One of the highest proportions of natural spaces of any EU city, the Moldovan capital offers lush green parks, the world’s biggest winery and Soviet-era relics
Arriving in Chișinău late on a Friday night in January is a surreal feeling. The weather had laid down many layers of snow, which would make our time in the city, festive but tricky.
The first job was getting a taxi to our hotel, as all public transport had stopped in the early hours of the morning. Mon Ami Villa Hotel is a great mid-range hotel in the centre of Chișinău. With helpful staff and a great breakfast, it’s exactly what you’re looking for.
The city’s Cathedral Park is a wonderful attraction within its boundaries. The Nativity Cathedral sits proud in place and is the primary Moldovan Orthodox place to worship.
The cathedral was constructed in the 19th century and has a neoclassical design, with the belfry standing just in front of the main entrance.
Chișinău’s very own is also known as the ‘Holy Gate’. It’s a great entrance to the Cathedral Park and sits directly opposite the Government House. The arch was built in 1840 and is to commemorate the victory of the Russian Empire over the Ottoman Empire, during the Russo-Turkish War in 1828-1829.
Stefan cel Mare Central Park
During the summer months, this park (the country’s oldest) is very popular with locals, especially during the summer months. A highlight includes the Classic of Moldovan Literature, containing busts of prominent Moldovan and Romanian authors and political figures. The park is great for families and is well worth a walk.
One of Moldova’s unmissable attractions, the Milestii Mici winery is brilliant for connoisseurs. A short drive outside the capital and you will arrive at the biggest winery in the world. Booking a guide is a must to see the staggering 3,000,000 bottles all contained in a former quarry. It spans dozens of kilometres.
Cathedral of Divine Providence
The neoclassic church was constructed in 1836 thanks to grants from the Russian Tsar, Nicholas I. During the war, parish activities ceased and it closed in 1963. It was reopened in 1989 and is a worth a look.
Parliament of the Republic of Moldova
This Parliament building was formally a meeting place of the Central Committee of the Moldovan branch of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The building sits on Stephen the Great Boulevard, which was once known as Lenin Boulevard. The building was damaged in 2009 during the civil unrest.
National Museum of Ethnography and Natural History
The oldest museum in Moldova that opened in 1889, the institution houses over 135,000 pieces, including important exhibits about the natural history of Moldova. It looks at the flora and fauna of Moldova and also the customs and traditions of the Bessarabia people.
An architectural monument located at 2 Mitropolit Bănulescu-Bodoni Street, the tower is an historical and architectural landmark that was built in wood at the end of the 19th century by Alexander Bernardazzi.
Forming an essential part of the local water supply system, the tower was destroyed by an earthquake at in the beginning of the 20th century and rebuilt between 1980 and 1983, using local rock and brick. It now houses the Chișinău Historical Museum.
A 15-minute drive outside of Chișinău and you will arrive at the one of the world’s best wineries. The wine in this winery is regarded as very high quality locally and internationally and guided tours of the cellars are offered.
Valea Morilor Lake and Park
Commonly known by the locals as the Komsomolsky Lake, Valea Morilor was designed in the 1950s at the request of Leonid Brezhnev and built by the youth organisation of the Soviet Union’s Communist Party. Today, the park offers a few cafes, as well as a theatre and an amusement park. Perfect for strolling around eating an icecream.
National Museum of History of Moldova
Renamed in 2013 after being called the National Museum of Archaeology and History of Moldova, the museum initially contained collections of the Republican Museum of Military Glory and the State Museum of History and Regional Studies of MSSR. It now offers diverse temporary exhibitions as well as permanent exhibitions.
Look out for the Diorama of the ‘Iasi-Chișinău Operation’ depicting battles that took place in 1944, created over eight years by Nikolay Prisekin and Alexey Semyonov. The total space of the foreground and canvas of the diorama measures around 800 sq.m.
Church of Saint Pantaleon
Not to be confused with the church in Cologne, Germany, the church was designed by architect Alexander Bernardazzi.
This Soviet-era abandoned circus was opened in 1981 as an entrainment venue with over 1,900 seats and a 40-foot ring. At its peak, over 50 concerts were held as artists travelled from all over the world, such as Russia, Finland and China, to perform here.
However, the circus was abandoned in 2004 following the economic crisis. After a long restoration effort funded mostly by the Ministry of Culture, the circus came back to life in 2014 and features acrobatic and classic circus shows.
Dedicated to Saint Theodore of Amasea, this convent was consecrated 1858. Sitting in a nice courtyard, this beautifully coloured church is close to Stefan cel Mare avenue. Popular with locals, the gold domes stand proudly in a sea of green trees. While the interior is original, the exterior has been renovated.
The Moldavian capital of Chișinău is well worth a visit if your interested in former soviet era places. The Christmas markets are very good but not as plentiful as other traditional ones in German or Poland.
The flights from and to London aren’t brilliant and its quite a long way to go just for a weekend. Why not add the beautiful cities of Kiev or Lviv in the neighbouring Ukraine or if you feel a little more adventurous, visit Tiraspol in Transnistria. Be warned, Transnistria is a particularly difficult place to visit and needs proper researching.
Checking out C & J