Chisinau is the capital of Moldova and also known as Kishinev. Despite the years that have gone by, it’s still an open-air museum of the Soviet era, with clear examples of those times in architecture and the locals’ customs. In other words, it’s a city with not a lot to see but a lot to experience. You can’t visit Moldova without spending some time in Chisinau. If you don’t include this city in your itinerary, you’ll be missing out on a must-visit destination. On this page, I share with you a practical city guide with the best places to visit in Chisinau.
The capital city of Moldova has about three million people but the atmosphere and feel of a small remote village. Chisinau historic center is compact and easy to explore on foot, with most points of interest within walking distance from one another. In addition to the must-see places, the city is worth visiting for its unique character. They’re not very used to having foreign tourists, but the people of Chisinau are quite friendly and you can’t leave the city without trying the legendary Moldovan brandy.
Quick travel tips to visit Chisinau:
- Wake up early and be the first at monuments, museums, and other attractions.
- Don’t skip visiting the Chisinau Triumphal Arch that marks the center of the city.
- The central market is one of the liveliest places in the Moldovan capital, open from 5:00 am until late in the afternoon.
- Chisinau has plenty of hostels, some of them quite interesting businesses.
- You can take advantage of the proximity and visit Tiraspol in Transnistria and take a day trip to that non-existing country that was born from the separation of the Russian part of Moldova after a short war that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.
This memorial pays tribute to the Moldovans who were deported to labor fields to remote locations in the Soviet Union from 1940 to 1951. The memorial, appropriately, is located near the central train station from where trains departed full of those exiled people.
Right after the independence of Moldova, in 1990, following the fall of the Soviet Union, a temporary memorial was placed there. It was a monolith with a commemorative plaque. The definite memorial was inaugurated in 2013, a series of anthropomorphic statues walking dramatically to exile on a base made of stone. The sculpture was created in Belarus and later transported to its final destination, Chisinau.
This is a market you really can’t miss. It’s one of the liveliest places in the Moldovan capital city, open from 5:00 am until late in the evening. Here at Piata Centrala, as the locals call it, you can buy everything especially food.
You can browse a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, honey, bread, wine and brandy, meat, fish, and dry fruits. Take a closer look at the cheese area, which is both photogenic and… fragrant. There are areas in this market selling handmade products and, again, the sky is the limit regarding what you can find here: shoes, clothes, electronics, cookies, preserves.
Small producers and vendors are particularly impressive, including people who have no more than a hand full of tomatoes or a couple of celery sticks from their gardens to sell, or old people who try to earn a few Leis with clothes they don’t need anymore.
When browsing the food area don’t forget that tasting is part of the experience and so is bargaining when you find something you’d like to buy.
The Water Tower is on the way from the city center to the popular Valea Morilor Park. It’s a classic structure built at the end of the 19th century and designed by Alexander Bernadazzi. It was once an essential part of the city’s water supply system. The top, made of wood, was destroyed in an earthquake and rebuilt between 1980 and 1983 into what you see today.
The tower is mainly made of stone and some brick and it’s 22 meters high. Inside there’s a spiral staircase that was later complemented with an elevator. For a while, this tower was the headquarters of the History Museum of Chisinau.
Valea Morilor Park
This spacious urban park is within walking distance from the city center. It was created in 1950 and covers an area of 114 hectares. It has multiple entrances but the most impressive one is the 218-step staircase. It includes a large lake, with a 2.5 km perimeter, around which you can ride a bike, run, or just walk.
Here you’ll find all the leisure and recreational equipment you’d expect to find in a park like this including cafes and restaurants, game fields, children’s playgrounds, and even an open-air cinema with the capacity for 5,000 viewers.
There’s a memorial to police officers killed in the line of duty and secluded areas tucked away behind leafy trees. It’s the perfect place to observe Chisinau’s locals who flock here on weekends and at the end of the day.