Ukraine is probably the most misunderstood country in Europe. The crisis that hit it not so much time ago is still very vivid in our minds – I bet we all remember from the news the tragic events at Maidan in Kyiv or a war zone in Donetsk. Sadly the situation in the East is still very unstable and affected tourism in the whole country. But I will tell you a secret – Ukraine is a safe place, a huge country and you can easily travel in most of it, exploring the best places to visit in Ukraine!
Table of contents
- 1 Why you should visit Ukraine now?
- 2 Is Ukraine safe?
- 3 Best places to visit in Ukraine
- 3.1 Kyiv – the incredible capital
- 3.2 Odessa – the Black Sea gem
- 3.3 Kamianets Podilskyi – more than just a grand castle
- 3.4 Chernivtsi – the hidden gem of Ukraine
- 3.5 Carpathian mountains
- 3.6 Lviv – one of the most beautiful cities in Europe
- 3.7 Kharkiv – an underrated second biggest city
- 3.8 Dnipro – a masterpiece of Soviet architecture
- 3.9 Chernobyl and Pripyat – famous ghost towns
- 3.10 Uzhgorod – a laid-back gem of Western Ukraine
- 4 You might also like
Why you should visit Ukraine now?
I’ve always thought Ukraine is one of the most overlooked countries in Europe. The majority of people don’t really know what to expect from it but in reality, this is a true gem! From incredible cities with golden domes or magnificent Central European architecture and charm to sandy beaches of the Black Sea or lush hills of Carpathian mountains – Ukraine has it all. And now is the best time to go.
Due to the economic crisis and unstable situation in the east of the country the local currency – hryvnia – dropped a lot, losing around 3 times of its value in comparison to 2013 (pre-Maidan events). Visiting Ukraine is crazy cheap these days. I, for the first time ever, felt guilty for spending that little for such good quality (accommodation, transportation, and eating/drinking out).
For example, a train ticket from Kiev to Odessa in 4 people sleeping compartment was around 13€ or a really good hotel in the very center of Ivano-Frankivsk, with big breakfast cost 20€ for a double room. You can’t beat these prices anywhere! It’s a win-win for everyone: you have a wonderful time for the best possible prices and local people and economy are happy to host you there!
Is Ukraine safe?
I’ve already discussed this issue in another post of mine (click here to read about safety in Ukraine) but I will repeat it again: yes, it is safe! As long as you stay away from the east part of the country, especially areas around cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, you will be fine!
I’ve traveled to Ukraine numerous times, solo or with friends, also after the revolution and each time I felt very safe there. Even walking alone and tipsy in the evening in Kiev was fine. Actually I feel much safer in Ukraine (as well as in other countries in Eastern Europe, the Balkans or Caucasus) than in Western Europe… And I’m not the only one – everyone I was talking to shares my opinion and I haven’t heard of any bad accident that happened to people visiting Ukraine.
If, however, you don’t feel confident enough to visit Ukraine independently there are local companies that organize tours to Ukraine that you can join.
Best places to visit in Ukraine
I can’t count how many times I’ve been to Ukraine by now and I still have a long list of best places to visit in Ukraine. Those places listed below are just my favorite there, I’ve been to some of them a couple of times. It’s just such a pleasure to return there and spend some more time getting to know them. And I can recommend you with my whole heart to visit these places too!
So, without further ado let me show you my personal list of best places to visit in Ukraine!
Kyiv – the incredible capital
For me, Kyiv is the most underrated capital in Europe as it offers so much yet still not so many tourists tend to visit and discover it. Kyiv is a perfect getaway to grand Eastern Europe that we always picture, with golden domes and mighty Soviet architecture.
Monasteries – St.Sophia and Pecherska Lavra – are listed on UNESCO World Heritage List and they surely deserve this title as they are stunning and look like from a fairy tale, especially in the sunny day when the sun shines in the rich ornaments. Khreschatyk street and Maidan Nezalezhnosti might feel overwhelming with their powerful architecture but these are still nothing in comparison with Mother Motherland statue with its total high of 102 meters!
Once you’re tired of sightseeing (and you need at least 3 solid days to get to know the city) there are numerous parks, bars, and cafes where you can relax!
Read more on Kyiv:
- Is Kyiv worth visiting?
- 15 reasons to visit Kiev – the amazing capital of Ukraine
- Top 5 places to see in Kyiv, Ukraine
In Kiev I recommend you stay in the center, somewhere near Khreschatyk. You will be close to all the attractions and with very good public transport connections just about everywhere! Click here to check out to best deals on accommodation in Kiev!
Odessa – the Black Sea gem
The major port on the Black Sea and the main summer getaway for most Ukrainians (getting a train ticket in the summer season might be a challenge, I’m speaking from my experience) – that’s how Odessa is. Not only it has sandy beaches where you can relax all days long (renting a sunbed with an umbrella was 3€ in summer 2016!), the sea is warm and inviting too.
But Odessa isn’t only about the seaside! The city has always been an important place, being the main trade center for the Russian Empire. The old town of Odessa is really splendid, with parallel streets, hidden in the shadow of the rows of trees. The stunning Opera House, second biggest in the world after La Scala in Milan, will take your breath away – it did the trick for me every time! But the key to really get to know Odessa and fall for it is to peek into the yards – that’s a completely different and unique universe!
Read more on Odessa:
When it comes to the accommodation in Odessa, it depends what you’re interested in. If you’re after relaxing at the beach then part of the town called Arkadia would be the best for you but if you’re into sightseeing then the center – area between the train station and the harbor – is where you should stay! Click here to check out the best deals on accommodation in Odessa!
Kamianets Podilskyi – more than just a grand castle
The reason why most people come to visit Kamianets Podilskyi is the incredible fortress, a silent witness of many wars, guarding the city. And it is truly spectacular and will be the highlight of everyone’s time in the city. But, to my great surprise, the city was so much more than just the fortress. The old town is compact but really lovely, with beautiful houses and cobbled lanes. What I liked the most, however, was a really good street art scene with numerous murals showing the history of the city. Such a pleasant place to spend at least a day at!
Read more on Kamianets Podilskyi: Kamianets Podilskyi – an underrated gem of Ukraine
In Kamianets Podilskyi try to stay in the part close to the fortress, in kind of the peninsula surrounded by Smotrych river. The majority of the attractions are there! Click here to check out the best deals on accommodation in Kamianets Podilskyi!
Chernivtsi was my biggest travel discovery in 2015 and until now it’s very high on my list. The city is such a gem, with stunning architecture, multicultural history, amazing cafes and this indescribable Central European vibe that makes you fall for the city right away. The university building, listed on UNESCO World Heritage Site, could easily play in one of the Harry Potter movies.
Chernivtsi is often referred to as Little Vienna or Little Paris and I can see why – it’s simply amazing and just the prettiest! If I had to choose a city to go for a week or so just to relax and catch up on writing Chernivtsi would be one of my top choices! Being there is a pure pleasure!
Read more on Chernivtsi: Stunning Chernivtsi, Ukraine – my best discovery in 2015
If you decide to go to Chernivtsi (highly recommended!!) stay in the center – you will be within walking distance to all the attractions! Click here to check the best deals on accommodation in Chernivtsi!
Ukraine has only a rather small part of Carpathian mountains that cross Central Europe, from Serbia all the way to Austria. Still, this area looks the prettiest and so idyllic with lush forests and hills and small villages where the time has stopped.
The Carpathians might be an interesting place to visit for any railways lovers like myself – the railway line that goes through the mountains back in the times when it was built (19th century) was the most modern one and engineers working on the rail lines in the Alps pattern their projects on Carpathian solutions. These days, unfortunately, parts of the line are gone but you can still admire the viaducts and tunnels used to the present time. The best place to do so starts in Yaremche and travel south from there, towards the border with Romania. In Yaremche itself you can walk on the railway viaduct above the Prut river – the views from up there are really wonderful!
Lviv – one of the most beautiful cities in Europe
Ah, Lviv is just too beautiful to be true! It is the best example of what Central Europe has to offer (and why I love it so much). Every time when I’m there I feel like I’m stepping on some kind of the movie set because it feels impossible for the city to be that incredible.
Lviv is one of the most important cultural centers in Ukraine (when you’re there go to the opera, you’re in for a treat!) but for me, the best thing about Lviv is a spectacular cafe culture, one of the best I’ve ever experienced! In the summertime, the whole old town fills up with outdoor tables and the buzz of conversations or live music hover around the beautiful houses until late night hours.
Still it is worth to go inside most of these cafes – in Lviv I’ve found some of the most unusual places: sadomasochism cafe, a place where you get your drinks in a measuring cylinder and when you get the bill the case explodes or a pub with a car on the rooftop.
A week wouldn’t be enough to experience all that Lviv has to offer!
Read more on Lviv:
- 50 pictures that will inspire you to travel to Lviv, Ukraine (+ best photo locations)
- Lviv – one of the most beautiful cities in Europe
- Lviv in winter, Lviv in summer
- A mini guide to Lviv, Ukraine – all you need to know about the city
- Flea market in Lviv
In Lviv, there is no better place to stay than Hotel George. It’s the oldest hotel in Lviv, still having the charm of old days when most important people in the world stayed there. The location is perfect and it’s much more affordable than you think! Since my first visit, I’m not staying anywhere else in Lviv! Click here to check out prices and more details about Hotel George!
Lviv is often the first place travelers visit in Ukraine and that’s not surprising as the city is very accessible. If you are planning to get from Krakow to Lviv I wrote the complete guide how to do it smoothly.
Kharkiv – an underrated second biggest city
Not many tourists make it to the second largest city in Ukraine – Kharkiv. Huge mistake as this is such a lovely destination, well worth your time and effort! I spent two days exploring Kharkiv, and I felt this still wasn’t enough to see all I wanted to.
Kharkiv isn’t your typical touristy place; it is not like Western Ukraine with beautiful centers. It does have few pastel buildings and impressing architecture that catches the eye, but the city is so much more than that. You can find here one of the best examples of constructivist style – Derzhprom, an old-school cable car running through one of the parks or the most beautiful metro system in Ukraine (be careful with taking pictures there!). Be sure to visit Kharkiv during your Ukraine trip – you won’t be disappointed!
Read more: Is it worth to visit Kharkiv, Ukraine?
Dnipro – a masterpiece of Soviet architecture
For a typical tourist who likes pretty places Dnipro (formerly known as Dnipropetrovsk) isn’t an exciting city. There is maybe one or two attractions that are pretty in the classical style.
But if you are a fan of concrete and Soviet architecture, you will love Dnipro! The number of quirky buildings is outstanding here; you can find something interesting around each corner.
Dnipro is like a giant concrete playground! I spent a day in Dnipro, and it was not enough to see all the fantastic places there! I will be back for sure!
Chernobyl and Pripyat – famous ghost towns
Everyone knows the story of the Chernobyl accident in 1986. These days it is possible to visit the excluded area that is located just north of Kiev. And it definitely is worth a trip, even if you need to go with the official Chernobyl tour.
To be honest I didn’t expect much, I thought it might be yet another big tourist attraction with staged remnants of the tragic events. And it was a bit like that but I still enjoyed the tour a lot and I found Chernobyl, Pripyat and other places in the zone to be truly fascinating.
Pripyat is a real ghost town where nature took over what people have created, walking around and imagining how the life used to look like here is one of a kind experience. Definitely recommended!
Uzhgorod – a laid-back gem of Western Ukraine
Located in the very south-west of the country, Uzhgorod is such a pleasant place to visit. The city has become part of Ukraine (then the Soviet Union) only after WWII, before it used to belong to Hungary or Czechoslovakia. You can definitely feel that you are at the crossroads, with a rich multicultural past and the diverse architecture (in some parts typical for Central Europe, in others for post-Soviet countries) is a great example of it.
The best time to visit Uzhgorod is in summer when days are warm and long and locals spend the time outside, enjoying the beautiful weather, swimming in the Uzh river and enjoying a laid-back vibe of the place.
The list has only 10 places now but I will be expanding it when I travel to Ukraine again and discover some new places there. I already can’t wait to go again!
For the end I left a few announcements that might interest you:
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