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Iași (pronounced “Yash”, not eye-a-see as I embarrassingly thought) was such an unexpected delight for me. I picked it largely because it was close to the border of Moldova, but I’m so glad it made my itinerary. Iasi has been a hub for students and creatives for centuries, and it is definitely on the rise. There are so many things to do in Iasi, that I wasn’t even able to see them all!
A little bit of background information before we begin. Until a century ago, Romania was divided up into three separate countries: Wallachia, Transylvania, and Moldova. Each had its own capital, and Iasi was the capital of Moldova. That’s why the city is so grand and lavish, to this day.
However, when Romania was united, it was decided that the capital would be Bucharest, for strategic reasons. Between this, and the communist era, when books and academia were looked down upon, the city’s light dimmed slightly. Today, however, things are on the up and up for Iași — there’s a bustling student
There aren’t as many tourists in Iași as there is elsewhere in Romania, which only made me love it even more. I definitely recommend visiting Iași if you love history, architecture or the arts.
Georghe Asachi Library
If there’s only one thing you have time to do in Iași, I really recommend paying a visit to the Georghe Asachi Library. It’s totally free to
It’s so charming and historic, and the librarians are so proud of it and love showing you around and pointing out its features. An added bonus of the library is that to reach it, you need to walk through the university and soak in a bit of the bustling student atmosphere.
Palace of Art and Culture
Iași is full of gorgeous buildings. However, perhaps the most impressive of all is the Palace of Arts and Culture at the end of the main road. It is almost impossibly beautiful, with an amazing Neo-Gothic exterior. As you can see, it was snowing while I was visiting, which made it particularly spectacular!
You can visit inside and view the impressive ballroom and museums. However, simply standing on the outside and admiring its amazing facade is beautiful in itself. Apparently, the palace used to be much smaller,
Catch a show at the Vasile Alecsandri National Theatre
The Vasile Alecsandri National Theatre is another absolutely stunning building in Iași. Built in the late 19th century, it is considered one of the best examples of the “Baroque” and “Rococo” styles of architecture. I don’t know a great deal about architecture, but I do know it’s very beautiful!
The interior is said to be even more gorgeous, with crystal-clad chandeliers and a hand-painted curtain.
The Three Holy Hierarchs
Iași is known as the ‘City of 100 Churches’, and since there are no less than five just on the main street, it’s no wonder! Perhaps the most beautiful of all is the Three Holy Hierarchs, which is a stunning building with Armenian, Ottoman and Georgian influence.
Make sure you leave plenty of time to carefully study each layer of the amazing church. There are more than 30 different patterns that were each exquisitely carved on the exterior. You can also see a rope motif in the centre, which represents the division between real life and the spiritual world.
Shop at the Palas Mall
I know, I know, it’s not like a budget travel blogger to recommend shopping as a top thing to do. However, I was super impressed by the Palas Mall behind the Palace of Arts and Culture. I was basically frozen when I entered the toasty warm mall, so enjoyed spending an hour doing some shopping!
Romania is very affordable so you can pick up some great shoes, clothes and jewellery. Or, just head for the huge food court and enjoy some huge serves of cheap and delicious multicultural food.
Iasi Botanical Gardens
If you’re looking for somewhere to enjoy some fresh air, then head for the Iasi Botanical Gardens. They are spread out over 80 acres and maintained by one of the city’s universities.
There are lots of beautiful sections of the gardens, but I especially loved the “Rosary” section. I love roses (I got married in a rose garden), and it is so colourful and beautiful. To make a day out of it, be sure to grab a book (Romanian author, of course) and enjoy!
Wander down Bulevardul Carol
Join the students and young professionals on Bulevardul Carol, one of Iași’s trendiest streets. There are so many great cafes, restaurants and bars along the streets, including many that serve local Romanian beer and wine. There are also some museums and a park to visit, as well.
I especially loved these humble and adorable bookstores! Though most of the books are (of course) in Romanian, you can also find some English texts. You may want to grab one and read it in nearby Copou Park for a lazy afternoon.
It has my name, so of course I have to recommend a visit here! You can’t miss this place, as out the front you’ll find these two bright and colourful Volkswagen Beetles.
Inside, you’ll find an impressive gallery made by a group of artists who use traditional mosaic-making methods to make truly incredible artworks. Although most of it is probably out of your budget if you’re a budget traveller like me, it’s still super beautiful to look around.
Walking tour with students
I love a good walking tour, and Iași is home to a particularly great one! Every day, there is a tour that is put on by local tourism students for free (although a tip is appreciated – we all know students need their wine, guys!). It’s so great to go on this tour which is led by young people who are so passionate about their city.
The walking tour is incredibly
Wine tasting at the Gramma Wine Cellars
Romanian wine is really, really good. Considering how famous Moldovan wine is, it’s no surprise that the nearby Iasi region is one of the best wine producing regions in Romania. While you can do a full-day tour of the wineries around Iasi, visiting Gramma Wine Cellar is a good alternative.
You are welcome to visit this winery and taste their wines including Feteasca Regalia and Feteasca Negra. It’s a great introduction to Romanian wine, and the setting is really beautiful, too!
Visit Bojdeuca lui Creanga
When I heard about Ion Creanga, a cat-loving Romanian author whose home was turned into Iasi’s first literary museum, I just had to visit. It turned out to be a really interesting experience.
Ion Creanga’s home is actually very humble and modest, giving an interesting insight into what life was like in historic Moldavia. You can also see lots of different artefacts from his career, such as manuscripts and his writing desk. It’s definitely a great place to visit, especially for only 3 lei!
Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to visit the Bucovina Monasteries, but I really wish I’d had the chance. Bucovina is home to about a dozen stunning painted monasteries that were constructed in the thirteenth to seventeenth century.
These monasteries look beautiful on both the inside and the outside. There are many tours that will take you to see them, however as I was alone in