Once the region of choice for some of the finest wine in the Soviet Empire, Chisinau is still regarded as home to some of the most varied and high quality wines in the world. Amongst its winding streets,with their eclectic mix of Stalinist skyscrapers and medieval fortifications, this vibrant city holds a special charm to treasure hunters and history-buff’s alike. The perfect blending of old and new, you can take your time wandering around the Chisinau souvenir market for the perfect treasure-hunting opportunities, or sample the local delicacies at one of the many cafes and restaurants.
Chişinău is an interesting mix of old and new, a place where Stalinist skyscrapers give way to crumbling medieval communities, and its hotels are just as varied. The big chains are all present and correct as are Moldovan knock-offs of iconic hotels in other capitals, not least the Savoy (Mateevici 66), which is just as large, if not as grand, as its British namesake. Much nicer is the Nobil Boutique Hotel (Mihai Eminescu 49/1), a imposing stucco-fronted place to stay that’s plush enough to impress the pickiest of oil squillionaires. Cheaper but just as cheerful is the stylish Villa Rossa Hotel (Boulevard Dacia 3/3) in the chic Sectorul Botanica district.
Much to the surprise of just about everyone who visits, Moldovan wine is excellent and was once the tipple of choice for the Soviet Union high command. While you can pick a bottle or two up at the airport, better value and a wider selection can be found in the shops at MallDOVA, a vast shopping complex on the edge of Chişinău. If you don’t feel like dragging yourself around its four floors of boutiques, head to the Chişinău souvenir market on Ştefan cel Mare where you can haggle for local crafts and pick up the odd Soviet relic.
Although you won’t find much in the way of food at the Chişinău souvenir market, you’ll find plenty to try at the vast Piaţa Centrală market, including langos – a traditional stuffed, fried dough ball served at what seems to be every other eatery in the city. Oraşul Vechi (Armenească 24) specialises in fish and is a good place to try the local fare – it’s a real Moldovan favourite. Another good place to sink your teeth into Chişinău specialities is La Taifas (Bucuresti), where staff flit about dressed in Moldovan folk attire. If you want a break from local cuisine, try Symposium (31 August 1989 78A), a French fine-dining spot popular with the city’s glitterati.
Martisor Music Festival
Spread across Chişinău’s many concert halls, the Martisor Music Festival is a celebration of the contemporary Moldovan music scene with offerings ranging from folk to pop.
A lovely little festival that brings locals flocking to the monument of local hero Ştefan cel Mare to lay flowers and read Romanian literary classics to commemorate the reinstatement of the Latin alphabet in 1989.
Organised by local band, the Trigon Ethno Jazz group, the annual event brings musicians from all over the world to Chişinău for four days of concerts and contemporary culture.
Chişinău City Day
Hramul Chisinaului, as Chişinău City Day is known to the locals, commemorates the intercession of the Holy Virgin via a huge folk festival complete with free-flowing food and wine, traditional costumes and impromptu outbreaks of Moldova’s national dance, the ‘hora’.
Moldova Wine Festival
Moldovans have been quietly making wine since the end of the 15th century, and this annual knees-up celebrates the end of the grape harvest with dance and song, as well as Bacchanalian amounts of vino.