10 Ways to Explore Kiev (Kyiv) including a famous Chicken & Chernobyl


A Green, golden-domed and old city - that's the traditional description of Kiev (Kyiv). My hometown, and the capital of Ukraine. Surely it's the simplified definition, so let's figured out how the things are (and what a chicken has to do with it all :)

But first, I'll answer the most frequent questions about Kiev (Kyiv), because it's still an unbeaten path for many. Although lately the city hosted such big events like the Eurovision Song Contest 2017 and 2018 UEFA Champions League final, there is still work to be done to become truly friendly for tourists.

Kiev (Kyiv) things to do landscape alley Landscape Alley in Kiev(Kyiv). Image by © Artmari(shtterstock)

Kiev or Kyiv?

Well, both names are correct, though Kyiv is more accurate. The thing is how the name sounds in different languages: first one (Kyiv) is in Ukrainian, and second (Kiev) is in Russian.

HBO Chernobyl and Kiev

In 2019 the miniseries about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of April 1986 has conquered the world. The story is about the tragedy happened near the city of Pripyat at the 4th nuclear reactor in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. About regular people who was fighting with radiation and those soviet authorities who caused the tragedy.

Now, Where is Chernobyl and What it has to do with Kiev (Kyiv) you may ask? Simple. That city of Pripyat and the Chernobyl NPP itself lies 94 km of the Ukrainian capital. And after HBO's premiere, many tourists want to visit the nuclear station. To see the affected zone.

Now think. What they expect to see there? Radiation? It's invisible. Moreover, such visits could be dangerous for health cause of radioactive elements which polluted the area. However there are rules for a safe trip to the NPP. And those who really interested can see radiation's affect on the environment and feel time which frozen up around.

As for the museum of Chernobyl in Kyiv, Khoryv Lane 1, it isn't as much interesting as it could be (in terms of interactivity) - documents and photos mostly, some models. No info in English, though you can pay for an audio guide.

What Kiev weather like?

Kiev has all four seasons: hot summer (~33C) and cold winter(~ -12C) with soft spring and fall (~10-15C)

In general the weather in Kiev is alike in countries of Europe. In summer it can be as hot here as in Madrid or Athens. Or cold winter days happen like in Zurich or Warsaw.

Is Kiev(Kyiv) safe?

Generally, yes. The city lies 600 km away of the war zone (regarding russian armed aggression in the two eastern regions of Ukraine, since 2014). But a criminal situation isn't good, more in the end.

Kiev Pechersk lavra church complex at night Kiev pechersk lavra church complex. Image by © Oleg Stelmakh

Things to do in Kiev (Kyiv), Food & Attractions

Let's see where to go/see/do and what to avoid

1Khreschatyk walk and Surroundings

Khreschatyk is the main street of Kyiv, 1.3km, with shops and fountains, it connects three city centre squares including the Independence square (the Maidan). It was completely destroyed during World War 2 (in 1941) by the retreating Moscow ruled troops and rebuilt in the neo-classical style.

Although authentic Khreschatyk left on the photos only, the rebuilt street is a popular attraction among tourists. It is free of cars during big events and popular for shopping (TSUM, an old central mall, ZARA etc). The Maidan (Independence square) which is in the middle of the street, is a place of mass protests called revolutions (2004 and 2014, both against pro-russian politic).

khreschatyk in Kiev Kyiv The Maidan, view from Khreschatyk street. Image by © Oleg Stelmakh

Wherever you go from Khreschatyk, left or right, you'll reach its beautiful surrounding, it's the city centre though.

Tip: Avoid any buying 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.

2St 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.

St Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, Kyiv St Sophia Cathedral. Image by © Oleg Stelmakh

You may rest in its 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.

And in winter, a square in front of St Sophia is the place for a beautiful Christmas tree and market. I featured it among top 10 Christmas Places to celebrate.

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

Kiev Michael Golden Monastery St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery. Image by © Oleg Stelmakh

3Chicken Kiev, Borsch and Vareniky

So here it is. A chicken! What has to do it with Kyiv? The answer is - it's a city's brand food. That simple :) You can eat tasty in Kyiv for sure, and I would suggest 4 items of food to necessarily try here: Chicken Kiev (Kiev's Cutlet), Ukrainian red soup named Borsch (with a piece of Salo) and our dessert Vareniki with cherries.

Chicken Kiev is a 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 kiev, food Chicken Kiev, a famous Cutlet to try. Image by © kievtravelblog.com

Borsch - our classic red soup made of vegetables. It is a beet and tomatoes give Borsch its color. As on my taste, it must be not dense, with a spoon of cold sour cream atop. Tastes good with a black rye bread and a piece of white frozen Salo (pig's fat) and garlic

Finally, eat Varenyky (Vareniki) for dessert, it's boiled dough with different fillings inside - potatoes, cottage cheese or berries. Try with Cherries, delicious!

Kiev food, vareniki with cherries Varenyky with Cherries. Image by © vkusnodoma

Food to Avoid in Kiev:(1) Perepichka - overfried sausage, this street food has nothing to do with Kiev, and in general street food isn't safe here (2) Kiev Cake is our brand cake, but now they make it too sweet.

4Andriivskiy Uzviz

If you go further Sophia (after Michael's square) you will face another 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.

Andrew s Descent and church in Kiev Andrew's Church and descent. Image by © Oleg Stelmakh

5Funicular Ride and Podil

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 costs ~ €0.15

An inner station of Funicular leads to Podil, a historical place in Kiev which was known for trade and industry. Nowadays it's the place for churches, Poshtova (Postal) and Kontraktova (Contract) squares, and Fairmont Grand Hotel which nicely backlighted at night.

6Landscape Alley and Kyiv greens

Landscape Alley (Peizazhna Alley) is a rest zone created on a 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 a 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.

Landscape Alley in Kiev, Kyiv Landscape Alley. Image by © nastidorosh

From Spring to Fall you may rest in numerous green zones of the city - its parks and botanic gardens. Consider a visit to greens of Taras Shevchenko Park in the city centre and Mariinskiy Park. Meet the nature at the Fomin Botanical Garden (Universitet metro station). And if in May, go to Hryshko Botanical Garden which is literally drowning among blooming lilacs

7House with Chimaeras

House with Chimaeras 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 Polish architect Wladyslaw Horodecki during 1901-1902.

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.

House with Chimaeras in Kiev designed by Horodetcki The House with Chimaeras. Image by © yanataranenkoo

8Pinchuk Art Centre and Gapchinska Gallery

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 :)

Supplier of Happiness number one - this is how name herself an 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".

gapchinska art gallery, kiev Gapchinska Arts. Image by © gapchinska

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

9Hidden gems of Kyiv

I think every city has attractions which aren't seen from the first glance. To see them you should find them first. Such hidden gems can be found in Kyiv too.

Like modern murals, giant paintings on the walls of buildings. Painted by authors from Spain, Portugal, US, Belgium, Canada etc. In the city centre you may see these street art works at: 12 Ivan Franko st, 5 Lesi Ukrainky Boulevard, 13 Lypynskoho st, 138 Antonovycha st. (see the brightest of them here)

Or cross the Bridge of Lovers (Park Bridge officially, built 1910), which connects the beautiful City Park and Khreshchaty Park

Finally, even big buildings can stand in shade and then surprise one when suddenly being seen. Like an impressive Gothic st Nicholas Cathedral, which stands not in an open-air space, like a square, but actually clamped between neighboring houses.

st nicholas cathedral in kiev st Nicholas cathedral. Image by © annasedokova

10Giant soviet Monuments & modern Shopping Malls

Because Kiev was ruled by Moscow for three centuries, including a soviet period, the city is full of monuments that evidence that time. Like a giant monument of the Motherland statue, dedicated to victory in WW2. Although it has no artistic value, it might be interesting for guests to see.

motherland statue in kiev Motherland statue(top). Image by © Oleg Stelmakh

Another big in size attractions, but modern ones, are shopping malls. An ideal place for those who can't resist to buy not souvenirs only. If you're that kind of person, consider a visit to Ocean Plaza (near Lybidska metro station), the second largest mall in Kiev, represents about 420 brands.

ocean plaza shopping mall in Kiev Ocean Plaza Mall. Image by © oceanplaza.com.ua

***

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

Like will be fair to add that a criminal situation on city's streets isn't good according to official statistics and media. E.g. (from early 2019) a guy from the Voice was beaten for nothing in a metro carriage. Or a man was attacked by aggressive youth in the city centre. Although every megapolis has criminals, but here police won't investigate for real. All they usually do is a record about hooliganism. I'm not saying that it's on every corner, just don't relax too much :)

However, despite of minuses, Kyiv is beautiful, and slowly becomes more European city. Thus Welcome to Kyiv and happy travels!

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