The south gem lures in thousands of tourists each year and the reason behind is that everyone visiting Odesa can find something up to his or her taste. Wonderful architecture, spacious beaches, delicious local seafood and the unique Odesa spirit make a weekend near the Black Sea an adventure and soul rest.
How to Get to Odesa
The first and the most popular way to get to Odesa is by train. Ukrzaliznytsia has more than 10 trains that go from Kyiv to Odesa each day, yet you should be careful when booking - the number of stops determines the time of the trip. On the whole, the time on the road ranges from 7 to 13 hours. The fastest train to Odesa is, of course, Intercity - a high-speed train that goes to the key tourist destinations in Ukraine. The ticket price starts at UAH 450.
Another option is booking a seat in a compartment of a regular train. The price usually reaches UAH 650. Finally, the cheapest option is a reserved seat that costs about UAH 170 but provides close to none comfort. The train schedule, as well as available tickets, can be found on the Ukrzaliznytsia website or mobile app. It's better to book in advance as in summer Odesa is one of the most visited cities in Ukraine.
Buses allow reaching Odesa in about 7-8 hours. While there are many companies that provide the transport, most travelers choose Ecolines. The buses are equipped with WC, free Wi-Fi, sockets and air conditioner to keep the trip as comfortable as possible. Besides, you can order coffee and enjoy pre-packed snacks. The ticket price costs about UAH 400 in one direction depending on the date. Buses depart from the Vydubychi bus station in Kyiv and arrive at Starosinna bus station or Pryvoz bus station in Odesa. The detailed schedule, as well as ticket booking, can be found on the Ecolines website.
Read: Beautiful Estuaries of Odesa Region
Often car owners turn a road to Odesa into an exploration trip: stopping by the tiny intriguing villages, road monuments and enjoying fresh berries bought from locals. The Kyiv-Odesa highway has been renovated not that long ago, that's why the road promises to be comfortable. The optimal route takes up to 450 kilometers, which is 7 or 8 hours depending on the number of stops. There are plenty of gas stations along the way, including those catering for electric cars.
Read: Updated Rules for Drivers in Ukraine 2018
Finally, Ukrainian companies Motor-Sich and Ukrainian International Airlines provide the quickest way to Odesa. There are about 4 flights per day on average with the ticket price that starts at UAH 1000. The flight takes only 1 hour and 10 minutes. Odesa International Airport lies in 7,5 kilometers from the city, so it's quite easy to reach the city by taxi or public transport. While a taxi is definitely more expensive than UAH 3-5 bus fare, the ride only takes 15 minutes compared to 35 minutes-1 hour on public transport.
Where to Stay
Luckily, popular services like Booking and Airbnb work just well in Odesa. The latter is especially popular if you choose to stay in the central Primorskiy district - there are options for USD 15-50 per day, depending on the class of an apartment. If you want to host a big party, you can rent a whole house or penthouse for a company. It will cost around USD 120-200 per day. Staying in gorgeous 5-star hotels such as Hotel NEMO with Dolphins, Bristol or Otrada will cost around USD 70-200.
Read: Best Hotels in Odesa
A day in a 4-star hotel in Odesa like Continental or Mozart costs approximately USD 50-80. If you prefer 3-star hotels, like Geneva Park Resort or Lermontovsky, be ready to pay USD 25-40 per day. Accommodation in a nice Odesa hostel, for instance The Babushka Grand Hostel costs around USD 12-20 per day. It's better to book in advance, as the best spots are easily sold out in a matter of weeks in high season.
The introduction to Odesa usually starts with the main street of the city - Deribasivska. No matter where you are in the center, sooner or later you gravitate towards the long street, full of inns, cafes, and shops. One of the most exquisite buildings on Deribasivska, Passage, often pops up on Instagram because of the rich interior.
Read: Best Sightseeing Tours in Odessa
The main city street leads tourists to a popular quiet spot - Odesa City Garden opened way back in 1806. The recent renovations gave the location its initial view. In the evenings, visitors often seek a musical rotunda pavilion with free live concerts. Besides, musical fountain located nearby provides a wonderful show from 9 P.M. till 11.30 P.M. Moreover, the garden hides the one and the only in the world perfume fountain, which diffuses aroma created by the French perfumer Christophe Lacarin.
Another place for long strolls is Prymorsky Boulevard, equipped with the 19th century-styled benches for comfortable stops. The long pedestrian street is often bustling with tourists as leads to the most famous landmark of Odesa - the statue of Duc de Richelieu, Odesa's first governor, located at the top of the Potemkin Stairs. The giant staircase of 192 steps makes a comfortable passage to the Sea Port and provides the picturesque view on Odesa harbor at the top. If you aren't fond of climbing the stairs back on top, there's a free cableway running parallel.
The real gem of the city is Odesa Opera and Ballet Theatre, dubbed one of the most unusual sightseeing spots in Eastern Europe by Forbes magazine. The building was projected in the 19th century by Jean-François Thomas de Thomon, who also designed Bolshoi Theater in Saint Petersburg. Odesa Opera House has seen multiple changes throughout its 200-year history: fires, revolutions, wars, as well as notable personalities like Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Enrico Caruso and Isadora Duncan.
Read: History of Odessa Opera House
Odesa Fine Arts Museum located in the former palace of Count Pototsky has an impressive collection of Ukrainian art, including seascapes by master talent Aivazovsky, masters of Soviet realism and contemporary Ukrainian artists.
Besides, Destinations has a guide on secret locations in Odesa that are mostly known to locals or frequent visitors.
There’s always something to do in Odesa — the southern city is brimming with life and most of it is naturally concentrated on the city’s majestic beaches. The most popular place to stay is Arcadia, which also hosts a nightclub frequently visited by rising Ukrainian stars and world-known DJs like Steve Aoki. The central part of the beach is almost entirely occupied by beach clubs with a variety of pools. Other popular beaches include Langeron, Riviera, Chayka and Chernomorka easily reachable from the city center. The popular spots are suitable for lazy leisure sunbathing, as well as playing beach volleyball.
Read: Odessa Quest-Rooms
Nightlife in Odesa bustles on the beaches as well: apart from the mentioned Arcadia, Itaka, Ibiza, Bono, Mantra Beach Clubs are the most visited venues when it comes to letting hair down near the sea. Here are some tips concerning clubbing in Odesa.
Sure enough, Odesa Opera House isn’t merely a monument to look at. Up to date, the theater’s repertoire has the timeless classics like Carmen, Il Trovatore, Giselle, The Nutcracker, as well as contemporary performances — hits of the world cinematography soundtracks performed live.
Urban Music Hall, located in the downtown not far from Brodsky synagogue, is a new addition to Odesa’s cultural scene. The unique feature of the music halls is its variability: part of the 350 total places in the hall is movable and allows modifying space depending on the number of visitors. The venue hosts live jazz, classical and ethnomusic events, as well as cinema showings.
Wonderful location near the Black Sea ensures that Odesa has a rich culinary scene, which is easily proved by the best city’s restaurants. One of the most popular venues is Bernardazzi restaurant, known not only for its delicious food but exquisite Art Nouveau dining room. The restaurant is heavily focused on wine: an award-winning wine map and four Best of Award of Excellence awards granted to Bernardazzi make it a perfect place for dinner. The menu includes an array of dishes from European and Ukrainian cuisine.
Terrace. Sea View is without doubts one of the best spots to enjoy meals with a picturesque panorama of the Black Sea. The menu is filled with fresh scrambles, omelets, pastries, crispy bacon and hot breakfast options. The restaurant works 24/7, so early or late breakfast is not an issue. Brunches with a glass of champagne are also served here.
Read: New Dining Spots in Odesa: Spring 2018 Review
St. Cousteau is a new Odesa restaurant of bistro format and an excellent choice for lovers of seafood. There are tips to try pasta with seafood, julienne with mussels, croissant with salmon and poached eggs, syrnyky with Dorblu cheese or cream soup. St. Cousteau also offers delicious cocktails like Daiquiri.
Gogol U Moria (Gogol by the sea) is one more spot to enjoy the seafood with an excellent view. According to the owners, the restaurant chef always starts his morning with fishing, that’s why the menu always includes dishes made of the fresh fish. Besides, traditional Ukrainian cordials nalyvkas, with cherry and lemon, are served here as well.
There are plenty of street food spots in Odesa to drop by during the walk around the city.
Without doubts, Odesa lures in so many tourists for a reason and sometimes staying for a mere weekend is merely just a beginning of the further adventure. Have a great trip!
Photo sources: unsplash.com, A_Lesik, Jarod Grey / shutterstock.com, inyourpocket.com, Facebook pages of venues and businesses mentioned above. All images belong to their rightful authors.