Odesa is often referred to as the southern pearl of Ukraine and has an impressive selection of various attractions. This city is a dynamic, energetic and somewhat decadent metropolis located on the coast of the Black Sea. «Destinations» narrows down the most popular must visit places in Odesa.
Odesa was founded in the late 18th century by Russian Empress Catherine the Great. Ever since its foundation Odesa was home for multicultural and multinational crowd. People from all over Europe came to this city to make their fortune here, thus the city’s patchy and rather tatty appearance.
Odesa is truly magnificent city and has what it seems like endless number of attractions to visit. But if this is your first time to Odesa or you don’t have much time for sightseeing, these are the most interesting Odesa attractions you don’t want to miss.
Attractions in Odesa: popular city landmarks
Nothing will describe Odesa and its locals better than the main street of the city - Deribasovska street. It is considered to be the heart of Odesa. The monument to Joseph Deribas, the governor of Odesa, opens the street. If you take a slow walk further you will get to the city's famous garden opened in 1806. As time goes on the garden becomes more beautiful. There is a singing fountain over there. Also the street holds many hotels and inns. And, of course, we can’t ignore the most beautiful building of the street, and perhaps, of Odesa - «Passage».
Sooner or later many tourists gravitate to Prymorsky Boulevard. This is a tree-lined pedestrian zone with replica of 19th-century gas lamps and park benches. At the boulevard's eastern end you'll spot the pink-and-white colonnaded City Hall, originally the stock exchange and later the Regional Soviet Headquarters. The cannon here is a war trophy captured from the British during the Crimean War. In the square in front of City Hall is Odesa's most photographed monument, the Pushkin statue is located. Continuing along the boulevard, at the top of the Potemkin Steps you'll reach the statue of Duc de Richelieu, Odesa's first governor. The semi-derelict Vorontsov Palace stands at the western end of Prymorsky boulevard. This was the residence of the city's third governor, built in 1826 in a classical style with interior Arabic detailing. The Greek-style colonnade behind the palace offers brilliant views over Odesa's bustling port.
Potemkin Steps are a real tourist magnet of the city. The steps lead down from Prymorsky Boulevard to the Sea Port and it is one more must visit place in Odesa. Pause at the top to admire sweeping views of the harbor. You may avoid climbing back by taking the free funicular railway that runs parallel.
The building of Odesa Opera and Ballet Theatre is the city’s beautiful attraction.
After being closed for several years for reconstruction, the theatre reopened to welcome eager visitors in 2007. You can take a Russian-language tour of the theatre, starting one hour before Friday and Saturday performances (UAH 100) or, better yet, take in a performance. Opera and Ballet Theater is considered to be the jewel of Odesa’s architecture. The Opera Theater was designed by Ferdinand Fellner and Herman Helmer, architect famous for designing Vienna State Opera.
Read: Must visit places in Odessa
Golden Duque was a very popular movie theater in Odesa during Soviet Union era. Sadly, forgotten by visitors and potential sponsors, this cinema turned into ruins and remained in horrible condition until recent years. A group of young initiative locals had renamed Golden Duque into Sunday Cinema recently and began its restoration.
Sunday Summer Cinema (Primorskyy Boulevard, Dvorets Moryakov, Odesa) opened in 2016 and instantly became an absolute hit among local art enthusiasts. The movies are a mix of ’80s favorites, classic, cult, recent film releases and all-time great Hollywood classics. They also have movie discussion club after movie screening.
Sunday Summer Cinema hosts numerous pop-up markets and fairs. There is no admission fee, however, visitors are encouraged to make charitable donations which will be invested in further movie theater development.
Attractions in Odesa: interesting museums
A traveler who arrives to Odesa for the first time might be overwhelmed with the number of museums and art galleries in this southern Ukrainian city. Most of these vast permanent collections could be seen for a very modest fee, so you can explore Odesa’s museum marvels without spending too much cash.
Odessa Fine Arts Museum (5A, Sofiyivska street, Odesa) is located in the former palace of Count Pototsky; this museum has an impressive collection of Russian and Ukrainian art, including a few seascapes by master talent Ayvazovsky and some Soviet realist paintings.
Archaeology Museum (4, Lanzheronivska street, Odesa) owns a vast collection of gold jewelry and coins from early Black Sea civilizations joined by a few Egyptian mummies.
Museum of Western & Eastern Art (9, Pushkinska street, Odesa) is housed in a beautifully renovated (at least on the exterior of the building) mid-19th-century palace. Museum's star used to be one of 12 known versions of Caravaggio's «The Taking of Christ» brilliant painting. However, in July 2008 the canvas was cut from its frame in Ukraine's biggest art heist and was recovered by police only two years later. Lately, the Western collection was kept out of sight because of ongoing renovations, but its highlights have recently been returned to the exhibition halls. The Eastern Art section has displays of porcelain and other artwork, mostly from Japan, China, Tibet and India.
Read: TOP 5 Odessa Museums to Visit
Attractions in Odesa: Jewish heritage
Odesa was always famous as “Small Israel”. Starting from 19th century it had 33% of Jewish population. Later on with pogroms and holocaust the number of Jews reduced drastically. Despite that there are still many places in Odesa of great importance for Jews. On Jewish Street in Odesa you can find the Choral Synagogue and, not far from there, the Brodsky Synagogue. The Great Choral Synagogue of Odesa is one of two surviving synagogues; once it hosted a thriving center of Jewish cultural life in Eastern Europe. It is located in the center of the city in a commercial district not far from the Black Sea. This Renaissance Revival house of worship and former home of renowned cantors was seized during the Soviet period for use as a sports hall. Reclaimed by the local Jewish community in 1997, it has been rehabilitated for religious and community use.
Odesa Jewish History Museum is located at 66, Nizhynska street. Less than 2% of people call themselves Jewish in today's Odesa against 44% in the early 1920s, however, the resilient and humorous Jewish spirit still permeates every aspect of local life. Hidden inside a typical rundown courtyard with clothes drying on ropes and a rusty carcass of a prehistoric cars, this modest exposition consists of items donated by Odesite families. Perhaps the most touching photo is the one of «Ruslan» steamship carrying the first Zionist settlers to Palestine in 1919, along with their immense hopes and terrible fears, both of which would soon come true. English-language tours of the museum are available but need to be arranged in advance.
Attractions in Odesa: beaches
Odesa is an ultimate Ukrainian destination for holidaymakers and regular party crowd with its sandy beaches, warm climate and dozens of beachside nightclubs. An evening at Arkadia is a must when in Odesa and this is definitely the city’s most popular must visit place. The central part of the beach is almost entirely occupied by beach clubs, which have pools and double as nightclubs after sunset.
The beach is the key to many great summer vacations - luckily Odesa has many to offer. Dolphin, Arcadia, Riviera, Luzanovka, Otrada, Chayka and Chernomorka are among other most popular Odesa city beaches. With their cons and pros, these beaches are likely to be crowded and rather pricy during summer months.
In case you are looking for tranquility and comfort even during high summer season try to visit some of the secret Odesa beaches located outside city center. Beloved by locals, these sandy stretches are off the tourist track, and brimming with character.
Lesky beach is located in 2 km from Kryzhanovka cottage rentals, this little strap of sand is truly a hidden beach gem. Accessible only from the neighboring beach of Kryzhanovka, it takes about 30 minutes by foot to reach it. The perfect combination of clean sea, rocky cliffs and lush vegetation makes this place an ultimate romantic beach spot.
In 3 hours’ drive from Odesa you can find Katranka beach - one of the most pristine and tranquil beaches in Odesa region. This beach is located between the Black Sea and Sasyk lake. You can take a dip in salty sea and then freshen up in cool lake water.
Rasseyka beach is located a little closer to Odesa, just before Ilyichevsk town. Here you can observe rare birds’ species and wild dolphins.
Kryzhanovka beach is located outside the city, just behind Molodaya Gvardiya kids’ summer camp. You can get there either by car or by any public bus going towards Nova Dofinovka village. No one seems to mind the lack of loungers or umbrellas since the beach stripe here is larger than some of the others Odesa’s sand spaces, which makes it a perfect location for beach camping.
Read: Odessa Secret Beaches for a Good Vacation
Attractions in Odesa: the most popular restaurants and bars
The gastro scene in Odesa in booming. With numerous restaurants opening each new summer season the selection of options for eating out is impressive.
Bernardazzi Restaurant (15, Bunina street, Odesa) is without any doubt one of the most popular city’s dining spots.Philharmonic Hall ground floor, Odesa few Ukrainian restaurants have truly authentic settings but the Art Nouveau dining room of this superb Italian job, part of the eye-catching Philharmonic Hall, is the real deal. In addition to well-crafted southern and Eastern European fare, there's an award-winning wine list, occasional live music and a secluded courtyard for summertime chilling. It's named after the architect who designed the building.
R1 (1, Lidersovsky Boulevard, Lanzheron Beach, Odesa) is a new seafood bar in Odesa, which combines authentic Mediterranean and Middle East cuisines. R1 Restaurant is located on the ground floor of M1 Club Hotel. Seafood fans will love this place. The prices are rather high comparing to the other Odesa restaurants.
Currently R1 is considered to be one of the best seafood restaurants in Odesa. Its exclusive menu includes Mediterranean and Black Sea cuisine, which delivers the highest taste and aesthetic pleasure. The seafood, original ideas from the chef and desserts deserve special attention. Skilled cooks, fresh south wind, the excellent service and easy atmosphere give a taste of life and sense of celebration.
The first thing that catches the eye in R1 is its contrasting and grunge design with leather furniture, concrete, wood and metal elements. This is a very atmospheric place with beautiful views of the sea. Especially, if you sit on the open summer terrace.
For authentic Odesa flavor visit the iconic Dacha Restaurant (85, Francuzkiy Boulevard, Odesa). Dacha – a family summer cottage – is a dreamworld of happy childhood memories for locals. This Odesa’s location, perched on a plateau above Arkadia inside Chkalov sanatorium, masterfully re-creates the atmosphere – on a slightly exaggerated scale. Food is homey, Odesa-style, with sumptuous portions. You can choose between dining in the garden or inside the house filled with the random bric-a-brac typical for all dacha houses in Ukraine.
Odesa's most celebrated restaurateur Savely Libkin conjured Kampot Restaurant (20, Derebasovskaya street, Odesa) out of his childhood memories, setting a trend for what is becoming known as Odesa cuisine. The simplest dishes are the best – try cutlets with potato puree and water them down with one of the eponymous kompots, fruity drinks which housewives preserve in jars to consume in winter. They also serve superb French-influenced breakfasts here.
Rooftops are popular locations for parties and various shindigs in Odesa. Krysha Morya (Sea Roof) is recent addition to Odesa party scene. Minimalistic design, comfy bean bag chairs, delicious food and the most important thing - spectacular views - make Sea Roof (Lanzheron Beach, Odesa) the ultimate place for romantic date in the city.
Talking further about sea views, Terrace. Sea View is one of the newest additions to the gastro scene of Odesa. Waterfront views from the terrace make it one of the most beautiful spots to breakfast in town. Inspired by nautical theme, this restaurant in Odesa reminds beautiful Mediterranean landscapes. This is where the well-groomed set comes for a late breakfast and a glass of morning champagne. The crowd here is rather posh, as are the prices on the menu, which are above average Odesa price range. Terrace. Sea View offers fresh scrambles, omelets, pastries, crispy bacon and hot breakfast favorites. The place works round the clock, so early breakfast is not an issue.
Kotelok Mussel Bar is a new Odesa restaurant and bar that will awe its visitors with delicious Black Sea region cuisine and well mixed drinks. Moules frites or simply fried mussels is a national dish in Belgium, and even though you might find picking the mussel meat out of their shells a tiny bit disgusting at first, let me assure you that it is well worth a try. Kotelok offers different sauces that go perfectly well with moules frites, ranging from the classics (“nature”, “Provencal” or with white wine, for example) to the exotic, including a number of beer-based sauces.
Relaxed atmosphere, great simple food on the menu and the proximity to Odesa city center makes Kotelok an ultimate dining spot for a nice evening out in town.
Read: Restaurants for a Romantic Dinner Date in Odesa
Read: Best New Odesa Bars and Restaurants
For a casual drink and pleasant bar ambience hit Fitz. This cocktail bar is located just a stone throw away from Ekaterinska Square. For those who haven’t heard of Fitz before, finding it will be rather challenging. The bar following the recent trend of speakeasy bars, has no sign or any other indication of its presence on the ground floor of a grey building. The place looks rather deserted during daytime. However, it completely transforms after dusk, getting super crowded and bringing that pleasant buzz of a popular nightlife venue.
Fitz is a place for drinking and fun and not so much for eating. Cocktails here are rather pricy, but exceptionally well mixed. Fitz also is a place for super trendy barbershop in Odesa, which is located in the adjoining room.
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