6 minutes reading time Ukraine
Kyiv (or Kiev) is a dream destination for the history geeks. Many attractions and monuments in the city date to the Kievan Rus era, which makes them more than a thousand years old. Kyiv has never been anything less than a capital, so there are dozens of culturally and historically significant buildings in the city. St. Sophia’s Cathedral, one of the most recognizable buildings in Ukraine, was built in 1037 after just three years of work and has barely needed any reconstruction ever since. Located in the heart of the city, its tower gives you a great view of the city panorama. Another place you will see on many postcards is Kyiv Pechersk Lavra monastery, one of the oldest and the most important monasteries in the whole Kievan Rus.
Of course, the influence of the Soviet Union era is also present in the city’s architecture. While many Soviet monuments have been dismantled in the last several years and others may follow, some of them have become integral to the city. One of the most iconic of them, the Motherland Monument, has been overlooking the city for almost 40 years now. In fact, it is the highest monumental sculpture in Europe. Finally, one of the most haunting pars of Ukrainian history is the Chernobyl nuclear disaster that happened in 1986. Chernobyl has been attracting tourists from all over the world for the last few decades and since the success of the HBO series Chernobyl, the number of visitors has soared.
People who like to learn about the past aren’t the only ones who would find something exciting to do in Kyiv. Kyiv is very much looking into the future too. Many critics have rushed to label it a “new Berlin”, which is quite accurate and can’t be further from the truth at the same time. From a historical perspective, Kyiv’s path has been very different from Berlin’s, and it is still a work in progress. With Ukraine taking a step away from its Soviet past and trying to build its new identity, the alternative scene in Kyiv has been buzzing for the last couple of years. Contemporary art galleries, secret raves, and third-wave coffee shops just across the street from thousand-year-old monuments – that’s what Kyiv is about.
For example, Mystetskyi Arsenal art quarter in the city center hosts dozens of events and performances every year, including the Ukrainian fashion week. If you head out from the center and go to Lisova metro station, you’ll find Art Zavod Platforma. Just a few years ago it was nothing more than an abandoned factory. Now, it is one of the favorite places in the city for many locals. As of now, it has already hosted the annual Atlas music festival, dozens of street food festivals, charity vintage sales, and professional conferences.
One thing that Ukraine has always been known for is food. Although many nations would say the same about themselves, Ukrainians really take pride in their food. And Kyiv, of course, is the best place to get familiar with Ukrainian cuisine. Overall, there’s no dish in the Ukrainian cuisine that couldn’t be described as comfort food.
First up, borsch. Many Slavic nations have tried to claim it as theirs, so Ukrainians, of course, will tell you it belongs to them. It really does though! If you don’t know, borscht is a soup made with beetroot and many other vegetables. The traditional version is made with some sort of meat, but vegetarian borsch with a dollop of sour cream on top is quite common too. Borscht and pampushky, Ukrainian garlic buns, are a match made in heaven! Another world-famous Ukrainian dish is Chicken Kyiv, a rolled chicken fillet with a piece of butter inside. Finally, every Ukrainian will tell you that you must try varenyky. Varenyky are boiled dumplings that can be made with pretty much any filling – potatoes, meat, mushrooms, but also cottage cheese, cherries, strawberries, etc.
There are many places where you can try great Ukrainian food in Kyiv. If you’re on a budget, Puzata Hata is the place to go. It is a buffet-style restaurant that serves pretty much every single Ukrainian dish you could think of for a very affordable price. If you’re feeling fancy and adventurous, 100 Years Back In the Future might be a perfect place for you. Created by one of the most famous Ukrainian chefs, it offers a fresh take on timeless Ukrainian dishes by incorporating Ukrainian super foods and modern culinary trends. But of course, as every Ukrainian will tell you, the best Ukrainian food can only be found in a grandma’s kitchen. So if you happen to know a Ukrainian grandma, prepare your tastebuds for an adventure of a lifetime!
If you’ve ever considered traveling to Ukraine, I bet one of the reasons you put it on your travel radar is because of how affordable it seems to be. And well, it really is. A euro or a dollar can really go a long way in Ukraine. In September 2020, 1 US dollar is equivalent to approximately 28 Ukrainian hryvnyas. For that price, you can get an espresso or a croissant, for example. An Uber around the city will normally cost you no more than $5. As I’ve mentioned earlier, Ukrainians are real foodies, so there are many affordable restaurants, but also quite a few luxury ones. A fancy meal for two in Kyiv will cost you anywhere from $30 to $50 dollars. But you can also get some great food for just $15 or $20 for two. For a room in a modern luxury hotel in the city center expect to pay around $170. However, if you don’t want to splurge, you’ll also find many accommodation options that will only cost you around $40 per night. Lastly, you can fly to Kyiv for a quite affordable price pretty much from anywhere in Europe. Wizzair and Ryanair are currently flying into several Ukrainian airports from many European countries. For example, you can get a one-way ticket from Berlin to Kyiv for just $20 or even cheaper. Why just one-way, you ask? Oh, trust me, once you set foot in Kyiv, you will not want to leave anytime soon.