Can't live without travels! Wherever she goes she always looks for alternative spots or street art. A huge fan of Central Europe and off the beaten path places and a living proof that you can balance full time job and extensive travel!

Chisinau, Moldova – the most boring capital in Europe, yet still worth a visit

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I’m not ashamed to admit that I do count countries that I visit, it makes me so proud and excited when I see how much I’ve achieved and (literally) how far I got only with my hard work. Moldova was second to last country I yet had to visit in Europe but it didn’t look like I might get there anytime soon. It’s kind of in the middle of nowhere and not many travelers seem to visit Chisinau or the whole country. But when my flights to the Balkans were canceled and I found myself with a free week in August I’ve thought this might be the time to finally go to Moldova!

Visit Chisinau, Moldova

On the way to visit Chisinau…

I left Chernivtsi, Ukraine – my best discovery of 2015 – early in the morning. The distance looked fairly close on the map but the journey in the small bus (known also as marshrutka in Eastern Europe) was supposed to take 7,5 hours. At times it felt like a nightmare – the bus was packed, I had the worst possible seat (behind the driver with very limited leg space) and the Russian tv shows played loudly from the tv installed inside this tiny machine. I was trying to focus on the landscape behind the window but it wasn’t easy. Moldova looked so sad, so poor and so uninteresting, I even dare to say boring. It looked like the time has stopped there some 20 years ago and everyone has forgotten about this place. Until August I’ve thought that Hungary or Liechtenstein are the most boring countries in Europe, now I’ve changed my mind – it is Moldova. It was my very first impression from crossing most of the country by bus but I was still hoping I will change my mind when I visit Chisinau.

The air was heavy and dusty when I arrived. It was during the afternoon peak hours so walking for couple of minutes to the apartment I’ve booked was a challenge and left me super tired. At first glimpse Chisinau looked uninviting and harsh. All I could see around me were masses of concrete, everything in grey color. But to be honest I didn’t expect anything else. My apartment was located at the 12th floor of the massive block of flats, so typical for this part of Europe. But while in other cities in nearby country (Romania, Slovakia, Czech Republic or Poland) such buildings look fairly decent these days, those in Moldova looked like they’re about to fall apart anytime soon. At least I had a really great view over big part of Chisinau!

What to see in Chisinau

Before I went to Chisinau I was hoping all the bad opinions I’ve heard from the very few people who made it to Moldova were not true. But the fact that most of the capital was destroyed during World War 2 didn’t put my hopes very high (after all not every city can be as beautifully rebuilt as Warsaw was). I spent the whole day trying to get to know the place but to be honest there were not many attractions worth attention and the majority of them was located along B-dul Ştefan cel Mare, the main avenue of Moldovan capital. It’s the heart of Chisinau, where people go for a walk or to gather and protest in front of the government buildings. The avenue is far from being as impressive as main streets of Minsk or Kiev but it has some interesting Soviet architecture, such as National Opera and Ballet Theater, Parliament or Government National Palace. Across the street from the last one there’s the Triumph Arch, constructed in 1841, now probably the most photographed building in the city. Behind it people chill out or play chess in the Central Garden. Its central point is the Orthodox cathedral, pretty average from the outside yet really beautiful inside. There’s something about Orthodox churches that impress me every single time, the combination of rich ornaments, the smell of candles and the spiritual atmosphere always do the trick for me!

Even if the main avenue of Chisinau isn’t so great it takes only few steps to the backstreets to find much nicer architecture (still mixed with some Soviet buildings here and there). There’re old houses resembling style of 19th century Russia, some of them really beautiful. There’re also nice green spaces, full of people even in the middle of the weekday. And there’s also Tucano Coffee – a local version of Starbucks and a surprisingly nice spot. If I had spent more time in Chisinau that’s where you’d have found me for sure!

Abandoned Soviet Circus – my highlight when I visited Chisinau

My main goal for the day, however, was the abandoned Circus. Opened in 1981 it used to host up to 2,000 spectators per show but for past years it’s been a disrepair. I’ve seen online pictures taken by people who managed to sneak in and I was really hoping to do the same! When I arrived I started from the back of the building but it was all closed. Then I’ve noticed some guys working in the front and spotted open doors! I was nearly in, only few steps separated me from getting in but one man has seen me… I asked nicely, just to peek inside but the answer was always no. I gave up, being so close yet so far… I only looked curiously around, trying to see through the dirty windows what’s inside but there was no point in hanging around any longer. I’m not going to lie, I was really disappointed! And it seems like the circus might be reopened soon so my chances to see it abandoned are most likely gone…

So is it worth to visit Chisinau?

It might seem like Chisinau is the most boring capital you will ever encounter. Well, this kind of is true. You will not find beautiful architecture or exciting attractions there, there’s nothing really spectacular about the city. But still I really enjoyed my visit to Chisinau and I think it’s worth to spend at least a day there, just to feel the vibe of the place. I don’t know any other capital in Europe like this one, from those I’ve ever been to it only reminded me of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. If you like Socialist-Realist architecture (I do, a lot!) there’re many gems you might enjoy in Chisinau. But the most I liked it for the old time charm, the atmosphere I vaguely remember from my early childhood in Soviet and post-Soviet Poland. People shop at the big market in the center where you can get just about everything, from home-made meat and cheese to electronics, clothes and furniture. There’re rows of old-fashioned phone-boots, people don’t rush like crazy and the best drink you can get on summer day is kvas, bought from the barrel on the street. And if that’s not enough for you, Chisinau can serve as a perfect base for a day trip to the biggest wine cellars in the world or to Transnistria – the country that doesn’t exist.

Visit Chisinau, Moldova
Have you ever considered going to Moldova? Would you like to visit Chisinau? What was the most boring capital you’ve been to?

Are you planning a trip to Eastern Europe? Do you like that region as much as I do? I’ve created a Facebook group where you can look for advise or inspiration and share your travel stories and pictures from Eastern Europe. Join now!

Are you looking for the accommodation in Chisinau? I stayed in this apartment and I can definitely recommend it! It was located in the typical Soviet block of flats but the place was spacious, clean and had a great view. The location was also really good, across the street from the decent supermarket and some 10 minutes walking to the market hall and B-dul Ştefan cel Mare. If it’s not your kind of place here you can book other accommodation options in Chisinau.

So far I haven’t written more about Moldova but you might be interested in reading my posts about Ukraine and Romania! If you’re looking for articles about any place in particular this map with posts might be useful for you!


Chisinau, Moldova (1)       Chisinau, Moldova

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10 Lut '16

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There are 29 Comments.

  1. well if it is anything like bishkek, im going to enjoy the hell out of myself :)

    im looking forward to seeing the circus, too.

    and funny enough- i already have booked the same place you stayed. how was it? (just please say it is clean ha). anyways, great post and it is making me look forward to going there, even if it won’t be as thrilling as other places around europe!
    Megan latest post…Archaic Petroglyphs in Cholpon-Ata, KyrgyzstanMy Profile

    • kami
      09:44 23/02/2016

      Thanks! I think it’s your kind of place so chances you will enjoy it are really high :) and the flat was really fine and clean so no worries about that!

  2. Kocham Kiszyniów, a Bielce jeszcze bardziej. W Bielcach jeszcze bardziej nic nie ma, ale ten sowiecki klimat, panie siedzące przed szwalniami z kubkami w rękach śmiejące się platynowymi zębami, żydowskie, jednopiętrowe dzielnice, stare, radzieckie mozaiki i inne dekoracje z tych czasów. No i diabelskie młyny widokowe.

    • kami
      09:46 23/02/2016

      przejeżdżałam przez Bielce w drodze do Kiszyniowa i rzeczywiście wyglądało jakby nic tam nie było. Takie miejsca najlepsze! A diabelskie młyny mi się właśnie ze wschodem kojarzą!

  3. I was hoping to get there this year, but it looks like it (and Poland, I’m afraid) are going to have to wait until 2017 at earliest. Either way, it looks like a place I’d enjoy!

    Thanks for the great write up! :)
    Nick @ concrete and kitsch latest post…Abandoned in Herzegovina: Urbex in Mostar’s Sniper DenMy Profile

    • kami
      09:48 23/02/2016

      I’m sure Moldova won’t change much till next year! And this is definitely a place that everyone interested in post-Soviet atmosphere would enjoy so something for you too!

  4. the most boring country I have been to is definitely Luxembourg. People in business clothes everywhere from 8:30 until 17:00 and then Luxembourg becomes a ghost country. Or at least the Lux city, the capital, where they even shut down vending machines standing in the streets. In Moldova, they seem to have the buses Poland had maaaaaaaany years a go. But it’s just striking to see such a country is ALSO Europe and yet it is so poor..
    Kinga latest post…The best sunsets in the world – part IIMy Profile

    • kami
      13:57 23/02/2016

      Yes, Luxembourg isn’t very high on my list too! I was there only once, couple of hours in the capital but it was late afternoon, a gloomy November day and the city really felt abandoned. Not my fave place ever.
      Going to places like Moldova makes you realize how diverse Europe is, too bad it’s all about the money

  5. I was in Chisinau last May at a festival, but I should agree with you, it IS boring :) Although if someone is nostalgic about the Soviet time – Chisinau is like a time machine. Also the wine is not bad at all.

    • kami
      14:02 23/02/2016

      yes, wine is definitely one of the reasons to go there! even the most boring place gets better then :)

  6. jeszcze w tym miesiącu przekonam się na własnej skórze czy warto było jechać do Mołdawii ;)

  7. Visited Chisinau in 2004 :-) was really looking forward to it for months (especially with news reports of old Soviet era nuclear war heads going „missing”)… took the over night bus from Lviv to Chisinau which was extreme (especially being woken up at the border at 3am and getting full interrogation as guard could not believe anyone was mad enough to travel to Moldova from Ukraine by bus!)…. met my mate from Germany there and we went to a bar…. had countless bottles of beer and wine (plus champagne) a 3 course meal (that included a steak the size of the cows leg!)… asked for bill which waitress brought across…. suddenly my mate has a look of fear on his face….asks waitress for the bill for the whole table, not just him…. she replies „that is the whole table!”… came to something like 5 Euros each :-o

  8. nawet jeśli coś nie jest najpiękniejsze, czy znane i tak warto odwiedzić i samemu ocenić :)

  9. Ah te sowieckie konstrukcje <3. Miód na moje rządne architektonicznych doznań oczy :D

    • kami
      14:05 23/02/2016

      sowieckie budownictwo najlepsze! uwielbiam dość!

  10. Moldova is still somewhere on my travel list. We thought about this country last year, when we were visiting Romania. But than we realised that we don’t have enough time to do so. Maybe in the future we will get there. Who knows ;)
    Chisinau on Your photos looks not boring, but for me interesting. Maybe it’s beacuse of this soviet architecture? But still it’s not the most spectacular capital in the world.

    • kami
      14:07 23/02/2016

      it’s definitely not the most spectacular capital in the world but it has its moments and can be a nice place if you visit it with the right approach. I hope you will get there soon, I think you might like it there!

  11. It’s very interesting and usefull essay. The most boring capital I have ever seen was the Vilinus. However I have not seen many of them :)

    • kami
      14:07 23/02/2016

      Thanks. I actually like Vilnius but you are right, it can get boring after 2 days ;)

  12. Asia/ Lisy w drodze
    09:38 15/02/2016

    Eastern Europe isn’t on my top list right now and the most boring capital I was – was:) San Jose in Costa Rica (for me nothing spectacular).

    • kami
      14:10 23/02/2016

      can’t say as I haven’t been to Costa Rica yet but I still would love to check it out!

  13. In Bulgaria we have the same shi**y buses (marshrutka). But instead of Russian TV shows your ears have the possibility the ‚enjoy’ on a music with harsh oriental rhythms (chalga). Your description about the concrete, the ruined buildings and so on is valid for every city and town in Bulgaria. I must admit I laughed a lot even it is not funny at all.
    Mirøslav Hristøff latest post…Street photo diary – street scenes and faces from town of KarlovoMy Profile

    • kami
      14:13 23/02/2016

      I still think Bulgaria is not THAT bad in comparison to Moldova but I agree besides the touristic places it’s not so bright there. But Moldova is another level of post-Soviet past, it’s kind of depressing actually

  14. Opuszczona miejscówka? Mega pomysł, weszłabym tam nawet oknem jakby było trzeba.
    Myślę, że jest to dość stare miasto, gdzie czas zatrzymał się kilkanaście lat temu i dlatego warto je odwiedzić.

    • kami
      14:14 23/02/2016

      no własnie wszystkie okna były pozamykane, sprawdzałam ;)
      czas się tam zdecydowanie zatrzymał, ale chyba dlatego mi się tam podobało, trochę taka Polska jak z wczesnego dzieciństwa pamiętam.

  15. Hi Kami,
    I just found your blog and have been looking through your posts from Eastern Europe. Your travels are really inspiring, especially the ones from Ukraine. I’m thinking about going there on a solo trip in May, and your post on safety gave me some peace of mind!
    Miriam latest post…Saint Petersburg, you are fascinatingMy Profile

    • kami
      13:28 22/03/2016

      Thanks Miriam! You definitely should visit Ukraine, it’s such a beautiful country (and so cheap these days!). I’m most likely going there again next week :) Where do you think of going there?

  16. Vio
    13:37 08/04/2016

    Short movie for people who wants to visit Moldova: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MU_7YJijgPc

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