10 reasons why you should visit Moldova

1- It’s the least visited country in Europe

Yes, it’s true! Statistics say that in the year of 2018 only 20,000 tourists have visited Moldova, which in comparison to other countries it is rather low. But for you this is great news as you will not have to suffer from long queues or bumping into tourists at every corner.  And it is a great benefit because Moldova is somewhat of a mystery to most people as they have never even heard of it, so you’ll come here with no expectations but pure curiosity.  Due to lower number of visitors you can experience the place most authentically and enjoy the hospitality. As most locals are curious about why are you even coming to Moldova, you will experience mostly positive encounters. And hey, who doesn’t like to walk on the less beaten path? You’ll sure make an impression on your friends for having courage to explore such an unknown territory!

2 – Good quality

One thing that impresses most people when visiting is not actually the price, but the quality – of the food, wine and accommodation. Being an agricultural country with a lot of fertile soil such as cernozem, the care that is put into growing food is not just essential, but hereditary. Generations of wine makers and land workers are keeping the tradition alive by growing rich crops and turning them into delicacies. The rapport quality-price is undebatable when compared to the European market and even if there is still some room for the improvement of certain services, many of the hotels and apartments will provide great accommodation options. From big spaces and modern repairs, up to comfort and spa options, if you’re looking to pamper yourself up you will not be disappointed.

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3 – The food

Putting aside the price and quality factor, the local cuisine is also another great reason to visit the country. Historically as the region was mostly romanian, but also under the turkish and the russians, the influence can be felt in the variety of dishes. The most famous traditional dish is Mămăligă, a type of polenta (corn porridge) which is eaten with fresh local cheese and sour cream, but also can be served with scrambled egg or meat. Then the “sarmale” or also named “găluște”, like the turkish dolma are cabbage or grape leaves stuffed with a rice, carrot and meat filling. Stuffed peppers are also easily found, alongside a variety of meat balls “pârjoale” and “cighiri” and vegetable stews “tocană”. And let’s not forget the famous pies “plăcinte” which can be sweet or savoury with pumpkin/ apple/ sour cherries/ potato/ cabbage/ cheese fillings. Diving into soups you can discover “zeamă de pui”, a local chicken soup, but also can easily find the russian borsch, soleanka and okroshka (a cold summer soup). Ukranian dumplings which we call “colțunași” and russian salads such as shuba and olivie are plenty alongside the homemade fruit drink compot . If you wish to try more of the local delicacies, then have a go at the local dishes with rabbit meat or test your test buds with some pickled watermelon.

4 – We have the biggest wine cellars in the world (and also great wine!)

We might not have an Eiffel tower and fame like the french wine, but we have the biggest wine cellars in the world. Yes, that’ s right – Mileștii Mici winery is registered as the biggest in Guinness World Record Book for it’s underground cellars that stretch over 200km’s, but also for having the biggest wine collection. Cricova winery comes in second, with over 60 km’s and over 30.000.000 litres of wine produced. With a strong wine culture, over 140 wineries and 8% of the worldwide wineyards being situated in Moldova, it was bound that we would hold a unique record in regards this. Visiting these two wineries is possible alongside the others by booking a tour with them at least 1 day upfront. But the love of wine does not end just here. Each year on the first weekend of october moldovans celebrate National Wine Day in Chișinău and with a growing wine tourism industry, various other festivals and wine tasting events are popping up across the country. There is no lack of wine on the shelves of the bars, shops or even locals home cellars.

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5 – The soviet vibes

Despite being independent for 28 years, the soviet past can still be felt. It’s influence still vibrates through the socio-economical and political sector as the country is trying to recover and stabilise itself in a healthier manner, but the wound is still fresh. From soviet monuments, mosaics, museums, architecture and cars, the remains of the fallen regime can still be seen when visiting. You can find some Lenin statues, soviet post offices and shops in villages, books and memorabilia at flea markets and also an abandoned soviet bunker besides the brutalist architecture.

6 – We have a country within the country

For those that like to travel to “spicier” places, we’ve got it for you- Transnistria – the country that is not recognised, but has it’s own currency, border, military, government, anthem, bank and phone service. Being a frozen conflict area since the fall of Soviet Union, the territory has become quite a curiosity for most tourists when visiting Moldova, especially that most countries do not advise people to visit it. Enmeshed in a lot of scary stories about Russian military, difficult border crossing and bribery myths, visiting it is actually much simpler than expected. If you do plan on coming here, do your research right and make sure to register at the border!

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7 – No tourist tax

As silly as it may sound, it is a valid reason. There is no tourist tax around due to being a small industry but also due to the low number of tourists . So you won’t be needed to pay extra 3 euros or more just for visiting or staying in a specific area/ hotel. The fewer expenses, the happier the wallet!

8 – It’s the best place for recharging your batteries

Have you seen how green the country is? It’s the perfect place for a relaxing break! Just take a walk through the city’s parks and you will be amazed by the sensation of being out in nature. And with the laid back atmosphere, you will not feel like in a busy and tiring metropolitan city. Seeking a more outdoors getaway? No problem! Plenty of lakes and rives, hills and cliffs for walks, biking, hiking, camping, swimming or fishing. You will find various places across the country where you can relax with a glass of wine, some bbq or just tan under the sun. The natural reservations are easy to visit and if you’re lacking vitamin D, you can fix it here because Moldova was actually the sunniest state from the former Soviet Union countries! We might not have mountains or seaside, but we have a bundle of good energy and the treasure of the piece of land that we’re on – abundance of trees, beautiful landscapes and delicious fruits.

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9 – Internet friendly

Surprisingly to some, Moldova actually ranks in top 10 countries with the fastest and best internet speed in the world. So if you’re a digital nomad or just work remotely for your job, this place should be suitable for you. Not to mention finding easy internet access even on the street or cafes, not having to buy a coffee somewhere just to get the wi-fi password which a lot of us let’s face it, find it very annoying when traveling! And if you’re afraid that you’ll get lonely, not a problem! Across the capital you can easily find co-working spaces or IT hubs which you can join and they are very english friendly. So combining with the other benefits of cheap living expenses and being in between Europe and the Eastern world in case you wish to travel around, I see no reason why you shouldn’t give it a go here!

10 – It’s cheap

One of the greatest benefits of visiting Moldova is that it’s quite cheap. Despite not being everything for 1 euro cheap, there are a few things that are under that price. For example most of the museums in the capital have an entrance fee of 10 lei (50 cents), while public transport 2 lei (10 cents) for a trolleybus ride.  For 1 euro you can have 10 trolley rides in the city! A ride with the bus to the Transnistrian capital Tiraspol is 40 lei ( 2 euros), while to Orheiul Vechi even less. While in most European countries you will pay from 25 euros for a bed in a hostel, for the same amount (or less depending on location) you can rent a room in a hotel or an apartment. Hostels are priced from 5 euros per night, while an average meal out will be between 5 to 10 euros.  And to quench your thirst, a 0.5L water bottle starts from under 50 cents, while a beer one from 60 cents and for 2 litres you’d have to pay 1,50 euros in the shop. Now for wine, vodka, brandy… you got the message I think 😉

Visiting Moldova in Winter

Despite being a season less visited, winter has it’s own charm and perks. Overall the moldovan winters are somewhat unpredictable now showcasing varieties of warmer days with degrees above zero and  others lower temperates under zero, with or without snow, sometimes even heavy one. The lowest temperature that can reach is about -25 degrees Celcius, but this usually lasts for about a week or maximum two throughout the whole of winter. Due to such conditions we ask that if you’re planning to visit Moldova in winter, please keep the following things in mind:

  • dress up warm (hat, gloves, scarf, winter jacket, non slippery + water resistant shoes)
  • icy roads – in the city or driving across the country
  • some areas are harder to reach or visit due to snow and ice (hiking areas specifically) and some amnieties are closed throughout winter, for example Soroca fortress.
  • due to unforseen weather some tours, events, roads can be closed so allow space for flexibility and changes

Now what about happens in Moldova during winter? What things can you see, do and how does it look? Here are some examples to keep in mind when you’re planning your journey here:

Christmas Market in Chișinău takes places every year between the 15th of December until the 15th of January. The whole winter decorations are spread throughout 3 areas of the city centre: main Christmas tree in front of the government building, a little family fair in front of the Opera & ballet Theatre and the Christmas Market on the 31st august 1989 street.

You will find a variety of activities to occupy your time here. From merry-go-round to booths which traditional Moldovan pies and food, snacks and sweets, traditional goods made from leather and wool, plenty of balloons and toys for kids and even mulled wine (plenty of wine!) for the adults. On weekends there is live music at the main stage which offers a programme of folk winter songs and also modern music. Last but not least, plenty of decorations and space for taking pictures and an ice rink for those that wish to skate.

As about the rest of the country, well, just like the capital they offer their own entertainment. The bigger cities will have decorations and events going on.

Visiting villages around Christmas celebrations is quite interesting because you can experience our winter traditions. Kids go around houses carolling, then around New Years with the “Sorcova” and “Plugușorul” to bless who they visit. They all wear specific clothing or traditional elements when doing this. If you’re staying overnight in some of the villages you can experience the “soba”, our traditional heating system which warms up not just the wall and the stove, but it’s also a bed on which you can have the sweetest sleep. Daytime if the weather is nice you can join the children to ride the sledges or if available have a ride with a horse sledge.

The holiday season ends around the 14th of January and the country gets back to it’s usual routine, including the children as they finish their winter holidays. The rest of January tends to be more quiet, but then comes February which brings 2 holidays celebrating love: Valentine’s Day and Dragobete – traditional romanian Valentine’s day celebrated on 24th of February. Most restaurants, bars, clubs and even wineries offer various offers, concerts and events to celebrate these, so if you’re visiting around this time, you will find something to do. Also as spring is approaching, you will start seeing loads of white and red threads being sold across the cities, “Mărtişor” a traditional symbol that is given from 1st of march to celebrate the coming of spring.

So despite sounding like winter may complicate your travel and prevent you from visiting or doing certain things, it offers also an alternative to those – experience winter traditions and life of the region. And then come back during warmer season to see a complete different life!

 

NightLife in Chișinău

Chișinău has an abundant nightlife despite the streets looking quite empty on weekends, offering it’s locals and visitors a variety of clubs, bars, cafe’s, karaokes and clubbing projects. Although clubbing nights start from a thursday, you can still find where to go on the other days of the week.  I have compiled a list of locations to check out for a night out in Chișinău. 

Alternative/ Mainstream Clubs

Located right next to the “Luceafarul” Theatre in the centre of the city, Kira’s is a small club with a capacity of about 120 people. They offer a bar, summer terrace, food until 11pm, great atmosphere and varied music nights. They play from pop, electro, hip-hop up to electro, garage, rock. Every thursday they offer live music too.

Prices for drinks are average.

Entry fee: 40 lei  (2 euros) *sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on the event

Open: Thu – Sat: 22:00- 05:00

Address: Veronica Micle 7 (Centre District)

Events 

 

Barbar is a well known club in Chișinău, some would say even historical. Previously known as 513, now rebranded and bearded! Barbar is one of it’s kind in Chișinău with a very stylish vibe and design. Daytime you can taste some of their food menu, while nighttime you can dance to the hottest tunes. Weekly they offer club nights and even live music events.

Prices for drinks are average.

Entry fee: 100 – 150 lei (5-7 euros) (1-2 drinks included  which you can claim at the bar)

Open: Mon – Thu: 11:00- 00:00, Fri: 11:00 – 05:00, Sat: 14:00 – 05:00, Sun: 14:00 – 00:00

Address: Eminescu, 56 (Centre District)

Events

 

Bandabar is the newest club in Chișinău. Yes, the logos are similar with Barbar because they are both under the same brand. This is the newest project in town aiming to bring about anything fun and creative, from dance, music, parties up to movies and performances. Their club nights feature international dj’s and include events with electronic and minimal music as well.

Prices for drinks are average.

Entry fee: 150 lei (7 euros) (2 drinks included which you can claim at the bar)

Open: Fri & Sat: 23:00 – 06:00

Address: Eminescu, 55 (Centre District)

Events

 

Jérome is a cocktail bar/ club which can be accessed only through the entrance of the Torro Burgers (analogy to Bansky’s “Entrance through the gift shop”). Opened recently, it offers nights of electronic and techno music with a variety of drinks.

Entry fee: 100 lei (5 euros)

Open: Fri & Sat: 22:00 – 05:00am

Address: Puskin, 55 (Centre District)

Events

 

 

For those seeking underground and techno music, then OlanDeep is the local community that you need to check out. It is the only electronic community that has been organising  music events for a while and still standing. They organise events named S.O.D (Sounds of Olan Deep) every 2 weeks and depending on the season their locations change. During warmer period they organise open airs, outside the city or in nature. They feature local music producers, dj’s, as well international names.

Entry fee: 50 – 100 lei (3-5 euros) depending on event

Events

 

Club Seven is the only alternative club in Chișinău, so if you’re looking to listen to some rock/metal/punk music, then this is the place for you. An various occasions they organise some techno music events as well. Overall this is a live music venue, so if you’re interested in discovering the local music scene or even the international one, you will find it here.

Prices for drinks are average.

Entry fee: from 50 lei up (2.50+ euros)

Open: whenever an event is on

Address: Str. București, 68 (Centre District)

Events

 

Aktiv is a known local club and cafe that has been organising parties and fun events for years. It is situated at the entrance of the city, not far from the airport.

Prices for drinks are average.

Entry fee: free

Open: Mon – Fri: 22:00 – 05:00, Sat: 20:00 – 05:00, Sun: 22:00 – 12:00AM

Address: bd. Dacia, 27 (Botanica District)

Events

 

     Fancy/ Glamorous Clubs/ Bars

Zaxi Rooftop Terrace is the most sophisticated rooftop bar in Chișinău which offers Asian Fusion fine dining with champagne and cocktails. Being in the centre, it offers a beautiful view over the city. Every friday and saturday they have live music on, while throughtout the week on various occasions will have different events and parties.

Prices for food and drinks are above average/ high. You can check out their menu here.

Open: Mon – Sun: 18:00 – 02:00

Entry fee: Free entrance (reservation required for the dining)

Address: 77 Mitropolit Varlaam str., Radisson Blu Leogrand Hotel (Centre District)

Events

 

Entourage is a restaurant, bar and live music venue situated in the heart of the city. Check out their Facebook page to see when live music events are happening. Dress Code & face control.

Prices for drinks are above average.

Entry fee: free entrance but allowed entrance in only with a reserved table which has been paid already

Open: Mon-Thurs & Sun: 12:00 – 23:45 , Fri- Sat: 12:00 – 05:00

Address: str. 31 August 1989, 117 (Centre District)

Check out their events here.

 

Teatrum just like the other two above is mainly a restaurant, but it does provide live music events and space for dancing. Please note that they have a dress code and do face control.

Price for drinks are average/ above average.

Entry fee: free ( but table reservation required)

Open: Mon – Thu: 11:00 – 00:00, Fri & Sat: 11:00 – 06:00, Sun: 09:00 – 00:00

Address: str.Bucuresti 68 (Centre Ditrict)

Events

 

Piano Bar, known as a Dj cafe is a small club which offers music nights with loads of interesting Dj’s and projects. Famous for their ‘Kurabu” nights and being open even after 6am.

Prices for drinks are above average.

Entry fee: 200 lei (10 euros)

Open: Mon-Thurs: 15:00 – 03:00/ Fri-Sat: 15:00 – 06:00/ Sun: 15:00 – 03:00

Address: Gagarin, 14

Events can be seen here.

 

 

Know as the “club with the panoramic view”, Sky Bar is considered a fancy club to party in. The big windows and the height is situated at offers a wide view over the city and so is their food, offering european and asian cuisine. Not only a club, but a restaurant and cocktail bar. The music is always changing with a wide range of events.

Prices for drinks are above average.

Entry fee: free (some events have prices)

OpenMon-Thurs: 11:00 – 22:00/ Fri-Sat: 11:00 – 05:00/ Sun: 11:00 – 22:00

Address: Str. Albișoara, 4 ( Centre District)

Events

 

*I’m afraid i don’t have much information about this club at this time, so this will be updated later!

Feel free to check out their events.

Open: Fri-Sat: 23:00 – 05:00

Address: Bucuriei 1/6 ( Sculeanca district)

Events

Seasonal Projects 

Flamingo Club hosts 1000 people on the dance floor, 100 at karaoke and 120 at the terrace. Italian/ Japanese/ Ukrainian food. Open in summer and New Years.

Prices for drinks are above average.

Entry fee: Girls – 100 lei, Boys – 200 lei (between 11pm-12am free entry – depending on event)

Open: Fri – Sat: 18:00 – 06:00

Address: Tăbăcăria Veche, 23 ( Centre District)

For their events, check out here.

 

Fanconi Riviera ( also known by the old name “Rai Project”) is a summer platform created right inside the Niagara City Fitness sport complex. Daytime the pool is open and offers a bar and a summer cafe, while nighttime it turns into a night club. The pool is still available to be used at nighttime, but make sure to have your swimwear as it’s not allowed to swim in your party clothes.

Prices for drinks are above average.

Entry fee: Free for girls, 200 lei for men (10 euros)

OpenMon-Sun: 09:00 – 19:00 (clubbing from 22:00 – 06:00)

Address: Ghidighici, 5 (Sculeanca District)

Events

 

Polo House is a rooftop bar and cafe  situated in the Atrium shopping centre. It’s open season is from may until september.

Prices for drinks are average.

Entry fee: Free (some events might require booking or a certain fee)

OpenMon-Thu & Sun: 11:00 – 03:00, Fri – Sat: 11:00 – 04:00

Address: Atrium, Str. Albisoara 4 (Centre district)

Events

 

 Cafe’s/ Bars

Mojito is one of the most popular terrace of Chișinău due to it’s position and it’s average prices for their  cocktails and food.  On weekends and evenings might be more difficult to find a table, so reservations are advised. This place is always full.  Open 24/7.

Prices: Average

Address: 152 Bulevardul Ștefan cel Mare și Sfînt (Centre District)

 

One of the newest bars in towns with a fresh design, music and approach to a night out. Very central with a good atmosphere and food, mostly compromising of sandwiches and sushi. It is specifically designed as a night bar.

Prices are average and above average.

Open: MonFri: 20:00 – 04:00, FriSun: 20:00 – 07:00

Address: Bucuresti 67 (Centre district)

Facebook Page

 

Q Bar is a small but comfortable restaurant & bar which offers a variety of international cuisine. They serve authentic cheesecake as their chef worked at a high end restaurant in New York.

Prices are a mixture of average and above average.

Open: Mon – Thu & Sun: 10:00 – 23:00, FriSat: 10:00 – 00:00

Address: 31 august 1989, 93 A (Centre district)

Events

 

Fanconi Cafe offers soups, delicate meat dishes and some sushi. Dj’s on weekends and shisha available all the time.

Price: Above average

Address: Renasterii 5 ( Centre district)

 

Jack’s Bar & Grill are an american style bar & restaurant. On friday’s and saturday’s they have live music on.

Price: Average & above average

Address: Negruzzi 5 (Centre district)

 

Eli Pili is a very cosy cafe which has 3 rooms and a karaoke hall. They serve moldovan food besides other fast food servings and they have an english option in their menu.

Price: Average

Address: Bucuresti 68 (Centre District)

 

Rock’n’Roll Cafe is the place for those with a taste for a much heavier type of music. A small cafe – bar with a new terrace which serves nice food too. Open 24/7.

Price: Average

Address: Stefan Cel Mare 132 (Centre district)

Beer & Pubs

Draft is a chain of beer gardens spread out around Moldova with 5 of them in Chișinău. They have a variety of grill & pub food, as well  from non alcoholic drinks up to beer, sparkling wine and cocktails. Open 24/7 and they have pub quizzes and live music on weekends.

Price: Average

Address: You can view their locations here.

 

Smokehouse came to life from the passion of a few american volunteers that fell in love with Moldova. The food consists mostly of new american and southern cuisine, while beers a large variety from bottled and crafted ones. Great place to watch a match or just enjoy a local beer. Check out their beer menu here. Oh, and they are english friendly!

Price: Average

Address: bd. Ștefan cel Mare și Sfînt, 128 (Centre district)

 

Taproom 27, as they call it “A hoppy place” is a small but cozy beer pub that offers a great variety of moldovan crafted beer. Despite not serving food, they offer a menu from nearby delivery places and allow to bring your own food. The place is very english friendly.

Price: Average

Address: Vasile Alecsandri 117/1 (Centre district)

 

Baker Street brings the British vibe in Moldova. Despite being a small pub, they offer a diversity of foods and drinks. Sometimes they do little live music events and when football matches are on, the shows are being screened.

Price: Average

Address: Str. M. Eminescu 30 (Centre district)

 

Erik the Red is a Gastro Pub offering delicious homely cuisine and beer specifically to pamper the male spirit. A simple interior with a friendly atmosphere, gastronomic menu and sports matches to watch. Open daily from 9AM until 2AM.

Price: Average & Above average

Address: str. București 67 (Centre district)

 

The York Pub is a warm place which offers pub food, live music and of course drinks! One of the few places that carries the real pub vibe.

Price: Average

Address: str. Mitropolit Bănulescu-Bodoni 45 ( Centre district)

 

Brothers Pub is a very friendly place situated in the centre of the city. Despite being small, their menu is pretty big with choices from moldovan and european cuisine with grilled meat being their favourite. In summer they open their terrace.

Price: average

Address: Str. Mihai Eminescu, 29 (Centre district)

 

Kozlovna Cesca Pivni Restaurace – If you haven’t guessed or understood yet, this is a Czech Beer restaurant. besides their good beer, you can find plenty of food and live music on weekends. Ofcourse watching sport matches is available!

Price: Average

Address: Str. A. Puskin 24 (Centre district)

 

 

 

 

 

Milestii Mici Winery

 

 

Most people know that Moldova is famous for it’s wine, but not many know that it holds the record for the largest wine collection in the world! And this collection is stored at the Milestii Mici Winery Cellars which are found at the borders of Chisinau. The cellars stretch over 200km, with 55km being currently in use.

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To visit the wineries, a car and booking a tour is necessary. If you are visiting Moldova without a car and don’t know anyone, do not worry – many agencies offer trips to the winery. The tours are available in romanian, russian and english.

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The tour itself takes about 40 minutes and it consists of driving and walking around the cellars. For those wishing to taste the wine the tour takes longer. Just keep in mind, because the cellars are underground, it is quite cold. The temperatures vary between 12-16 degrees, so make sure to take a jacket.

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Once the tour around the winery has been finished, you are taken to their restaurant area where you can try out the wine and moldovan food.   *Please keep in mind that you need to order the package with wine and food included if you wish so, because the most basic tour comes without!

You have quite a wide range of choice when it comes to their packages as many offer different options. You can try  just 2 types of wines, 4 or more, different food choices including vegetarian (which is actually vegan!) or no  food or wine at all. The prices vary depending on your choices and even if you do not finish drinking the whole bottle (or bottles), you can take it away with you!

Price wise, i would say the money are worth it! As a local i found the tour very interesting and the wine amazing – and i’m not a wine drinker, but their Rose wine has totally turned me into a lover!

The basic tour without any tasting or food costs about 10 euros. The vegetarian package (pictured above) i chose cost me approx. 22 euros which included degustation of 4 wine types besides the food.

So if you’re looking to discover one of the gems of Moldova, head to the Milestii Mici!

You can find info, book a tour or see their package options on this page.