands here.
30. Sun City. This shopping center is about 300 meters away from Gemeni I mentioned above. There are restaurants here and many stores selling clothes, shoes, cosmetics, etc. And here you can find brands.
Other things to do in Chisinau
Well, in addition to the places I mention above, there are more places to visit and things to do in Chisinau.
31. Our zoo is not very big, but there are many animals, including zebras, camels, wolves, a bear, monkeys, lions, etc. Whether you visit it or not depends on your attitude towards zoos.
32. Vivarium. This place is located behind the National Museum of Ethnography and Natural History (the entrance is on Maria Cebotari Street). Here you can see birds mainly: parrots, many parrots!, pigeons, chicken, ducks, ostriches, swans, but there are rabbits, snakes and a crocodile as well. There is a small park as well, which is considered the first botanical garden in Moldova.
33. Murals and mosaics. I am not going to claim that we have rich street art as it would be a lie 🙂 Still, there are some places you can see it. One of them is the road under the bridge in Telecentru District (the intersection of Hincesti Roadway and Miorita Street). But mosaics are more spectacular. You can see a huge one on the building next to Hotel Cosmos.
34. View from the bridges. Unfortunately, we don’t have any panoramic decks in Chisinau, but there are some places for views of the city. One of them is the bridge at the circus with the views of our Bic River. Another bridge, which we call viaduct, is close to Malldova shopping center and offers the views of Chisinau and Romashka (chamomile from Moldovan/Romanian) building which is an unofficial panoramic deck. Another bridge is on Mihai Viteazul Street with the views over a lake.
35. Pedestrian street. We have a pedestrian street: it is Eugen Doga Street with cafes and restaurants behind the Cathedral of Nativity. It is famous for a group of two statues: a boy and a girl on a date.
36. Disappearing architectural wonders of Chisinau. Some of the buildings erected during the Russian Empire and Soviet rule are now decaying. One of them is the synagogue on Alexandru cel Bun Street. Or the observatory building behind the Republican Center for Kids and Young People.
37. Drinking wine. As Moldova is famous for its wine, you just have to taste it! There are a couple of places to taste wine, like Invino or Carpe Diem, but you can go to any supermarket and buy any wine you want.
38. Tasting local cuisine. You just have to taste our cuisine! Yummy sarmale, mamaliga, placintas, pickles, mititei, zeama, you have to try everything!
We don’t have rich palaces in Chisinau, though it is a capital city, but some buildings are true architectural masterpieces. The majority of them were built when Moldova was a part of the Russian Empire and Soviet Union, and often they are more beautiful outside than inside.
39. The Arch of Triumph is one of the most notable structures in the center of Chisinau. It was built in 1840 to commemorate the victory of the Russian Empire over the Ottoman Empire in the 1828-1829 war. The bell in the arch weighs more than 6 tons and was made from Turkish cannons captured by the Russian.
40. In my opinion, the building of our city hall is one of the most beautiful in Chisinau. Just look at its colour, decorations, turrets! It was built at the end of the 19th century, but destroyed during World War II and reconstructed after the war.
41. The building of the National Opera and Ballet Theater is quite impressive, so you won’t miss it. And if you have an opportunity, attend a ballet.
42. Our Organ Hall looked differently, but after the renovation it has these white and mint green colours.
43. Mihai Eminescu Theater with its columns and mighty architecture will definitely grab your attention.
44. Government, Parliament, President’s residences. These three buildings were erected during the Soviet times, so, if you are after Soviet architecture, you know where to go.
45. The Ministry of Internal Affairs has an interesting design. I like its colour and the outside balcony.
46. The public prosecutor’s office is somewhat similar to the Ministry of Internal Affairs building. There is a balcony as well, and you can see hammer and sickle here.
47. You will not miss the villa of Vladimir Hertza due to its bright colour and intricate decorations on the facade. It was built in the beginning of the 20th century and recently reconstructed.
48. Luceafarul Theater is one of the most important theaters in Chisinau. Just like many other buildings, this one has interesting details on its facade.
49. Buildings on Stefan cel Mare boulevard and adjacent streets. There are other interesting buildings along the main boulevard and some parallel streets, including the Soviet and new ones, so just have a walk around.
50. The railway station building we have now isn’t exactly the original one. The first building here was erected in the second half of the 19th century, but it was destroyed during World War II. It was decided that building a new one is more reasonable than reconstructing it. There is a nice public garden with fountains just in front of the station.
51. The building of our circus is definitely one of a kind. It was built in 1980 and has a round form. Its most interesting part is the facade with fancy columns (I am not sure they are called columns) and the circus-themed sculptural couple above the entrance.
52. Eternitate (Eternity) Memorial Complex is dedicated to Soviet soldiers who died in World War II. It looks like a pyramid with 5 rifles looking up, and there is eternal flame in the center.
53. Gates of Chisinau. Actually, it is a couple of residential buildings constructed in a very bold and interesting way. They are located opposite each other, are symmetrical and look like open gates. Actually, this is the first thing travellers see, getting to Chisinau from the airport.
Where to stay in Chisinau
Well, in any city you travel, you have to stay somewhere 🙂 When I search for accommodation, I always use two options: it is either AirBnB (click here for a discount on your first booking with AirBnB) or Booking.com.
I have some suggestions regarding hotels and hostels in Chisinau. As always, I selected the best of the best places located as central as possible.
Guests of Amazing Ionika Hostel, located a couple of streets up from Stefan Cel Mare Boulevard like it for everything, starting with the location and ending with the staff. For as little as 7-9 EUR per night, you will get a bed in a clean room. And they have excellent Wi-Fi connection.
Hostel City Center is in the same price range as Ionika, but is more centrally located and equally good. And they have female and male only rooms.
Renting out of apartments is very popular in Chisinau. In fact, there are more apartments than hotels, and the deals are usually better. For example, for 30-40 EUR per night you can stay in this lovely studio right in the city center behind the main cathedral. If you are a group of travellers, consider this apartment that is good for up to 8 people. It is next to the main cathedral, and offers all possible facilities. Another apartment with modern twist is right on Stefan Cel Mare boulevard and costs 50-60 EUR per night for up to 4 people.
If your heart craves something luxurious, you can consider the very famous 5-star Nobil Luxury Boutique Hotel. You can hardly get a more central location. And for 130-160 EUR per night you can get all the luxuries possible of Chisinau 🙂
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