Chisinau is the capital city of Moldova, a modest country bordered by Ukraine and Romania. As it is not part of the European Union, there is still a border between all the 3 countries, and you need a passport. I planned a 10 days trip from Bucharest to Kiev and stopped in Chisinau. Here are some suggestions on how to spend 48 hours in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova.
If you still have some time in Bucharest, make sure to check out what you should visit in my hometown, Bucharest.
But first, let’s talk about logistics. The cheapest way to get from Bucharest to Chisinau
This is how I arrive there, of course, you may have other plans.
Travelling to Chisinau is simple in every aspect. There is an airport, but most common people travel here by car or bus. I took a night bus from Bucharest. It departed at midnight and arrived at 8 30 am in Chisinau. I made an online reservation for the bus and paid on the spot. Good thing I had a reservation because there were more people than seats on the bus, and some people even left.
Here is where I reserved my bus seat from Bucharest to Chisinau. (I took the one leaving at 23:58, and it was 65 lei)
Upon arriving, everything is modest but fairly easy to figure out. Everything is written in Romanian and Russian, and all locals know both. Although some are more prone to speak Russian and were not so delighted to talk to me in Romanian. That was somehow disturbing since Romania has always considered Moldova as part of our country.
Overall, everyone we meet was friendly and helpful, although some Russians Moldovians were a bit too important to be bothered. A bit rude, but I believe it has something to do with the fact we are Romanians.
As for their English level, I would call it basic. Don’t expect too much, and be prepared with any papers you might need to show, addresses, or whatever you may need help with.
I bought an Orange sim card upon arriving because I needed to find the hotel. The connection was not great, and I couldn’t rely on it for uploading photos on social networks, but it helped with directions and other urgent stuff.
Also, you can exchange all major currencies upon arrival. Chisinau has many exchange offices all around the city. I exchanged Romanian lei (RON) for Moldovian lei (MDL) there. Most places accept only cash.
How to spend 48 hours in Chisinau, Moldova?
Visit the city centre. The main street Stefan cel Mare si Sfant Boulevard is where everything happens. The most important institutions and impressive buildings are on this street. Also, shops, supermarket, a McDonalds, phone shops. The city centre is not huge, so you can walk everywhere.
There is the National Theater, Opera House, City Hall, The Parliament of Moldova, Cathedral, Arc of Triumph, and Stephan the Great Park, which has his statue in front.
The Arc of Triumph and Cathedral (Katedralny Park)
The impressive Arc of Triumph is standing across the street from the parliament. It is smaller than the ones from Paris and Bucharest, but it is still impressive as its ground shape is of a square, and it looks the same from each side.
It commemorates the victory of the Russian armies in the war led against the Turks in 1829. Inside it is a giant bell, which weighs 6,4 tons. It is said this was made from the metal of the captured Turkish canons.
The Church is called Naşterea Domnului Cathedral (The birth of the Lord). The bell tower in front of it is impressive. People walk around and rest in the park. It is a nice meeting point.
The Stephan the Great Park
The most famous park in Chisinau is like a short and very informative history lesson. The statues of the 12th most representatives writers and poets can be found on the “Classics alley” e.g. Mihai Eminescu, Lucian Blaga, Mircea Eliade, Mihail Sadoveanu, Grigore Vieru. The Russian poet Aleksandr Pușkin has also a statue in the centre part of this garden.
The National Museum of Moldova
Not far from the Stephan the Great park is the National Museum of Moldova. The building is impressive, and in its garden, an old helicopter is parked. Also, a wooden swing and a traditional mud house were built.
The entrance is 10 MDL, 15 MDL extra ticket for taking photos. At the time of our visit, they were also hosting a temporary exhibition which cost extra.
There you will find all the information you need to understand when and how Moldova was born, and why there were so many diplomatic conflicts. All explanations are in Romanian, Russian and English.
The detailed exhibition about the deported Romanians to Siberia was impressive and marked me as it did not happen so long ago. Their only fault was to be living on the wrong side of the border.
For all history fans, for those who want to know and understand more about Moldova and its bond to Romania, you should visit this.
From my sources, I was advised to visit the Art Museum, which is on the same street, 2 minutes away. Unfortunately, I had no time to do so, but you can squeeze it in your schedule is you are more drove to see it aka if you wake up early and get at the museum when they open (schedule 10 00 – 18 00)
The staff is speaking Romanian and Russian.
The Central Market
A few meters away from the tidiness of the central street is a huge market, which resembles quite a lot to the famous bazaars. From exotic fruits to home supplies, anything you may need can be found in this huge market. Even the central bus station is here. And it is busy and alive, with people performing on the street and colourful fruits to catch your eye.
Where to eat in Chisinau?
Anywhere you like, of course, you have to use your common sense. We ate once at Andy’s Pizza and the experience was beyond expected. The place was great and they serve so much more than pizza. And from what I could tell, there was more than one location of this restaurant.
Another place was a cafeteria called Galbenus (which literally means “egg yolk”). It was fast and cheap. They had some vegan options. Credit card payment was accepted in both places.
And where not to go…
Also, I was curious to try the place suggested by many Moldovians and TripAdvisor, which was Creme de la Creme. And it is a very nice and Instagramable place, but the serving was awful. Maybe it was the case because we are Romanians and talked in Romanian to the waitress.
Anyway, I will not cease to tell you how rude she was to keep us waiting for 1 hour before bringing some eggs and porridge. Meanwhile, the others, who sat at the table after us, had time to order, eat, pay and to leave. Yes. TERRIBLE! This is why I had no time to see the art museum. Just saying.
The underground city of Cricova Winery
A trip to Moldova is not complete without visiting one of the many world famous Moldovian wineries. Cricova winery is one of them, and it is close to the city. Many Moldovians praise it as one of the main attractions.
Booking ahead the tour is needed. I booked my tour 2 weeks ahead, (they provided just 1 option from my 2 days available in the city).
They provide Romanian, English and Russian Tours. There are different options for the tour. The excursion of the underground city, where a guide will explain and show how the wine is made. The total length of the alleys is of 120 km, and that’s why they use trains to show tourists around.
They also have an underground cinema, where they showed us a short movie about how great Cricova winery is. They also serve you a glass of sparkling wine to enjoy with the movie.
The entire trip takes 1h 20′. You have the option to get only this trip, you can get extra 2 wine bottles as souvenirs, and you can have a wine tasting after the trip or 3 or 7 wines (they also serve some snacks and water).
The best part was the train. Also, the temperature is around 10 Celsius degrees, so dress accordingly.
I chose the trip + the 7 wines tasting. You can imagine how happy we were by the end of the tour. They also have a gift shop, where you can buy your favourite wine. But don’t forget you are not allowed to leave the country with more than 4 litres of wine and 1 litre of liquor.
You can book here the tour to Cricova. I took the Professional tour and was perfect.
You can pay on the spot by card or cash (MDL, Euro, $).
Moldova is a small country, worth a visit. At least for its friendly people, good wines and sweet chocolate (Bucuria chocolates, which literally means “joy“. You can find stored everywhere. Many different assortments).
I am sorry I missed the Art Museum, which I read about and some say it is a must-see. The building looked impressive from the outside and the inside it is supposed to be impressive as well, and it is not that huge. That sounds perfect because nobody has more than 1 or 2 hours worth of energy to visit a museum.
For accommodation, I’ve used Booking.com (use this link to get 10% on your booking).
Have a missed anything? Probably yes, so please do comment with the wineries I still have to see or the historical places Moldova hides.