Chisinau Destination Guide
Being the capital of Moldova, Chisinau is a city that has survived World War 2 and transformed itself into a modern city with lots of attractions for you to explore. You will not be bored in Chisinau as you can start by exploring the various attractions within the city such as the museum or even the Holly Gates and why not go on a well deserved wine tour on the outskirts of the city where you can increase your knowledge of the local wine.
Be amazed by the architectural, historical and natural beauty of this former Soviet city!
Our Chisinau Destination Guide provides some information about things to see and do in Chisinau as well as the areas around the city. Chisinau has a variety of tours and activities on offer and visit our Chisinau tours page to start your sightseeing experience. Further information about holidaying in Moldova can be found in our Moldova Country Guide.
Things to see & do in Chisinau
Follow the links to the right or scroll further down the page for details on some of the many interesting tourist attractions in Chisinau:
Saharna is a small village that is about 110 km north of Chisinau, and is famous for the Holy Trinity Monastery that is located here. Apart from the monastery, the landscape and nature of the area is breathtaking. Once you have visited Saharna, you will want to return time and again. Everything from the peaceful silence, the natural beauty of the surroundings and a wonderful sense of calm in the area will make visitors want to return to this beautiful part of Moldova.
Settlements in the Saharna area date back to the 2nd century BC, but the Holy Trinity Monastery was built in the second half of the 18th century. Surrounded by rocks and forests, the area exudes an amazing sense of calmness. The highest rock in the area is called Grimidon, and local inhabitants look towards it every morning and remember an old time-honoured saying 'Grimidon is on its place', meaning that all is well today. The rock is also famous for the St. Maria footstep, which some say is at the top of the rock. According to legend, a monk saw a shining figure of St. Maria at the top of Grimidon once and when he went there he saw a footstep. A chapel was later built there and now 20 monks live in the monastery, which welcomes visitors from around the world.
As a place of breathtaking beauty, Saharna is not just for the pilgrims, but also for tourists of all kinds, especially nature lovers. The area is quite famous for its waterfalls, with the River Saharna alone having 22 waterfalls. One of the more beautiful waterfalls is located close to the monastery and falls from 10 metres, forming a deep gulf, which is called 'Gipsy Hole' by the locals. There are many other waterfalls as well, each one more interesting than the last.
If you're visiting Moldova, then a visit to Saharna is a must. Sit in the shade of its ancient trees, listen to the sound of the falling water, take in the peacefulness and be completely refreshed and restored.
Located about 100 km (62.14 miles) north of Chisinau, Tipova is quite famous for its charming look as well as for its cave monasteries, which are the largest in all of Moldova and in Eastern Europe as well. According to legend, the country's greatest ruler, Stefan the Great (Stefan cel Mare) married his wife Maria Voichita at this monastery.
Apart from the Tipova cave monasteries, the natural beauty of Tipova attracts visitors from across the world. Its hills are heavily forested and there are many beautiful scenic pathways and rivers such as the Dniester and the Tipova, a smaller rivulet with waterfalls along the way. Enjoy both the calmness of the forest and the Dniester and the rush of water in the waterfalls.
Another legend claims that Orpheus, the mythological poet lived his last years here, admiring the natural beauty of Tipova, and is buried near one of the waterfalls. Archaeologists have found a stone hearse that is said to be the same hearse that Orpheus was buried in.
The Tipova monastery remains open all day long; so do visit this peaceful area that is full of history and beauty.
The National Museum of Ethnography and Natural History is Moldova's oldest museum. Located in Chisinau, the museum was started by Baron A. Stuart and opened its doors in 1889.
Today, the museum remains an important cultural and scientific centre of Bessarabia and is quite well known across the world. The museum has a large collection of paleontological, zoological, geological, entomological, numismatic and archaeological ethnographic collections. There is a botanical garden on the museum grounds that was laid out in 1906 and is the first of its kind in Bessarabia. Some of the highlights of the museum include a skeleton of a dinothere, which lived in the Pliocene Epoch (5.3 million to 1.8 million years before current times), and was discovered in 1966. The museum's collection was exhibited in America, Asia, Africa and Europe as part of a national cultural heritage program of Moldova.
The museum is open everyday from 10:00 to 18:00, with the exception of Mondays and national holidays. You can enter the museum till 17:00 and there is an entrance fee of 5 leus. There is no car parking at the museum, but it is easily accessible by public transport.
One of Chisinau's most important historical and architectural monuments is the Holly Gates, which represent one of the elements of the city centre's architectural complex. Dating back to 1846, these gates were built by I. Zaushkevich, and were originally intended to hold a huge bell that weighed 4.6 tons and was cast from old Turkish cannons. The gates are square and lean on four pylons that are cut from white stone. A cornice tops the pylons and Corinthian columns that have 16 sides, above which are a borderline cornice and a frieze that is ornamented by slip white glaze. Above this are four stone arches along the four foresides and this is the level where the big bell and the clock sit. At an upper level is another cornice that tops the entire construction. Marble commemorative tablets are fixed onto the Holly Gates, with an order by the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the military forces of erstwhile USSR regarding Chisinau's liberation from the German-Romanian invaders, dated 29 August 1944.
The Serpeni is located about 50 km from Chisinau and is a memorial complex that was built on 22 August 2004 to mark the 60 year of liberation of the Republic of Moldova. Since most of the fighting took place near the village of Serpeni, it is called the Serpeni Foothold. Till date, the complex evokes a great amount of historic and national pride in Moldovan citizens. The monument was erected as a mark of remembrance of the 12,000 Soviet soldiers who died defending the country.
Construction of the Serpeni memorial started during Soviet times. The complex is made up of three main parts; the first is a semi-abstract sanctuary that is built of marble. In this sanctuary are listed the names of 11,000 men who gave up their lives. In the central section of the memorial, there is an eternal light placed under high pylons that meet to form a cross at the top of the structure. This light honours all the brave soldiers who died defending their country. A point to not is that the eternal light is not turned on during the week.
As it is located on the right bank of the Dniester River, the vistas from the Serpeni memorial are spectacular, complete with views of the river, forests, fields and meadows.
A good idea is to not only visit the Serpeni Foothold memorial but also take in the sights and sounds in the local area, to meet the locals and visit their farms; this will give you a much greater insight into the kind of people the Moldovans are and how they live their lives.
There are two main ways to go from the capital city of Chisinau to the Serpeni monument. You can take the road that starts in the Botanica region on the East side of the city, which passes through the beautiful City Gates and the Chisinau International Airport and then follows the R2 highway, till you pass a town called Anenji Noi. From here the road turns towards Bulboaca and you will see signs directing you to the Serpeni memorial. The other route is also the same length (55 km) and starts in the Ciocana region, through to Vadul-lui-Voda, onto highway M-14 and to the village of Speya, where you will see signs for the memorial complex.
The National Ballet and the National Opera companies operate out of an impressive theatre in Central Chisinau. Since the theatre was built during Soviet times, it was not fully furnished with the equipment required for such productions.
Considering it is 400 km from the sea, this is a wonderful beach! Located on the banks of the Nistru River, which is also the border between Moldova and the Transnistria autonomous region, you are sure to get a nice slice of history as well as a great trip when you visit this beach.
Nistru beach has a wonderful and relaxed atmosphere with a busy but not over-crowded feel. The beach is quite popular with the locals. You can wear your normal swimwear such as bikinis at Nistru beach. Often there will be dancing and other contests organized by Romanian TV station Pro TV's local franchise. A short (30-minute) mini-bus ride will get you to Nistru beach.
The Chisinaus Botanical Garden is a wonderful place to spend some time, especially now that the garden has been refurbished to cater to a larger audience. There is a small zoo in the garden, with horses, goats and emus. Also on the premises are a restaurant and a lake, where you can rent a boat. Quite often the garden is used as a venue for wedding parties and one can see newlywed couples posing for pictures.
Moldovan wines, liquor, cognac and juice are considered some of the best in Eastern Europe. Most manufacturers only use local and organic products and brew drinks the traditional way. As the majority of restaurants only sell local wine, albeit those that meet the highest standards, you will have the perfect opportunity to get a taste of Moldova's finest produce.