The Best Sights in Chisinau
by Katie McCabe | @awelltraveledpair | November 9th, 2021
To be completely honest, I wasn't expecting much when visiting Chisinau. I hadn't heard a lot about it, I didn't know anyone who had been, and I rarely saw photographs from there, so I figured it was, dare I say, boring.
As John and I drove into the neighborhood we would be staying in for a couple weeks, I instantly felt wrong in my initial assumptions. We were staying in the best area of Chisinau, right next to the beautiful Cathedral Park, which has a lovely Parisian vibe, but much mellower. After walking around and exploring for a few days, I realized that Chisinau certainly isn't boring, in fact it's very interesting, and it very well may be one of Europe's best kept secrets.
If you're thinking about visiting Moldova's capital city, I highly recommend it, and be sure not to miss the sights listed below.
The prettiest structure in all of Chisinau is definitely the Triumphal Arch. Built in 1840 to celebrate the victory of the Russian Empire over the Ottoman Empire during the Russo-Turkish War, the arch sits at the front of Cathedral Park and is the perfect place to visit day or night.
Cathedral of Christ's Nativity
Situated directly behind the Triumphal Arch is the Cathedral of Christ's Nativity. Built in the 1830's, destroyed during World War II, and then built again, this church has quite a bit of history. Not to mention, the interior is absolutely gorgeous. Don't let the simple and modest exterior fool you. This place is a must-see!
Note: Hours of operation change during the seasons, but admission is always free.
National Museum of History
With over 263,000 exhibitions to view, you could spend an entire day wandering around the National Museum of History. Located in the historical center of Chisinau, it's an easy ten minute walk from Cathedral Park to the museum. Ancient artifacts, such as pottery and tools can be found inside, as well as paintings, clothing, and war weapons.
Note: The museum is open every day, except Fridays, from 10:00 to 18:00, and tickets cost 10 MDL / $0.57 USD.
One of our favorite things to do before starting the day was grabbing coffee from Bonjour Cafe. It's located at the backside of Cathedral Park, and it's hard to miss, because there is always a crowd of people around it. Everything from the coffee and hot chocolate to the croissants and sandwiches is delicious, and the decor is absolutely beautiful. This is a popular spot in Chisinau, and it's easy to see why.
Note: The cafe is open daily from 7:00 to 22:00.
Sculpture of Lovers
Located across the street from Bonjour Cafe is the Sculpture of Lovers. Sculptor Pavel Obreja made the piece of art to depict a young couple meeting up. The man is holding a bouquet of flowers and waiting under a lantern, while the girl hurries to meet him with her shoes in hand. It's a very unique and fun sculpture to see in Chisinau.
Stephen the Great Monument
Another nice statue is the Stephen the Great Monument. Sculptor Alexandru Plamadeala made three different versions of this statue, and one of them stands in Central Park, which is diagonally across from Cathedral Park. Stephen the Great ruled Moldova during the 15th century, and he won 46 of his 48 battles, successfully protecting Moldova from Turkish takeover. He will always be considered a hero to the Moldovan people.
In the middle of busy Chisinau is a peaceful oasis known as the Ciuflea Monastery. Built by two brothers - Teodor and Anastasie Ciuflea - the monastery's official name is Monastery of Saint Teodor Tiron, but more commonly known as Ciuflea Monastery. Its Russian-Byzantine style attracts the eyes of passing tourists, while the calming atmosphere beckons locals back time and time again.
Note: The monastery is open every day, except Friday and Sunday, from 9:00 to 17:00. Admission is free.
When to Go: Chisinau is a great place to visit during any time of the year. Summers are warm and sunny, spring and fall are cool and comfortable, and winter can get very cold and snowy. During my latest trip in October, the days were sunny and cool, and the fall foliage was spectacular. This is definitely a great time to visit Chisinau.
Where to Stay: I highly recommend staying around Cathedral Park. This area is so clean and pretty, and there are lots of great stores and restaurants nearby. We stayed in an Airbnb, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, but if you're looking to stay in a hotel, I recommend the Radisson Blu Leogrand Hotel.
The currency of Moldova is the Moldovan Leu. 18 MDL is equal to $1 USD.
There are three languages spoken in Moldova - Romanian, Moldovan (which is about the same as Romanian, but locals prefer to call it Moldovan), and Russian. English is not widely-spoken, so learning some words, or traveling with a phone translating app is helpful.
Some restaurants to try: Pegas Terrace & Restaurant, Andy's Restaurant, Karl Schmidt, Smokehouse, Creme de la Creme
Chisinau is a very walkable city. A car is not needed if you stay around the Cathedral Park area. All of the popular sights, restaurants, and museums are within walking distance.