Kiev/Kyiv is Ukraine’s vibrant capital and home to 3 million people. The “mother of the Slavic cities” is located on the shores of the Dniepr River and is brimming with architectural monuments, parks, gardens, theatres and museums.
It is also the scientific, cultural and industrial centre of the country, making it a fascinating place to visit!
Ukraine and Kiev have gotten a lot of bad attention in the newspapers in the last few years because of the conflict in eastern Ukraine but, Yes, I know Kiev is far from the conflict zone, but the western media is portraying the conflict like it’s on Kiev´s doorstep.
But in fact, so are Kiev not only a super safe city, but it´s also an incredibly cheap city, it´s probably the cheapest capital in all of Europe, with prices often being similar to the ones you will find in travellers favourite in Asia, Thailand, with Kiev might even be cheaper.
A good centre hotel costs less than 40 USD a night, and a bed in Hostel cots less than 5usd. a good meal less than 4usd, and best of all a pint of beer costs less than 1usd making Kiev also one of the cheapest places in the world for a beer together with Vietnam.
Top Things To Do In Kiev
Gain Amazing Views from Great Lavra Bell Tower
This impressive four-tier bell tower was the highest free-standing tower in the city when it was constructed in the mid-1700s.
Great Lavra Bell Tower stands at 96.5 metres high and was designed by architect Johann Gottfried Schadel – a popular German Baroque designer of the time.
It’s one of the most notable structures in Kiev, built in a classical style and topped with a dome. On each tier, there’s something interesting to see.
On the first two tiers, you can observe different architectural column designs – 32 Dorian, 16 Ionic and 8 Corinthian styles.
On the third tier, there are 3 small bells, and the fourth tier has a chiming clock.
To get the best photographs of Kiev, head to the viewing platform, which gives you a magnificent bird’s eye view of the spectacular cityscape and landscape beyond!
See Kiev Pechersk Lavra
Kiev Pechersk Lavra is known as the “monastery of the caves”. It takes its name from the words “Pechora” which relates to a cave, and “lavra”, which is a high ranking monastery of the Eastern Orthodox church.
The structure dates to the 11th century, and along with the Cathedral of Saint Sophia, it forms part of Kiev’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The site contains a number of monuments ranging from fortified walls, the Great Lavra Bell Tower, Refectory Church and Dormition Cathedral.
The monastery also houses a subterranean network of catacombs. These underground tunnels are said to be punctuated with chapels and living quarters that stretch for hundreds of kilometres!
Explore Beautiful Saint Sophia’s Cathedral
This 11th-century cathedral is one of Kiev’s best-known landmarks. The beautiful structure, dedicated to Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, is majestic in white, with sage green domes topped with dazzling golden orbs.
It’s a striking place to visit and photograph and designed with Byzantine and Ukrainian Baroque architecture.
In addition to the main cathedral structure, the museum of the National Sanctuary Sophia of Kiev, House of the Metropolitan, churches and bell towers also reside within the complex.
Admire the Motherland Monument
From all across Kiev, you can see the Motherland Monument. This commanding structure towers above the city, built to celebrate the Soviet Union’s victory over Germany during World War II.
The titanium statue, known to locals as ‘Brezhnev’s Daughter’, dominates the skyline – a woman holding a sword and shield with the Soviet Union’s state emblem etched on it.
At the statue’s base, you’ll find the Museum of the Great Patriot War honouring Ukrainian soldiers who perished during the conflict.
See the Mosaic Walls at Pejzazna Alley
Pejzazna Alley is a magical wonderland of quirky mosaics and offbeat sculptures nestled above the city.
With park areas for kids to play in, life-size animal designs and decorative benches on which to enjoy a cup of coffee or a picnic, it’s a pleasant place to spend an hour or two.
Highlights of this charming park include the giant reclining blue cats adorned along the long walls, each decorated in thousands of tiny tiles to create a feline masterpiece.
There are photo opportunities galore and incredible vistas of rooftops and the river to enjoy from this elevated location in the city.
Discover the National Art Museum of Ukraine
This columned Neoclassical structure in Kiev is dedicated to the artwork of Ukraine. Its collections span from medieval times to 20th-century masterpieces from a vast range of Ukrainian artists.
There are over 40,000 exhibits to discover, so if you enjoy all things art or archaeological, spend a few hours exploring this space.
Heart of the City at Independence Square
You may remember Kiev’s Independence Square from various news reports around 2004 as this square was the focal point of the Ukraine’s Orange Revolution.
It’s a popular spot with locals, a place to drink, dine, meet, chat and watch the world go by.
An underground shopping mall lies beneath the square too, so you can pick up souvenirs of your stay whilst exploring and learning about local culture!
Walk Kiev’s Most Famous Street – Andriyivskyy
Andriyivskyy, or ‘Andrew’s Descent’, is a steep, historic Kiev street connecting the Upper Town to Podil neighbourhood below. It’s often referred to as the “Montmartre of Kiev” due to its cobbled streets, art stalls, quaint shopfronts and cafes.
As you wander along the winding street, you’ll see a few historic landmarks, including Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov’s house, 18th century Saint Andrew’s Church and Castle of Richard the Lionheart.
However, if you simply wish to soak up the local atmosphere, you can browse sidewalk galleries, dine on traditional cuisine or pop into One Street Museum, which houses over 6500 historic artefacts from this area of the city.
Shop for Hidden Treasures at Petrivka Flea Market
This is the largest flea market in all of the Ukraine. It encompasses around four alleys and each weekend between 8am and 3pm, vendors ply for trade – their antique wares laid out haphazardly on tables and pavements.
You’ll discover everything from old leather-bound books and military medals to brass ornaments, furniture and more.
It’s a great place to pick up a bargain for friends and family back home, and you can easily lose yourself browsing all the hidden treasures.
Explore Kiev’s Hip Waterfront – Podil
Once home to artisans and merchants, Podil neighbourhood in Kiev is bursting with charm. It sits at the foot of Andrew’s Descent (Andriyivskyy), and although a popular tourist spot, it remains relatively untouched by time.
There are several historic landmarks to discover in Podil. These include the city’s most prestigious University, Fountain of Sampson, Postal Square (Poshtova Ploscha) and the Chernobyl Museum.
If you don’t wish to walk back up the steep hill into the city centre, you can catch the funicular railway to marvel at Saint Michael’s Monastery with its blue exterior and golden domes!
Learn about Local Culture at Pirogovo
Around 12 kilometres outside Kiev, you’ll discover Pirogovo open-air museum.
This fabulous living museum is one of the best in the country – a place where villages are dotted across the countryside, each representing different regions of Ukraine.
You’ll find yourself strolling through farmland, past churches, around windmills and into village huts; plus if you’re visiting during the summer months, local craftspeople work here and sell their hand-made products.
As an additional benefit, you can sample some of the best local cuisine in the restaurants here!
Day Trip to the State Aviation Museum
Oleg Antonov State Aviation Museum is the largest historical museum in Ukraine dedicated to the country’s technical achievements.
Established in 2003, it’s located near Zhuliany Airport on the outer edges of Kiev. They have over 70 aircraft and helicopters to see, which include: Illyshin’s, Antonov’s, Kamov’s, Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG’s and many more.
There’s a souvenir shop on-site too, where you’ll find a range of games, gadgets, aviation clothing, models and collectables.
Take a Chernobyl Tour
Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the deserted town of Pripyat lies a couple of hours north of Kiev.
One fateful day in April 1986, one of the power plant reactors leaked radiation into the atmosphere, causing devastation throughout the entire area.
Although the plant and town were mostly evacuated at the time, it has remained untouched ever since.
Buildings, schools and movie theatres were left abandoned and old fairground Ferris wheels, bumper cars and rides decay in overgrown parks and playgrounds.
To those unaware of the history, it looks like a scene from an apocalyptic movie and is quite sobering to visit.
However, you can take informative guided tours of the town and plant to learn more about the events which shaped the lives of everyone living in Pripyat at the time.
How to Get to Kiev
Kiev is home to around 3 million people. Therefore it has quite a well-developed transport network.
The city has two airports, a railway station and bus depots, so you’ll have no problem reaching Kiev from destinations inside and outside Ukraine.
The two main airports are Borispol International and Zhuliany Airports. Borispol Airport sits around 37 kilometres south-east of Kiev, operating international flights from over 30 foreign airlines.
Trains are also a popular way to access Kiev from other regions in Ukraine and beyond. It’s cheaper than air travel, plus you gain a real sense of the country and its cities as you relax on your journey.
There are train services to Kiev from Poland, Hungary, Russia and from other cities in Ukraine.
Getting around Kiev once you’ve arrived in the city is easy, with buses, trolleys, trams, subways and taxis all available.
The services are frequent and cheap to use, often with fixed fares per ride across all modes of transport.
When it comes to taxi’s you can hail them in the street or order by phone, but always remember to negotiate the fare before you begin your journey to avoid any surprises when you reach your destination!
How To Get Around Kiev
I do like Kiev, the city centre is compact enough so you can walk around and visit everything on foot, and the city is well-connected through the Kiev Subway system.
So it’s easy and fast to get around if you don´t feel to walk to much especially when it’s too cold.
And best of all the metro is ridiculously cheap, a ticket is no more than 4 Hryvna (0.18USD).
Most of the sights in Kiev are churches, cathedrals, and museums and since I’m not a fan of museums and I’m not gone spend my time checking out religious buildings (they all look the same to me anyway).
There’s ATM´S “everywhere” that accept western bank cards
Always carry small change in Ukraine, most places don´t have change for the bigger notes.
Where to sleep
Like I said earlier so is the hostels in Kiev dirt cheap, the quality is not up to western hostel standard, but they are still good, and most of the has a guest kitchen so you can cook your own food.
Kiev Central Station Hostel. 10min UPHILL from the train station. Dorms from 8,5usd
Small and cozy hostel with friendly and helpful staff, located close to train station, big supermarket and some of the most famous bars in the city.
Dream House Hostel. Very central dorms from 10usd
The biggest hostel in Kiev, with an on-site Cafe that has great food.
City Central Hostel. Very central dorms from 3usd!
The Hostel is located literally in the center, friendly stuff, but the rooms are tiny and dirty
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