I didn’t know what to expect from my visit in Kiev. It was actually my first time ever in Ukraine itself and even if I didn’t have any expectations I was more than ready to get to know this country and explore its capital city.
And I loved it, big time.
Kiev is huge, busy and cosmopolitan but it also hides so many of beautiful monuments and places well worth a visit. I’ve been there for 3 days yet I didn’t manage to see everything that I’ve hoped for. So whenever I have a chance I’ll gladly return to Kiev and see more of it.
But in the meantime here are few places to see and things to do in Kiev when you visit the city for the first time.
Tip for you: if you want to take the most of your time in Kiev be sure to stay somewhere in the center, preferable close to Khreschatyk as you will be nearby many attractions and all metro lines. Check the best deals and details on accommodation in Kiev here (click!)
When you arrive to Borispol airport you can easily get to the center with the affordable private transport! Click here to see the details and book the transfer!
Table of contents
Things to do in Kiev
A must visit place for everyone. This huge complex of Cave Monasteries is over 1000 years old and is listed on UNESCO World’s Heritage List.
Since the foundation it’s been the very center of Eastern Orthodox Church in that part of the world. The monasteries are incredibly beautiful, with golden domes that shine in the sun.
But the insides are even better! Rich adornments make them look like from a fairytale. When walking around the Pechersk Lavra you have a feeling that it’s a special place for Ukraine as the atmosphere there is definitely elagiac.
In the oldest monastery a special gem is hidden – graves of monks in the underground corridors. You just need to buy and light a candle and follow the people into the labirynth of narrow lanes with coffins on both sides. The place felt pretty spooky but it was really interesting and I’m glad I didn’t freak out and visited it after all.
To admire the greatness and enormity of Lavra it’s best to go to the other side of the Dnieper River from where the view is stunning. Walking around the Lavra and visiting all the monasteries, museums and belltowers takes few good hours but is definitely worth all the time and money.
You can also visit Pechersk Lavra with a private tour (highly recommended!). Click here to see the details and prices!
Museum of the Great Patriotic War
That was with no doubts my favorite place in Kiev!
The Museum is located just next to the Pechersk Lavra but is like from another world. The complex is a memorial commemorating the German-Soviet war and it was opened in the current location on 9th May 1981.
This must have been the most surreal place I’ve ever visited. It’s a park full of war machines: tanks, cars, planes. There are also huge Soviet monuments and the Soviet war songs are played in the background.
But the best thing in that Museum is a huge monument of Mother Ukraine that overlooks the area and can be seen from far away. And by huge I mean 102 meters high! It’s enormous and mind-blowing!
You can take a lift and visit the viewing platform in the head of the sculpture – sadly it was closed when I was there, that would have been quite an experience! I’ve found a tour focused on the Museum and Mother Ukraine statue and next time I’m going to take it as it sounds really great! Check the details here!
Maidan Nezalezhnosti and Khreshchatyk street
Let’s stay in the post-Soviet spirit. Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) is the very center of Kiev and the place where the main events in the city happens. The most known one was the Orange Revolution in 2004 and the recent revolution in 2014 – the whole world could see this place in the news then.
Maidan is surrounded by the massive buildings – fine examples or Soviet architecture typical for the Stalin times. The best view of the Square is from the bridge and the view platform next to the Hotel Ukraine.
The most important street that goes from Maidan Nezalezhnosti is Khreshchatyk. It’s wide, with 4 lanes each way and over 1 kms long.
The street was completely destroyed during World War II but was rebuilt in the post-war Soviet style. It’s busy on the weekdays but closes on the weekends and serves as a pedestrian zones.
All the main institutions are located there: City Administration, Main Post Office or few Ministries. Khreshchatyk is on the list of 20 most expensive streets in Europe and that’s definitely the place to be in Kiev.
I strolled down the street at least 10 times during my visit and each time I could spot something new, interesting, exciting. But simply looking at people there is the best thing one can do.
Saint Sophia’s Cathedral and St. Michael’s Golden Domed Monastery
When looking at Maidan Nezalezhnosti from the viewing platform you can spot golden domes in the back. These belong to Saint Sophia’s Cathedral, the oldest church in Kiev that is also on UNESCO World Heritage List.
The complex isn’t as big as Pechersk Lavra but consists quite a few buildings, among them are the Cathedral, Bell Tower or the high school. This unique place got its name from Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and is of such an outstanding beauty too.
Not far from Saint Sophia’s another shining golden domes can be seen – these belong to St. Michael’s Golden Domed Monastery. This one can be visited for free and it’s definitely worth coming inside.
The monastery dates back to the Middle Ages but it was demolished just before the World War II and recently re-opened. It’s worth to spend a while and inspect all the details closely as the building is very reach in all the adornments.
You can visit both monasteries as well as other top attractions of the city during Highlights of Kiev sightseeing tour! Click here for more details and prices!
Andriyivskyy Descent and Podil
Too bad Andriyiskyy Descent was under construction when I was in Kiev. This part of Ukrainian capital feels like a small town and not a huge city.
It’s the area where Kiev’s artists and bohema used to live and places like Mikhail Bulgakov’s house are located. Probably that’s why it’s often called “Montmarte of Kiev”.
It’s the best to see the area from the surrounding hills and Zamkova Hora that offer a spectacular views or this colorful part of the city.
Podil is quite the contrary to the upper part of the city. The buildings are smaller, colorful and charming, the streets are narrow and the life goes by there much slower. Yet a lot of interesting places, museums and monasteries are located there.
It’s worth to spend an afternoon there to take a rest from the busy monumental center or the overwhelming beauty of UNESCO monasteries.
You can learn more about the area during Andrew Descent & Podil District Tour! Click here for more details!
If you think of visiting Ukraine or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it:
- Is it safe to travel to Ukraine?
- Best places to visit in Ukraine
- 5 reasons to visit Odessa, Ukraine
- and many more!
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