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When I think of my visit to Chisinau I’m reminded of kittens. I’ll explain later.
Chisinau (pronounced Kish-in-ow) is the capital city of Moldova. Often referred to as Europe’s most boring capital city, I found it to be interesting enough for a two day trip. In fact, I found other faults with Chisinau which, unless rectified, will see tourists avoid it for the foreseeable future.
So, is it worth visiting Chisinau? And what are the things to do in Chisinau if you decide to visit.
Firstly, a quick guide to this former Soviet city’s layout.
Chisinau is located in the centre of Moldova so makes for a great base for day trips. Visits to the breakaway state of Transnistria and to the wineries of Cricova are some of the most popular day trips from Chisinau.
Check out my post on my Day Trip to Transnistria.
The main street in Chisinau is Bulevardul Stefan Cel Mare (Boulevard of Stephen the Great known on maps as B-dul Stefan Cel Mare). The streets in the centre of Chisinau are laid out on a grid system, so it’s a city that is easy to navigate.
The railway station is located in the eastern part of the city. The airport is located south of the city centre, approximately 15km from Cathedral Park. The bus station for Odesa (Gara Auto de Nord) is located in the east of the city while buses to Moldovan destinations depart from Gara Centrala station located 200m to the east of B-dul Stefan Cel Mare’s southern section.
THINGS TO DO IN CHISINAU
Chisinau city centre is quite compact so sightseeing can be done in a short space of time. B-dul Stefan Cel Mare is key to sightseeing as most sights are located on or nearby. B-dul Stefan Cel Mare also has a good variety of restaurants and shops.
Here are some of the buildings on B-dul Stefan Cel Mare which I found interesting from an architectural perspective:
Two parks are located on either side of B-dul Stefan Cel Mare’s northern section. To the east is Cathedral Park which contains the Triumphal Arch and the Nativity of Christ Metropolitan Cathedral.
On B-dul Stefan Cel Mare’s western side lies Stephen the Great Central Park. This park had a much greater variety of activities than Cathedral Park but yet seemed a little calmer and better cared for.
I visited the Soviet Memorial and Victory Memorial in the south east of the city.
Sites recommended by others as interesting things to do in Chisinau included the following:
- The beach at Lake Valea Morilor in the east of the city for hot sunny days.
- National Art Museum
- National Museum of History
- Alexander Pushkin Museum
- Memorial to the Victims of Deportations at Central Station
I stayed in Mon Ami Villa which was an excellent choice in terms of price, location and service. Magic Waffle café nearby comes equally recommended.
I travelled to Chisinau by bus from Odesa in Ukraine. My general Moldova Guide post outlines that less than satisfactory bus journey. Chisinau was my final stop on my tour of Ukraine and Moldova before returning home to Ireland via London.
I visited during the last week in September and the weather was sunny with a mid-twenties Celsius temperature (approx 77F). Repellent is advised as the evening bugs were numerous and hungry!
Chisinau is a clean and tidy city but the footpaths on some of the streets adjacent to B-dul Stefan Cel Mare were poorly lit and uneven in many parts. Walking back to the hotel at night was an interesting experience.
Central Chisinau has a good selection of restaurants and cafes but not so many bars that I could see. All were reasonably priced but service wasn’t impressive in most.
WHAT ABOUT THE KITTENS?
The instances of rudeness/bad service by far outweighed the instances of politeness/proper service. This was my main gripe with Chisinau.
The economic inequality in the city was something I noticed as well. According to the IMF, Moldova is the second poorest country in Europe. This poverty is evident in the countryside and among the stalls in Chisinau’s Piata Centrala (Central Market) where personal items were for sale.
On my last day, I saw an elderly lady selling kittens on B-dul Stefan Cel Mare. I found this scene heart-breaking and gave her the remainder of my money minus the taxi fare to the airport. I can only hope the kittens were sold to kind and decent buyers.
Chisinau’s traffic consisted of an extraordinary amount of luxury cars – By luxury I mean Porsche, Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Lexus etc.
Ukraine is considered Europe’s poorest country and yes there were plenty of luxury cars visible in that country as well. But the inequality wasn’t as pronounced as it was in Moldova. In Ukraine, for every Porsche there were 10 reasonably-priced cars. In Moldova, for every Porsche it appeared there were only two to three reasonably-priced cars.
IS IT WORTH VISITING CHISINAU?
Despite the frequent bad service, I don’t regret visiting Chisinau. Food/drink was tasty and well-priced, the architecture was interesting and it’s an off-the-beaten-track destination with no tourist crowds.
Chisinau is an ideal base for oenophiles who want to sample the country’s reasonably priced and well-regarded wines. It’s also convenient if you want to visit Transnistria.
So there is the evidence. Are you tempted to visit Chisinau? Leave your thoughts in the comment box below.