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 the 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 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
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 Black Sea or lush hills of Carpathian mountains – Ukraine has it all. And now is the best time to go.
Due to the economical 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 a good quality (accommodation, transportation and eating / drinking out).
For example a train ticket from Kiev to Odessa in a 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 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 east part of the country, especially areas around cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, you will be fine!
I’ve travelled 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.
Best places to visit in Ukraine
By now I’ve visited Ukraine some 10 times and have a long list of best places to visit in Ukraine. At the same time my mind is still full of destinations I yet have to see there – it’s just such a big country to explore! Those places listed below are just my favorite there, I’ve been to some of them 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!
If you would like to explore Ukraine with local people I can recommend you tours organized by my friends at JC Travel Ukraine. Julia and Alexandr are some of the nicest people I’ve met this year and I’m sure spending time with them and learning about their country they are so passionate about would be just the best way to discover Ukraine. The tours they offer are small and you will be really well taken care of. They cover all the places mentioned above and even more! Check their website for more details!
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 with 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:
In Kiev I recommend you staying in the center, somewhere near Khreschatyk. You will be close to all the attractions and with a 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 sun bed 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 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 harbour – is where you should stay! Click here to check out the best deals on accommodation in Odessa!
Kamianets-Podilskyi – more than just a grand fortress
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: Kamyanets-Podilsky – an underrated gem of Ukraine
In Kamyanets-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 Kamyanets-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.
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 is gone but you can still admire the viaducts and tunnels used to the present time. Best place to do so is start 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 culture 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 summer time 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:
- 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!
There are only 6 places on this list but they are best of the best in Ukraine! I’m already thinking of my next visit there as I still would love to discover Kharkiv, Dnipro or Uzhorod, just to name few places. And I so can’t wait to go back to Ukraine and see them all!
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