Chisinau's Cathedral Park (Parcul Catedralei) is marked by two main attractions: the Nativity Cathedral, the city's primary Moldovan Orthodox place of worship, dating to the 19th century, and Chisinau's very own Triumphal Arch, also known as the "Holy Gate".
The country's oldest park spans an impressive 7 hectares, and is very popular with the local populace, especially so during the summer months. Children's playgrounds and merry-go-rounds are in operation, making the park a good choice for families. Some of the highlights include the Avenue of the Classics of Moldovan Literature, containing busts of prominent Moldovan and Romanian authors and political figures, and the Alley of Friendship, where celebrity city visitors (the likes of Yuri Gagarin) planted a tree each.
One of the city's lesser-known highlights, the museum offers informative insight into the country's past, including WWII and Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe involvement, and covers a substantial period of Soviet regime, also detailing events that happened outside of present-day Moldova. Information in English is scarce, but many of the exhibits are self-explanatory. The outdoor display of Soviet military machines can be accessed free of charge.
The museum might as well be dubbed a collection of anything and everything, which in no way compromises its appeal, but rather makes it rank among the most curious Moldovan landmarks. From zoological exhibits and extinct animal reconstructions to traditional dress and folk artefacts, its expansive exhibits cover nearly everything under the Moldovan sun. Purchase an English-language booklet to help navigate exhibition rooms.
A short 15-minute drive outside of Chisinau lies the country's arguably most sought-after attraction: the reputable Cricova Winery, whose products are held in high regard both locally and internationally. Guided tours of the winery and cellars are offered, many including tastings (call ahead).
Alexander Pushkin, the father of modern Russian literature, some of whose lines any Russian speaker is guaranteed to be able to recite from memory, spent three fruitful years in this tiny house, exiled. It's a museum these days, and although scant English-language information is supplied in each room, anyone with a particular interest can benefit greatly from a guided tour.
One of Moldova's unmissable attractions is the Milestii Mici winery, located a short drive outside the city centre. Book a guided tour of the world's largest wine cellar with a staggering 3,000,000 bottles, all contained in a former quarry spanning dozens of underground kilometres. Only a manageable part of the storage space is visited, followed by a wine tasting and pre-bookable three-course meal at the on-site restaurant 70 metres under ground.
A classy evening out is best spent catching an opera or ballet performance at one of the best theatres of its kind in Eastern Europe. The repertoire is regularly updated, and tickets cost a fraction of the price charged at comparable institutions across Europe.
Forshmak captures the nostalgic feel of old Chisinau while elevating straightforward dishes familiar to any Moldovan from a young age, and does so in a heavily stylised interior designed to evoke pleasant associations. If you're dining with a Russian speaker, ask them to solve the crossword puzzle on your table - the reward is a free serving of forshmak, the restaurant's namesake dish.
Coffee Molka wears its speciality as a badge of honour, making for an entertaining look around with its impressive collection of vintage coffee grinders displayed proudly on shelves. Coffee is taken seriously here (try the traditional Turkish espresso), and casual live music evenings are hosted.
Rozmarin looks and feels like it could easily fit in anywhere in Europe, including upcoming neighbourhoods of trendsetting Scandinavian capitals. The menu is extensive and leans heavily towards Italian flavours. The main selling point is their bread: baked freshly in-house and used in the cooking of mouthwatering sandwiches.
Picking up on the city's trend of eateries and cafes designed to emulate a forgone era (the 20th century tends to get most traction), Propaganda plays with the Soviet times in its name, dish titles, and interior design choices. It attracts students and local elites, especially so on live music nights.
For cheap and cheerful local eats, try one of La Placinte's several Chisianu locations. Finish off your meal of traditional Moldovan specialities with an actual placinta - a soft pastry of layered dough filled with soft cheese or another stuffing (these are ubiquitous in town).
The trendiest coffee shop chain in town continues to attract patrons to its four locations each named after an established coffee nation. Particular focus is placed on presentation, each cup crafted to look like a work of drinkable art. Sandwiches, bagels, salads, and a variety of desserts are on offer too.
Hidden in plain sight, this semi-private game club can be accessed by regular members or those who are determined enough to wait for the ringing door bell to have an effect. Board game lovers will rejoice at the broad selection of free-to-rent games, while others will certainly delight in pool, darts, table soccer, and other active pursuits.
This cool, somewhat underground space is a favourite among trendy local youth and those who happen to be let in on its existence. In pleasant contrast to many old-school, quintessentially Eastern European night clubs, Kira's is a no-pretence, inviting location with an extensive Asian-leaning menu, a plethora of drinks, and late-night dance parties.
Mojito does not exactly have any standout features, but its prime location smack in the city centre and round-the-clock hours of operation make it a highly popular gathering place, especially so during the summer months, when its outdoor terrace teems with cocktail-drinkers both day and night.
This flashy, upscale bar and club is unique for its rooftop setting that affords panoramic views of Chisinau. Come here if you have cash to spare, and if a quintessentially Eastern European clubbing experience complete with go go dancers and flashing neon lights is your idea of fun.
If, like us, you once couldn't put down Anthony Burgess' "A Clockwork Orange" and followed the four droogs on their adventures in the namesake film, make time for a pit stop at Korovva, a bar modelled to emulate the establishment where Alex and co used to down the notorious "moloko plus".
This right here might just be your favourite Chisinau discovery. Carpe Diem Wine Shop & Bar boasts insanely knowledgeable staff, trained to provide comprehensive information on all things Moldovan wines and arrange tastings based on customer preferences. It's best to book a tasting in advance, but try your luck and pop in even without a prior reservations. Wines are also sold by the bottle - you might have to do a double-take to confirm prices are, indeed, that low.
This busy central market is where locals shop for all manner of produce sourced from around the country, with some cheap knick knack imports thrown into the mix. If you're lucky, you might come across a few vendors peddling original Soviet memorabilia. In the souvenir department, hand-made socks, scarves and other accessories are good purchases.
Visiting Moldova is visa-free (for tourist stays up to 90 days) for all EU citizens, as well as nationals of the USA, Canada, Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Barbados, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, Georgia, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Liechtenstein, Macau, Macedonia, Malaysia, Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United States, Uzbekistan, and Vatican City. Nationals of countries not listed above must consult the website of the Moldova Ministry of Foreign affairs for up-to-date information on visa procedures.
The Chisinau International Airport, located only 13km outside of downtown Chisinau, is the country's main air hub, but is very compact in size regardless of the fact. Of all the ways to reach town taxi is most convenient: use the official airport service and always confirm the price prior to boarding. Public transportation is very inexpensive and is a great budget alternative. The trolleybus no. 30 runs from 6am to 11pm and hits most city centre locations en route. Taxi van no. 165 takes a similar route and departs at 10 minute intervals.
Chisinau may look admittedly grim during certain times of year, which might add to the appeal for those who come to soak in the grey Soviet aesthetic. The rest will do better planning a trip for the period from late spring to early fall, when temperatures are at their most comfortable and various events and festivals are held throughout the city and beyond.
The public transportation system of Chisinau includes buses, trolleybuses, trams, and fixed-route taxi vans, of which the latter are the fastest and most convenient. When travelling by taxi van, ask the driver if the van stops next to a known landmark such as a large mall, monument, or square (routes are sometimes indicated in the front window). Prepare small change to pay fares on board (directly to the driver in mini-vans and a designated ticket vendor in trolleybuses). As of 2018, it is also possible to purchase public transport tickets via QIWI terminals dotting the city, found at most shopping centres and many supermarkets.
Do not be fooled by the seeming abundance of taxi services in Chisinau - hiring a cab may prove overwhelmingly harder than expected. For many drivers, even those officially employed with a taxi company, making the trip to some locations proves so unprofitable they refuse to take orders altogether and opt for picking up passengers off the side of the road, charging upwards of 30% more than what the trip would have cost if pre-booked. Best luck is rumoured to be had with apps, such as the Russian Yandex.Taxi and recently launched Uber. Regular official taxi service phone numbers always start with 14, and are always 5 digits. Taxi Meridian Tel.14222