We haven’t met too many people who place Kyiv (Ukrainian pronunciation) or Kiev (Russian pronunciation and what most visitors refer to it as), Ukraine at the top of their travel wish list.
To be honest, if it wasn’t for the fact that I grew up in the city (although many years back, 1986-2000 to be precise) and that I still have a lot of family living in the city, I’m not really sure that we would’ve made our way to Kiev either.
But with so much culture and so many things to do in Kiev we are so glad that we did!
A little Kiev History
Kiev has always played an important cultural role not only as the capital of Ukraine but for all of Eastern Europe. But many decades under the Soviet government rule left a significant mark on the architectural and cultural condition of the city. Combine that with news of unrest and political instability that not so long ago was blanketing the newspapers all over the world and you may be left with a feeling of doubt when it comes to a trip to Kiev.
Let us take a minute to debunk the myths:
- Kiev is safe: potentially safer now than before the tragic events in February of 2014 with the increased number of police patrolling the streets 24/7.
- Kiev is easy to navigate: Thanks to the UEFA Euro Cup which took place in Kiev in 2012, signs with English translation or at the very minimum Latin transliterations are present in the metro and at most sights and attractions in the city centre
- Kiev is tourist-friendly: While you won’t find too many older citizens able to converse with you in English, the younger generation, and certainly lots of those working in the service/hospitality industry will have some knowledge of English to be able to assist you when needed.
Kiev is an awesome destination for travelers looking to get off the beaten path and explore a destination that isn’t teeming with tourists (yet!).
There is no shortage of things to do in Kiev. It’s cheap, it’s beautiful, it’s fascinating, it’s rich in culture, and with many excellent clubs in Kiev, it’s a great place for those looking for good nightlife!
Information signs in the city centre in KievNot a ton of travelers make it to Kiev, but those that do, really love it!
Best Time to Visit Kiev
As with many other Eastern European capitals, the best time to visit Kiev is in the summer, when the sun is shining, the locals are on holidays, and the entire city seems to come alive with activities and entertainment.
But avoid visiting Kiev in July and August, as those two months see the most rainfall compared to the rest of the year.
Shoulder season, April and September, are great alternatives. The temperatures hover around 20 °C (68 ºF), offering very pleasant conditions for walking around the city and visiting the Kiev must-see spots and sampling all the things to do in Kyiv.
Top Things to Do in Kiev
Enjoy the Stunning Architecture
The main Kiev tourist attractions are primarily those of architectural and historical significance. Kiev Pechersk Lavra, Saint Sophia’s Cathedral, St Andrew’s Church, St Volodymyr’s Cathedral, and St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery are just a few of many cathedrals and churches you can admire in Kiev. Each one is beautiful in their own way and, if time permits, all deserve a visit.
This list of Kiev’s Churches & Cathedrals can serve as a great guide. The website provides a brief description of Kiev’s main churches, making it possible for you to go on your own tour of Kiev’s Churches.
Wander through Kiev’s Montmartre
One of our favourite things to do in Kiev was exploring Andriyivsky Uzviz (Andriyivsky Descent), also known as Kiev’s Montmartre. This is one of the oldest and most beautiful places in the city.
The street is lined with art and craft vendors, vintage stalls, quaint shops and small bars/restaurants. It’s super touristy (you won’t find too many locals there), but it’s a great place to pick up some souvenirs and admire local artists in action. If you are a culture vulture looking for things to do in Kiev, then this will be right up your alley.
Andriyivsky Uzviz, the area is one of the top Kiev tourist attractions
Head to Independence Square
Head to the heart of the city, the famous Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti), located on Khreshchatyk Street.
Maidan is a regular site for events, festivals and celebrations, however, it has over the years served as the heart of the political demonstrations, like the Orange Revolution back in 2004 and the more recent Euromaidan protests that led to the 2014 Ukrainian revolution.
Check out the Rodina Mat Statue
Next on your list of things to do in Kiev is a visit to the Rodina Mat (Mother of the Fatherland), a giant 62 meter (203 ft) statue that towers over Kiev.
Although, its impressiveness is somewhat lost on me (the apartment where I grew up in Kiev offered unobstructed views of the statue), for first-time visitors the Rodina Mat is a Kiev must see.
Go Museum Hopping
Museum lovers looking for things to do in Kiev will have plenty of options. There are over 60 museums to check out in Kiev. The National Art Museum of Ukraine, Ukrainian Museum of Historical Treasures and the Ukrainian State of Aviation Museum are the most significant ones, but you can follow this guide to Kiev’s museums for a larger list of museums worth visiting.
Take a Day Trip to Chernobyl
A visit to Chernobyl is probably one of the more unique things to do in Kiev. There is no way to visit on your own, so we recommend this 1-Day Group Tour to Chernobyl.
This guided tour gives you a full safety lesson before taking you to the site of the 1986 nuclear disaster at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. It’s a haunting an emotional tour as you wander through the abandoned city and visit the ghost town of Pripyat to see the Ferris Wheel that, sadly, no one got to ride.
Visit the Markets
It’s no secret, we love a good market! And Kiev has plenty to choose from offering everything from street food to vintage goods. One of the most popular markets in the city is the food market, Besarabsky Market. Wander through the photogenic stalls filled with fresh fruits, nuts and jars upon jars of pickles.
If antiques and oddities are more your things, then Petrovka Market is your next stop. Browse through endless Soviet-era goods including vinyls, furniture, cameras, fashion and so much more.
Fashion lovers looking for a bargain should check out Lesnoy Market, right next to the Lisova metro station. You could easily spend hours trawling through the tables, rails and stalls laden with vintage apparel. If you’re lucky you may even find some Chanel or Armani!
Go to the Beach in Hydropark
The Hydropark is a leisure and recreational park which spans over two islands connected to the city by the Venetian Bridge. It’s like California’s Venice Beach with its open air gym and various bars and restaurants, but the main draw is the riverfront beaches.
If you are travelling with family, then there is a free “Kid’s Beach” with all the facilities you’ll need. Just to the right of the bridge is “Venice Beach”, the most popular in Hydropark. There are deck chairs to rent and plenty of stalls selling food and drink.
If you want something a little more up-market, there are private beach clubs, such as the Olmeca Plage and Bora-Bora Beach Club, which are well-maintained and also have a pool area as well as private beach access.
Ride the Funicular
For amazing views over the city and the river, take a ride on the funicular which links the district of Podil (see below) and the Upper Town. Get on at the lower end, at Post Square and travel the three minute journey above the city to disembark at St. Michael’s Square. Once there, take a look around the impressive St, Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery.
Podil is one of Kiev’s oldest neighbourhoods which has become the bohemian and cultural hub of Kiev. Hipsters and culture-vultures alike will feel right at home with artisan coffee shops, art events, lectures, film-screenings, and a wide variety of galleries, theatres, and boutiques.
Where to Stay in Kiev
When it comes to finding hotels in Kiev, we suggest basing yourself as close to the city centre (i.e. Khreshchatyk Street) as possible. This area is known as Shevchenkivskyi district.
This will allow you to have easy access to the major Kiev tourist attractions, and a variety of shops, cafés, bars, and the best restaurants in Kiev.
Pechersk as another good district to consider.
You can find hotels in Kiev for as little as $15/20 USD a night. But don’t be surprised to find some steeply priced accommodation in this part of the city as well. Luxury hotels targeting well-off business travelers are all the rave in Kiev these days.
If you want a relaxing, quiet base then head to the Green Style Eco-Hotel. It’s situated just outside the city centre, next to the Dnipro River. A little out of the way, but what you get in return is worth it. You can go sailing and fishing on the river or make use of the barbecue facilities on site. A great way to combine a city break with nature!
Another eco-friendly hotel is the Oselya Hotel, also located a little further from the centre but the hotel offers a shuttle service from the Vasylkivska metro. This family run hotel adheres to a “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” policy. They grow their own fruit and vegetables and source other products locally.
Airbnb is starting to gain popularity in Kiev and offers a great range of options for all types of travelers. You can find over 300 accommodation options to choose from all conveniently located right in the heart of the city, giving great access to all the things to do in Kiev.
Don’t have an Airbnb account yet? Sign up now and receive USD $35 to put towards your first Airbnb stay!
Where to Eat & Drink in Kiev
Ukrainian cuisine is pretty darn delicious, so don’t forget to eat your heart out while in Kiev. When it came to eating out in Kiev during our visit, we always followed local’s advice.
Start with this list of Top 10 Restaurants in Kiev as Recommended by Locals and the Culture Trip’s The 10 Best Restaurants in Kiev, but don’t be afraid to explore beyond.
If you ask the locals for the best restaurants in Kiev, many of them will mention Puzata Hata (literally translated as Chubby Home), the largest chain of colourful Ukrainian cuisine restaurants found in Kiev and in Ukraine’s other major cities.
Some will tell you it’s great food, others will say that it depends on location. There are dozens of locations around the city, so there is bound to be one in close proximity to your hotel. It’s a bit of an institution in Kiev, so try it and judge for yourself.
A few other restaurants worth checking out, include the following:
- Last Barricade: A little hard to find Last Barricade is a ‘secret’ restaurant but worth the effort. Great for both meat eaters and vegetarians looking for authentic Ukrainian food with flair.
- Druzi Cafe: Druzi Cafe has a great variety of vegetarian options and a few vegan-friendly options too. Try the ginger and lemon tea!
- HONEY. Cafe Patisserie: HONEY. Cafe Patisserie really impressive breakfast menu with loads of veggie and vegan options. Try the coconut cream french toast or the mango smoothie bowl.
- KOLO: KOLO is 100% vegan restaurant serving flavoursome homemade soups, salads, sandwiches, burgers, wraps and desserts.
Eating out in Kiev is incredibly affordable. A meal at a mid-tier restaurant like Puzata Hata might cost you $2-3/person. And even if you choose to dine at the most highly rated establishments, your meal will most likely only set you back by $20 USSD.
Nightlife in Kiev
When night falls, there is no shortage of places to carry on night-time entertainment. Drinks are cheap, the crowd is hip and modern and not to mention very beautiful!
If there is one city in Ukraine that knows how to party – it’s Kiev. You’ll find everything from Asian-style glitz and glamour bar like “Buddha Bar”, to basement speakeasy-style cocktail bar “Loggerhead”.
For the most up to date list of the best clubs in Kiev, check out Culture Trip’s suggested list.
How Much Time Do You Need in Kiev
You don’t need to spend a long time in Kiev to see the majority of the Kiev tourist attractions and get a taste for the Ukrainian culture. In our opinion, Kiev is a perfect city to visit for a long weekend, because 3-4 days here is really all you need.