Photograph by MediaProduction, Getty Images
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Saint Sophia Cathedral is one of many stunning churches in Kiev, Ukraine.

Photograph by MediaProduction, Getty Images

Discover the Best of Kiev

Explore this Eastern European capital with these top 10 tips.

Kiev was once a city with an identity crisis, but its enlivening spirit and perseverance throughout its recent history and current events have launched it into international recognition as a city with unprecedented tourism potential.

National Park

Holosiivskyi National Nature Park is a protected forest and natural reserve in Kiev and a must-visit for those who love the outdoors and being away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a bit. The forest is teeming with wildlife and plants. The park sits on 140 acres and contains four lakes that locals love to visit year-round. There are several pathways that visitors can cycle, run, or walk on. Children will also enjoy the Nature Park as it has playgrounds, paddle boats, and carnival rides.

UNESCO Site

Kiev has two UNESCO World Heritage sites that fall under the same category—the Kiev Pechersk Lavra and the Saint Sophia Cathedral. Both are Orthodox Christianity icons of the city. Kiev Pechersk Lavra is a cave monastery that dates back to 1051. The Saint Sophia Cathedral dates back to the 11th century and is one of the most famous sights in Kiev.

Cultural Sites

“Golden domes” are often what come to mind when someone thinks of Kiev and rightfully so. The city is home to an abundance of churches and cathedrals and many are worth your time. Saint Sophia Cathedral, Saint Michael’s, and Saint Andrew’s are among the most popular.

Best Day Trip

There are several cities to see outside of Kiev on a day trip but a city that is very deserving of a visit is Chernihiv, just to the north of Kiev. Chernihiv is a city of around 290,000 residents and is home to a popular square and green space called Dytynets Park that houses several churches. Another popular day trip is taking a tour to Chernobyl and Pripyat, which must be done through a pre-arranged tour.

Off the Beaten Path

Kiev is more diverse than meets the eye. If you head over to the Islamic Cultural Center off Starozhytomyrskyi Lane on Fridays from noon to 6 p.m., you will find a food market that will engage your senses in the best way possible. Visitors will find everything from Uzbek plov to meat vendors from Northern Africa to sweets from Turkey and the Middle East. Many people speak English and would love to share a tea with you while you devour a plate of delicious plov. This food market is definitely one of the hidden gems of Kiev.

Most Iconic Place

The Motherland Monument stands tall over Kiev at 102 meters (335 feet) high and weighing nine tons. She stands with a sword in her right hand, but it is the shield she is holding—with an emblem representing the Soviet Union—that has raised a bit of controversy in recent years due to the decommunization laws that were put in place in 2015. All World War II statues and monuments are exempt from the decommunization laws, but not without inevitable controversy. The statue commemorates the soldiers who perished during WWII and there is a museum close to the statue called the Museum of the History of Ukraine in World War II. Regardless of your interest in the war and Soviet history, this area is a must-visit as the views of the river are gorgeous and its monuments are larger than life.

Late Night

You can find a party and nightlife anywhere in Kiev. The craft beer scene is booming and you can support the entrepreneurs making the trend so popular by visiting one of the many craft beer bars spread throughout the city. Start with a drink in Podil and end up across the river and drink with the locals. You never know what kind of hidden gem you may stumble upon.

Historic Site

Babi Yar, a ravine where Jews were killed during the German occupation, is easily one of the most somber sights in Kiev. There were an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 Jews murdered here and the ravine was also home to several other massacres during Soviet occupation. In September 1941, more than 33,000 Jews were killed there during a two-day period. This mass killing is said to be the largest of any single massacre during the Holocaust.

Local Quirk

You will likely hear two different languages in Kiev. The first is the national language of Ukrainian and the second is Russian, which is still widely spoken today. Depending on where you are in Ukraine, you will hear one more than the other, but Kiev is becoming more and more Ukrainian presently and you will notice it in the language. Kiev is the Russian spelling of the city and Kyiv is the Ukrainian spelling of the city. The country is also called “Ukraine,” not “The Ukraine,” as was announced by the government in 1993. Kiev locals will be extremely impressed if you have a few words of Ukrainian up your sleeve, but don’t be surprised if you hear them speaking Russian as their first language.

Neighborhood to Explore

Podilskyi, or Podil, is one of Kiev’s hippest neighborhoods. Podil is situated close to the Dnieper and is home to vibrant street art, quirky cafes, and some of the coolest bars in Kiev. Kiev’s city center can be a bit ostentatious for some, but Podil is intimate and charm radiates from every street corner in the district.