Located on both banks of scenic Dnipro River, Kyiv wows many of its numerous visitors. Everybody will be able to find something for themselves in this Eastern European metropolis: architectural sights, vibrant cultural life, picturesque parks and recreational locations, beach clubs, dynamic night life and flourishing business scene. When coming to Kyiv for the first time travelers mainly start their city tours with exploring local temples. Despite the fact that Ukrainian churches, cathedrals and synagogues in Kyiv suffered greatly through numerous wars and unrests, the glorious religious architecture dominates the skyline of modern Kyiv. The capital of Ukraine is world-famous for its churches and temples, mostly related to the glorious Kyiv Rus past. Churches and cathedrals in Kyiv shine with their golden domes creating unique atmosphere of Ukraine’s capital. Kiev churches and temples are definitely one of the main points of interest of the city and whole Ukraine.
Churches and temples
Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra is the holiest ground in all three East Slavic countries - Ukraine, Russia and Belarus - for Orthodox pilgrims and one of the most popular Kyiv destinations for tourists. Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra is the city's single most fascinating and extensive church complex in Kyiv. It is one of the most important attractions in Ukraine.
Read: Top 5 Must See Places in Kyiv
To learn more about Ukrainian culture and history pay a visit to Museum of Ukrainian Folk Art (9, Lavrska street, Kyiv) located in the area of the Kyiv-Pechersk preserve. This is one of the largest art museums in Ukraine. It is situated in the former Metropolitan’s chambers with the former inner Annunciation Church. The museum was founded in 1899 and contains over 75 thousand works of folk and professional decorative arts of Ukraine dating back to the fifteenth century till nowadays. Visitors can explore items of authentic Ukrainian decorative arts such as carpet weaving and weaving, embroidery, ceramics, carving and painting, leather working, horn, metal and glass items, porcelain, painted Easter eggs and iconography. The samples of the nineteenth and early twentieth century folk costume from all regions of Ukraine are the gem of museum collection.
One more church in Kyiv whose golden domes can’t be ignored by tourists is St. Michael's Monastery. It is located at the end of the Volodymyrsky proyizd. The original 12th century St. Michael’s Church was destroyed by the Soviets in 1937. Current version of St. Michael's Monastery was finished in 2001; it is the copy of its 12th century predecessor. St. Michael's Monastery wows all Kyiv visitors with impossibly shiny cupolas and picture perfect vistas over Dnipro River.
St. Sophia’s Cathedral is another masterpiece of religious architecture located in Kyiv. This Orthodox cathedral is believed to be one of the oldest stone churches in Eastern Europe. The interior of St. Sophia’s Cathedral is the most astounding aspect of Kyiv's sacral heritage. All the mosaics and frescos of the cathedral have their allotted positions according to Byzantine decorative schemes, turning the church into a giant 3D symbol of the Orthodox Christianity.
Popular tourist destinations
Talking about Kiev tourist attractions, we cannot skip Andriyivsky Uzviz. Without any doubt, Andriyivsky (Andrew’s) Uzviz («uzviz» in Ukrainian means steep street or descent) is a very popular tourist destination in Kyiv. This is a steep cobbled street that winds its way up from Kontraktova Square to Volodymyrska street. According to the legend this is the exact spot where Apostle Andrew prophesied the foundation of great Slavic city of Kyiv, overlooking the beautiful lands lying around the hill he was standing on, hence the name of the street. The highlight of the Uzviz is the stunning gold and blue sight shining at the top is St. Andrew's Church. Andriyivsky Uzviz is a place to head to for multiple stalls selling different souvenirs and art works.
In case you are visiting Kyiv with kids or just feel like a child still lives within yourself, pop into the Peyzazhna Alley. This walking zone became extremely popular among the locals after it got modernized with new beautiful playgrounds, funny wall decorations, creative benches and contemporary sculptures. While walking along the alley you find yourself in a wonderland of a fairytale. Many fun photos for your social media accounts guaranteed.
Maydan Nezalezhnosti, is, of course, the heart of the city. It is the central Square of Kyiv. Sightseeing program in Kiev always includes this point. The name is translated as «Independance Square». Maydan Nezalezhnosti can be truly considered the beating heart of the whole country and the place where Ukraine’s struggle for independence took place. The Independence Square was the site of pro-independence protests in the 1990s. During the Orange Revolution of 2004 it was transformed into a huge tent camp and the scene of a never-ending rally. During the Revolution of Dignity in winter of 2013–2014 the square turned into the camp of an urban guerrilla army with massive camouflage tents, soup kitchens, stacks of firewood and tires to burn. Even 3 years after all the tragic events of the Revolution one still can feel the gruesome atmosphere over the main square of Kyiv, where over a 100 peaceful protesters were shot.
Mariyinsky palace, one of the interesting landmarks in Kiev, is a two-storey building in the baroque style located near Verkhovna Rada in the city center. Construction of the palace in Tsarsky Garden (currently called Mariyinsky park) was started in 1744 by the order of empress Elizaveta Petrovna. The whole construction process took 8 years. The palace was designed by the well-known architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli who had also designed St. Andrew`s Church. In the beginning of the XIX, Tsarsky palace was destroyed by a series of fires. In 1870, the emperor Alexander II assigned architect Karl Mayevsky to reconstruct the palace according to the old plans and drawings. After the reconstruction, the palace was renamed as Mariyinsky in the honor of the emperor`s wife maria. In the Soviet years, the building served different purposes: agricultural school, then museum. Mariyinsky palace was seriously damaged during the Second World War. It was reconstructed several times. The last reconstruction started in 2007 and ended in 2018 when the palace was opened as the ceremonial residence of the president of Ukraine.
Talking about things to see in Kiev, we cannot skip Golden gates – the monument of defensive architecture of Kyiv Rus built by the prince Yaroslav around 1037. Probably the name of Kyiv Golden Gates came from the similar gates in Constantinople that had served the same functions. The gates are a tower with a wide passage and a church on the top. In the old times, church was supposed to show every traveler that Kyiv was a Christian city. In 1240, the gates was seriously damaged during attacks and siege of Batu Khan`s army. Though the Golden Gate had been partially ruined, it served as the city entrance until the XVIII century. In 1832, the first measures on the gate`s reconstruction were taken. In 1982, the Golden gate was fully reconstructed on the occasion of Kyiv`s 1500th anniversary. In 2000s, the building was reconstructed again. The construction works were complete in 2007. Nowadays, tourists can go inside the building to visit the museum with an exposition dedicated to the history and arhictecture of the Golden Gate. Here they can find parts of ancient walls and also go up the gates to the church with observation platform opening a beautiful panorama over Kyiv city.
Museums and galleries
We continue the list of places to visit in Kiev, and now we proceed to museums and galleries. National Art Museum of Ukraine (6, Hryshevskoho street, Kyiv), is located not far from Maydan Nezalezhnosti. One of the biggest museums in Kyiv was founded over 100 years ago and was first called the City Museum of Antiques and Art. The National Art Museum of Ukraine has the most representative collection of Ukrainian figurative art in the world. Collection of the museum numbers almost 40 thousands exhibits, among which there are masterpieces of Ukrainian painting, sculpture and graphics from Kyiv Rus age to nowadays.
Museum has one of the best Ukrainian icon collections. The collection of Ukrainian baroque art is outstanding by its value. Here one can find amazing examples of Ukrainian baroque icons. Vivid and original heritage of Ukrainian avant-garde is represented in the museum by the works of the world-wide famous sculptor Oleksandr Arkhypenko, painters Oleksandra Ekster, Oleksa Hryshchenko, Oleksandr Bohomazov, and Viktor Palmov.
The museum collection is still being formed, and the trends of contemporary art of the end of the 20th - the beginning of the 21st century find their place here.
One more popular museum in Kyiv often visited by tourists is Museum of Western and Oriental Art in Kyiv, also known as the Bogdan and Varvara Khanenko Museum of Art. This is the largest collection of foreign art in Ukraine. (Address: 17, Tereshchenkivska street, Kyiv). The museum was founded in 1919 on the basis of Bogdan and Varvara Khanenko private collection. Famous founders of museum's collections Bogdan Khanenko and his wife Varvara always dreamt of opening the public museum of art in Kyiv, while collecting works of famous artists and sculptors. The collection of the museum consists of 25 thousand of exhibits and is considered to be the biggest foreign art collection in Ukraine.
Museum of Western and Oriental Art in Kyiv boasts the works of Bosch, Velázquez and Rubens among the many masters represented, but they are only part of the attraction.
The house alone, with its frescoed ceilings and intricately carved woodwork, is worth an admiration. The 'Western' wing of the museum is packed with priceless antique furniture, ancient Greek sculptures, porcelain ceramics and dazzling paintings, such as a version of Hieronymus Bosch's Temptation of St. Anthony. The 'Eastern' wing has Buddhist, Chinese and Islamic art.
In case you are more of a contemporary art fan, head to the PinchukArtCentre in Kyiv located near to Bassarabsky Market. Since the opening on September 16, 2006 the art center has become one of the favorite places for Ukrainians as well as for numerous tourists of the capital. Very convenient schedule of exhibitions (from 12:00 to 21:00) and free access provide a wonderful opportunity to explore the best creations of contemporary artists. The total area of the art center is more than 3000 square meters. Its definite innovative profile is aimed at the dynamic interlacing of new production, presentation, and collection bridging national identity and international challenge. PinchukArtCentre is constantly hosting art exhibitions of world famous artists.
Read: Art Museums in Kyiv
Gardens and parks
Kiev is also a great city for fun and interesting outdoor activities as it has many picturesque parks. If you are visiting the city in spring, summer or early fall, when the weather is pleasant enough for outdoor walks head to Kyiv Botanical Garden. Gryshko Kyiv Botanical Garden opens the first in Ukraine Aroma Park (aroma garden). Here the visitors will have a chance to experience unique palette of herbal and flower fragrances.
A separate area in the botanical garden now accommodates lush groves of thyme, rosemary, lemon blossom, basil and lavender. The Aroma Park has over half a hectare surface and many different aromatic plants.
Aroma Park in Kyiv is an ideal place to have a walk and enjoy the nature in the middle of unique and spectacular environment which shall become a beautiful spot in the capital of Ukraine.
Each season will bring new palette of fragrances. In the nearest future the organizers of the Aroma Park in Kyiv plan to turn this place into handicap-friendly area. There will be descriptions of plans in Braille, as people with vision impairment will especially enjoy visiting the Aroma Park. They can’t see the beauty of the plants, but here they will have the chance to experience the beauty of various scents.
Feofania complex in Kyiv is a monument of garden and park art of national importance located in Golosiyivsky district of the capital. This park complex, embracing 150 hectares, was founded in 1992; previously, it was a state reserve. This area was firstly mentioned in 1471, when it was called “Lazarivschyna” after the name of pious old man Lazar who had an apiary here. The modern name of Feofania appeared in 1803 when the prior of the St. Michael`s Cathedral – Feofan Shiyanov – built a summer house in this area. Feofanian park can boast 86 kinds of bushes and trees. The age of some oaks, maples, ashs and lindens in the park exceeds 100-180 and even 300 years. Apart from being a picturesque oasis of nature in the city, Feofanian park is famous for the gorgeous St. Pantaleon`s Cathedral located on its territory. The park is highly appreciated by Kyiv dwellers and guests as a perfect place to spend weekends. Feofanian park regularly hosts festivals and other interesting events.
Pyrohovo Museum of Ukrainian folk architecture is another place to visit in Kyiv in case you want to learn more about Ukrainian culture. At Pyrohovo you can discover more about the Ukrainian vernacular architecture. This open-air museum displays different samples of regional folk architecture: houses, windmills, churches and schools. All buildings are scattered over beautiful green park to the east of the city center. Everything is pretty spread out here, so the visit involves a lot of walking and a bit of hiking.
Long walks and outdoor activities can surely work some appetite in you. Kyiv dining scene is booming. The city offers a wide selection of international cuisines and places for unforgettable dining experience. Kyiv, being the capital of the country, offers many restaurants to enjoy authentic Ukrainian cuisine.
What to do in Kiev after long walks and outdoor activities that surely work some appetite in you? Of course, going to a good dining spot is the answer. Kyiv dining scene is booming. The city offers a wide selection of international cuisines and places for unforgettable dining experience. Kyiv, being the capital of the country, offers many restaurants to enjoy authentic Ukrainian cuisine.
Modern Ukrainian cuisine restaurants and popular bars
As one of the options to savor local traditional dishes visit BARVY Restaurant (3, Mechnikova street, Kyiv). This is the new addition to the local restaurant scene, which introduces the modern Ukrainian cuisine based on traditional recipes of various regions and ethnic groups of Ukraine.
BARVY serves traditional dishes of Transcarpathia, Galicia and Bukovina cuisine, as well as specialties from Odesa and the Crimean Tatar cuisine. Particular attention is paid to game, honoring the fact that hunting has been one of the most popular crafts in Ukraine for a long time.
The large bar is the heart of the restaurant and it can be called the first laboratory of Ukrainian cocktails and mixed drinks. Here guests can discover an interesting and exciting Ukrainian take on the popular cocktails such as Kyiv Old Fashioned or Hutsul Sour.
In addition, BARVY is not just the restaurant - it is also an art space. Restaurant area has become a regular venue for exhibitions of talented Ukrainian artists, sculptors, photographers, illustrators, as well as musical, literary and fashion performances. Therefore, you can always combine an elegant dinner with a visit to the gallery of contemporary Ukrainian art or live music in BARVY.
Prynada Ukrainian Café (24, Geroyiv Stalingrady, Kyiv) is one more restaurant of contemporary Ukrainian cuisine in Kyiv. The menu cherishes Ukrainian gastronomical traditions giving them an interesting modern culinary twist.
The restaurant boasts delicious Ukrainian dishes, stylish and hip interior and exceptionally pleasant atmosphere deprived of folklore cheesiness. Prynada Ukrainian Café offers an unexpected take on Ukrainian traditional food. The restaurant aims at revealing authentic local culinary traditions and the way they can be masterfully combined with current modern European cuisine producing interesting and intriguing tastes and dishes.
Bar menu offers a great variety of locally made liqueurs («nalyvka») and digestifs («nastoyanka»). These traditional strong drinks are very popular in Western Ukraine. They are believed to be stomach-settling miracles after a heavy meal because of the soothing properties of their herbal mixtures. They are a touch sweet, intensely flavored, and often served chilled and sipped slowly. There is also a good selection of conventional cocktails and a list of some fine wine.
The range of domestic and imported spirits can assure the bar is stocked to satisfy every taste.
For the well mixed drink at the end of the day pay a visit to Dogs&Tails (19, Shota Rustaveli str., Kyiv). It is a bit difficult to find this place for the first time, but it has great central location.
Understated elegance, great selection of craft beer, cocktails and tasty food will make your evening here unforgettable. D&T has a certain ambience that attracts a wide range of Kyiv dwellers from Hipsters to Businessmen.
Alchemist, popular Kyiv bar, is a mixture of a neighborhood bar, a restaurant and a concert hall. It is believed that Alchemist serves the best drinks and cocktails in the city. Alchemist is famous for its classy jazz jam sessions and avant-garde take on jazz and blues. Alchemist bar consists of 3 medium sized halls that are full of happy surprises. Alchemist’s premium drinks menu features innovative cocktails crafted by their in-house expert mixologists, an impressive wine selection, and a range of domestic and imported spirits to assure the bar is stocked to satisfy every taste. The very friendly staff serve explosive signature cocktails with relaxed and easy attitude. Wedging a hip crowd of well-coiffed youth in checked shirts and leather jackets into its cramped space, the bar plays pop-rock from the Beatles to cutting-edge indie groups, as well as jazz and blues on occasional night to cater to all music lovers.
Read: Most Popular Night Clubs in Kyiv Downtown
Kyiv is a city of breathtaking views, rich culture and raucous nightlife. The long list of exciting things to do in Kiev impresses tourists. This is a truly magnificent city and it has what it seems like endless number of attractions to visit. But if this is your first time to the capital of Ukraine or you don’t have much time for sightseeing, we tried to feature a number of must see places in Kyiv you don’t want to miss. Enjoy your exploration of Kyiv.
Photo source: depositphotos.com, shutterstock.com, Facebook pages of restaurants and bars mentioned in the article, pinterest.com. All photos belong to their rightful owners.