Kyiv, Ukraine’s Dynamic City on the Dnipro
Kiev or Kyiv, is the vibrant capital of Ukraine. Full of colourful cathedrals, parks, funky cafes, colourful street art, exciting nightlife and delicious vegan food.
I would go as far as saying that is one of Europe’s most underrated travel gems.
I was curious to finally visit this former Soviet nation since I’ve only visited a few countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union (USSR), Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Georgia and Armenia.
Ukraine is the second-largest country in Europe, famed for its beautiful historical cities, unusual-flavoured vodkas, beautiful beaches in the Crimean Peninsula, wonderful churches, and soviet architecture.
I felt on my time in Kyiv that the city has a huge amount of potential and it had the surprising feel of being somewhat off the beaten track when compared with other European capitals.
Exploring Ukraine’s exciting and engaging cultural capital
Kyiv has two UNESCO World Heritage sites. Both are Orthodox Christianity icons. Kyiv Pechersk Lavra and the Saint Sophia Cathedral.
- St. Sophia Cathedral
I found that the interior was the most outstanding aspect of St Sophia’s Cathedral. The oldest standing church in Kiev, with its striking original frescoes and mosaics from the early 11th century.
The bell tower is also worth climbing for great views over Kiev.
- Pechersk Lavra also known as the “Monastery of the Caves” comprises an ensemble of monastic buildings, overlooking the right bank of the Dnieper River.
Founded in the 11th century, Lavra has a number of gold-domed churches and an underground complex of labyrinthic caves that expands for more than 600 metres.
The monks dug caves and underground labyrinths, living and studying in them, and their mummified bodies still line the walls.
Walking around the caves was definitely an ‘experience’ that I will not repeat. I felt that was a place that should only be open to people that go there to pray, I was the only tourist there walking around in the dark and narrow passages while believers congregate from one relic to another, praying and kissing each icon and the numerous vaults which contain the mummified bodies of the monks in turns.
Cathedrals and more Cathedrals
When visiting Kiev you will not escape from visiting at least a few Orthodox Christian Cathedrals. Don’t get me wrong, they are beautiful, unique and different from what I’m used to, but after a while, I had to have a break from all the religiousness.
I honestly can’t decide which one I liked better. They were all beautiful with their golden tops glimmering with glory. So here is the list of my favourite ones:
- St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral
Built-in the late 19th century, St Volodymyr’s Cathedral is not one of the most famous but I found the interior absolutely stunning, with art nouveau influences.
The exterior is yellow and has seven blue domes.
- St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery
This golden-domed blue church is hard to miss out. Looking from St Sophia’s past the Bohdan Khmelnytsky statue, at the other end of proyizd Volodymyrsky. The shiny cupolas are absolutely stunning and also the murals inside.
- St Andrew’s Church
This Golden and blue baroque church is a traditional Ukranian five-domed crossed-shaped church, that dominates the view as you walk up Andriyivsky uzviz.
Make sure you climb the steps to the platform for great views over Podil and the Dnipro River.
An Introduction to Kiev at Independence Square
- Maydan Nezalezhnosti square (Independence Square)
Maydan is the nation’s meeting point, where people come to stroll and enjoy the nightly fountain show.
Kiev’s big social heart hosts many concerts, performances and festivals, and it is known for its vibrant and lively atmosphere. The independence Square is filled with fountains and glass domes.
Annually you can see here on August 24, the celebration of the independence, with a military parade.
- Stroll Along Kreshchatyk Street
Khreshchatyk Street is lined with neoclassical buildings, cafés, and upscale shops. You will probably walk this street almost every day in order to reach different sights in various parts of the city.
On weekends and holidays, the road is closed to traffic.
Highlights in Kyiv’s Old Town
Is at Kyiv’s Old Town, (also known as the Upper Town), that you can find the oldest and most important landmarks of the city, perfect for aimless walking… admiring ancient ruins and gracious baroque architecture.
Discovering the Best of Kiev
Podil- In the heart of Kiev
The historical area of Podil is one of the most dynamic and coolest areas in Kiev. It truly has a bohemian, revivalist feel that really resonated with me.
Podil is full of stylish cafés and restaurants, art galleries and cultural centres, street art and historical orthodox churches.
Part of the joy here is wandering around without any specific purpose.
Strolling Around Andreyevsky Uzviz
Andreyevsky Uzviz (or Andrew’s Descent) is a charming winding cobblestone street. The area has a bohemian vibe, and is a wonderful place to stroll. The main street is filled with galleries, shops, restaurants, cafés, artists’ co-ops and studios. Stop to check out the open-air vintage markets along Andriyivskyy Descent.
The Bustling Bessarabsky Market
Is a massive indoor market filled with stands selling fresh produce, jar upon jar of pickles and preserved everything! The produce is stacked beautifully and you’ll see lots of traditional Ukrainian products.
Other cool and unique things to do in Kiev, Ukraine
- Kiev’s ‘underground economy’
As other post-communist countries, there are several underpasses at busy intersections. Where you can find people selling all sorts of goods – these mini-market stalls truly seem to be a part of people’s everyday life.
So marvelling at all the economy that is taking place underneath Kyiv’s walkways is a must.
- Take the metro to the deepest station in the world
The metro in Kiev is cheap, reliable and a great way to get around.
Kiev metro is one of the deepest metro systems in the world, and Arsenalna Metro is the deepest metro station in the world (346 feet underground).
- Go on a self-guided street art tour
The scale, quality and quantity of the street art in Kyiv is impressive and not to be missed.
- Eat amazing Vegan food
Veganism is on the rise, and Kiev is not an exception. There are lots of interesting places to be found and delicious food to be appreciated.
- Ride the funicular
The funicular is not a tourist attraction, is one of the many public types of transport you have in the City. Is just a short trip, but nice, especially for the views. A simple way to travel from upper to lower city.
The funicular runs down a steep hillside to the river terminal in the district of Podil
- Catch an Opera or Ballet
While in Kiev you should admire the amazing architecture of the opera house and see an Opera or Ballet show. They are quite affordable, and Ballet is known for being popular in the Ex-Soviet states.
The international centre of the contemporary art – PinchukArtCentre, It’s the largest exhibition area in the whole of Eastern Europe.
They have excellent free rotating exhibitions, and great views of Kyiv’s roofs from the coffee shop on the top floor.
- Holosiivskyi National Nature Park
The Holosiivskyi National Nature Park is a protected forest and nature reserve in Kyiv and a must-visit for nature lovers.
Transportation in Kiev is cheap by most European standards. The metro in Kiev is one of the most efficient in the world.
Kyiv, a city that has it all
Kiev will surprise you and leave you pining to book a return trip, I really enjoyed my time in Kyiv, and I bet you’ll love it as much as I did.
What was your experience in Kiev? Or are you planning to go?