Choosing A Good Moldovan Guided Tour
Have You Been Looking For Some Tours Moldova?
Where is Chisinau?
Moldova is a small country in Eastern Europe, situated between Romania and Ukraine, near the Black Sea (but with no access). Until 1991 Moldova was part of the Soviet Union until the final break up of the Soviet Union.
Chisinau is the capital of Moldova, and is located in the central part of the country, 50 km from the border with Romania in the west and 50 km from the border with Ukraine in the east.
Why should you visit Chisinau, Moldova ? Would you recommend a Walking tour in Chisinau?
Until the beginning of the 19th century, Chisinau was a small, provincial town with only a few thousand inhabitants and the massive development of the city happened only after World War 2 due to the fact that the city was raised to the grounds by the nazi’s . For this reason you will not see many grand buildings and monuments in the city.
However Chisinau is a great city to visit. Fans of brutalist and Soviet architecture will definitely appreciate the city as Chisinau is like a Soviet architecture textbook, if you do visit you really should try the Republic of Transnistria which is situated within Moldova, we will write about this Republic at a later date. Taking any walking tour of Chisinau in the city really will give you an insight into Chisinau and what better way to see the city than with a local.
But even if you are not into concrete buildings and Soviet architecture there are many other things to do in Chisinau. It’s a great place to slow down and enjoy the laid-back atmosphere, and why not sit back with a glass of wine which Moldova is world famous for.
You can also use the city as the base for some interesting day walking tours in Chisinau to discover some real hidden gems within the city. Or take one of the many wine tours.
How to get to Chisinau ?
Although Moldova is probably the least visited country in Europe it is not too difficult to get to Chisinau. Moldova is now visa free and with most European cities offering daily flights to Moldova the country has never been so easy to visit. Air Moldova operates a fleet of modern aircraft that serve most cities in Europe.There are also other budget airlines such as Whizzair that offer cheap daily flights.
Moldova can also be reached overland; you can travel by train or bus from Romania (Bucharest), Ukraine (Odessa) and Russia as well as by bus to neighboring countries and further.
How to get around Chisinau and see the attractions, should I take a walking tour in Chisinau ?
The majority of Chisinau attractions are located in the center and you can easily walk everywhere. One of the best ways to see the main attractions is by one of the many guided walking tours in Chisinau that are operated by local tour operators . However, there are a few places a bit away so you need to use public transport to reach them. Alternatively, you can use local taxis that are extremely cheap.
If you decide to use one of the many mini buses (marshrutka) you pay to the driver as you get in, mini buses are a great way to get around Chisinau and at the same time you get to see some real locals.
Things to see and do whilst in Chisinau
Looking for things to do in Chisinau ? Now for a city that is supposed to have almost no attractions the list I put together is actually pretty long! You can be sure to find plenty of things to do in Chisinau, I hope this list will give you some great ideas.
1. Visit the beautiful Nativity Cathedral
The Nativity Cathedral is located in the Cathedral Park, from the outside it does not look that impressive. Built in the 1830s in the neoclassical style it has a turbulent history – the cathedral was destroyed during World War 2 and when Moldova was part of the USSR and religious services were prohibited the building was used as the exhibition center.
Today the cathedral stands proudly in the heart of the capital, being in the center of all important events. Be sure to step inside – the interior is stunning, everything you could expect from the Orthodox church in Eastern Europe. You can either visit the cathedral on your own or with one of the many guided tours in Chisinau. Taking a guided tour of Chisinau is always a good option as it will give you a good insight into the city’s history and culture from a local.
2. Visit the Triumphal arch In the city centre
In the very heart of the city, between the Cathedral and the Government House, you will find the Triumphal arch, one of the most popular Chisinau sights. It was built in 1840 to commemorate the victory of the Russian Empire over the Ottoman Empire during the Russo-Turkish war a few years before.
However, the main reason to build the arch was different. After the said war the captured cannons were smelted into the bell that was supposed to be placed in the Cathedral. Unfortunately, it was too heavy and hence the new Triumphal arch was built.
Today it is one of the most significant sights in the capital of Moldova you can also visit the Triumphal arch whilst on one of the many walking tours of Chisinau with a local guide who will give you a full insight into
the local history.
3. Take a Chisinau walking tour and discover cool Soviet mosaics
The Soviet Union has always been famous for great mosaics and when Chisinau developed rapidly during Soviet times many of the buildings were built with mosaics decorating the buildings. With Soviet architecture came great Soviet mosaics, real masterpieces of art from that period, usually telling a story of the current achievements and heroes. You can still see many of these all over the city though some will only be found when you are doing a local guided tour of Chisinau. Probably one of the best mosaics can be found next to the Cosmos hotel in Chisinau which depicts rural life in Moldova during the Soviet Union period.
4. Take a Guided walking tour and enjoy the local cafes and bars
If you are interested in how the locals live, where they drink and what cafes they visit then a good idea is to take one of the many local guided tours in Chisinau, which can be a really interesting experience firstly your going to have a local guide giving to the best tips on where to eat out in the city, the best cafes and where to mix with the locals.
Moldova has its own version of Starbucks called Tucano Coffee which is a great place to sit and have a coffee whilst people watching, you will find their coffee shops all over Moldova. There many other good coffee shops throughout the city and during the warm summer months you can find outside coffee bars in the major parks allowing you to just sit and relax whilst watching the people of Moldova.
5. Say hello to Stephen the Great the greatest Moldovan hero
If you take a look across the street from the Triumphal arch, you can find an unobtrusive monument to – Stephen the Great the greatest Moldovan hero. You may know him from all the Moldovan banknotes that have his image printed on them.
During the 15th century he was the Prince of Moldova and until today he is considered the best ruler Moldova ever had. During his reign, he won 34 out of 36 battles and entrenched the position of Moldova on the map of Europe.
In 1928 the monument dedicated to this national hero was erected at the entrance to the park named after Stephen the Great. During World War 2 the statue was moved to Romania and even if the Soviet authorities decided it should come back to its original place the statue of Stephen the Great returned to the central Chisinau only in 1989 where it stands proudly ever since. Any guided walking tour in Chisinau will always include at stop at his statue and a little story told about his life.
6. Enjoy Ștefan cel Mare Central Park with a private walking tour in Chisinau
Just behind the statue of Stephen the Great, you will find the entrance to the central park named after the great ruler. This is the oldest park in the country, previously it was named after Pushkin, and it is such a pleasant place to visit. The park is often called “the Lovers’ Park” since this is a popular meeting place for young couples. Any visit to Moldova should always include a few hours strolling around this park, if you want to learn more about the history then a private walking tour in Chisinau is always recommended.
The park has many fountains and small cafes where you can sit down, have a coffee and watch the world go by.
7. Take a guided walking tour and visit the Jewish Cemetery
If you are looking for something rather interesting to do in Chisinau I would suggest visiting the Jewish Cemetery located a distance from the center (you need to take the bus and then walk for a few minutes) but it’s worth the trip there are tour operators that do private guided tours to the cemetery . Before the war, the city was home to the large Jewish community however in 1903 one of the biggest Jewish pogroms in the Russian Empire took place in Chisinau.
The Jewish Cemetery in Chisinau is large (at the end of the 19th century there were around 24,000 graves there in total) most have been forgotten and are in a poor state . Parts of the graveyard are hidden in the lush vegetation but you can still walk through the main alleys and see some interesting and beautiful graves.
You will find an abandoned synagogue in the corner of the graveyard , this is definitely worth a visit.
8. Take a tour around the old Chisinau train station
The train station in Chisinau dates back to 1871 and the main building is a beautiful building.
The current building was finished just after World War Two and it’s a mix of socialist-realist style with the significant influences from Romanian architecture. Recently the building was renovated. In front of the train station, you can see the powerful Memorial to Victims of Stalinist Repression. It only takes about 20 minutes to walk around the station but it is well worth the visit and probably not the sort of station you’re going to see in your home country.
9. Walk around Chisinau and discover amazing brutalist architecture
Chisinau was totally raised to the ground by the Nazis during WW2 and most of the city was built and developed after the war in the Soviet Union. Chisinau is home to some of the best examples of brutalist architecture ever and well worth visiting for this alone. You will find all sorts of brutalist buildings – from the government’s institution to blocks of flats or random structures like the swimming pool.
Two of the most famous structures are Romanita Collective Housing Tower (the famous block of flats in the round shape), Chisinau City Gates (you will notice them when you enter the city from the airport, another is the Cosmos hotel situated very close to the city centre. If you are in to brutalist architecture your going to love Chisinau it is highly recommend to take a guided walking tour to get the most out of your visit.
10. Take a guided tour of a local farmers market
If you lived through the Soviet Union days a trip to the local “farmers” was an every event, today authentic Farmers markets have become popular all over the world. If you are looking for a farmers market in Chisinau then you should try the central market which is located in the center, next to the bus station, and you will find everything there. Fresh produce, homemade jams, cheese, wine, pies and cakes and much more, you will also get a chance to see a local market that has not changed much from the Soviet days.
The central market can be extremely busy so be ready for some hustle and bustle.
11. Checkout other beautiful churches around the city
Chisinau does not have that many but there are definitely more religious sights to see than just the Cathedral.
Not far from the main square, at Stefan Cel Mare Boulevard, there is the Transfiguration Church from the very end of the 19th century, built as a part of the boy’s gymnasium. During the Soviet times the church was used as the planetarium and returned to its original function only in 1992.
Other churches worth visiting are Saint Panteleimon Church, Ciuflea Monastery, St. Mary’s Armenian Apostolic Church and St. Teodora de la Sihla Church
12. Checkout charming old cottages around the city
Chisinau and the area around the city is still fairly rural, it is fairly easy to find some pretty looking cottages dating back to the 19th century. There are not that many of them but I bet you will stumble across some good ones. If you are lucky you may stumble across the same dating back to the Russian Empire. If you really want to get the most out of any trip to Chisinau then taking a local guided tour of Chisinau is a “must do”
13. Visit the National Historical Museum of moldova
Visiting Chisinau? Then a trip to the National Museum of History of Moldova is a must do if you really want to learn about some history and culture of this small country. The museum is located in the beautiful building in the center of Chisinau, is home to over 250.000 exhibits divided into a few sections: Ancient History and Archaeology, Medieval History, History of Basarabia, Contemporary History, Treasures. A real must as this place has so much information about the history if you miss it you may regret it.
14. Take a walking tour around the center of the city
Chisinau is a small city so it is easy to see most of the attractions that are situated in the city centre within a few hours. Most of the attractions are located along Stefan Cel Mare Boulevard: Opera and Ballet Theater, the town hall, central post office and more. There are many small quiet back streets that are also worth visiting and I would suggest finding a local guide to give you a private walking tour of Chisinau. These tours are inexpensive and usually last a few hours, it is a great way to learn about the city from alocals point of view.
15. Visit Soviet monuments
Chisinau is well known for its brutalist Soviet architecture but you can also find some interesting Soviet monuments around Chisinau. The best ones are Fighter for Soviet power, Monument to Komsomol or Monument to the Liberation.
16. Buy Moldovan souvenirs
What a better way to end your visit to Moldova than buying some souvenirs to take back home with you and for friends who have probably never heard of this little country.
For local food go to the central market. And don’t forget about the Moldovan wine, it is world famous you simply cannot visit Moldova without taking a few bottles of Moldovan wine home with you.