Photograph by fmajor, Getty Images
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Independence Square—or Maidan, as locals refer to it—is a historic plaza in Kiev, Ukraine.

Photograph by fmajor, Getty Images

Everything to Know About Kiev

Here's how to plan the best possible trip to Ukraine's historic capital.

Kiev was once a city known for its grandiose streets and omnipresent Soviet architecture, but now the city is becoming synonymous with startups and its innate creative side that was suppressed for too many years. The younger generations are brewing craft beer, opening up independent coffee shops and concept stores, and filling co-working spaces brimming with visionaries. Street art is ubiquitous and English is becoming more and more present in society. Kiev, Ukraine, is cool and will inevitably surprise visitors upon arrival.

When to Go

Winters can be long and dark. Late spring, early autumn, and summer are most definitely the time to get the most out of Kiev. Venturing to the Ukrainian capital during these months will allow travelers to experience the parks, café terraces, and streets to their fullest. If traveling in winter, expect snow and sub-zero temperatures. If traveling in summer, expect temperatures to hover around 78 degrees at most.

Celebrate

Kiev celebrates its birthday each May and the celebration takes over the city and goes by the name Days of Kiev. The festival typically takes place during the last weekend of May and there are parties, events, and celebrations widespread throughout the city. Maslyana is also celebrated with fervor in the city and the date changes each year, but it is usually late winter or early spring. Pancakes with a variety of ingredients and open-air festivals throughout the city are what one can expect during Maslyana. International Women’s Day (March 8), Orthodox Christmas (January), and the New Year are also holidays celebrated in Kiev.

What to Eat

Ukrainians are fiercely proud of their borsch and rightfully so. Ukrainian borsch is hearty and addicting. Served with a dollop of smetana (sour cream) and garlic bread to the side, this is a must-eat in Kiev. Vareniki, or Ukrainian dumplings, are also essential to try when in Kiev. They can be filled with something savory such as potatoes or meat or they can be stuffed with something sweet such as cherries. Syrniki are made from cottage cheese, flour, eggs, and sugar and are served with toppings for breakfast. You will likely see them at some point when in Kiev and they are definitely worth tasting when you do. To enjoy a little bit of old culture alongside Ukrainian food, ask a local for the nearest cafeteria-style restaurant, where you can enjoy local dishes at an affordable price.

Souvenir to Take Home

Travelers can take home a pysanka, or a Ukrainian egg made and decorated with beeswax. Pysanky are a symbol of Ukraine and can be found as souvenirs throughout the city with ease. Lviv Handmade Chocolate is also a great gift to take back home if you’re looking for a taste of the country or a souvenir for a friend. You can find Lviv Chocolate throughout the city but be sure to pop into one of their cafes and enjoy some there before you leave the city.

Sustainable Travel Tip

The metro in Kiev is one of the most efficient in the world and is a blast from the city’s Soviet past. Taking it is less than 20 cents and is a more sustainable option than taking a taxi around. Be sure to stop by Arsenalna station so you can say you have stepped foot in the deepest metro station in the world (346 feet underground). Another tip is to support local businesses. There are a variety of coffee shops, design stores, and craft beer bars that are owned by enthusiastic locals who would love to have your business to compete in the corporate environment that is slowly encroaching into the city.

Instagram-Worthy View

Every tourist and local has his or her favorite view, but undoubtedly one of the best is from inside Mariinsky Park. The park itself is lush and if you venture to the outer edge of it, you can see the mighty Dnieper River that has shaped so many events and history in Kiev. This park will also lead you into areas of the city that have memorials on display commemorating the deaths of soldiers and activists during the current Ukrainian-Russian conflict in the east.