With the current situation in Ukraine, with a heavy heart, I strongly advise not visiting the country. This is the older, pre-war article and you can use it for future inspiration and information to plan a trip when it’s safe to visit Ukraine again.
I didn’t plan to visit Ukraine in the first place. No matter how much I enjoy our neighbor country this past August I was supposed to travel to Balkans again.
Long story short: my flights were cancelled and suddenly I was left with some extra hours I worked hard for (and a national holiday that would be a big shame not to use for travelling) and no plans. Not to mention I was already looking forward to the nice getaway.
After lots and lots of thinking over every possible option I suddenly came up with the best idea ever: why not visiting a completely new country, one of the very few I had left in Europe? And so I’ve decided to go to Moldova!
How I ended up going to Kamianets Podilskyi, Ukraine?
But… it’d have been too easy to travel directly there, especially that I had over a week to spend. I figured the best would be to go via Ukraine, especially that there’re lots of direct buses there. I found the most perfect one – to Kamianets Podilskyi, departing from Warsaw on Friday at 5pm, right after I finish work. And so decision was made, Kamianets Podilskyi was my first stop on this trip!
I’ve been to Ukraine few times before but only to Kyiv and Lviv. And as much as I loved both I wanted to see other places too. Ukraine really is one of the most interesting, misunderstood and underrated countries in Europe and it’s heartbreaking to see what’s happening there.
When I shared my plans with friends and family the majority of people thought I’m crazy and stupid, more than ever, going right into the war zone. Well, true, there’s a war in Ukraine but only in the east part of this huge country. The rest is really safe to visit and even if there might be some tensions tourists are really fine there, welcomed more than ever.
The short history of Kamianets Podilskyi, Ukraine
After 15 hours long bus journey I woke up in the most perfect moment – when we were approaching the magnificent Kamianets Podilskyi castle, the place I learnt so much about at school. It was like stepping from a dream into a fairy tale.
Kamianets Podilskyi was first written about in 11th century as the Armenian trade center. After the troublesome years the city got under the Polish rule at the beginning of the 15th century and remained so until 1793, the Second Partition of Poland, when Russians took it over. Kamianets Podilskyi was known as urb antemurale Christianis, the place defending the frontiers of Christian Europe from the Ottoman Empire. This was especially seen in the 17th century when the Ottoman troops tried to conquer the town and eventually succeeded in 1672.
For 27 years Kamianets Podilskyi was part of the Ottoman empire to finally got back under the Polish rule. When Poland was erased from the map of the world (to get the independence back 123 years later) Kamianets Podilskyi was taken over by Russian and then became part of Ukraine to remain so until these days.
Not many of my friends have visited Kamianets Podilskyi, Ukraine (which is kind of surprising). When I looked up some info online (and especially pictures) all I could see was Kamianets Podilskyi castle, pretty impressive one. I was so sure that’s the only decent thing the city has to offer.
Oh how wrong I was! Already the bus journey through Kamianets Podilskyi could show me that it’s the kind of place I’d enjoy a lot. The beautiful pastel architecture remembering the old times and the breathtaking location made the trick for me.
Impressive Kamianets Podilskyi castle
Quite typically, I started exploring the city from the Kamianets Podilskyi castle, the most famous landmark of the city and probably the best of all the Ukrainian castles. It sits magnificently on the deep shores of the river Smotrych, dominating the area around.
When I saw its pictures online I’ve thought it’s nothing really special, just the castle like many. But wow, what a place it was! It really took my breath away!
I spent much more time than expected in and around the castle, checking out every corner and angle (and sometimes those places wouldn’t pass European safety standards…). I felt like a kid at the huge playground, the one that has been through so much over centuries. I’ve never expected the castle can bring me so much joy. I actually could have been there so much longer but there were still so many places I wanted to see in the city I thought might be not so interesting.
The old town of Kamianets Podilskyi
Across the bridge from the fortress, on the high bank surrounded by the river Smotrych lies the old town of Kamianets Podilskyi. It’s fairly small but so very charming. Cobbled streets, beautiful old houses, city gates, churches and the tranquil vibe made the place look and feel like the time has stopped there. It was all kind of perfect.
The place reminded me of Lviv in a way, another Ukrainian city I adore so much. I just can’t really figure out why was that – could it be the common past and the Polish heritage?
I was just surprised how empty the old town was. It was Saturday, in the middle of August, a perfect summer day and there were very few people around (the fortress however was fairly busy). Too bad the majority of visitors skip the old town as it’s such a gem!
Kamianets Podilskyi street art
But still the best of Kamianets Podilskyi was waiting for me – the street art! A while ago I discovered by accident that there’s a pretty active street art scene, with the festival and some cool murals around.
During my lunch break in the cozy cafe I quickly drew a map of Kamianets Podilskyi murals and I headed to the more “normal” area of the city, determined to find them all. Of course I failed – could be my terrible drawing skills – but I’ve seen some great ones anyway. They were mostly connected to Kamianets Podilskyi’s history which I think was a great way to commemorate the city. And to my great surprise the best murals were hidden in the old town!
Kamianets Podilskyi in the evening
Kamianets Podilskyi felt even more abandoned in the evening. It seemed like no one wanted to stay there overnight, even if just to witness the fortress illuminated in the demonic manner. In bright red colours it looked like from the creepy horror movie or one of Amsterdam’s famous districts. This view actually made my stay in Kamianets Podilskyi so much better and memorable!
The next morning I stormed through the empty old town and not so empty other parts of the city to catch the bus to one of my dream destinations – Chernivtsi (guess not many of you have heard of it). Kamianets Podilskyi was a perfect first stop in Ukraine – it put me in the travelling mode right away and I enjoyed every single moment of my time there. If you consider a trip to Ukraine anytime soon make sure to include Kamianets Podilskyi in your itinerary and give the city more than just few hours. Trust me, you won’t regret it!
Revolut bank card is the best way to save money when traveling. It’s a pre-paid service that offers very good exchange rates and no fees for ATM’s use. Click here to learn more and order your Revolut card.
You can find the best accommodation options at Booking. They have many discounts and excellent customer service. Click here to look for the place to stay in Ukraine
Never travel without travel insurance, you never know what might happen and better safe than sorry. You can check the insurance policy for Ukraine here.
I recommend joining organized tours to get to know the place better and to visit more places during your trip. You can find a great selection of tours at Get Your Guide – click here.
Make sure to have the offline map always installed on your phone, they can save you so many troubles. I always use the free app Maps.Me.
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Mr_Szpak15/11/2015 at 10:14
Tak to jest mój cel na niedaleką przyszłość… a myślę o tym Kamieńcu już od dawna… :)
kami15/11/2015 at 19:48
no to od słów do czynów trzeba przejść :) spodoba Ci się na pewno!
Esther15/11/2015 at 12:50
Oh your pictures reminds me of my visit to Kamyanets-Podilsky, also in August! loved it there, especially the street art surprised me. It took me a whole day to explore the street art scene. After K-P I also went to Chernivtsi, another great city in Western Ukraine. A lot of colorful little houses there and cobble stone streets. In short: I loved my time in Ukraine! I’m also looking forward to your posts about Moldova!
kami15/11/2015 at 19:50
I’m glad you share my feelings about Ukraine! It’s a wonderful country, isn’t it? :) Moldova was also interesting but it’s nothing in comparison to Ukraine and especially those two cities (K-P and Chernivtsi)
Pat15/11/2015 at 21:26
Za każdym razem, gdy czytam wpisy o Ukrainie, wstydzę sie, ze mimo mieszkania tak blisko granicy, byłam tam tylko we Lwowie. Moze potrzeba takiego przypadku, jak u Ciebie.
kami29/11/2015 at 12:05
Polecam bardzo, bo tam naprawdę fajnie jest! A Lwów uwielbiam i chętnie bym wracała!
Maps & Passports15/11/2015 at 22:56
It’s been on our wishlist for quite some time. :)
Kami and the rest of the world16/11/2015 at 03:20
Good choice! It’s really great! Hope you will have a chance to visit soon!
Asia16/11/2015 at 11:18
Właśnie ostatnio rozmawiałam z mężem, że i Ukraina i Białoruś leżą tuż za naszą granicą, a jeszcze ich dobrze nie poznaliśmy, a warto, póki jeszcze są niezglobalizowane, takie swojskie, prawdziwe, jak dawniej. Z Ukrainą obecnie strach, ale skoro piszesz..
kami29/11/2015 at 12:16
no własnie nie strach! o tym też pisałam kiedyś. Tam naprawde jest normalnie, śmiesznie tanio i fantastycznie dosc, więc polecam bardzo!!
Za miedzą i dalej16/11/2015 at 14:45
Kamyanets jest u mnie jedną z rozważanych opcji na sylwka :)
kami29/11/2015 at 12:17
Nick @ concrete and kitsch16/11/2015 at 23:38
I’ve been reading so many great things about Ukraine lately, it’s moved to the top of my list of near term travel priorities. This town reminds me a lot of Veliko Tarnovo in Bulgaria, actually, with the fortress and great street art.
Thanks for posting, and I hope you’re having a great time in Central Asia! :)
kami29/11/2015 at 12:23
You definitely should visit Ukraine, I think you’d enjoy it a lot! It’s such a great yet misunderstood country… And you’re right about similarity of Kamyanets Podilsky and Veliko Tarnovo! I haven’t thought of this before but that’s very true!
Central Asia was really lovely, will have to write a lot about it!
Kamil B17/11/2015 at 13:30
Oj tak, jak ktoś tam już na górze (albo na dole) wspomniał, ja rónież myślę o Kamieńcu. Google mówi że tam pięknie! Aczkolwiek, na Ukrainie nigdy jeszcze nie byłem.
PS. Przy okazji zgłaszam małą usterkę. Strona mi się bardzo wolno łąduje i nie mam podglądu na Twoje zdjęcia :-(
kami29/11/2015 at 12:26
Kamieniec naprawdę daje radę! i jest jeszcze lepszy niż w googlu!! w ogóle cała Ukraina jest fajna :)
a strona coś pajacowała, ale chyba się ogarnęła. dzięki!
Life Good Morning19/11/2015 at 18:42
Słyszałam o nim dawno temu, Ukrainę trochę zwiedzałam, ale tam niestety nie dotarłam.
Kami and the rest of the world23/11/2015 at 08:19
naprawdę warto! kolejnym razem koniecznie i tam zajrzyj!
Jesper, The Biveros Effect17/01/2016 at 01:52
I had sadly never heard of the town before, but it really looks like a place worth visiting. Places with a lot of history usually never fails when it comes to interesting sights :)
kami22/01/2016 at 20:57
It seems like Ukraine is really underrated, most people know only about Kiev and sometimes Lviv but there are so many interesting places to visit, Kamyanets-Podilsky is one of them! Hopefully you will have a chance to visit one day!
Limonali22/09/2016 at 09:36
Kamyanets – a place I still haven’t visited in Ukraine. It is definitely on my list. I just sat down to write my memories of travels to Ukraine, and the first post that came from that features the Tunnel of Love.
kami22/09/2016 at 20:52
You definitely should go to Kamyanets, it’s amazing! I will take a look at your posts, thanks!
Sundawg25/09/2016 at 20:16
Hi, I spent 4 days in KP and it just so happened that the Respublica Music Festival was going on so I got to hear some good music in addition to taking in some of the sights. But the festival brought in huge crowds of rockers which took away from the atmosphere of the place. While the castle is interesting (it’s the setting that’s really special), I much rather enjoyed wandering around in the river canyon area below the castle and through the old town – that was a real time trip! Also, I would really recommend (easy day trip from KP) spending a day wandering around the impressive fortress at Khotyn fortress. Fantastic, monumental castle and an incredible setting on the Dniester river.
kami04/10/2016 at 21:26
I really would love to visit Khotyn, I was passing it by on the way from KP to Chernivtsi but sadly didn’t have time to see the fortress. At least I have a reason to go back. KP is such a lovely place, I was really surprised with the old town – it was the cutest! I bet such a music festival can be both good and bad for a place but at least you could see KP in an unusual scenery
Janette Hall29/04/2018 at 19:56
We are passing through here in mid May and looking forward to exploring.
kami07/05/2018 at 15:15
I’m sure you will love it, Kamyanets-Podilsky is such a gem!
Rob22/07/2021 at 23:42
In a trip where we hit Kiev, Odessa, Chernivtsi and Kamaniets Polisky, KP was certainly the highlight. It really is an unexpected pleasure, from the beautiful fortress to the charming streets in Old Town, to the friendly and warm people we encountered. We stayed at the Taras Bulba, which we understand has gone through an expansion. We ended up eating most of our meals next door, at Cafe Nika, much to the frustration of the owners of Taras Bulba, which also has a good restaurant. But nowhere in town did we have a bad meal. I hope to return to KP one day, in a peaceful Ukraine.
kami25/11/2021 at 17:04
I couldn’t agree more! KP is such a gem and I’m really surprised not many people know about this place. All the best!