Chisinau Historical Sites (Self Guided), Chisinau

Although the history of Chisinau accounts for just over 500 years, whilst that of Moldova, as a nation, even less than that – since 1991, Moldovan culture and language are deeply rooted in the ancient Roman tradition. Just as the Eternal City, Chisinau rests on seven hills – in the valley of the River Bic, and has a replica statue of the Capitoline Wolf in the downtown area. Whereas most of Chisinau's attractions aren't found in any international tourist guides, they still have rather interesting stories behind them.

Chisinau Spring Monument – marks the birthplace of the city as a monastery village built around a small spring in 1436; reportedly this fact gave the city its name – the archaic Romanian word chișla means a "source of water", and nouă means "new".

Stephen the Great Monument – erected in 1927 to commemorate Moldova's prince Stefan cel Mare who fought against the Ottoman rule in the 15th century. The monument stands outside the park named in his honor.

The Nativity Cathedral – built in 1830-1836, symbolizes a new chapter in the history of Chisinau as the capital of Bessarabia within the Russian Empire.

Bell Tower – first built in 1830, the magnificent belfry was demolished by the Soviets in the 1960s; rebuilt in 1998.

Triumphal Arch – one of the key local landmarks, created in 1846 to celebrate Russia's victory in the Russo-Turkish War of 1806–1812.

Pushkin House Museum – a house in which Russian poet Alexander Pushkin lived during exile to Bessarabia in the 1820s.

Also in Chisinau there is a huge number of religious monuments of different periods, such the Armenian Church, Mazarachi Church and more.

To visit these and other notable attractions of Chisinau, take this self-guided walking tour.
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Chisinau Historical Sites Map

Guide Name: Chisinau Historical Sites
Guide Location: Moldova » Chisinau (See other walking tours in Chisinau)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.5 Km or 3.4 Miles
Author: ann
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Stephen the Great Monument
  • Triumphal Arch
  • Bell Tower
  • Nativity Cathedral
  • Pushkin House Museum
  • Armenian Church
  • Mazarachi Church
  • Chisinau Spring Monument
1
Stephen the Great Monument

1) Stephen the Great Monument (must see)

The monument to Stephen the Great is located outside the main entrance to the park of the same name in downtown Chisinau. The bronze monument commemorates Stefan cel Mare ("the Great"), Moldova's ancient ruler who successfully defended the country in the 15th century from Turkish invasion. The statue was cast in Bucharest in the early 20th century and was intended to replace the monument of the Russian Emperor Alexander II, previously demolished in 1918 by Romanian authorities.

Sculptor Alexandru Plamadeala traveled far and wide in order to find a portrait of Stefan cel Mare prior to starting the work on the monument. It is said that the sculptor had made three different copies of the monument, one of which stands today. Over the years, the monument has been moved from place to place several times. A few days before the 1940 Soviet occupation of Bessarabia, it had traveled to Vaslui in the eastern part of Romania and then back to Chisinau in 1942. After that, in 1944, the monument again was sent to Romania. Eventually, after a long while, in 1989, it was restored in its original location in Chisinau. The inscriptions on the monument also have been restored. Nowadays situated in the center of the city, the monument is one of the top sights for tourists visiting the Moldovan capital.
2
Triumphal Arch

2) Triumphal Arch (must see)

Also known as the Holy Gate, the Triumphal Arch is an important structure in the center of Chisinau. It commemorates the victory of Russia over Turkey and was built in 1846 to a design by architect I. Zaushkevich. The Arch is a major tourist sight, overlooking the Government building on Stefan cel Mare Boulevard from across the Great National Assembly Square.

The Arch is a classic, square-shaped piece of architecture, featuring ornately decorated Corinthian columns and beautiful clock on the side, chiming every fifteen minutes. It stands 13 meters high and is distinctly divided into two tiers. The lower tier comprises four sturdy pylons, decorated with classic Corinthian columns, which give the structure its regal look.

Aside from architecture, the Arch (Gate) is also noted for its fascinating history. After the Russians had defeated the Turkish army, Tsar Nikolai I, acting on the request of General M.S. Vorontsov, one of the most prominent war veterans, ordered the making of bells from captured Turkish canons. The bells were to be installed on the bell tower inside the Arch. However, upon their completion, it became obvious that the bells were too big for the tower and therefore a separate belfry had to be erected nearby to hold the bells.

Why You Should Visit:
Historical significance aside, it is quite refreshing to find a monument of this type in Moldova. You can't go in it or up it, but it gives a little relief to the city itself.
Quite successful in its miniature form and a must-see of the Moldavian Champs-Élysées as it marks the dead center of town.

Tip:
Take a walk to see it at dusk as it is beautifully lit in the evening. You can also spend some time in the very nice park.
3
Bell Tower

3) Bell Tower

Standing right behind the Holy Gates is a beautiful bell tower, an important religious and historic site in Chisinau city. It represents the exact replica of the original bell tower built in 1830 (the same year as the Metropolitan Cathedral was built), only to be demolished in the 1960s and then rebuilt in 1998. The bell tower comprises four levels with a small chapel on the ground level and several bells at the top.

Tip:
Notice the flowerbeds surrounding, but make sure to visit the many flower shops on the side.
4
Nativity Cathedral

4) Nativity Cathedral (must see)

The Nativity Cathedral is a magnificent example of Russian architecture in Chisinau. Built in the early 19th century, it was designed by architect Avraam Melnikov – one of that period's finest architects of the Russian Empire. Like most religious buildings in the city, it was repurposed to an exhibition center during the Soviet era. Only recently has it again found life as a place of worship, sporting beautifully painted walls in pure Orthodox style.

Construction was commissioned by Prince Mikhail Semyonovich Vorontsov, the governor of New Russia. Considering the importance of the project, great care was taken for the building to appear elegant, regal and timeless. Renowned for his many creations across the Russian Empire, Avraam Melnikov was hired to run the project. A fine piece of neoclassic construction, the cathedral boasts an eclectic style, featuring a combination of Byzantine architecture with a hint of Renaissance on a Greek Cross, a perfect brew for neoclassic design.

In the course of centuries, this remarkable building has sustained multiple damages caused by wars and political upheavals following the collapse of, first, the Russian Empire and, then, the Soviet Union. Today, the cathedral stands as the main temple of the Russian Orthodox Church in Chisinau and is a definite must-see for any visitor to the city.

Why You Should Visit:
Located in a nice square (good for meditating and/or people watching), this place looks very large and simple from the outside, but inside it is very small yet with bright tones; a great example of such type of cathedral.

Tip:
Go inside, you might be surprised by what you'll find and how you will feel.
You can also feed the pigeons and play a game of chess on the big chess table nearby.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8am-4pm
Free admission
5
Pushkin House Museum

5) Pushkin House Museum (must see)

The great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin was exiled to Bessarabia (nowadays Moldova) for three years by the tsarist administration. He arrived in Chisinau on September 21, 1820, and stayed at the house of General Inzov, which today hosts the museum of Pushkin and is one of only two remaining Pushkin houses in the world; the other being is at Moika, St. Petersburg, Russia. Over the three years that Pushkin spent in Bessarabia, he had written a number poems, including the first part of the world-famous "Eugeny Onegin" and many others.

While in Chisinau, Pushkin maintained close ties with the local cultural elite: the writer Constantin Stamati, the Donici family, and other classics of the Romanian literature. The museum holds a collection of materials related to Pushkin's life in Bessarabia such as prints, paintings, sculptures, decorative art pieces from the late XVIII-XIX centuries, as well as editions of some of his works written here.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am-4pm
Tours are offered in Russian, Romanian, English.
Information about the exhibits is in Russian / Romanian.
6
Armenian Church

6) Armenian Church

According to some sources, the Armenian church in Chisinau was built on the ruins of an ancient Moldovan temple which burned down along with the rest of the city in 1739. The new, Armenian church was built in its place in 1804.

The architectural plan, featuring the nave with semicircular apse and the bell tower bunk extension to the west, reveals XVIII century construction style. The church's main body represents an elongated box rounded to the east and the high bell tower over the west porch, culminating with a tent ceiling. Typically Armenian are the south aisle arches with decorative columns and clean masonry walls. In 1817 two porticoes were added to the church's porch – a three-arched one to the south and a single-arched to the east and west. Their style differs substantially from the rest of the building. Particularly prominent are the portico arches, designed as lancet arches, with peculiar Arab columns and capitals.

The walls, floors and buttresses of the church are made of brick and stone, and are plastered. The foundation is made of quarry-stone. The portico walls – light and dark gray in color – are of pure cut stone. On the outside the church appears solid and monumental. Complementing the main building are the nearby utility structures, together forming a beautiful architectural ensemble.
7
Mazarachi Church

7) Mazarachi Church

Although Chisinau may be a fairly new addition to the list of tourist destinations in Europe, it surely deserves a mention owing to its rustic appeal, specific architecture and lush greenery. The latter has earned Chisinau the title of one of the greenest cities in Europe. The word “Chisinau” translates from Romanian as a “new spring” where chișla means "spring" ("a source of water") and nouă means “new". It thus can be deduced that the city evolved from a settlement formed around a spring. At the foot of the hill, that houses the Mazarachi Church, lies a stone which marks the location of the spring for which the city has been named.

This church is one of the oldest structures in Chisinau. A historic monument of national importance, it was built by Vasile Măzărache in 1752. The building features a typical medieval Moldovan style, standing somewhat humbly over the spring that has given birth to the city. Dedicated to the Mother of God, Virgin Mary, the Mazarachi Church is one of the best examples of Russian Orthodox architecture in Chisinau. For tourists, this can be a good starting point for a historical tour of the city.
8
Chisinau Spring Monument

8) Chisinau Spring Monument

While the actual origin of the city name – Chisinau – is subject to a debate, some historians reckon it can be attributed to the expression "chisla noua" which is the archaic Romanian for "new spring". The presumed site of the water spring from where Chisinau started – at the foot of the hill crowned by the Mazarache Church – is marked by a memorial foundation stone. They say, Russian poet Alexander Pushkin frequented this spring when visiting the church during his exile to Moldova in the early 1800s.

Chisinau itself was first documented, along with the spring by Mazarache Hill near the Bic river, in a deed drawn on July 17, 1436 in Vaslui (today's Romania). According to this document called the Royal Book of Reinforcement, the lords of Moldova – Ilie and Ștefan the Great – established place for the nascent town of Chisinau with the houses to be built on the right side of the Bic, “in the valley by the spring where there is an opening near the forest.”

Presently, the Foundation date of July 17 is usually overshadowed by that of October 14, which is the official Day of the City of Chisinau, a religious holiday celebrated each year.

The commemorative stone was first installed in 1986 and originally bore inscription in the Cyrillic script. Following Moldova's Independence, 20 years later the stone was renovated with the inscription changed into the Latin script.

Walking Tours in Chisinau, Moldova

Create Your Own Walk in Chisinau

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Stefan cel Mare Blvd Walk

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Stefan cel Mare Boulevard is one of the most prominent streets of the Moldovan capital. The 3.8-km thoroughfare is lined with numerous buildings of social and political importance, cultural institutions and shops.

Historically, it is believed to have stemmed from the road that led into the city from the Russian military camp stationed to the west of Chisinau in 1789. Long before the city plan...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.6 Km or 2.2 Miles
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Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.4 Km or 1.5 Miles
Best Wine and Brandy Shops

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Given the lack of stunning scenery – no turquoise waters or snow-clad mountains – Moldova is a country not overrun by tourists. Still, those who come here, usually do so to taste the local wines and brandies – Moldova is a seasoned grape and spirit producer. The locals are very lovable and hospitable people, genuinely ready to delight strangers with their internationally-renowned booze. Here...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.1 Km or 1.9 Miles
Chisinau Introduction Walking Tour

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Chisinau is the capital of Moldova, a small nation in Eastern Europe landlocked between Romania and Ukraine. For many years this land was part of the Russian Empire, and then the Soviet Union, until it finally reached independence in 1991. For this reason the city's name is often pronounced as Kishinev, which is a modified Russian version.

While the true origin of the name is unclear, many...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.9 Km or 1.8 Miles

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