Visitors to Eastern Europe take note: once you’re done with fashionable Croatia and historic Hungary, tiny Moldova awaits. This landlocked nation, bordered by Romania and Ukraine, punches above its weight when it comes to visitor attractions. If you decide to go sightseeing in Moldova one day, here are the highlights.
Sightseeing in Moldova – Things to Do
Wine, wine and more wine
The world’s largest wine cellar isn’t in the States, France or Italy – it’s in Moldova. Mileștii Mici’s underground vault, opened in 1969, is big enough to hold nearly 2 million bottles of wine. Its subterranean rooms and passageways extend for around 120 miles though only an estimated 34 miles are in use. The cellars are kept at a constant 12–14 °C and humidity is maintained at between 85 and 95% to ensure the wines age perfectly. Other key businesses include Cricova, Poiana and Asconi wineries, and if you prebook, tourists are welcome.
The country’s capital, Chișinău, hosts an annual wine festival each October. Known as National Wine Day, vintners from all over the country descend on the city’s Cathedral Park. There’s a parade, as each winery presents a basket of grapes, plus live music, street food and of course wine. Tasting tours with English-speaking guides are offered so that visitors can appreciate what they’re drinking.
A teeny, tiny statue
If you thought Brussels’ Manneken Pis was small and were underwhelmed by Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid, you might just need to adjust your expectations. The titular character of French writer and pilot Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s novella The Little Prince is celebrated in Moldova’s tiniest statue. You’ll find it on the railings lining the lake in Valea Morilor Park. Be prepared to spend some time searching as its size makes it easy to overlook when sightseeing in Moldova.
Quicker to spot is the statue of Stephen III of Moldavia, also known as Stephen the Great. People He’s remembered as a great ruler and was canonised in 1992 by the Romanian Orthodox Church. One of his most important victories was against the Ottomans, whom he defeated at the Battle of Vaslui in 1475. Despite the fighting, his long rule was a period of stability in the region, which comprised Moldova and part of present day Romania. This statue was erected almost a century ago.
Cross the border to a breakaway state
When the Soviet Union broke up in the early 1990s, Moldova became a nation state. The region of Transnistria had more in common with Russia and decided to go it alone. This little country is officially recognised only by three similarly unrecognised nations, Abkhazia, Artsakh and South Ossetia; the UN considers it part of Moldova. But take a train to Tiraspol, the territory’s capital, and you’ll need to fill out an immigration card and purchase Transnistrian rubles on arrival.
If you’re keen to see beyond Soviet-style Tiraspol, check out the delightful monastery complex at Kitskany and the imposing 16th century Bender Fortress on the banks of the Dniestr River. It’s cheap and easy to travel between them by marshrutka (minibus) or trolley bus #19.