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Moldova's capital city, Chișinău, is off the beaten path for most travellers. Those who do visit will find moving museum exhibits, plenty of green spaces and some of Europe's purest wine. The entire city was razed to the ground in World War II, so the architecture you see today was rebuilt in an imposing Soviet style. Spend a few hours strolling between manicured parks or head out into the rolling hills and vineyards of Moldova.
There are many Chișinău hostels to choose from, like brightly painted dorms complete with wall art or private apartments with a kitchen. You can even hang out in a preserved underground bunker. Some hostels organise weekly parties on their roof terrace, while others host free barbecues for guests to mingle. It is easy to find a Chișinău hostel with free breakfast and tea or coffee throughout the day, and most hostels have air con, whether you're in a dorm or private room.
The centre of Chișinău is compact and spreads out around the Arc de Triomphe. Bulevardul Ștefan cel Mare is the main boulevard where you'll find the Government National Palace and the National Opera. To the south and west of the centre are two large parks where you can enjoy the leisurely pace of this understated capital. An hour's drive from the centre is historical site Orheiul Vechi, where ruins date back 2000 years, showcasing Moldova's cultural heritage.
Sights in Chișinău are varied, from the National Museum of Ethnography and Natural History, where you can see a full-size reconstruction of a mammoth skeleton, to the Army Museum where an emotive exhibition can be found on stories of Red Terror and Soviet-era repression. Valea Morilor makes for a relaxing afternoon as the city park has a lake and swimming beach. You can sample Moldovan wines in Chișinău's popular nightlife or visit Mileştii Mici winery, awarded the title of the world's biggest underground winery boasting 200km of tunnels for storage.
When arriving at Chişinău International Airport catch a bus or marshrutka (shared minibus) to the city centre, which takes 35 minutes. Buses connect Chişinău to most cities in Europe, but depart from the Central, Northern and Southern Bus Stations, so it's important to check which before travelling. To get around the city in nostalgic style, use the Trolleybuses that still rattle their way along the streets. They're particularly helpful for getting to the different bus stations.