Kiev: A hidden gem in Eastern Europe
Ukraine is the country with the largest territory in Europe. Kiev itself is a magical city. Is over 1500 years old and was founded by Vikings. Ukrainians are very proud of their independence from the Soviet Union since 1991 and are generally very patriotic. They are friendly and helpful and I felt very safe during my week’s stay.
The religion is mostly Orthodox. There are over 4000 Orthodox churches and monasteries in Kiev, many of them date back 1000 years. When entering a church, women should cover their heads and use skirts.
What to see in Kiev?
Kievo-Pecherska Lavra is a monastery considered a Unesco Heritage site. It’s said that only the most important monasteries are called ‘Lavras’ and this is one is the oldest. It dates back to 1077. Nowadays you can visit the caves and see the mummified monks. There are two parts, the upper Lavra with an entrance fee of 40 UAH and the lower Lavra were the caves are free but you need a candle for the way which costs 1-2UAH. The caves are very narrow but worth the visit.
The nearest metro station is Arsenal’na and then you will walk about 10-15 minutes but it’s worth the walk as you pass by the Memorial Complex of Eternal Glory, in honour of those who died in WWII.
From there you can either walk or just enjoy the view of the Motherland Statue. This statue is 62m tall (higher than the Statue of Liberty) and celebrates de Soviet Union victory over the Nazi Germany. The Museum to the Great Patriotic War (WWII) is located in the base of the statue.
St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery it’s another monastery worth the visit. It dates back to the 12th century and is very special for Ukrainians as it was destroyed during the Soviet era. During that time a lot of its original art was destroyed or moved to Moscow so because of that they take great pride since it was rebuilt in 1997. It is free to visit and photos are not allowed inside. The gold domes make some pretty impressive photos and behind there is a nice park with views to the Dnieper River.
St. Sophia Cathedral is the oldest church in Kiev dating back to the 11th century and is classified as a Unesco World Heritage site. It has one of the worlds biggest frescoes and mosaics and has been a museum since 1934. Photos are not allowed inside.
If you continue to walk your way down the hill you will find the Golden Gate which is considered the entrance to the city; this gate was built in the 11th century as a fortification becoming the main gate to the upper city.
A few meters after you will see the National Opera House, it’s the oldest and considered one of the most beautiful in Europe, having won in the pass a World Architecture Award.
Where to go?
Khreshchatyk Street is one of the main streets in Kiev and consists mainly of architecture from the Stalin Period. This street becomes an open pedestrian zone at the weekend. It’s amazing how you can see the Ukrainian people celebrating their freedom with live music, street games and dancing.
Maidan Nezalezhnosti or Independence Square is located on Khreshchatyk Street. It’s world known for being the place of the Orange Revolution in 2004. Nowadays you can see numerous photos of soldiers that died for their cause all over it.
The underground markets can be first encounter in Maidan and it was one of my favourite things in Kiev. Instead of crossing most of the big streets you go underground thought big markets, there you can find almost everything, from food to cloths, bags, jewellery, electronics and it’s crazy cheap.
Nearby you can find the Besarabsky Market. It’s a food market in the heart of the city. Compared to other market’s it’s a bit more expensive but overall still cheap considering the low value of money in Ukraine. It’s worth a visit because of the colours and smells and you can bargain the prices down with the sellers and obviously it’s just cash payments (this is valid for all markets).
Another interesting point near is The House with Chimeras, a house decorated with the statues of animals and plants, dolphins and sea nymphs.
After this and still walking you can find the Shevchenko Park. It’s a park in the middle of the city just in front of the city’s University. I had an amazing stroll around the park on Sunday and combining the flowers, the traditional cookies from Ukraine and the beautiful amateur music the day just went perfect!
In another part of the city (by taking the metro or funicular) you can go to Andriyivsky Uzviz or ‘Andrew’s Descendent’. This is a very steep street that takes you up to St. Andrew’s Church (closed for restoration). But it’s not just a street up a hill it’s also one of the most beautiful streets that you will find in Kiev, full of cafes, restaurants, manual artisans, artists, painters. As you are getting to St. Andrew’s Church there is a little coffee/restaurant where I listen to one of most beautiful piano artists playing anything from Mozart to Bach, I was in Love!
On my way down I visited The One Street Museum. This museum recreates some history of this street and its residents. It’s interesting but it’s only a small museum.
What to eat?
The food in Kiev is amazing and to cry for! The most traditional food is the best and because it’s so cheap you can basically try almost everything on the menu in one go for ± £15. So the favourites were: Varenyky (similar to dumplings), Holubtsi (meat cabbage wrap), Deruny (potatoe pancakes) and last but not least Chicken Kiev.
One of our favourite restaurants was the Spotykach Restaurant. The restaurant interior resembles the Soviet times but the food it’s a mix of the old traditional Ukraine cuisine with new variations of it. The venue is cheerful and the waiters are very nice.
Hope to see you soon Kiev!
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