Central Chisinau is hard to explain. After the Nazis pulled out of the city during the Second World War, they destroyed most of it, so the new Soviet era built city is antiseptic, impersonal and has no real personality or charm. The Central Park (Stefan cel Mare) nearby is lovely (see separate review), and St Stephen’s statue marks the end of the park and the wide open and bland boulevard of which I am now writing about (Boulevard Stefan cel Mare).
Just up the road from the park is Government House, where the Moldovan cabinet meets, with the Moldovan flag proudly flying from its roof. It is a large, uninspiring building and I don’t believe it can be visited. Behind here is a concert hall with some nice bars.
Opposite Government House is Cathedral Park and the Triumphal Arch. The park has some lovely green areas, but roadside it is paved. The arch was built in the 1840s making it one of the oldest surviving buildings in the city. It does have a bell but it is not used usually, and also contains a clock, which faces outwards. There is a flag hanging from the centre.
Beyond the arch, you walk down a few steps to the square and there is a giant chessboard with large pieces on the same scale, and often local men having a game, watched by other locals and tourists alike. I thought this a charming addition to an otherwise sterile, impersonal environment.
Next you will see the bell tower affiliated to the neoclassical Church of the Nativity. The church was built in the 1830s and is set back from the main street. Like much of the city, it was bombed during the Second World War and the bell tower was destroyed in the 1960s by the Communists. The church has subsequently been repaired, and like those in many former Soviet countries has been well-restored (apparently work is still ongoing) so it looks a much more modern building than it actually is. The bell tower was rebuilt in the late nineties and I had hoped to go up it, but I am not sure it is possible. At the bottom is a religious gift shop affiliated to the church. It is free to go into the church, and whilst you are not supposed to take photos, I did manage a sneaky one to confirm that the Russian Orthodox churches are as well decorated and gilded as the Ukrainian Greek Orthodox churches over the border.
The park area around it is very attractive, although more modest than the nearby Stefan cel Mare park, it is still pleasant and popular.
Around this area there are shops, bars and restaurants also, much of the area is dominated by business however and the UN offices, various government departments and international embassies are all around this vicinity.