Chişinău, the capital of Moldova, rarely features on the itineraries of even dedicated travellers to Eastern Europe. There are enough monuments, museums and parks to keep you busy for a few days, but the real attraction here is its excellent wine. Don’t miss indulging at Mileștii Mici or Cricova wineries – both are easily accessible from Chişinău. Much of the accommodation in the capital is fairly low-key, but newer modern properties now chart a distinctive if not eccentric course.
The modern glass-fronted Nobil tower hides a surprisingly old-world interior. From chandeliers to panelling, drapery, roll top tubs, vintage-style furniture and gilt-framed paintings, perhaps only the lofty 21st-century views through floor-to-ceiling windows break the spell. The seventh-floor fine-dining restaurant continues the theme with gold barstools and a decorative fireplace. More modern luxuries are found in the spa, which has a sensory shower, jacuzzi and Finnish sauna.
The crazed facade of the Weekend Boutique Hotel – painted like a repeating gold-baroque motif on emerald-green wallpaper with framed artwork blocking the windows – heralds more hallucinations within. Things do calm down inside, but expect plenty of eye-popping patterns and floral wallpaper, tiles and carpets along with artsy table lamps, rococo-tinged furniture and disorienting mirrors. Marilyn Monroe images pop up here and there, too.
North of the city centre near Chişinău Circus, the Shadow has a distinctive black gable-roofed facade with pillared balconies. Modern rooms feature straightforward furniture and pale leatherette headboards, with scarlet accents dominating cushions, chair covers and bedspreads. Three swimming pools – one outside – seem remarkable for a hotel this size, and the indoor ones faintly resemble an Ottoman-era cistern and a Temple of Doom-like movie set. A cosy archway-decorated restaurant features traditional Moldovan cuisine.
In central Chişinău, two blocks north of the covered central market, Hotel Lidia is more of a guesthouse than a hotel. With a homestay feel – there’s no formal reception or lobby – the rooms are simple with low-slung beds and functional chairs and tables. There’s a small garden terrace and free parking, too. You’ll be comfortable here, and the neighbourhood’s quiet.
In the heart of downtown Chişinău, the Komilfo has a distinctive top hat motif that suggests a quirky hotel, a notion confirmed by the prominently displayed hifi sound system in the lobby – crowned by a vintage reel-to-reel tape deck. Rooms are comfortable and straightforward, with decor that swerves from country-house wallpaper to giant cobbled old-town pictures via faux masonry and brickwork. There’s a small bar, a snooker room, bathtub-sized pool, sauna and a pleasant outside terrace.
The rather unassuming facade of the Klassik belies a classy interior. The rooms, suites and apartments come with tasteful furnishings and restrained palettes, typically blue-grey foliage or creamy-beige striped wallpapers, with wall-mounted lamps and marble bathrooms – the better ones have balconies, too. There’s a small rooftop pool, plus another garden pool with loungers and a pergola.
On the southern edges of the city, near the Technical University, the villa-like house of Hotel Mini stands in a leafy gated compound, part of a quiet residential neighbourhood. It’s a modest place – more of a homestay than a formal hotel – with simple unassuming rooms, most fairly large and simply furnished, and all with private bathrooms. There’s a tiny bar and dining room, which serves snacks and Russian food in the evenings. The indoor pool is more of an oversized bathtub, while the simple basement lounge has a snooker table.
An excitable melding of styles starts at the entrance porch with old-fashioned timber beams and balconies, putting the rustic into the Art Rustic. Inside, timber detailing does more of the same, while faux-baroque furniture marries with stripped floors and shaggy rugs, classy foliage wallpaper and recessed ceiling lights. Framed artwork from Klimt to Kahlo dots the walls while mirrors hang above the headboards. It’s all slightly eccentric fun, and a cosy rooftop bar lends sanctuary if not normality.
Just a block from the central Nativity Cathedral and Cathedral Park, this hotel has a rather loose jazz theme running through the interiors, from paintings and pictures of grand pianos to scattered guitar sculptures and the saxophone motif on the hotel logo. Though it’s a conspicuously modern building, decor varies widely from the Chesterfield-dotted lobby bar to streamlined Scandi cool and faux-1970s chic in rooms and suites. Of course there’s regular live jazz in the evenings, too.