I recently spent a week in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. Honestly, this normally wouldn’t be the first place I would go, but I have an uncle teaching English in Kyiv. After visiting, I can now say this should be a top destination for a vacation. There are literally so many reasons why. But, first, let’s talk about my favourite: food.
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My Favorite Restaurants in Kyiv
The nice thing about Kyiv is that I would not consider the food very exotic. After spending five months abroad, it was nice to have a lot of food to back home. The prices are also very low. I spent under $200 for food, fun and transportation in 7 days. I found three excellent must-see classic restaurants.
Chicken Kyiv is very popular on the list of foods to try here. It is fried chicken filled with melted butter and spices. Served best with mashed potatoes. Puzata Hata is a great place because it is set up like a cafeteria. You go in line, point to what you would like to eat, play, and enjoy. For people with limited time, it is excellent food. It was nice to have a good meal quickly to keep sightseeing. There are many locations all over the city centre.
Varenichnaya Katyusha is another popular restaurant with different locations around Kyiv. I tried the Borscht, Cabbage Rolls, and Chicken and Mushroom Dumplings. All of it was so tasty. This is because it has classic Ukrainian Dishes and because the decoration is from a typical 1970s Ukrainian flat. There are so many restaurant choices around, you may find one that is perfect for you. However, this next restaurant is a must go.
OB or Ostannya Barykada “The Last Barricade” was my favourite restaurant. We literally walked past this restaurant 20 times and had no clue. Make a reservation (no worries, you can find someone to help in English). You go to the Globus Mall under Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the central square of Kyiv, also nicknamed Independence Square. There are the standard 1,2,3 options at the elevators, but there is also a button that says OB. You press that button and go up half a level where you find this cute accessory shop. At the back, they ask for a password that changes.
Once you go inside, there is a whole restaurant dedicated to the multiple revolutions that literally happened on the ground of Maidan Nezalezhnosti right above it. You are surrounded by artwork toward their cause. They will also tell you more history in a short tour in English around the restaurant. It is the most fantastic restaurant experience in Kyiv by far.
My Favorite Tourist Sites in Kyiv
This city took me by surprise in tourism. In the city centre, the buildings are all massive and beautifully decorated. Ukraine is pushing to become a top vacation destination. Around every corner, there is something to do or see. I went in January, which limited me a little by the weather because Kyiv is known for its vast greenery and parks. However, the snow didn’t slow us down. We still filled seven days of fun.
World War II Museum/Rodina Mat
Rodina Mat is the motherland statue standing at 340 ft tall. It is overwhelming and beautiful. It was created to honour the heroes of the Soviet Union. Just underneath this statue is the World War II Museum. I am going to be completely honest, I never knew how much the war affected this area. I mean, it should have been evident to me, but I learnt so much in this museum. It is within walking distance from Arsenalna Metro stop, which is the deepest metro in the world. I suggest seeing Kyiv Pechersk Lavra and Ukrainian Genocide Holodomor Memorial Museum on the same day because they are all relatively close.
St. Andrew’s Church/Andriivsky Descent
St. Andrew’s is a beautiful orthodox church located at the top of the Andriivsky Descent. They currently are in the middle of renovations. Still, you can access the courtyard for some amazing views of the city for a minimal fee. Now Andriivsky Descent is the street going down a steep hill by St. Andrews. It is known for some good pubs and takes you down toward an art district. I wouldn’t suggest going down in when it is icy and snowing. I also wouldn’t recommend that three days in a row… I must say, though, that each time, it was worth the “skating.” This church and area make a triangle in the city centre with St. Sophia’s and St. Michaels.
St. Sophia’s Cathedral/St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Cathedral
St. Sophia’s is a fantastic place to see. It was built in 1037 and still has some frescoes and mosaic’s visible today. It is more like a museum with multiple exhibits. You can pay $5.88 for public access everywhere. At the entrance is the bell tower, which gives you some fantastic views of St. Michael’s and the city. There are multiple buildings, including the cathedral itself. Inside there are even a couple of places where “selfies” are allowed. St. Michael’s is just as beautiful. I must hand it to orthodox in Kyiv. They know how to take your breath away. In St. Michael’s, you’ll see many people lighting candles, praying, and collecting holy water. You can find a Georgian Restaurant named Chacha Bar between the two cathedrals to take a break at for some great food and friendly service. Both are easy to find from Maidan Nezalezhnosti.
Kyiv Pechersk Lavra
Also known as Kyiv’s Monastery of Caves. You can pay more to see more with a guide, but we chose the free route. We did, however, buy a candle to walk because it was dark. The caves homed hermit monks, and there are many settlers of the monastery buried in the catacombs. There is a lot more you can see if you pay, but with limited time to see all of Kyiv, the free route is what I would suggest.
Ukrainian National Chernobyl Museum
I saw many bloggers post about how great it is to plan a visit to Chernobyl, but I am OK with saving a little money and just going to the museum. They say that it is OK to visit with a guide to certain areas, but the concept still freaks me out a little with the radiation. The museum was very nicely put together. It really showed how much this nuclear incident affected Ukraine and surrounding countries. The museum is not very big, but worth going inside. It is located around the corner from the Kontraktova Ploscha metro stop.
Zoloti Vorota – Tsum
My last favourite areas are also very close together. Zoloti Vorota means golden gate. It was the main gate from the original wall protecting Kyiv in the 11th century. You can go inside for a small fee. Next is Tsum for the “shopaholic” inside us all. It is a seven-story mall with the best brands. The top story includes a champagne bar. It felt so fancy, and we only paid 10 dollars. I suggest this because you should celebrate with a bit of champagne when you realise you chose Kyiv to vacation. Tsum is located on Khreshchatyk, a very popular street to find anything and everything, including food, pubs, shopping, and yet more sites.
There are so many parks and many more sites to see. This will at least help you start your next vacation. I can say that there is never a bad time of year to visit Kyiv. I was pleasantly surprised by literally everything. Also, if you get lost, every cafe, restaurant, and the pub has free wifi. If you also need help, the people here are very friendly. They always stopped to help us find our way even if they didn’t know English. Anyway, most young people know English. Nothing is stopping you from adding this to your list of top destinations to visit.