Can't afford a trip to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower? The next best thing (at least in Iasi), is stopping by Grand Hotel Traian, which was also designed by the infamous Gustave Eiffel. Erected seven years before the Eiffel Tower, Grand Hotel Traian served as the headquarters of the Romanian government during the first World War, and has remained the most glamourous lodging in the city ever since. Even if you can't afford a night here, you can still check out the opulent lobby, dine in the classic restaurant or (weirdly) grab a pint at the on-site English pub.
The Barboi Church (or Barboi Monastery) is another religious landmark in Iasi. The current church was built in 1841 and apparently a fantastically-painted interior. Again, I say "apparently" because it too was closed for restoration when I visited. While I was able to stroll the grounds, the building interior was not open to visitors. If it's a focal point of your visit, ensure it will be open by the time you arrive!
Golia Monastery is surrounded by tall, thick walls. In fact, I almost couldn't be bothered to find the entrance! However, I walked around to Str Cuza Voda and found an entrance at a high belfry tower (which used to serve as a vantage point for city firefighters). The monastery inside dates back to the 1600s and apparently features Byzantine frescoes and elaborate entrance ways. I say "apparently" as the restoration work happening between the belfry entrance and the monastery building was so extensive that I wasn't able to go inside (yes, even after walking all the way around the wall!). It looks like it would be great to visit, but if it's the focal point of your trip to Iasi you'll want to ensure the restoration work won't impede your visit.
Iasi's Natural History Museum is a treasure-trove of taxidermied animals. And stop. There's not much more to say (check out the seriously creepy seal in the attached photo). Oh, I could add that there's also a big model of a dinosaur. While visiting only takes about an hour, entrance is a steal at three lei. Make sure to stop by earlier in the day as they often close at 3:00 pm (and, like all the other museums, they're closed on Mondays).
I think one of the coolest places in Iasi is Parc Piata Eminescu, which is a little park located beside Piata Mihai Eminescu. As I've previously noted, Iasi proudly celebrates its literary heritage. Parc Piata Eminescu is a reminder of that: a creative, picturesque park created in memorial of one of Romania's greatest poets (in fact, Eminescu is so revered that he also appears on the 1000-lei banknotes). Designed to look like gardens of a fortified castle (well, in my opinion at least), this park was a lovely surprise on my way to the university.
Universitatea Alexandru Ioan Cuza (Alexandru Ioan Cuza University) is the oldest university in Romania. It's alumni include Corneliu Codreanu, the founder of Romania's far-right fascist organization Iron Guard. The building's main hallway is known as the Hall of the Lost Footsteps, and features frescoes painted by Sabin Bălaşa in the late 1960s. The area around the university is packed with affordable cafes, though many seemed closed when I visited outside of the normal school year.
I think it's pretty impressive that Iasi is home not only to the Museum of Old Moldavian Literature, but a second museum of literature as well- the Pogor House Literary Museum (also known as the Romanian Literature Museum). They like their books! Located in the restored home of Romanian poet and literary theorist Vasile Pogor, the museum has a number of exhibits focusing on the achievements of Pogor and other members of his Junimea literary society, as well as broader exhibits about the literature of the area throughout history. All information in the museum is in Romanian, and it is closed on Mondays.
Occupying a small park behind the Student Culture House is Voievodes Statuary. "Voievode" used to mean "lord" or "prince" in the language of early Moldavia, and today the Voievodes Statuary is home to a number of statues depicting the most important figures of the area's history, such as Stefan ce Mare (he of a boulevard in every Romanian city) and Alexander cel Bun (he of every secondary boulevard in every Romanian city). Some of the statues are in good repair, others are marked as safety hazards, but it's still a cute little spot. If you're heading up to explore the university area you should definitely check these statues out.
Dedicated to Saint Nicholas, Royal Saint Nicholas Church in Iasi is a quaint little church and the oldest church in the city that continues to occupy its original site (though it has been rebuilt twice). The interior is tiny, cool and peaceful, and there are a handful of benches outside where you can relax in the shade and examine the church's beautiful exterior. It's location near the Palace of Culture makes it an easy stop on your tour of the city.
I seriously had one of my most embarrassing moments ever at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Iasi. The Metropolitan Cathedral is the largest Orthodox Church in Romania, and as I happened to be walking down B-dul Ştefan cel Mare şi Sfânt I passed it and noticed a lot of people were going inside. "Cool," I thought, "there must be something special inside that church!" So I followed the people inside, and joined them in a big line. I wasn't really sure what I was lining up for... but I had nothing better to do. An elderly lady in line started talking to me in Romanian, and I deciphered she was asking if I was Orthodox. Afraid I was about to be kicked out of the line, I assured her that I was. She then gave me a very odd look. Anyways, we queued and queued, and after about half an hour we got far enough in the line that I could see what was happening. People were touching a big, dark object and making the sign of the cross. I'm not a Catholic but I need to confess: I have no idea how to make the sign of the cross. My cover was going to be blown! I hoped the woman in front of me would be too engrossed in her own faith to notice my lack thereof, but I definitely came off looking like a total weirdo. Once I exited the church I read my guidebook and discovered I'd just got up close and personal with the holy remains of Saint Parascheva, the patron saint of Moldavia. If you're in Iasi the church is worth a visit the church, if not to see Parascheva then to check out the interior paintings by Gheorghe Tattarescu. Be polite and respectful. And don't lie about your faith unless you know what you're talking about!
Marked by its street-level glass dome, Iasi's Hala Centrala (Central Market) is actually located below ground. Descend into the market and you'll find a veritable smorgasbord of Romanian specialties, from interesting produce to artisan cheeses. It's a great place to poke around and explore, but you'll want to head there before lunch as vendors close shop once they've sold out of their fresh goods. Above the Hala Centrala there is an attached "shopping center" made of small kiosks, notable primarily for fulfilling my serious need for a public washroom!
Located beside the Palace of Culture, the tiny Museum of Old Moldavian Literature is house in one of Iasi's oldest buildings (Casa Dosoftei). The building originally served as the headquarters of the bishop's printing services (back in the 1600s) and today visitors can explore the history of literature in the Romanian language, from it's beginnings in the 1500s to elaborately decorated works of the 1800s. There is a focus on works produced in and around Iasi. Like most museums in Europe, The Museum of Old Moldavian Literature is closed on Mondays.
Closed for renovations at the time of my visit, the Palace of Culture is Iasi's most recognizable edifice. It is normally home to four museums that, together, make up the Moldova National Museum Complex (not to be confused with the country Moldova): the Art Museum, the Ethnographic Museum of Moldavia, Moldavia's History Museum and the Science and Technology Museum. Make sure you check the website before visiting.
It's something very new and exciting, just discovered it last week (it was a gift from my friends).
The flight was about 30 minutes long and the view of the city was breathtaking. The pilot told me that flying lessons are also available.
Apparently King Stephen would build a monastery as a gift to God for every victory. So there are many monasteries in the northern region. In particular I wanted to see Voronet because of the color. They wouldn't allow photos to be taken inside. Its funny how the stories that were painted included pictures of the king as the one ordained by God and other theological implications of his reign and victories.