When it comes to gay destinations, let's just say Chisinau isn't one that's going to be at the top of LGBTQ travellers' bucket list. This is one place where LGBTQ rights are sadly lagging behind the rest of Europe, sort of what you'd expect from an East European former Soviet country.
Chisinau is the capital of Moldova, one of the poorest and undiscovered countries of East Europe. Whilst the city itself is nothing much to write home about, it's the ideal base for trips around the country, particularly for nearby wineries. It's also a handy base for tours to the stunning Orheiul Vechi Monastery and the fascinating breakaway state of Transnistria.
Chisinau is itself a city with lots of bland Soviet-style buildings. There is no gay scene here nor any obvious queer bars/clubs. In relation to tourist sites, there are a few green spots worth checking out, in particular, the Lacul Valea Morilor. Also, the central park around the Stefan cel Mare statue always has something going on. But be warned, this is quite a strange city: whilst we felt totally safe here, it feels eerie at night due to the lack of street lighting. In the evening when it gets dark, Chisinau feels like some weird ghost town and we often had to use our iPhone torchlight to light our way!
In this gay guide to Chisinau, we've set out the best gay-friendly hotels to stay, gay friendly places to go out, restaurants, things to do and more. Be sure to check out our detailed Moldova gay country guide for more inspiration.
Flying to Chisinau soon?
Landing in a new city can be stressful, what with trying to figure out the public transport system and juggle your luggage, especially if you don't really know the language! We like to book a private airport transfer to Chisinau with an English-speaking guide so we know we can relax and get ready to enjoy exploring.
Is Chisinau safe for gay travellers?
Look, let's call a spade a spade; this is as Eastern European as you're gonna get. LGBTQ life is still very much in the dark ages here, not helped by the strong Russian influence in daily life (Russian, along with Romanian remain the official languages of Moldova). Moldova is a very Orthodox country where most people are extremely religious and socially conservative. They even have a ban in place on same-sex marriage. This is not to say it's unsafe for LGBTQ travellers. We felt absolutely fine here, but we did avoid PDAs and didn't publicise our sexuality or relationship.
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On the plus side, in relation to LGBTQ rights, Moldova legalised homosexuality back in 1995, they allow gays to (theoretically) serve openly in the army, introduced the right to change legal gender and also have an array of anti-discrimination laws in employment and media. There is even a Pride March every May called the “LGBT Solidarity March”, which has taken place each year since it started in 2013. Despite the large anti-Pride protest groups taking place alongside it, there is always a large police presence to keep it safe:
Is there a gay scene in Chisinau?
Short answer, no! There are no gay bars or clubs in Chisinau. There are, however, a handful of trendy, Bohemian and hipster-type places in the centre that are gay-friendly, which we've set out below. These are places which attract a young and open-minded crowd, where we felt safe with the occasional discrete PDA.
Otherwise, we advise using your Grindr and other gay dating apps to connect with LGBTQ locals.
On that note, Moldovans young and old are super passionate about the uber gay Eurovision Song Contest, so definitely use your knowledge of it to show off/impress them. Their 2019 entry by Anna Odobescu was a personal favourite of ours:
Gay friendly hotels in Chisinau
The best place to base yourself is in the centre – use the “Stefan cel Mare” statue as your point of reference. The best bars and restaurants are clustered around the centre, so the closer you are the better. Getting a taxi in Moldova is extremely difficult. English is not well spoken and apps like Uber, Lyft and Bolt do not (yet) work here. Locals use the Yandex or iTaxi apps, but they are buggy and rarely identify your location. The best advice is to ask your hotel or Misterbnb host to help order you a cab.
Whilst there are no gay hotels in Chisinau, these are the best gay friendly options which won't have an issue welcoming LGBTQ travellers:
Radisson Blu Leogrand Hotel
Why we love it
- Gorgeous luxury hotel
- Excellent central location
- Beautiful rooftop restaurant and cocktail bar
- Spa, fitness centre and running trails
In what is probably the best gay-friendly luxury hotel in Chisinau, the Radisson Blu Leogrand Hotel is where to go when you are in dire need of pampering.
The hotel has a cool, chic, American-style feel, with modern art pieces dotted throughout the building and wide, bright spacing. Whether you want a spot of fine-dining or crave a relaxing session in the premium spa, this hotel will have you forgetting about all your worries.
Located right in the city centre by Cathedral Park, you'll be ideally situated for walking to nearby sights like the Triumphal Arch and the Nativity Cathedral. There's a well-equipped fitness centre in the hotel as well as some really impressed customised running trails going all the way around the hotel! After a brisk run in the fresh air, we relaxed in the spa's Jacuzzi and had an indulgent massage to loosen those sore muscles.
There are three different dining options to choose from. Our favourite was Zaxi which serves delicious Asian cuisine on the rooftop terrace as well as some delicious cocktails. At nighttime, the rooftop becomes a groovy club with hip music. There's also a new and lively casino on-site if you feel like playing a bit of Blackjack, Poker or just trying your luck on the slot machines.
STAY WITH A GAY LOCAL
Misterb&b is the Airbnb equivalent for the LGBTQ community. Unlike on Airbnb, you know your host is gay, voiding any nasty surprises when you check in. It is also a great way to meet gay locals and discover the underground gay scene. Click below to get 10 € (or $10) off our first booking.
City Park Hotel
Why we love it
- Comfortable, cosy and affordable
- Friendly and helpful staff
- On-site restaurant
- Close to main attractions
City Park Hotel is a great gay-friendly medium budget hotel option in Chisinau, perfect for a cheeky weekend getaway.
It is fairly central, close to all the attractions, yet on a quiet enough street so you can relax in the evening.
The staff are extremely friendly, helpful with any queries you may have. No one batted an eye at seeing a gay couple checking in!
The hotel itself is a simple building with lovely amenities. Everything feels super clean and cosy, and offers a perfect balance between refuge from the city action and being thrust into a hive of activity. The marble lobby is super fancy and gorgeous. You'll want to spend all day staring at it and capturing it for your Instagram.
There's a restaurant downstairs where you can enjoy international and local cuisine, either during the expansive breakfast buffet or in the evening when it feels more like a local pub. There are also plenty of other dining options within walking distance for you to try out, as well as the main sights and attractions.
Hostel City Center
Why we love it
- Clean, affordable hostel
- Bright and quirky design
- Games and TV in shared spaces
- Friendly and helpful staff
For gay backpackers, the Hostel City Center is our favourite gay-friendly budget option in Chisinau.
Sometimes, you can't help but crave a hostel on your travels. Mingling can be so much more difficult in a hotel. This hostel promotes the idea of integration and communal spacing. With brightly coloured common rooms, complete with games and a TV, there is always something happening here.
You can also choose between a three, four, or six-bed room, depending on your group size or budget. There is even an option for families to book a room for themselves. The room and bunk spaces can be a little tight though, so make sure you're prepared for that. Otherwise, the hostel is fabulous, particularly the very kind, helpful and friendly staff.
We loved the bright colours and decor everywhere (see that cute picture above), as well as how impeccably clean everything is. There's a communal kitchen so you can cook for yourself while the hostel also provides towels. If you're just looking for somewhere clean, comfy and affordable to sleep, then the Hostel City Center is a wonderful choice.
Gay bars in Chisinau
Note that there are no gay bars in Chisinau. The LGTBQ community is small and usually go to the more Bohemian/trendy bars, which generally attract a more tolerant crowd. The gay-friendly bars we found in Chisinau are:
Who's Bar (permanently closed – updated 03/03/2021)
Who's Bar is a cool night bar located in a basement. They make a point of being a bar, not a club, restaurant or pub, but they do serve excellent cocktails and are open 'til late. There are 18 signature cocktails on the menu for you to try, with little in the way of beer or wine. With regular events and a racy reputation, this is a fun place for a night out. Located at 67 București Street, Who's is open Thursday – Sunday from 6pm until at least 3am.
A wholesome and welcoming place. The staff at Barbar are friendly, ushering you inside with a warm smile and greeting. The music is the perfect mix of dance classics and Europop. The drinks are fairly cheap and nicely hit that sweet spot. The crowd is a mix of tourists and locals, old and young. It's a place for colleagues and college friends to hang out. Everyone here is fairly chilled and accepting of different people. Whilst we would advise against PDA, people we met here were very open-minded and chatty. Barbar is located at 56 Mihai Eminsecu Street and is open every daily until around 11pm (5am on weekends).
For the ladies who lunch…! The cocktails here are divine, especially the mojitos. After all, why use the name of a cocktail in the name of your bar if you can't deliver on their tastiness! We particularly fell in love with raspberry tinged ‘Indian Summer'… The DJ played a nice mix of music and there was plenty of space to dance, as well as mingle with the other patrons. Mojito Terasa is located at 152 Boulevard Stefan cel Mare and is open every day from midday until midnight.
Gay clubs in Chisinau
As with the bars, there are no official gay clubs in Chisinau. Kurabu used to be the main gay club in Chisinau but appears to have closed down. LGBTQ parties usually now take place underground, announced at the last-minute via word of mouth and social media. Otherwise, these were the closest we could find to more tolerant queer-friendly clubs:
While it's called a club, this place is more like a ‘multifaceted counterculture haven'. Located in an intimate basement venue, Kira's Club hosts a variety of DJs, live music, hip-hop performers and even poetry-slams. In summer there are tables outside on the sidewalk, but any time of year you're bound to find something unique to experience. Kira's Club is located at 7 Veronica Micle Street and is open Sunday – Thursday from 11am to 11pm and on weekends from 11am – 5am.
BandabaR (temporarily closed – updated July 2021)
The sister club of Barbar, BandabaR holds creative nights of dance parties with international DJs or live music events. It's only open on weekends but is very popular with locals looking to let loose and dance the night away. If you're in Chisinau for the wine festival, then BandabaR holds the afterparty! Located at 55 Strada Mihai Eminescu, BandabaR is open on Friday and Saturday nights from 11pm to 6am.
This part club/part karaoke bar attracts a very mixed crowd. The club itself regularly has fantastic performances from Moldovan artists and awesome DJ sets. Pulling together elements of circus, the shows are often jaw-dropping, and it is easy to see why this place is one of the hottest places to visit. Look out for the Circus Hostess, with her genderfuck appearance and artsy outfits. Everyone here lives for the performers! And they live for the applause… Tao is located at Bulevardul Mircea cel Bătrîn 7/1 and is open daily until around 6am.
Gay events in Chisinau
The main LGBTQ event in Chisinau is Pride, which coincides with the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia in May. We've also included a few other interesting events you may want to check out during your trip to Chisinau:
Moldova Pride (May)
While marching in a Pride parade in a not-so-LGBTQ-friendly place can be an intimidating experience, it is more important than ever that we do so! For Moldova Pride, lots of homophobic groups like to make their presence known, but the police are always out in full force to protect those marching. Forming a shield down the route of the march, the festival generally goes without incident.
For a country that is considerably further back in their human rights track record, the Pride festival is as much of a protest as it is a celebration. The existence of the march sends a message to closeted Moldovan kids that there are people like them in the world and a space for them exists!
MUST Fest (September)
You simply MUST see it!
This festival may not be LGBTQ focused, but it brings together all the things gay people love. Music, wine and art, the festival closes summer off with a bang, usually taking place in mid-September. Organised by the Cricova winery, it is held on the square in front of the Government House in the Chisinau city centre.
As well as plenty of opportunities for wine tasting, the programme includes a handicraft fair, exhibitions, art, magic shows, an excursion to the Cricova cellars, a concert and all sorts of delicious traditional dishes to enjoy with your wine. Get all the details about the next Must Fest here.
Chisinau Wine Festival (October)
A festival dedicated to wine? Sign us right up! This one takes place during the end of the grape harvest, which usually falls around the beginning of October. With stalls selling wine, food and crafts, while processions of musicians and dancers parade through the streets, this is a lovely way to get acquainted with Moldovan culture.
Tourists are even encouraged to try on some traditional clothing and then learn each of the national dances. Check out the Visit Moldova Facebook page for details of the next Chisinau wine festival.
Best restaurants in Chisinau
Moldova has quite a unique cuisine to explore, especially zeama (chicken/noodle soup), placinta (delicious flat bread pies) and friptura (Moldovan stew). These are some of the best restaurants in Chisinau we tried, loved and highly recommend to try authentic Moldovan food:
La Placinte is a popular local chain, so expect to see lots of people gushing over their favourite items, as they'll already be familiar with the menu. The menu itself is not in English, so be sure to have a Google Translate app handy! Or pray your server can speak English. Once you hop over that little obstacle, you will see how special and delicious the food is. It has one of the best placintas we tried in Moldova, as well as pork knuckles with sauerkraut and a creamy rabbit roast. We even tried some yummy ‘condensed milk nuts' for dessert, made from shortcrust pastry in the shape of big walnuts, filled with condensed milk and walnuts.
While La Taifas is a bit more upmarket, it is also a very local restaurant. A visit here offers an insight into the very heart of Moldova. Locals swear by this place as having the tastiest placinte in Moldova – which we tried and loved, but personally preferred the ones at La Placinte. It's also a good place to try friptura and mamaliga, a local accompaniment to meals similar to polenta or cornbread. There are often musicians playing beautiful live music, and plenty of good Moldovan wine to accompany your meal. We especially loved our dessert, pancake rolls filled with cherries and covered in cream – yummo!
For vegans, travelling can be a daunting ordeal. Especially when trying to find a place to eat. Yet Chisinau's Oliva restaurant is one of the best eco and vegan restaurants, which offers up plenty of dishes! Whilst we aren't vegans ourselves, we do like the occasional vegan meal, and this place truly amazed us. They work hard to be eco-friendly, avoiding plastic by using paper straws and so on. The menu is very varied with lots of Italian dishes as well as Asian and European cuisine. If you do eat meat then there's plenty of deliciousness on offer, but also vegetarian and vegan meals like couscous with sauteed vegetables and chickpeas.
Things to do in Chisinau and around
We'll be honest, we were quite underwhelmed by Chisinau. It's not the most exciting of capital cities. There are a few places in the centre worth checking out. However, we strongly advise LGBTQ travellers to use Chisinau as a base to explore the wineries nearby, visit the stunning Orheiul Vechi monastery and the fascinating breakaway nation of Transnistria:
Triumphal Arch and Cathedral Park
Chisinau's Triumphal Arch is an impressive monument which was built to commemorate the victory of the Russian Empire over the Ottoman Empire during the Russo-Turkish War. Directly opposite Government House, if you walk through the arch and continue through Cathedral Park you can wander among green gardens towards the impressive Cathedral of Christ's Nativity. This is the main cathedral of the Moldovan Orthodox Church and is quite beautiful. If you want to learn more about Chisinau's history and see other historical buildings, you can join a city tour with a local guide who really knows their stuff!
Lacul Valea Morilor
A beautiful lake just ten minutes walk from the city, the Lacul Valea Morilor is the perfect photo opp for your social media. Eerily pretty, with still and calm waters, the lake feels like a shot from a dream. We recommend taking a stroll alongside it or, weather permitting, packing up a lunch and enjoying a picnic! There's a gorgeous cascading water feature on the hill and lots of benches to sit and watch the locals swimming, kayaking, running, fishing or feeding the local ducks. Sometimes in summer, there's even a small amusement park set up and in winter an ice rink is organised on the lake.
The most famous and commercial of all of Moldova's wineries. It's internationally famous for its sparkling white wine and the underground cellar is a must-see, it's huge! There are other wineries in Moldova to check out, like Milestii Mici, which has the largest underground cellar in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Cricova's underground wine cellar is like a massive city, you need a buggy to get you around. It's also quite cold down here so make sure you bring a jacket. You can visit both Cricova and Milestii Mici wineries on a combined tour from Chisinau, then decide on your favourite!
Orheiul Vechi monastery
The Orheiul Vechi Monastery is one of the most impressive and unique things we’ve seen in all our travels. It’s a 13th-century cave monastery carved into a massive limestone cliff, located out in the Moldovan countryside. We even spotted a fabulous bit of rainbow art in the church’s ceiling. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it can be a hassle getting out there on your own, so joining a tour is the easiest way to visit and even get to try some local food in the nearby villages. The views from the monastery over the surrounding landscape are just incredible and definitely worth the trip.
Transnistria is the breakaway part of Moldova. They want to be an independent nation, rejecting Moldova and instead, looking to Mother Russia who supports them financially. Transnistria has its own flag, its own national anthem, currency, military, government and laws. They speak Russian, whereas in Moldova they mainly speak Romanian (with some Russian). One of the highlights of this fascinating region is the fortress in the city called Bender. Yes, that's right…Bender! It's quite pretty and you'll be treated to lovely views from the battlements. Learn more about the area by joining a history tour of Transnistria.
While Orheiul Monastery is the most famous, there's another stunning one well worth a visit only about an hour from Chisinau: Curchi Monastery. It's located quite close to Orheuil Vechi, but is rather difficult to get to by yourself so we recommend joining a tour to both of these beautiful monasteries. Located in the Vatici valley on a bank of the Vatic River, Curchi Monastery is a beautiful baroque structure ringed by gardens and orchards. The perfect spot for a romantic photo! The cathedral's tower is the highest in the country, rising up 57 metres above the surrounding hills covered in trees.
Soroca Town & Fortress
Soroca is a small town near the Ukrainian border which is famous for the middle-age Soroca Fortress. Established in 1499 by Stefan cel Mare, we love the rounded towers with those cute little roofs that look like wizard's hats! You can join a tour to Soroca Fortress and the town of Soroca as well, where you can see sights like the Candle of Gratitude Monument which is built on the rocks over the Nistru River. ‘Gypsy Hill' is another fascinating part of Soroca, where you can see elaborate mansions built by Roma residents to show their success after centuries of discrimination.
If you feel like going shopping during your time in Chisinau, head to the local mall, MallDova. Is that not the best punny name for a shopping mall ever? MallDova is the biggest and newest shopping mall in the city, opened in 2008 after an investment of €50 million. There are lots of big European brands for clothing, jewellery, shoes, books, cosmetics, homewares and more. The facility also houses some nice restaurants and cafes, as well as fast food joints like McDonald's and KFC. There's also a cinema if you want to catch a movie and a fun Rock & Roll Bowling alley, with its own cocktail bar!
Castel MIMI is a really cool mix of winery, resort, museum, art gallery and restaurant in a stunning chateau about 45 minutes from Chisinau. We joined a tour and wine tasting at Castel MIMI, where we learned more about the history of the winery which was first built in 1901. There were plenty of chances to sample different wines with some tasty canapes. The winery's restaurant “The White Owl” serves traditional dishes with French influences of the “Provence” style, like chicken liver pate, coq au vin and Moldovan snails in butter sauce with vegetables picked from the castle's garden. Soooo good!
Moldovan Food and Drink
Even if you don't particularly want to leave the city you can still sample many of the city's food and drinks on a Chisinau taste and flavours walking tour. While Chisinau doesn't have a Starbucks, they do have their own hip coffee chain called Tucano (Toucan), which started out right here. We really enjoyed the master-class at the groovy Tucano cafe, which even sells cannabis coffee! We also got the chance to sample three different wines with an expert sommelier, accompanied by some delicious placinte. The city isn't all about food and wine though, even using vine and grape extracts to make natural skincare products.
Planning your trip to Chisinau
We've put together some handy hints and tips to help you plan your own trip to Chisinau. Read on to find out everything the gay traveller should know before they go.
How to get there: If you are travelling by land then you can drive into Moldova from Ukraine and Romania, or even get an overnight train from Bucharest to Chisinau. Quite a few European budget airlines fly to Chisinau from major cities. From Chisinau international airport you can travel to the city centre by bus, trolleybus or minibuses, although we personally prefer to book a private airport transfer so we don't need to stress about figuring out public transport in a new country while juggling luggage.
Visa requirements: Citizens of most countries in Europe and North America, plus Australia, can visit Moldova as a tourist for up to 90 days without needing a visa. Citizens from some countries will need to apply for an e-visa before travelling to Moldova so make sure to check your personal visa requirements for Moldova here.
Getting around: Chisinau has a public transport system consisting of public buses, trolleybuses (kind of like trams), private minibuses and taxis. If you want to use a taxi you should get your hotel concierge to call you one as most drivers won't speak English. You will also only be able to pay with cash. Here's a more detailed guide to transport in Chisinau.
Power Plugs: Moldova uses the standard ‘Euro' power plugs of type C and F, which also work with type E. For most Europeans this will not be a problem but if you are travelling to Chisinau from the United Kingdom, United States, Australia or parts of south-east Asia, then you will need to bring a travel adaptor with you.
Travel insurance: We never travel without the security of travel insurance, because you just never know when a missed flight, illness or some other problem will derail your holiday. We've been using WorldNomads Travel Insurance for years, and we absolutely love them. Their cover is comprehensive and affordable, plus it's easy to make a claim online if you need to.
Vaccinations: When travelling to Chisinau you should make sure you're up to date with routine vaccinations like measles, mumps and rubella. It's also recommended that most travellers be vaccinated for Hepatitis A, while some might need to be vaccinated for Hepatitis B or rabies, depending on what you will be doing while in the country. Check out the CDC website for the most up-to-date vaccination information on Moldova.
Currency: The currency used in Moldova is called the Moldovan leu, or lei when it's plural. The currency code is MDL and you'll mostly see it written as L or lei. €1 converts to about 19 lei, £1 is worth around 21 lei and $1 US converts to around 17 lei.
Tipping culture: There is no real tipping culture in Moldova, apart from in some of the bigger and more touristy restaurants in Chisinau. Service is expected to be a lot better here, so it's also more expected that you would tip about 10% of the bill if you were happy with the service you received.
Internet access: Free, relatively fast WiFi is available at most restaurants, cafes and hotels in Chisinau. If you're going to be needing a lot of bandwidth then you might like to bring a portable WiFi device with you.
Online privacy: Gay dating apps like Grindr and Scruff are not explicitly banned in Moldova, but the general attitude towards homosexuality is not positive. We recommend using a VPN service like the ones from ExpressVPN if you want to keep your online activities private. Their service is a reliable and affordable way to use the internet anonymously.
Accommodation: For more accommodation options in Chisinau we recommend using the Booking.com website since they have so many excellent choices available. Free cancellation is often provided, the online booking system is easy to use and they offer 24/7 online customer support.
Sightseeing and adventure: If you're looking for fun things to do in Chisinau we recommend GetYourGuide to find the best activities. Their online booking system and 24/7 support are both also excellent, plus there are always so many exciting choices.
When to visit: Moldova has four distinct seasons, with cold winters and hot summers. If you want to explore Chisinau during Pride the weather will be very pleasant, while the wine festivals are also accompanied by lovely autumn colours. July and August are the peak travel season, so while the weather will be hot, there'll also be a lot of other visitors.
Gay map of Chisinau
This is our gay map of Chisinau to show you all the places we've mentioned in this article is located. Use it to find out where all the best gay friendly hotels, bars and activities are for your own visit to Chisinau!
For more inspiration:
- You might be surprised by these gay friendly cities in East Europe
- While these are the gayest cities in the whole of Europe
- Check out our gay city guide to Prague
- As well as our guide to the gay area of Berlin
- For budget travellers, these are the most awesome gay hostels in Europe
- Find out why we love attending gay Pride in London
- Then get inspired by these fabulous pride outfits
- And don't forget to pack these must-have pride accessories
- While you're there make sure you catch one of these excellent gay musicals and theatre shows in London
- Or head to some of the best drag clubs in London with fantastic performers!