Kiev, Ukraine - Panorama
Looking out over Kiev (Photo credit: Мария Самоделова)

Kiev Travel Guide

QUICK FACTS

  • The capital and largest city of Ukraine, with a population of about 2.8 million.
  • It is one of the oldest cities in Eastern Europe and a major industrial, educational and cultural centre since the 19th century.
  • Despite sustaining heavy damage in World War II, the city remained the third largest city in the Soviet Union until its independence in 1991.
  • The third longest river in Europe, the Dnieper snakes through the heart of the city on its way to the Black Sea.
  • Nickname: City of Golden Domes

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

  • Currency: Ukrainian Hryvna (UAH).
  • Spoken languages: Ukrainian and Russian.
  • Best time to visit: from May to July (and in September). Gets very cold in the fall/winter, and summers can be excessively hot.
  • Arriving via airport: Boryspil International Airport (KBP) is served by Sky Bus with single rides priced at ₴40 or by Sky Taxi for ₴250-300.

WHERE TO STAY

Khreshchatyk marks the epicentre of the city, an urban stretch that covers prime commercial interests such as upscale cafés, restaurants, boutiques and hotels. A cheaper alternative can be found in Podil and its range of accommodation located in the city’s oldest neighbourhood while the area of Obolon is certain to enthral with its smattering of food markets, retail shopping and theatres.

GETTING AROUND

  • The Kyiv City Card combines free entry to 25 museums, up to 20% discounts at participating hotels, hostels and guesthouses as well as discounts on taxi, car and bike rentals; 3-day pass costs ₴200 and 7-day pass costs ₴400.
  • Public transportation around the city is not without its hiccups, as most signs and maps are detailed in Cyrillic script. Tickets for the subway cost ₴2 regardless of distance while trams and buses charge ₴1.50 and marshrutkas or taxicab from ₴2.50 to ₴3.00.
  • Taxis charge a minimum of ₴28 for rides within the city centre, with tariffs starting at ₴2.50/km. Dial 353 1353 or 227 1000 to pre-book.

KIEV NIGHTLIFE

  • Drinking age is 18, and last call is 5 AM.
  • Downtown features a lively bar scene that keeps revellers entertained until the small hours.
  • Arena Entertainment is a massive complex housing several bars and nightclubs across four floors. Pick among casual sports bar, cabaret stages and European music clubs.
  • Khreschatyk is host to several classy wine bars and cocktail lounges, perfect for an elegant night out.

UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT

  • Saint Sophia’s Cathedral is the city’s oldest church, built by Prince Yaroslav the Wise in 1037 to rival St. Sophia’s Cathedral in Constantinople. The 13 cupola monument became the prince’s resting place.
  • Kiev Pechersk Lavra, also known as Kiev Monastery of the Caves, is one of the Seven Wonder of Ukraine and a historically distinguished Orthodox Christian monastery.
  • The Golden Gate of Kiev is the ancient entryway to the city, one of three erected at the turn of the eleventh century. Today the landmark is one of the city’s most prominent symbols, also serving as a museum dedicated to the history of the city fortifications.
  • Mariyinsky Palace is the splendid ceremonial residence of the President of Ukraine, a Baroque fortress sited on the banks of the Dnieper River.

INTERESTING WALKS

  • Maydan or Independece Square is the famous site of the Orange Revolution of 2004 and the heart of Kiev. Beautiful fountains, open-air terraces and cafés grace the busy square and make an interesting location to soak up the culture.   
  • Golosiyivsky Park is a picturesque park complete with lakes, cycling trails and well-marked walking paths for gentle outdoor exploration.
  • Bessarabsky Bazaar is the perfect place to pick up unique handmade Ukrainian crafts and mingle with the locals as they purchase everything from produce to books.
  • Landscape Alley Park is an on-going project started in 2009 to showcase contemporary art sculptures and is easily one of the friendliest installations in the city.

LOCAL WISDOM

  • For a real taste of Kiev, track down a bowl of borscht, a Ukrainian soup made with beetroot and cabbage that is a mainstay of family meals.
  • Where to find good cheap eats: Bessarbabsky Square and Kontraktova Square feature budget food stalls that sell traditional Ukrainian food in cafeteria-style.
  • Dangerous areas: although Kiev is a generally safe city to visit, scams and petty crimes have been known to occur in public areas. Exercise caution, especially when walking alone. Avoid dimly-lit side streets at night.

RECOMMENDED KIEV GUIDE BOOKS

There are very few Ukraine travel guides (in English), and even fewer good ones. This is our top recommendation:

Recommended trip duration: 2-3 days


SEE ALSO:
Kiev Travel Guide was last modified: September 28th, 2016 by Nick
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