In the north of the country, Ukraine’s capital has a fascinating history, and its architecture and landmarks provide intriguing clues to its past. Since its relatively new independence in 1991, modern Kiev is shaping itself into a contemporary centre of culture and industry. There is a striking natural beauty to Kiev, and in the midst of the urban space you’ll find two botanical gardens and plenty of city parks.
One of Kiev’s most popular attractions is Andrew’s Descent, crammed full of restaurants, cafés, shops and historic landmarks, including the Castle of Richard the Lion Heart. As you wind your way down the cobbled street, browse paintings, jewellery, and traditional Ukrainian crafts made by local artisans. A stop at the One Street Museum offers a more in-depth history of the street and a chance to uncover tales of its former residents.
Khrechtchatyk Street is the city’s main thoroughfare, host to major events and a favourite spot for shopping and socialising amongst the locals. The modern Globus mall, built partially underground, attracts those looking for big names and designer labels. The best time to explore this area is on weekends and public holidays when it’s closed to traffic. You’ll find it’s particularly busy on Kiev Day during the last weekend of May, where crowds gather to celebrate the founding of the city in the 5th century. The streets come to life with open-air performances and concerts, the centrepiece of which takes place in neighbouring Independence Square.
One of the oldest and most celebrated features of the city is the Golden Gate, the ancient gateway to Kiev. Dating back over a thousand years, it was restored and reopened in the early 1980s and houses a museum dedicated to the monument’s history.
Other major landmarks to visit include the majestic Monastery of the Caves perched above the river, with striking golden domes that are a distinctive part of the city’s landscape. Saint Sophia Cathedral, the oldest church in Kiev, is also a popular attraction, and climbing to the top of the bell tower will reward you with impressive views across the city.
Local Ukrainian dishes include soups and salads like Borscht, made with beets, potatoes, garlic and other vegetables. For a taste of traditional cuisine, head to Kureni, a popular city-centre restaurant overlooking the Dnieper River. There is also a wide variety of cafés and restaurants along Khrechtchatyk Street, Independence Square and Andrew’s Descent serving regional and international fare.
Kiev’s active nightlife ranges from the tropical-themed Caribbean Club to luxurious venues and artsy clubs frequented by musicians and writers, many offering live music like the bohemian Art Club 44.
For family-friendly entertainment, The Terminal recreational centre offers bowling, ice-skating, go-karting and an aquatic park.
A short metro ride away is Hidropark on Venetian Island, where you can find a sunny spot on the beach or if you’re feeling more adventurous, try your hand at wakeboarding or sailing. The scenic Dniepro River is also a popular spot for water entertainment where you can enjoy a cruise, ferry ride or fishing trip.
Feel the pulse of Kiev’s artistic scene and make a stop at one of the city’s myriad of theatres, opera houses and galleries, including the National Opera Theatre of Ukraine and the Pinchuk Art Centre. During the summer months you can soak up the festival atmosphere of the free outdoor Kiev Summer Music Festival, held in the Central Park of Culture celebrating classical music, Jazz and folk music.
In Western Ukraine, explore the pristine beauty of the Carpathian Mountains. A haven for adventure seekers, you can enjoy skiing, hiking, cycling and rafting. Around three hours from the mountains, the medieval city of Lviv is known for its quaint cobbled streets, ancient settlements and beautiful architecture and offers the chance to experience local culture, traditions and customs.
Visit the seaside resort of Yalta on the southern tip of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. Set against a backdrop of rugged mountain peaks, you can relax on the beach, stroll along the waterfront or tour the city’s many palaces.