Kyiv, things to do in the Ukrainian capital

It’s time to start traveling through a new country. We fly to Ukraine to know its capital, the city of Kyiv.

This metropolis is not one of the most famous capitals of Europe, but it deserves that we reserve a few days in our tour to discover the places of interest that it has to offer us. I assure you that you will be surprised.

Ukraine is the second largest country in Europe, only behind Russia. This nation of 40,500,000 inhabitants gained independence in 1991, when the Soviet Union disintegrated. The natives of this country speak Ukrainian and Russian. The national currency is the Grivna.

Our first destination is its beautiful capital city. Regarding the name, it is worth mentioning that it is mentioned as Kyiv (Київ) in Ukrainian, while Kiev (Киев) is the name of the city in Russian language and that after the fall of the Soviet Union continued to be used by many people.

There are no exact records of the date of its foundation. It is known that already in the 5th century there was a commercial settlement and for that reason in May 1982 the authorities decided to celebrate the 1,500 years of the city.

During his long life, Kyiv went through moments of splendor and darkness, suffered serious damage during the Second World War and today is an important financial, industrial, political, technological and educational center.

Panoramic of Kyiv at night, where we can see the domes of St Sphia's Cathedral and St Michael's Cathedral
St. Sophia’s Cathedral and behind, the St. Michael’s Monastery.

The main characteristics that make the city unique are its relief, vegetation and architecture.

Although Ukraine is a country dominated by huge plains, the coasts of the Dnieper River where Kyiv is located have some hills and undulations that endow the central streets with different types of slopes and give us panoramic views from the heights.

The second characteristic that I mentioned is the vegetation. Kyiv is known to be one of the European capitals with the most trees. It is possible to walk in summer through its streets and avenues along several kilometers and always under the shade of leafy trees such as horse chestnut. Numerous large parks, especially on the banks of the river, are part of the multiple green spaces of the city.

The third characteristic is its architecture. Kyiv inherited its buildings and wide avenues of Soviet times. But many people are also surprised by the certain similarity that some streets can have with the American Manhattan and the large number of modern buildings that are being built in the city, from office skyscrapers to huge apartment blocks.

Dnieper River in Kyiv

Discovering Kyiv

The Dnieper River (or Dnipro) runs from north to south and divides the city into two parts. The zone located to the west of the same lodges to the center of the city, its great parks and the majority of the attractions. While the east zone has some beaches and amusement parks in small islands on the river and numerous residential neighborhoods.

In today’s article we begin to discover the city center, starting from the Bessarabska Square, located where the Baseina Avenue and the Tarasa Shevchenka Boulevard come together.

Buildings downtown kyiv
Buildings of different sizes and uses are added to the landscape of the city.

Here we find the Besarabsky Market, which dates back to the 19th century, the PinchukArtCentre contemporary art center and the Metrohrad underground shopping center.

If we walk approximately 200 meters (0.12 miles) south on Esplanadna Rohnidyns’ka Street, we will arrive at the Central Synagogue, built in 1898 and which also houses the Jewish Heritage Museum. Nearby we find the famous Sporsts Palace, an building with capacity for 10,000 spectators that is used for sporting and musical events. It housed in 2005 the Eurovision festival and in 2009 the Junior Eurovision.

Next to the Palace of sports we find the main stadium of Ukraine.

The Kyiv Olympic Stadium is a modern multipurpose construction. Its capacity is 70,051 spectators, placing it as the second largest stadium in Eastern Europe, behind Luzhniki in Moscow. Its modern features and dimensions place it in the group of the “elite stadiums” of UEFA.

This venue hosted 5 matches of the Euro 2012 and also the grand final of the UEFA Champions League 2017/18.

Khreshchatyk street buildings at night

Khreshchatyk Street

We return to our starting point a few moments ago, Bessarabska Square, because from here we will start the tour that will take us through the rest of the destinations planned for today.

We started walking north on the wide Khreshchatyk street.

This wide road is the main one of the city. The greatest commercial and political activity happens in its environment. Its wide sidewalks are full of clothing stores, electronics, luxury goods, coffee shops and restaurants.

It underwent serious destructions during the Second World War and then it was rebuilt in the Stalinist neoclassical style.

Khreshchatyk street buildings
Khreshchatyk Street.
Street Prorizna near street Khreshchatyk
Prorizna Street, in its corner with Khreshchatyk Street. It is very common in the city to see wide sidewalks with lots of trees and cars parked in them.

At its margins we also have the Central Department Stores (TsUM), the City Council (Kyivrada), the State Television and Radio Committee and the Ministry of Agriculture.

On the eastern sidewalks it is possible to find a large number of benches where you can rest. It is very common for people to park their vehicles on the same sidewalk.

Khreshchatyk Street is closed to vehicular traffic on weekends and holidays, becoming a large pedestrian street.

After walking 850 meters (0.52 mi.) from our starting point we reach the Independence Square, also known as Maidan Nezalezhnosti.

Independence Square Maidan Nezalezhnosti Kyiv
Independence Square: Liadski door on the right and in the background the Ukraine Hotel building.

This square is the heart of Kyiv. It is the main meeting point of its residents whatever the reason.

The violent protests of 2013 and 2014, known as Euromaidan, took place in the Independence Square, ending with the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych.

Also in this square events such as parades, concerts and open-air festivals are held.

Independence Square at night
The square also known as Maidan Nezalezhnosti is the most important point in the city.

Maidan Nezalezhnosti has been restored and embellished after the destruction of the Euromaidan protests. Now we find a place that invites tourists to spend a good amount of time taking photographs of water sources, monuments and in the summer months also to the multiple spaces full of flowers.

The square also stands out for its nearby buildings, such as the Ukrayina Hotel, the concert hall of the Kyiv Conservatory or the Central Post Office.

We also find here the underground shopping center Globus (just below Khreshchatyk street), ruins of the Liadski Gate and a large flower clock.

Ukraine Hotel and the city at night

We continue walking the few meters left to Khreshchatyk Street to the European Square (or Yevropeyska).

In this square the Khreshchatyk street ends and we can see the buildings of the Hotel Dnipró, the Philharmonic of Kyiv, the news agency UNIAN and the conference and exhibition hall Ukrayinskyi Dim.

The area stands out for its cobblestone streets and a fountain in the middle. From here we access a 200-meter (0.12 mi.) pedestrian path to the People’s Friendship Arch, located on top of a small hill.

Friendship arch
People’s Friendship arch.
Panoramic of Podil District from the Friendship arch
Panoramic view from the arch: We can appreciate Podil and the Dnieper River with boats on its banks. In the background is the neighborhood of Obolon.

The place where the arch is located allows panoramic views of the Podil neighborhood (to the west) and the Dnieper River and its islands (to the north). This point is full of small food stands during the weekends, especially in summer, where there is usually music too.

Here our tour ends on the main street of Kyiv, the Khreshchatyk. But I propose you to accompany me on the way back to our starting point, and for that I will show you two options: One of them takes us through the streets located east of the Khreshchatyk, in the middle of the Pecherskyi District. The other option is on the opposite side, the west of Khreshchatyk Street, by the Shevchenkivskyi District.

Both options will surprise us with attractions and things to see and photograph. 😉

Boulevard Mihaila Grushevskoho, near Maidan Nezalezhnosti
Night landscape of Kyiv on outskirts of Hotel Ukraine.

Pecherskyi District

From the European Plaza we started walking east on Boulevard Mihaila Grushevskoho. Within a few meters of walking we find the entrance of the Valeriy Lobanovskyi Dynamo Stadium, home of FC Dynamo Kyiv and with capacity for 16,873 spectators.

Street of Perchersk district

To the north of the stadium we have a large park that stretches along the hills bordering the Dnieper River. It consists mostly of thickets and forests, but here we find the Old Green Theater, located a few meters from the two modern heliports of the city.

Kyiv heliports
The park located on the hill behind the Dynamo Stadium offers panoramic views of the north of the city. Here two modern heliports have been built a few years ago.

North of Kyiv in winter with snow, panoramic taken from hill near Dynamo Stadium

Park behind Dymano Stadium

Returning to our south course we can visit the Marinskyi Park, the parliament, the Anatolian Solovyanenko monument, the government house and the presidential administration building. In front of the latter, on Bankova Street, is the Gorodetsky House, also known as House with Chimaeras.

This house was built between 1901 and 1902 by Vladislav Gorodetsky. It belongs to the Art Nouveau style and owes its name to ornamentations with animals and hunting scenes. Initially it was conceived as a luxury apartment building, but since 2005 it has been used as a presidential residence for official and diplomatic ceremonies.

Kyiv downtown streets
The slopes are common in the streets of the downtown Kyiv.

Shevchenkivskyi District

In this section I propose you to walk from north to south as we did previously from the European Square, but to do it through the streets located to the west of Khreshchatyk Street, by the Shevchenkivskyi District.

I’ll show you the attractions you can visit and how easy it is to get to them.

From the square we begin a tour of Tr’okhsviatytel’s’ka Boulevard. A gentle slope takes us to a square where there is the monument to Princess Olga (Knyaginya Olga) and the St. Michael’s of the Golden Domes Monastery.

St Michael's of The Golden Domes Monastery
St. Michael’s of the Golden Domes Monastery.

This enclosure has the cathedral, the refectory of San Juan the Divine, the Economic Door and the Bell Tower of the monastery. Everything was built in the 18th century. The cathedral was seriously damaged by the Soviet authorities in the thirties of the twentieth century and was rebuilt in 1999.

In front of the monastery we find the building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the funicular station that goes down to the Podil neighborhood.

St Michael's cathedral of the Golden Domes

From the cathedral we walk southwest along Volodymyrskyi Avenue until we reach the Sofia Square. In this place is the monument to Bogdan Mijáilovich Khmelnitsky, ataman of the Russian Cossacks, and the St. Sophia’s Cathedral.

This important temple is one of the most distinctive buildings of the city and together with the Monastery of the Caves were the first sites of Ukraine to be declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco.

The Cathedral of Saint Sophia began construction around 1037 and took two decades to complete.

We continue south on Volodymyrska Avenue. After walking 450 meters (0.27 miles) we reach the Golden Gate of Kyiv. This place known as Zoloti Vorota is one of the most important in the city related to architecture and archeology. It houses the main gate of the ancient city and was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco. The New construction that encloses the old walls is a replica of the original door. To enter you have to pay a small fee.

A few meters further on we find Kyiv Opera and the History Museum. We continue another 200 meters (0.12 miles) and arrive at the Tarasa Shevchenka Boulevard.

This boulevard is one of the most beautiful in Kyiv. It has a wide central path that invites you to walk under the shade of tall trees that follow each other in a row for more than 2,500 meters (1.55 miles).

Tarasa Shevchenka Boulevard
Pedestrian path in the middle of the Tarasa Shevchenka Boulevard.

Following our route, the first thing we see when we come across this boulevard is the Tars Shevchenko Park. This green space occupies an entire block and has gardens, fountains and food stalls. Its name is due to the most famous poet of Ukraine, who lived between 1814 and 1861. In the center of the park we find a monument to Taras Shevchenko.

In front of the park is the imposing building of the National University. It is known as the “red building” because of its color. It was built between 1837 and 1842 following the Russian Classicism.

Kyiv University Building at night
University building.

Autumn outside Kyiv University

A few meters to the west, on the same boulevard we can visit the Saint Volodymyr Cathedral, built between 1862 and 1882 and which houses frescoes by Ukrainian, Russian and Polish artists.

In front of the cathedral is located one of the two botanical gardens of Kyiv. This place was founded in 1939 by the University of Kyiv. Access is paid and inside we can see hundreds of species of trees and local and exotic plants.

Here ends the great journey today. To return to the starting point of the article (the Bessaravska Square) we only have to walk eastwards for 800 meters (0.49 miles) along the Boulevard Tarasa Shevchenka. 🙂

There are still many places to see in the beautiful Kyiv: The Monastery of the Caves, the Podil neighborhood, the Hidropark and other attractions await us.

Now the information on gastronomy and transportation that will help you plan your trip!

Tarasa Shevchenka Blvd night panoramic
Panoramic view towards the southwest. We see the Boulevard Tarasa Shevchenka that extends towards the horizon. On the left of the image (dark area) is the botanical garden. In the middle we see Symona Petlyury street that ends at the railway station.

Gastronomy and Leisure

The vast majority of bars and restaurants are located in the center of the city, on Khreshchatyk Street and its surroundings. We also have several options in the Podil neighborhood, near the Dnieper River.

Kanapa Restaurant Saloon, Ukrainian cuisine; Kniazhyi Grad, Russian and Ukrainian gastronomy; Arizona Bbq, noted for its burgers and Mexican cuisine; Chechevica, Georgian gastronomy; Taras Bulba, a traditional Ukrainian cuisine restaurant that has its menu in 36 languages; Grill-Bureau Pache, European cuisine and fish specialty; Bruce Lee, Chinese cuisine; Nebo, European and Japanese cuisine. These are some of the most famous, but the great variety of offer is almost infinite.

A mall in Kyiv
Kyiv has several malls.

Some coffees that you can not miss are Aroma Espresso Bar, Chashka, La Cantina and SkyArtCafé.

Among the hundreds of bars and pubs, Fun Bar Banka, Bar On 8, Dorothy’s Bar, Sanduk and Golden Gate Irish Pub stand out.

Some nightclubs are Arena Entertainment, Boom Boom Room, Coyote Ugly, Art Club 44 and Sorry Babushka.

In addition, Kyiv complements its leisure offer with the famous operas. National Philharmonic Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, National Opera Taras Shevchenko, are some.

Theaters such as Café-Theater Koleso, Kyiv Academy Doll Theater, Lesya Ukrainka Russian Drama Theater, or we can also visit art galleries such as the PinchukArtCentre, Tsekh gallery and Brucie Collections.

The city has several shopping centers of different sizes. Ukraina Mall, Besarabsky, Ocean Plaza, Gulliver, Cosmopolit Mall are just some.

Restaurants Khreshchatyk street
Restaurants and stores in the Khreshchatyk street.

Accommodation

The city of Kyiv has a fantastic range of places to stay, from luxury hotels to small and cheap hostels.

Among the most prestigious establishments include Hotel Ukraine, Opera Hotel, Hilton Kyiv, Premier Palace Hotel, Fairmont Grand Hotel Kyiv, Hyatt Regency Kiev. Prices are around 250 euros per night

Half price accommodations can be Premier Hotel Lybid, Tourist Hotel Complex, Premier Hotel Rus, Sunday Apart Hotel, Twin Apart Hotel, among others. Spending one night in them can cost us approximately 55 euros a night.

The cheapest are the hostels. Hostel Sakvoiaj, Hostel Voyage, Luxor Hostel, Salve Hostel, Happy Buddha Hostel and Victoria Hostel are some of the best rated. The prices in these establishments start from about 4.50 euros per night.

Beautiful Kyiv streets in winter
Kyiv in winter.

Transport

To get around the city we have metro, buses, trolleybuses, tram, light rail, a funicular and the Marshrutkas (name for minibuses and small vans).

The Kyiv subway was inaugurated on November 6, 1960 with only 5 stations. It currently has 3 active lines and there are more in construction plans.

The hills on the banks of the Dnieper River that rise above the rest of the city forced to build the system to a great depth. The Arsenalna station, located 1 kilometer east of the Independence Square, is the deepest in the world: you have to descend 105.5 meters (346 feet) to reach it.

Kyiv Metro map
Map of the currently active metro lines and their stations.
Metro station Universitet, close to Tarasa Shevchenka Boulevard
Subway station “Universitet”, near the Botanical Garden. The stations are identified by a letter “M” in green.

The price of a trip by subway is 8 grivnas (0.25 euro), can be paid with plastic tokens, QR tickets on paper or contactless cards. The chips can be purchased at ticket offices located at stations or on automatic machines. The buses, trolleybuses, trams and the funicular also have a price of 8 grivnas per trip.

Kyiv can be reached by road, train or plane.

The city has good bus connections with other cities in the country and neighboring countries. You have to be prepared because Ukraine is very big and the lack of freeways in many places makes travel long.

Companies such as Autolux, Ecolines, Neoplan, offer connections to other important cities such as Kharkiv, Lviv, Odessa, Dnipropetrovsk, Ivano Frankivsk or Chernivtsi.

The trip between Kyiv and Kharkiv (450 kms., 279 mi.) is around 150 grivnas (4.70 euros) one way, while linking the Ukrainian capital with Odessa (460 kms., 285 mi.) costs about 375 grivnas (11.60 euros). In both cases the trip lasts around 7 hours.

Traveling from Kyiv to Warsaw takes about 12 hours and costs around 25 euros.

The main bus station is located southeast of the city center, 5 kilometers (3 mi.) from Maidan Nezalezhnosti, where the Nauki and Moscovska Avenues meet.

Buses at Kyiv bus station
Bus station.

Kyiv also has direct connection by rail to the main cities of the country and neighboring countries such as Warsaw, Moscow, Minsk or St. Petersburg.

The main station is on Symona Petlyury Street, very close to Shevchenko Boulevard, west of the city center.

Companies like Ukrainian Railways, take us between this city and Warsaw for 23 euros approximately, the travel time is 17 hours. Kyiv-Moscow demands about 13 hours of travel and the one-way price is approximately 25 euros.

Symona Peltyury Street, near Train Station

If we arrive by plane we have two airports. Boryspil (KBP), a large international airport located in the town of the same name, 30 kilometers (18 miles) east of Kyiv.

It is the most important in Ukraine, with flights to several countries in Europe and other continents. In 2017, it handled approximately 10,554,757 passengers.

Boryspil international airport
The Boryspil Airport has connections with Europe, Asia, Africa and America.
Boryspil Airport Kyiv
The Boryspil Airport has bus and taxi services to the downtown Kyiv.

The second airport is Zhulyany (IEV). It is located in the homonymous neighborhood, 8 kilometers (5 mi.) southwest of the center of Kyiv. Several airlines, including some low-cost airlines, use their facilities to fly to various destinations in Europe and Asia. During 2017, some 1,851,700 passengers passed through here.

Some prices of roundtrip flights that we have seen are Kyiv-Odesa for 120 euros, Kyiv-Moscow for 170 euros, Kyiv-Madrid for 230 euros or Kyiv-London for 90 euros.

Zhulyany Airport Kyiv
Zhulyany Airport.
Map of Kyiv metropolitan area with airports and stations.
Kyiv and its metropolitan area is home to 3,375,000 inhabitants. The availability of several means of transport allows us to move easily between any point.
Map of attractions in the Downtown Kyiv
In today’s post we visited the attractions of the city center. We leave from Bessarabska Square towards the Arch of Friendship on the banks of the Dnieper River. To return we proposed two options: the Perchersk district, east of Khreshchatyk Street, and the Shevchenkivskyi district, to the west. In both we have a lot to see.
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1 thought on “Kyiv, things to do in the Ukrainian capital

  1. I loved the article. It is one of the cities that I have yet to meet in Eastern Europe. Greetings from Amsterdam 🙂

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