Kyiv is one of the oldest and most interesting cities in Europe. Numerous historical epochs and events over more than 1535 years have intertwined to create this unique city.
There is a natural coexistence of ancient historic sights, urban landscapes with countless parks, museums and theaters, street performers, art galleries, tasty food, open and welcoming people.
It is a city of bright, creative, incredible personalities. A lot of celebrities were born and raised here including but not limited to Hollywood actress Milla Jovovich and boxers brothers Klitschko, inventor of helicopters Igor Sikorsky, well known writer Mikhail Bulgakov, famous ballet dancer Serge Lifar and singer Alexander Vertinsky, prominent painter Kazimir Malevich and the founder of the “Davidoff” brand and corporation – Zino Davidoff.
It is a city where any desire can be fulfilled at once, just ask. With its fast pace, Kyiv residents are used to things done quickly and perfectly. A wide variety of services such as restaurants, flower deliveries, and shops work 24 hours a day. One the other hand, the city is full of quiet hideaways away from all this hustle. Kyiv is a real Zen.
Not needed for almost everyone.
Hryvnia. You can exchange it almost anywhere – in the banks and currency exchange kiosks which are everywhere around the city.
You could get to Kyiv by plane. A cheaper option of a bus and a train is available traveling from Europe.
The city itself has a well-developed system of public transport. There are buses, trams, metro, trolleys, and even a funicular. If a resident of Kyiv waits for the transport more than 5 minutes, he starts blaming a city mayor, his country, and the whole world.
You can plan routes and see prices for public transportation (in Kyiv tickets are around 15 cents) using an app eway.in.ua. The app also is working in other countries.
“Metro” is an art object in itself. Each station has a totally unique design. A metro station Zoloti Vorota (Golden Gate) is considered to be one of the most beautiful stations in the world with its magnificent old Slavic style mosaic. Ticket to metro costs 19 cents and will get you anywhere in the city.
Uber works in Ukraine too. For 5$ you can get to the opposite side of the city.
You will also find all the major car rental agencies. However, I would not recommend renting a car because Kyiv has a special driving atmosphere. Kyiv residents feel a situation on the road more than they actually understand it. It might look slightly aggressive but most drivers are very polite. For example, one of the most popular moves is to blink with hazzard lights as a thank you note.
The most popular locations are the historic center and Podil. On the other hand, it is much cheaper to find an accommodation somewhere close to the metro station because metro will get you to the center in 10-15 minutes. The city’s hotels and hostels vary greatly in price. An average price of the hotel room will be about 50-60$ per night but there are plenty of cheaper options.
Many prefer to rent an apartment when visiting Kyiv. Welcome to Airbnb☺
For Ukrainians, food is a real cult. 99,9% of Ukrainians cook well with organic ingredients. Therefore, restaurants have to surprise an ordinary Ukrainian with something even better. Almost every restaurant has fantastic food and listing all of them would be pointless. Kyiv has cuisine from all over the world. However, I will mention the best restaurants serving Ukrainian food.
Restaurant Tsarske Selo is located by the Museum of the World War II and designed as a traditional Ukrainian house.
Similarly designed, a restaurant Taras is located in the Shevchenko park by the University.
Mamajeva Sloboda is huge ethnographic complex designed as a Cossack settlement. It is located not far from the city center and hosts performances of Ukrainian traditions. More information here: http://mamajeva-sloboda.ua/
A lunch with drinks in the good restaurant for two people will cost about $25.
I would also recommend trying Ukrainian fast food Puzata Hata. In Ukrainian version, fast food is home-cooked fresh food in the style of buffet. The cost of the three-course lunch will vary from $4 to $10 per person.
Coffee in Kyiv is also must have. The city is full of an especially tasty coffee including ones at street stands. Kyiv coffee impressed a journalist of Chicago Tribune so much that he dedicated it a whole article.
Things to do
First of all, Kyiv is a mythical place. There is a hill called Lysa Hora (transl: bald mountain) where once a year witches who practice witchcraft “fly in” once a year to practice their craft. You will find Richard’s Palace which is haunted and where no one can live. There is a Green theater which is occupied by ancient Slavic ghosts which prevent any construction. I highly recommend a tour called myths and legends of Kyiv. You could order the tour here: http://smartclever.com.ua/ru/excursion/12 (in Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, and English). It is really worth visiting bar “Lysa Hora” for magical drinks and food, hearing your destiny, and checking yourself for curses.
To form an initial general impression, I would recommend Hop-on-Hop-off – a tour around Kyiv is approximately 2 hours and costs 9 dollars. The tour can be ordered online http://openkiev.com.ua
Hop-on-Hop-off stops by most famous Kyivean sights: St. Mykhailo and Sophia’s cathedrals, Zoloti Vorota (Golden Gate), Mariinsky Park, Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, Andriyivskyy descent. Some of these places will require more time to explore separately from the tour.
Photo by Oleg Kislitsa
A place not to miss spending time at is the Lavra. It is an enormous 11-century monastery complex listed as UNESCO World Heritage. First part consists of historic buildings, museums, and art galleries (costs less than 2 dollars). Second part, is a functioning monastery still used by monks and open for public free of charge. The highlight is the catacombs with relics of Saints. Group and individual tours are available right there.
Two interesting destinations are located not far from the Lavra. First is a beautiful Pechersk landscape park with an area called Spivoche Pole (transl: singing field) that hosts flower shows, concerts, and movie nights during the summer. Second is World War II complex with a museum, an exhibition of war machines, and an exhibition of the Afghan and current Russian-Ukrainian war. Part of the museum dedicated to WWII is located in the base of the Mother Homeland statue. The statue is twice as big as the Statue of Liberty and you can go up the shield. Surrounding the complex is another park with gorgeous view of the city.
Photo by Oleg Kislitsa
Andriyivskyy descent is part of charming historic neighborhood Podil located by the Dnieper river. Back in the day, craftsmen and river workers were living here. Nowadays, Kontraktova Square, Poshtova Square, Andriyivskyy descent, Peizazhna alley will all charm you with 19th century houses, museums, galleries, restaurants, and monasteries. Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, one of the oldest educational establishments in Europe, is also located in the area.
Highly recommended a separate tour around Podil can be found here: http://www.tour-in-kiev.com/excursions/unique-podil.html It costs 25 dollars and takes 2 hours.
Kyiv’s historic center is huge and is not limited by the central street Khreshchatyk and a main square Maidan Nezalezhnosti (famous for recurring revolutions). You can order free tours around ancient and Soviet Kyiv here http://www.kievwalkingtours.com.ua/ (you could also order Chornobyl tour and Stalin’s bunkers tour there).
Among many interesting historic buildings I would recommend to visit Shokoladniy budynok (Chocolate house) and the House with Chimeras.
House with Chimeras or as it’s called Horodecki house was built from concrete – a very unusual material choice for the early 20th century. The outside is decorated with mythical creatures from Ukrainian folklore. According to one of the versions, it was because the architect Horodecki wanted to commemorate his daughter who drowned in the Dnieper river. Since the house is located near the Presidential Administration, you can only enter with a tour. Tours could be ordered (sometimes free) in the building of the Kyiv history museum on Khmelnitskogo street, 7.
Shokoladniy budynok (chocolate house) is built in the style of Venetian renaissance. But inside, each room has own style: gothic, barocco, modern, renaissance. The entrance fee is less than a dollar. Tickets could be bought in the house except for Monday and Thursday when it is closed.
At night, it is worth coming to the famous Maidan Nezalezhnosti square to enjoy music fountains with a light show. By the way, fountains in Kyiv are everywhere.
Down from the Lva Tolstogo metro station stretched Velyka Vasylkivska street. The street has 19th-20th-century houses, the largest soccer stadium in Ukraine Olimpiyskiy, and St. Nicholas cathedral which hosts organ and classical concerts.
Not far from the street is a Kyiv Fortress. Filled with 15th-century fortifications, it is now a military hospital and a museum. You can order a tour around the fortress for less than a dollar.
All of these sights are just few of the many architectural wonders. The city is incredibly interesting and a historic center is so large that you could easily spend many days wondering around. Don’t avoid cute Kyiv’s courtyards as they contain a lot of secrets ☺
Photo by Sergiy Fomenko
Two sacred things for Kyiv residents are parks and Dnieper river.
Kyiv is one of the greenest cities in the world. It is often referred to as a city-park. Each tree is like a part of local’s family. That’s why a cut tree is met with anger from Kyiv’s residents and burst of nostalgic photos in social media. So, there are so many great parks. In the center – Park Slavy, Pechersk, Volodymyrska Hirka, Mariinsky Park. Away from the center – Park of Druzhby Narodiv, Natalka Park, Hydropark, Stone garden. Some residential neighborhoods even have real forests where you could go mushroom picking (as a lot of Ukrainians do).
Kyiv has two bothanic gardens. First, Fomina is one of the oldest in Ukraine. It is located in the city center between Kyiv National University and a metro station Universytet. For less than a dollar, you will find thousands of different vegetation spread across 22.5 hectares (55.5 acres).
Second garden, M.Grishko is located near metro station Druzhby Narodiv. It’s size of 130 hectares (321 acres), rich collection of vegetation, and extensive research make it one of the greatest botanic gardens in Europe. Lots of cultural and art events take place in the garden like “Jazz in Botanic Garden.” A schedule of events can be found online at: http://www.nbg.kiev.ua/en/
In the foothills of the Grishko botanic garden there is Vydubychi Monastery. It dates back 1200 years ago when Kyivan Rus was converted to Christianity. According to the legend, when knyaz (king) Volodymyr the Great ordered to dump all the Pagan idols into the river people began running along the river screaming “vydyby” (rise up). On the spot where main Pagan idol rose up, the monastery was founded.
An important part of Kyiv is surely the Dnieper river – one of the biggest rivers in Europe which splits the city into the left and right banks. For all Ukrainians, the Dnieper river is more than just a water source but a mythical creature surrounded by tales.
Photo by Oleg Kislitsa
At the same time, Dnieper is a popular recreational zone. For picturesque river tours visit the river port on Poshtova Square. You can order a city tour, a night tour and two longer tours. A tour to Kaniv, a city with the grave of the most renowned Ukrainian poet T.Shevchenko, is $30. A tour to Mezhyhyria, a luxurious residence of the runaway president Yanukovich, is $25. You can find more information here: http://tickets.rpea.com.ua
Dnieper is also great for its beaches. The most popular locations are Trukhaniv island and Hydropark. However, many locals prefer beaches along smaller rivers (there are 13 of them in Kyiv) and lakes (more than 20). My favorite lake is Telbin perhaps because of its clean water, well-kept territory, a fountain, great restaurants or just because of my childhood memories☺
Take a walk on several waterfronts. One by Poshtova Square you will see fountains, visit restaurants with a panoramic view of the city, and hear live blues throughout day and night during summer. Rusanivs’ka Naberezhna, Obolon’, and Mykilska Slobidka waterfronts all boast with fantastic view, lively atmosphere, fountains, and great restaurants.
In the city of water, you can find two water-parks. One is a self-explanatory Dream Island located in the city by metro station Obolon’ http://aqua.dreamtown.ua/ A full-day ticket is $7.5. Terminal located in Kyiv’s satellite-city Brovary. http://aquapark-terminal.com.ua/ A full-day ticket is $8. By the way, Terminal water-park is part of the huge complex that has movie theaters, go carting, ice arena, laser tags etc.
You can’t miss an open-air museum Pyrogovo. It is a museum of folk architecture with houses from villages all across Ukraine. It is 150 hectares (370 acres) big with 300 unique exhibits such as wooden churches, houses, and windmills. Besides interesting exhibits, you could ride horses and take part in traditional Ukrainian celebrations such as Pagan holiday of Ivana Kupala. The entrance is $1.5. More details and directions you can find here: http://pirogovo.org.ua/
Halfway to Pirogovo, by the metro station Vystavkovy Center, stands Expocenter of Ukraine. The complex includes 180 buildings and 20 architectural sights built in Babylon, Egyptian, Greek styles. From the 16th century, this territory used to belong to Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra but Soviet government turned it into the 5th largest exhibition center in the world. Now, there are museums, parks, lakes, and swimming pools. It is also a place for many cultural and art events. More information you can find: http://www.expocenter.com.ua/
In general, Kyiv is a unique cultural space with more than 50 museums, as many theatres, a world-renowned opera, and a ballet. Kyiv is full of festivals, concerts, meetings with famous philosophers and scientists, culinary events, book fairs and a lot of other interesting events going on. You can always find something that suits you. Schedule of events: https://nashkiev.ua/afisha
There are a lot of interesting and historic places by Kyiv where you can go for one or two days.
Castle Radomyshl, dendrological parks Sofiyivka and Oleksandria, former Cossack capital Baturyn, Chornobyl (where nuclear explosion happened) are all just a small part of many interesting places. The cost of a day tour starts from 10$ including transportation.
More information on sights and ordering a tour here: http://www.ukrainiantour.com/ua/tours/tury-vyhodnogo-dnya/
Or here: https://www.viator.com/search/Kiev
In fact, for as little as $15 you can easily get to Lviv, Odessa, Kamianets-Podilskyi and other interesting cities in Ukraine by train. There are plenty ways to make your trip interesting.
A very popular shopping item is vyshyvanka (a shirt with the traditional Ukrainian ornament). There are a lot of traditional and modern shirts. Traditional pottery and unique jewelry are worth checking out too.
A great shopping location is a store Vsi.Svoi on the Khreshchatyk street and a street Andriyivskyy descent.
In conclusion, Ukrainians are considered one of the most educated and hospitable nations in the world. If a recently met Ukrainian is inviting you over to their house, you should expect a banquet in your honor and amazing conversations. But one thing most Ukrainians can’t stand is when you tell them what to do. Don’t forget that they’re experts in everything ☺