11 cool things to do in Chisinau, Moldova
What can you do if you arrive in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova? I have to admit: it’s not the best city in Europa for a city trip. It’s not as beautiful as Prague, as romantic as Paris or as cool as Berlin. But it certainly has it’s charm. And it’s a great base to explore more of Moldova as well – or even Eastern Europe! In this blog I will share 11 cool things to do in Chisinau in Moldova.
Cool things to do in Chisinau, Moldova
1. Ciuflea Monastery
Moldova has a lot of monasteries, so you can’t leave Chisinau without visiting the Ciuflea Monastery. You will find this one at the beginning of the main street / boulevard, not too far away from the train station. The Ciuflea Monastery is one of my favorites due to the colourful contrasts of the blue building and the golden domes. Super photogenic! You can just walk inside the complex for free and admire the beautiful painted walls and ceilings. If you’re a woman it’s smart to bring a scarf if you go to a monastery, to cover your hair. If you don’t have any, there are always some scarfs at the entrance.
Also read: the 8 most beautiful monasteries in Moldova
2. Piata Centrala: the central market of Chisinau
I love markets – it’s one of my favorite places to visit when I’m in a city. So of course I went to Piata Centrala as well: the central market of Chisinau. It’s a pretty big market, partly covered, and it’s easy to get lost here. But that’s not always a bad thing, is it? The market is open every day and you can find everything here. Vegetables, candy and chocolate, household products and clothes – even wedding dresses!
Markets are also a great place to get to know some locals and have interaction with them. It can sometimes be hard to talk with each other, but that’s alright. Most people don’t speak English, so it helps if you speak a bit of Romanian or Russian language. And with a smile you can already say a lot. I know a little bit of Romanian language and 5 words in Russian (one of them is cheers, so….). I’m pretty sure the lady who sold me chocolate tried to convince me to marry his son because we would be a great match. Her son is now living in Azerbaijan, but that’s just a small issue.
Costs: free, unless you buy something of course. Bring cash money, because people can’t accept cards.
3. Organ Hall
Some of the most important and beautiful buildings you will find at the main street: Bulevardul Stefan cel Mare si Sfint. You will also find the Organ Hall (Sala cu Orga) here. I expected to see a lot of ugly Sovjet style buildings in Chisinau. And yeah – they are definitely there. But there are also a lot of beautiful buildings. The Organ Hall is one of my favorites. In the Sovjet times it used to be a bank, nowadays it’s a place for small concerts.
Costs: free, concerts are mostly paid (although every now and then there are free concerts I heard)
4. Vanzare de picturi si suvenire: Montmartre of Chisinau
I love the area Montmartre in Paris because of all the artsy people that live and work there. It’s a great place to wander around and see all those creative people doing their thing. Next to the Organ Hall you will find a small square where artistic locals sell their work as well. Some of them are painters (and work on the spot), others make traditional stuff. This is why I call it the Montmartre of Chisinau. Sit on a bench and watch some art and some people. It’s also a great place to see people play chess, it’s a popular spot! And if you still need a souvenir from Moldova this is a great place to search for it and help some local artists out.
Costs: free, unless you buy something of course.
5. Triumphal Arch of Chisinau
There is another nice building at the boulevard: the triumphal arch of Chisinau. It’s next to the park with the cathedral. It’s not a super big arch (only 13 meters high), but it sure looks nice in the streets of Chisinau. Especially with the cathedral in the back. This triumphal arch was build in 1840 as a monument to remember the victory during the Russian-Turkish War in 1828-1829.
6. Nativity Cathedral of Chisinau
The Cathedral of Christ’s Nativity is the main cathedral in the city for the orthodox Moldovians. It’s an impressive building, right in the middle of a nice park. It’s the most important church in the city, so make sure to check it out from inside as well. It has a really central location, so the park is also a popular meeting point for locals.
7. Park & monument of Stephen the Great
Across the street of the Cathedral Park there is another park, dedicated to Stephen the Great. I had never heard of this guy before I came to Moldova, but this guy is a pretty big deal for Moldovians. Most people have at least one picture of him in the house. Stephen the Great lived in the 15th century and is one of the most important rulers of Moldova. His dad was murdered by his uncle, so he had to run away when he was young. He lived for a while in Hungary and in the region Wallachia – where he met the famous ruler Vlad the Impaler. With his help Stephen went back to Moldova and claimed the throne. Some of the biggest victories of Moldova were because of him, so the people love him for that. There is also a statue of Stephen the Great as a monument at one of the entrances at the park.
8. National Museum of History of Moldova
This museum is located in the city center of Chisinau. The museum exhibition focuses on the history of the country – and it goes back all to the Bronze Age. It will show you the history until the independence declaration of Moldova in 1991 via a lot of objects. I like that it is really visual, but it’s a pity that there is not that much information about the history. There are some information points in Russian, Romanian and English language. But the history of Moldova is pretty complex and they don’t really explain it thát well. So it’s a good idea to bring a local or a guide if you visit the museum if you really understand the complex history of this country – that was basically occupied by other countries and empires since FOREVER. The museum is closed on Fridays.
Costs: 10 lei for adults (€0,50)
9. Scara Cascadelor + Lacul Valea Morilor
A bit outside the city center you will find a lake named Lacul Valea Morilor. It’s not a natural lake, because it is made by mankind. But it’s a nice lake nonetheless. You can walk around the lake or just sit on a bench and watch people while you give your feet some rest. And the stairs – Scara Cascadelor – are really pretty!
10. Chisinau Circus
A bit outside of the city center you will find the Chisinau Circus. This building was built in 1981 and was one of the most important entertainment places in the USSR. First of all because it was the first circus in the USSR. The circus had almost 2000 seats and entertainers from all over the world came here to perform. After the fall of the Soviet-Union the circus became less and less popular. Nowadays it’s closed. They are renovating it – but nobody knows when it will open again (and if it ever will). But it’s for sure a cool building to see!
11. Wineries in the surroundings of Chisinau
Moldavie is well known for the good wines. And that’s not weird, because basically everyone here has a lot of knowledge about wine – and how to make a good wine. Most guesthouses where I stayed had their own vineyard and made their own wines and spirits.
There are wineries all over Moldova, but you will find surprisingly a lot of them around the capital Chisinau. Milestii Mici (south of the city) has the biggest wine cellars in the world, followed by Cricova (north of the city). Are you searching for a more traditional winery? Then ASCONI Winery (south east of the city) is a great place to visit.
Don’t forget to make your reservation for wine tours in advance. Especially in the weekends it can be really crowded and the tours can be fully booked. So it’s not always possible to make some reservations last minute.
Chisinau is not the most amazing city in Europe, but there is certainly some stuff to do. And it’s a great place to explore more of Moldova. Besides that there are some really cute and nice coffee places in Chisinau. I also wrote a blog about the best coffee places and working spaces in Chisinau for digital nomads, for anyone who works remotely and/or wants to enjoy a good cup of coffee!