A friend of mine asked me couple of days ago if it’s worth to visit Kiev, Ukraine. She was already in Lviv last year and liked it a lot (no wonder, I loved it there as well, I still have to cover this trip here on the blog). Recently she found cheap tickets to Kiev (Katowice-Kiev with Wizzair, less than 200PLN/50€ return) but didn’t know if she should book them or not. And the question came up. I bet you already know my answer ;)
I was there in April 2012, only for the weekend as I found some pretty cheap flights too. I must say I didn’t know much about Kiev before visiting it, nothing rung a bell when I thought of this city. The only reason why I’ve decided to go there was the price and the fact I haven’t been to Ukraine before (even if it’s the closest country from where I live). In Poland we know a lot about Lviv as back in time it used to be a Polish city but that’s where our knowledge about Ukraine ends, sadly.
It is a huge city but you can spend 48 hours in Kiev and see a lot! The population is around 3 milions and you can clearly see it: the road from Borispol airport leads through suburbs with tall post-Soviet blocks, the metro is a constant flow of people – you don’t need to think how to exit the station, the crowd will take you there for sure – main streets are busy with people, especially on the weekends when wide Khreshchatyk street is for pedestrians. Kiev is considered the cultural and spiritual center of Eastern Europe and with 12 centuries of rich history it well deserves this title.
There are so many things to see in Kiev that 3 days I’ve spent there weren’t enough. I’ve already written the post about top 5 things to see there but these are just main attractions. Your days there will be busy with visiting numerous golden dome churches that will left you speachless, admiring great examples of monumental post-Soviet architecture, relaxing in various parks and eating delicious yet heavy Ukrainian food (the post about it comming soon!). And for more adventurous people there are Chernobyl tours available – I didn’t have time to go there but I’d definiely love to, I have a reason to go back!
But Kiev might be a challenging destination too. Even if things imporoved after last year European Football Championships and the tourism infrastructure (including lots of good and affordable accomodation possibilities) is really good there you might be slightly overwhelmed – what I love about Eastern Europe and what makes it special may not be so fascinating to everyone. It seems chaotic, busy, dirty (even if it’s not) and the post-Soviet spirit is very much felt. Also you might expect some minor language issues if you don’t know Cyrylic letters (I spent one afternoon just before the trip to learn them, it still took me a while to understand what’s going on around me but it definitely was much easier!) but well, there’re always hands and smile to help! Kiev also seemed like a safe city to me. Of course don’t go into the dark backstreets, use the common sense, like everywhere else and you will be fine!
If you think that when you’ve already visited Lviv you don’t have to go to Kiev you’re so wrong! These cities are so far from being similar. While Lviv has the XIXth century Galician charm, feels like a small town and is full of baroque churches and old tenements that need renovation Kiev is the oposite. Monumental post-Soviet architecture, wide streets, golden domed Orthodox churches and the real Eastern Europe atmosphere. But I think in every country it’s like that: Warsaw – Krakow, Berlin – Munchen, Amsterdam-Rotterdam are all so different from each other, and these are just few examples! So my suggestion? Visit both cities!
So if anyone else has doubts if it’s worth going to Kiev I can recommend it with my whole heart! This city is so interesting, so complex, so full of great places that when leaving Kiev after the busy days of exploting you’ll already think about returning there. I know I do!
If you think of visiting Ukraine or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it!
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