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Eurovision 2017 in Kyiv /Kiev - things to Do, See and Eat like a local


Every year in May, one of European cities welcomes thousands of people who are coming to join the largest song contest on the continent (and beyond) - the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC).

In 2017, thanks to amazing Jamala and her song "1944", Ukraine will held the event.

Eurovision 2017 ESC Kyiv/Kiev Ukraine - Things to Do Eurovision Song Contest 2017 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Image by © Thomas Hanses / All Rights reserved

Quite often, a host city is an "unbeaten path" for many, that's why the Eurovision it's a good chance for visiting a new country for contest fans.

Because Kyiv is my hometown, I will tell you what to See and Do, Eat and Drink (and what to not) to be like a local in the Ukrainian capital. Plus safety tips and intolerance related questions. In one word - insider's guide.

Eurovision 2017 ESC Insider's Guide Where to go, what to Do in Kiev ESC 2017 logo at Independence Square in Kyiv. Image by © eurovision.ua / All Rights reserved

Be in Kyiv like a local during Eurovision 2017. Insider's Guide

Eurovision lasts for a week - two semi finals on Tuesday and Thursday and a Grand Final on Saturday Eve. 5 to 7 days gives you plenty of time to get acquainted with city's attractions between performances. Let's discover how to spend time in Kyiv interestingly:

Background. Understand Kyiv

To understand what is Kyiv, I'll give you a short description, with a bit of sugar, it's my hometown though :) salt goes further.

Green, Golden-roofed and Ancient, it lies on the banks of great Dnipro river - this is Kyiv, but it's too short description I think :)

So, Kyiv is the ancient capital with history begins since the 5th century (482 AD). It became connected with European monarchies by intermarriages of children of Prince of Kyiv, from the times when the city was the capital of powerful state aka Kyiv-Rus'. Like Kyiv's princess Anne, further the Queen and regent of France. You can find ancient buildings in the city centre, e.g. well-preserved millennial St. Sophia Cathedral or The Golden Gates of Kyiv.

eurovision 2017 where to go in kyiv st sophia St Sophia Square (Cathedral view) in Kyiv. Image by © beinsideukraine / All Rights reserved

Because Kyiv is the capital it reflects everything which happens in Ukraine. The city has a complex history. When the golden ages has passed, Kyiv was destroyed after the siege in 1240 by Mongol barbarians. Then many wanted Kyiv's lands: Poles, Turks, Russians and others. We were losing the power and taking it back. And then again and again. Until we recovered our sovereignty in 1991.

The city is green enough, especially beautiful during late Spring and Summer, and has a blooming chestnut as one of its symbols. Kyiv is devided by Dnipro river for left and right parts. Historical areas and the city centre are on the right. Here and there you might see the golden domes of churches.

eurovision 2017 View on Andrew's Church - Things to Do Kiev View at Andrew's Church. Upper Town(Old Kyiv). Image by © Oleg Stelmakh / All Rights reserved

Surely, Kyiv is home for art galleries and universities, events and clubs, it is cultural centre with many theaters and national Opera.

Though the city has many beautiful places, it's not ideal, after all nothing is ideal. Not well-groomed in some places, sometimes dirty. Despite of weak economy, Kyiv's streets are full of expensive cars which you may not see in old Europe. Hight level of corruption is the number one problem here.

Language

At first lets make it clear with the city's name. I'm sure you have seen two variants: Kyiv and Kiev. Well, both are correct, it's how the name sounds in different languages: first one (Kyiv) is in Ukrainian, and second (Kiev) is in Russian. Btw, both languages are in use by the citizens. If you are familiar with any of general phrases of these languages you will be understood here.

Now, English and the city: you might expect to hear it in return from the youth, but in general the level of knowledge is low. However most pointers in Kyiv are bilingual - in Ukrainian and English. Tip: don't forget Google Translate app at your smartphone.

Weather in Kyiv

The weather in Kyiv in May is almost summerly. An average temperature is about 22C, but may varies between 15C and 30C. Chance of rain is fifty fifty. Sunrise ~ 5.30am, Sunset ~ 9pm. All around blooms and smells sweet. May is time for lilacs and chestnuts to blossom, which are lots in Kyiv.

Main venues of Eurovision 2017

There are many locations for ESC in Kyiv - a place for contest itself, fan-zones across the city and the Eurovision Village. So it should be enough of space to Celebrate Diversity (2017 ESC theme).

The main arena with the stage where Eurovision 2017 will happen is the International Exhibition Centre on the left coast (15 Brovarskyi Avenue), near 'Livoberezhna' metro station (#124, red line). Euroclub, press-rooms etc. are at the Centre too.

The fan-zones and the Village are enclosed areas with wide screens and stages for performancers. Here guests can gather together for watching live events, listen singers and sing karaoke.

Their locations chosen in historical places: Khreschatyk street (for the Eurovision Village), st Sophia Square, Poshtova square and near ESC arena. Organizers say there will be a transfer transport between the fan-zones.

Money

Ukrainian currency is Hryvnia (UAH). There are many of currency exchange points in Kyiv. But choose those which are placed within hotels or malls, and better yet is a bank or ATM. Don't change money on the street. All supermarkets has POS terminals (accepts bank cards).

The average exchange rate for April 2017 was: 1EUR = 29UAH; 1USD= 26UAH. Thus to translate UAH price to EUR, just divide it to 29.

Transport in Kyiv

Taxi. Uber offers the most fair rates for a taxi ride in Kyiv. There is a cash option within the app for our city. The minimum price is 25UAH ~ €0.86 (UberX). An average distance with UberX costs 60UAH ~ €2.

Public transport. The main transport you might use are metro (subway) and busses.

Metro. Kyiv underground has a fixed rate for a ride, which is 4UAH ~ €0.14. Entry ticket is a plastic green token(coin). You can buy a pass-card and put as much rides as you will need (card price itself is 12UAH ~ €0.42 + rides). Also for Mastercard PayPass holders there is a pass point without need of buying tokens.

Kyiv metro has 3 lines which covers the most of the city on the both sides, with a ground part crossing Dnipro river by the bridge. The scheme of subway has English transliterations and a number near each station. The station names are announced during movement in Ukrainian and English.

The nearest station for ESC is 'Livoberezhna' (meaning left-coast) under number 124 on the red line. Ask for a free metro map (English version) at the ticket desk
Tip: choose the middle of the train, there is less people. The peak times are 8am-10am and 5.30pm-7pm Mon to Fri.

Buses are the second popular transport after the subway. Big ones are municipal, cost for a ride 3UAH~ €0.10. The most popular buses in Kyiv are the yellow express-buses, they stop on request with a price of 6UAH~€0.20.

Trams and Trolleybuses more in use in residential areas. Funicular, a cable railroad, for passing between attractions in old Kyiv.

River ships. For Eurovision ticket holders the organizers promised to launch river ships across Dnipro, from Kyiv's left side to the right one.

Hotels

There are many networks of hotels present in Kyiv: Hyatt(5star), Hilton(5star), Fairmont Grand Hotel (5stars) Radisson Blu Hotel(4stars) ParkInn, Intercontinental(5star) etc.

I think you know how to use booking.com for information and booking. Note that named above site informs that "Kiev is a top pick amongst travellers" during Eurovision, thus prices are higher than usual.

The closest to ESC arena are 3-star hotels Tourist and Bratislava. Standard Double Room here for 2,200-3,500UAH ~ €76-120 per day.

As for hostels, in european meaning (quality and cleanness for €20) - they are not developed well enough here. Try surf the web to find any suitable, closer to city centre are preferable (E.g. booking.com says DREAM House hostel has a score 9 of 10 based at ~ thousand and half visits, €9-31/dorm-twin)

Attractions in Kyiv

Kyiv has so many beautiful places, that I have to limit myself with the best ones. Now, shortly about what to expect:

Take a walk on the main street Khreschatyk and its surroundings. Then visit the oldest Kyiv cathedral of St Sophia and enjoy the view of city from its 76-meters bell tower. Go down by the picturesque Andrew's Descent, famous by its baroque-style church. Wonder of the House with Chimaeras.

Take a ride by the Funicular. Visit beautiful Gryshko Botanical Garden with amazing lilacs blooming in May. Make photos among fairy sculptures of Landscape Alley. Visit the Golden Gates of ancient Kyiv. Enjoy Kyivs greens at its central parks and pass the Bridge of Lovers.

Go to Kyiv contemporary Pinchuk Art Centre and smile at Gaptchinska Gallery. See daily Balloons Festival. Go shopping at Kyiv malls. And finally fresh yourself at city's beach clubs (if weather is fine) and enjoy Kyiv at night.

Now detailed:

Things to Do and See in Kyiv

Khreschatyk walk

Khreschatyk[Хрещатик] is the main street of Kyiv, 1.3km, with fountains and shops, it lies in the city centre between the European and Besarabska squares through the Independence square (the Maidan). It was completely destroed during World War 2 (in 1941) by the retreating russian troops and rebuilt in the neo-classical style.

Although the authentical Khreschatyk left on the photos only, the rebuilt street is a popular attraction among tourists. It is free of cars during the Eurovision and a place for the Eurovision Village. The Maidan (Independence square) which is in the middle of the street, is the place of mass protests called revolutions (2004 and 2014, both against pro-russian politic).

Eurovision 2017 ESC Kyiv Khreschatyk, Maidan - Things to Do Kiev The Maidan, view from Khreschatyk street, Kyiv. Image by © Oleg Stelmakh / All Rights reserved

Tip: Avoid any buyings at the Besarabsky Indoor Market which is located at the end of Khreschatyk. It has unreal hight prices for grocery products. You can buy the same, 10 times lower in any supermarket.

St Sophia Cathedral

If you go up from the Maidan you will get to a place where two squares are met into one magnificent area with the UNESCO's World Heritage site, millennial St Sophia Cathedral. The cathedral is one thousand years old, built during 1011-1018, with later changes. It has antique frescoes with the main of them - Oranta, under the dome.

Eurovision 2017 ESC Kyiv St Sophia Cathedral - Things to Do Kiev St Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv. Image by © Oleg Stelmakh / All Rights reserved

You may rest in cozy inner patio and then go up to cathedral's bell tower, built later in 1706, where from the height of 76 meters, observe the old town.

Notice that opposite of st Sohpia is located another one - St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery. Dated 1108, it captivates by its shining golds, but st Michael is not authentic (exept some saved frescoes inside), cause it was completely rebuilt after it was destroyed by russian's soviets in 1922.

Eurovision 2017 ESC Kyiv Michael's Golden Monastery - Things to Do Kiev St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery in Kyiv. Image by © Oleg Stelmakh / All Rights reserved

Andriivsky Uzviz (Andrew's Descent)

When you go further after the Michael's square you will face another ancient landmark - Andrew's Descent. It is a historic hill connecting the Upper City(Old Kyiv) with the Lower city (Podil, historic place for commerce and industry). The descent has a nickname - "Montmartre of Kyiv".

720 metres in length, Andrew's descent is a place for a couple of historical landmarks, including Andrew's Church, the most notable of them. The church is simply gorgeous, designed by the Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli, built during 1747-1762. It also a place for the Castle of Richard the Lionheart and Bulgakov's house.

Eurovision 2017 ESC Andrew's Descent and church - Things to Do Kiev Andrew's Church at Andrew's descent in Kyiv. Image by © Oleg Stelmakh / All Rights reserved

Landscape Alley

Landscape Alley (Peizazhna Alley) is a rest zone created on the site of the Upper's City defence walls. Nowadays it's a popular place because of its Children's Square with numerous sculptures of fairy characters. Like cat-centipede, rabbit-bench, zebra-fountain etc. A photo from here will please you a long time! The Alley is situated near beginning of Volodymyrska street.

Eurovision 2017 ESC Landscape Alley Kyiv - Things to Do Kiev Landscape Alley in Kyiv. Image by © nastidorosh / All Rights reserved

Golden Gate

The Golden Gates of Kyiv, founded in 1017, was the main gate to the walled city. Named similarly to the Golden Gate of Constantinople it served as the city's Triumphal Arch. Despite of rebuilding in 1982, the saved original walls are present in the inner museum.

Location: 40A Volodymyrska St, "Zoloti Vorota" metro station. Note that named metro station is stylized on the internal decorations of that time, looks very nice and worth a visit.

House with Chimaeras

[Budynok z Hymeramy] or Horodecki House is an unusual building at Art Nouveau style, impressive by its decorations depicting exotic animals and hunting scenes. The house was build by the Polish architect Wladyslaw Horodecki during 1901-1902.

Eurovision 2017 ESC House with Chimaeras - Things to Do Kiev The House with Chimaeras in Kyiv. Image by © yanataranenkoo / All Rights reserved

Because of its unique architectural style Horodetcki earned praise as the Antoni Gaudi of Kyiv. House with Chimaeras located in the city centre, in the government area at 10 Bankova street, opposite the presidential office.

Volodymyr Cathedral and nearby Botanic Garden

When you go up from the Bessarabska square, in the end of Khreschatyk, past the Premier Palace Hotel you'll face the greens of Taras Shevchenko Park and the same name, Red building University. Upper from this place is located beautiful St Volodymyr Patriarchal Cathedral.

The cathedral opened in 1896, designed in neo-Byzantine style, has the colorful interior, painted by Vasnetsov, Pymonenko, Vrubel and others. With Venetians mosaics and beautiful frescoes. The cathedral is impressive indeed. It is working and serves the religious ceremonies. Location: Shevchenko Blvd, 20 ("Univesytet" metro station).

Meet the nature at the Fomin Botanical Garden, which is opposite of the Volodymyr Cathedral, beautiful and one of the oldest gardens of Ukraine.

Mariyinsky Palace and its Park

This 2 floor Baroque Palace, designed by Bartolomeo Rastrelli was ordered to be constructed by the Russian Empress and completed in 1752.

The palace is on reconstruction till 2019, thus enjoy its facade and walk in the old surrounding park with fountains and the viewpoint for the left coast. Palace location: near parliament, 5 Grushevskogo street.

Hryshko Botanical Garden

This place is must visited in May. The garden has one of the best viewpoints of the city and at this time it literally drowns among the blooming lilacs. Very beautiful and aromatic place.

Eurovision 2017 ESC Gryshko botanical garden - Things to Do Kiev Blooming Lilacs at Gryshko Botanical Garden in Kyiv. Image by © gaid.in.ua / All Rights reserved

Except the Lilac garden, it has the gardens of Magnolias, Roses, Jasmine, Trees and Lianas, thematic expositions of flowers and plants of Caucasus, Crimea, Central Asia, Altai, Far East and anything you can imagine. Hryshko Botanical Garden is charming place and one of the biggest in Europe. Location: 1 Tymiryazevska street.

Balloons festival

Organizers promises daily Balloon Festival dedicated to Eurovision 2017. There must be forty something Balloons flying 2 times a day, each one for participating country.

Funicular ride

Take a ride at Kyiv Funicular, opened in 1905 cable railroad which connects the historic Upper Town (Sophia area), and the Lower Town (the Poshtova Square in the Podil). The 3 minutes ride between its 2 stations cost 3UAH ~ €0.10

Pinchuk Art Centre

Is an international centre for contemporary art of the 21st century, opened in 2006. Located in the city centre, in the end of Khreschatyk near Bessarabska square, in the Arena City.

The centre is one of the largest private museum in Eastern Europe, 3,000 square meters of exhibitions. Entrance is free. Open hours: 12pm to 9pm. It has presented nearly 25 major exhibitions, showing the works of Antony Gormley, Andreas Gursky, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Serhiy Bratkov, Damian Ortega, Takashi Murakami and many others. Did you know that Kazimir Malevich known by his "Black square" was born in Kyiv?, now you know :)

Gapchiska Gallery

Supplier of Happiness number one - this is how name herself the artist Eugenia Gapchinska. It is difficult to confuse her works with any others - amazing little people with naive, children's signatures. Like "You and me", "My chocolate Ice cream", "Mama bought me the panties in roses".

eurovision 2017 kyiv where to go gapchinska art gallery Gapchinska Arts. Image by © gapchinska / All Rights reserved

Her positive artworks you will find (and can buy) at her Gallery at the Mikhailovska 16 street, the 1st floor.

Not recommend:

I do not recommend visit Lavra (Kyiv Pechersk Lavra) a popular complex of churches, seen from the left coast. There are 2 reasons to avoid it: first Lavra is a place of "haters", their servants and congregation (still ruled by Moscow) are against everything "western" as they say. They even did not allow Pope John Paul II to enter Lavra as a tourist during his visit to Kyiv.

Second reason, since most people are not pilgrims it is more than enough to see st Sophia and Volodymyr Cathedrals, Andrew's Church: first one is older than lavra, last two are more beautiful. Though Lavra is architecturally nice.

Also there is no reason to visit the Motherland statue, a giant monument seen from the left coast too. It has no artistic value.

eurovision 2017 kyiv where to go pechersk lavra motherland View of Kiev Pechersk Lavra and Motherland Statue. Image by © beinsideukraine / All Rights reserved

Finally avoid "Hidropark" beaches, first it is early for swimming yet, and there is dirty. You won't find a normal toilet there.

To Eat and Drink: Local Food

Ukrainian cuisine is reach and tasty with various dishes on any taste. I would suggest 4 items of food to nessesarily try in Kyiv: "Kyiv's Cutlet" (Chicken Kyiv), national red soup named "Borsch" (with a piece of "Salo") and Ukrainian dessert "Vareniki" with cherries.

Now a few words about each of them. First one is "Kyiv's Cutlet" or "Chicken Kyiv" in English - tender meat of chicken breast, coated in breadcrumbs and eggs with butter inside (cheese sometimes) for juice effect. Slice it carefully cause warm butter may splash on you. Served with a garnish of potatoes and vegetables.

chicken kyiv eat food during eurovision 2017 Chicken Cutlet to try in Kyiv. Image by © kievtravelblog.com / All Rights reserved

The second one to try is "Borsch" - Ukrainian red soup made of vegetables. The classic ingredients are cabbage, beets, potatoes, carrots, onions, tomatoes and greenery. It is the beet and tomatoes that gives Borsch the red color. It may be on vegetable or meat bouillon. I prefer more vegetable one, because meat mutes the taste of vegetables in this soup.

The right Borsch (for my taste) should be not dense served with a spoon of cold Sour cream atop, with a black Ukrainian bread made of rye flour. Ideally would be to put a piece of white frozen "Salo" on the bread with a garlic.

Now what is "Salo" you may ask - it is another national delicacy made of pig's fat. But an important here is to how "Salo" made. To beeing delicacy it must be white (not yellow), it must be frozen before cutting - in this way Salo is sweet and creamy otherwise you better not try it.

Finally, our dessert "Vareniki" (Varenyky) - it is the filling wrapped in dough, then boiled in water. The filling may be different, varies from potatoes or cottage cheese to berries. Try Vareniki with cherries. Warm Vareniki served with cold sour cream atop. Delicious!

eurovision 2017 kyiv food eat vareniki with cherries Varenyky with Cherries. Image by © vkusnodoma / All Rights reserved

What DO NOT eat in Kyiv: Avoid "Kyiv Cake" - the branded cake, once very tasty but now it is manufactured as over-sweet. Also street food - unsafe here. Like Perepichka or any fried or boiled dough selling on the streets. Unless it has the known manufacturer.

Best way for a snack is numerous fast foods/pizzerias like McDonalds or local brands. Meal from supermarkets is fine too (avoid prepared food section).

To end up with this gastronomy section let's see What to Drink in Kyiv. There is no branded Kyiv beverage. Popular alcohol is local Gorilka, same as vodka (40 degrees). It has many varies: Gorilka on Honey, with piper etc

Non alcoholic are Uzvar(compote made of dried fruits), Kvass (fermented beverage, local cider made of rye bread, contain 1% of alcohol), Mineral Waters of western Ukraine (Mirgorodska, Morshinska TMs) and Kefir (fermented milk drink, slightly alcoholic, contain useful Probiotics, try 2.5% fat Yagotinskiy[Яготинський], Prostokvashino[Простоквашино] TMs). Everything named above can be found at supermarket, exept Uzvar, ask the last at cafe/restaraunt.

And the very finally :), since it's May now, try local Ice Cream. Avoid vegetable fats among ingredients, like palm oil, try made of milk only, in chocolate glaze, Eskimo pie - Kashtan[Каштан] and Chocolate Kashtan (in form of sausage) by Hladik[хладиk] - very tasty, for 11UAH ~ €0.38

Note on Safety in Kyiv

Here, I'd like to tell about two things:

Ukraine and Russia

First thing is about Ukraine and Russia relations. You might heard many times in the news about Ukrainian mass protests in 2014, Crimea peninsula annexation by Russian troops and further conflict on the eastern Ukraine.

If describe in two words - there is an armed military aggression of Russia and its troops on the east of our country. Fueled by endless fakes and disinformation. What you need to remember here is that Kyiv lies 600 km away from the war zone, which is like a distance of all Germany in wide. Thus there is no war and militaries in Kyiv.

Gay topic and Intolerance in Kyiv

Another aspect of safety to notice is (in)tolerance. There is an opinion that many Eurovision fans are gay people, I don't know if it's truth, and personally I don't care about it. However, note that Ukrainian society is homophobic and not tolerant to many "different".

We love to say that we are Europeans (meaning in all senses, emphasizing more modernity in contrast to neighbor Russia), but in fact when it comes to personal freedoms, Ukrainians are as conservative (in its worst meaning) and intolerant as Russians.

And if you think that it isn't about you, I will tell about a situation I saw at Kyiv's metro carriage this year in late April: when a boy, who was dancing (in fact just slow moving under music of his earphones) and not interfered anybody, was suddenly beaten by a "jerk" standing with a bear, and aggressively screaming abuse hinting on boy's orientation (poor boy even did not look as someone who may be visually considered as such).

That is why it is enough to be "different" to get in trouble here. Surely, anything and anyone "bad" are more notable than something good, and we can't judge everyone by one "jerk". But generally, speaking about our society views, seeing local media and social polls, keep in mind this notice about intolerance.

Oh, and if you'll decide to walk with a rainbow flag, as seen at Eurovision lately, be ready to be "hunted" by local "heroes" (as seen during Kyiv pride), police not intervening, and next place you will see is hospital, which is not looks/feels on European level. Btw, organizers recommends to address a private clinic Boris, if needed (for those with a medical insurance). One word, Good Luck, sad but this is reality.

Time Zone and Phones

Kyiv goes ahead of Greenwich for two hours (UTC+2, +3 Oct to Mar), e.g. when in Kyiv 12pm, in London it's 12-2= 10am.

Phone code for the city is +38 044. General emergencies: 101.

***

It turned out that the most hard is to write about your hometown. You know it perfectly and you think it's bigger, nicer and better. But when you are trying to look at the city objectively, by the eyes of a tourist, you notice all its limitations and disadvantages. Thus I was trying to be honest about Kyiv.

And despite of all minuses, Kyiv is beautiful, and slowly becomes more European city. To make things faster, I wish everyone here to do their jobs professionally, like Jamala doing her arts. Thus Welcome in Kyiv and happy travels!

eurovision 2017 where to go in kyiv landscape alley Landscape Alley in Kyiv. Image by © beinsideukraine / All Rights reserved
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