Visit Kiev Travel Guide

Visit Kiev (Kyiv), Ukraine

Even if Kiev, or the Ukraine in general, may not be on your tourist radar, maybe it should be! We were totally taken by surprise by travel in the Ukraine, and Kiev being the capital city is brimming with fantastic sights and attractions.

We know that Ukraine has certainly had it’s problems in the past. The secessionist movement and loss of the Crimea to Russia was a major blow to both the national psyche and international tourism. However, Ukraine is a beautiful country filled with amazing sights, delicious food, and friendly people and unless you need to go to some of the troubled regions, your trip to Ukraine will be completely safe and highly rewarding. The capital, Kiev (or Kyiv as it is known to locals), is the natural starting point for any visit to the country so we’ve created this Kiev travel guide to help visitors get the most out of their time there. So, with our help, start planning your visit to Kiev now.

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Things to do in Kiev - Churches and Cathedrals

The golden domed towers sparkle on the Kiev skyline.

One of our goals, after moving to our current location in Germany near the Czech border, was to visit as many Eastern Europe countries as possible. Travel in these former, Soviet countries is fascinating and completely different than other parts of Europe. It’s always interesting to see the changes and hear the stories of life in these places that were off limits to us for so long. In every case we discover that people are the same everywhere, they have pride in their homes and countries and are often eager to share and show off what they have to visitors. We’ve found this to be true in so many places including Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, and now Ukraine.

Kiev tourist sites includes Independence Square

Independence Square, in the center of the city, was our first stop!

You just might want to pin these so you don’t forget to plan for a trip to Kiev, Ukraine

Kiev, fresh and surprising...real travel. Plan a visit to Ukraine! Kiev, fresh and surprising...real travel. Plan a visit to Ukraine!

 

Kiev was almost completely destroyed during the World War Two, so most of what you see today is newer construction or reconstruction. Many of the major sights, such as St. Sophia’s Cathedral, have survived (almost inexplicably considering the waves of destruction that have passed over the city) and are shining examples of Ukrainian heritage. The city today is an eclectic mix of medieval, Baroque, Soviet, and modern day architecture with an oddly charming character inherited from sporadic green spaces, vast open public squares, marching concrete block apartment buildings, and rare neighborhood jewels.

Top Things To Do In Kiev

Jim standing in front of I love Kyiv sign.

Take the obligatory “I heart Kyiv” selfie…at one of the Kyiv hot spots.

Kyiv Pechersk Lavra (Kiev Monastery of the Caves)

UNESCO World Heritage Site inscribe on the list in 1990 along with St. Sophia, Pechersk Lavra is the most important historical site in the city. There are two parts here, the caves underground where visitors can view mummified monks, underground chapels, and religious icons and the above ground museum complex. You could easily spend an entire day here, exploring the caves, visiting the various museums, and succumbing to the enchanting meelodies and scented incensed interiors of the churches and cathedrals.

Lavrska St, 15, Kyiv, Ukraine, 01015
Bus Stop: Kyievo-Pecherska lavra; 24, 24A, 38

 the gorgeous gold and silver icons and colorful frescoes found throughout Kyiv Pechersk Lavra

Kiev Pechersk Lavra complex includes the beautifully restored Cathedral of the Assumption

Micro-Miniatures Museum

One of Kiev's attractions is the amazing micro-miniatures museum shown here

Inside the Kiev Micro-miniatures museum. You won’t spend much time here, but I guarantee you will be amazed.

One of the must see Kiev museums, the Micro-miniature Museum, is also found in the Kiev Pechersk Lavra Cultural and Historical Reserve. The collection here is made up of the incredibly diminutive works of Mykola Syadristy. There’s not much to see here, pardon the pun, but the collection of impossibly small sculptures blew my mind. Definitely include this in your visit to the monastery grounds.

Lavrska St, 15, Kyiv, Ukraine, 01015
Bus Stop: Kyievo-Pecherska lavra; 24, 24A, 38

Ukrainian Treasures Museum

Crown and skeleton in the National Treasures Museum

Looking for things to do in Kiev? Check out the National Treasures Museum! It provides an eye-opening trip through Ukrainian history

Another must see museum in the Pecersk Lavara complex. Filled with treasures from all eras of Ukrainian history. It includes treasure and hordes from stone age, neolithic, Scythian, Vikings, Mongolian, Jewish and Christian Ukrainians. This is an amazing collection with well signed and carefully thought out presentations.

Lavrska St, 15, Kyiv, Ukraine, 01015
Bus Stop: Kyievo-Pecherska lavra; 24, 24A, 38

Andriivsky Uzviz (Andrews Descent)

Kiev street art

Street art on Andrews Descent, one of the best in the city.

Perhaps the best colleciton of older Kiev architecture can be found in the Podil neighborhood and along Andrews Descent. This is the perfect place to get a glimpse of what Kiev might have been like before the Soviets and Germans, before the Battle of Kiev laid waste to so much of the city. Sitting like a jewel at the top of the hill, overlooking all of the Baroque splendor below, sits the colorfully extravagant Saint Andres cathedral. At the bottom of the hill, stop in at the One Street Museum with its collection of artifacts showing what life was like during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Kiev,

Cooking Lessons

We always try to book a cooking lesson, and this one was fantastic in our guide’s house. As you know, we love those dumplings and just had to make the Ukrainian version called Varenyky. It’s always so much fun to hang out in the kitchen, meeting new friends, sharing stories about food and family, and, of course, trying new dishes. Don’t be shy, put on an apron, and get in there!

Kiev cooking lessons - Jim cracks an egg

Learning to make varenyky and borscht. When in Ukraine, cook and eat like a Ukrainian!

Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square)

Visit Kiev highlights like Independence Square

In many ways this is the heart of the city where revolutions have started and ended. This is the place to go in the evening for some interesting people watching and the fountain music and light show must be seen and experienced to be believed. If you’re in Kiev during the summer months, don’t miss the nightly show.

Bus/Metro: Maidan Nezalezhnosti; 24, 114, M2

Try The National Dish

What to eat in Kiev? Borscht of course.

Ukrainian borscht is the national dish for a good reason!

I couldn’t get enough borscht on our trip to Kiev. I have had this earthy, delicious soup in several countries, but Ukrainian borscht is reportedly the original and, I have to say, it is my favorite. The sweet and tangy clear sangria-colored broth with just the right amount of vegetables, meat, and herbs combine into a subtle, mouthwatering treat. I found the best borscht was the pot we made during our cooking lesson; homemade is always best.

Kiev Tourist Information

Kiev is a large sprawling city with nearly 3 million inhabitants. Most of the tourist attractions are found in the central district, however, and getting around is pretty easy. Most visitors will find Kiev a very affordable, inexpensive city. Hotels, food, shopping, are all found at prices much lower than in western European countries.

Kiev attractions - shopping at Zhitnii Market

Shopping in the Zhitnii Market offers a chance to rub elbows with the locals and really spread your dollar or euro far.

Getting to Kiev

Kiev Boryspil (KBP) Airport and Kiev Zhuliany (IEV) Airport provide air connections to the rest of the world. Most international flights go in and out of Boryspil about 35 km from the city center. Wizz Air, however, is a cheap airlines that connects to several other European destinations and it flies in to Zhuliany. Other good options with affordable flights include Ukraine International Air and Smart Wings. There have been rumors of a Ryanair flight for a few years now, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Getting Into Kiev From The Airport

After collecting bags at Boryspil and exiting through customs, just head outside from the arrivals hall in terminal D. Here you’ll find line 322, the Kyiv Sky Bus, which will whisk you off into the city for a mere 80 UAH (about $2). Buy your tickets on board from the driver and then settle in for the ride. It takes about an hour to get to the central train station. At Zhuliany, passengers exit arrivals and hop aboard From there you can use the metro or bus to get to your final destination. Alternatively, you can take a taxi for about 400 UAH (about $15) or an Uber for a little less. Check with your hotel, as well, since most will happily arrange your transfer.

A Baroque tower in Kiev.

The architecture of this beautiful city is one of the biggest draws to Kyiv.

Navigating Your Way To Kiev Attractions

Transportation in Kiev is cheap by most European or US standards. A bus or metro ticket costs less than a dollar and can take you pretty much anywhere in the city. The buses are a range of soviet era, belching diesel beasts all the way up to sleek and modern electric trolleys. Google maps covers the public transportation in the Kiev pretty well, so it is pretty easy to navigate your way around the city. Tickets for the bus system can be bought at small kiosks found near many bus stops or, even easier, aboard the bus. Just look for the attendant wearing an official looking vest. Don’t forget to validate your ticket immediately to avoid an uncomfortable situations and possible fines.

Power tip: Buy several tickets at once so you don’t have to fumble around for small notes or cause delays for other passengers while the attendant counts out your change.

Kiev Weather

Kiev is pretty far north, at 50 degrees it is similar to Frankfurt, London, or Calgary. Its long, hot summer days are sometimes too hot (we were there during a horrible heat wave) and the short, cold winter days can be blustery and bone chilling. The best seasons, of course are spring and fall if that fits into your travel schedules.

Police Cars in front of a statue in Kiev, Ukraine

Kiev Food Guide

As we mentioned earlier, eating out in Kiev is inexpensive with a large variety of delicious options available. Some of our favorites are listed here.

Ostannya Barykada or OB
This hidden, themed bar and restaurant showcases modern Ukrainian food in a historical setting. Don’t be surprised if your waiter or waitress offers a tour of the place when you enter. There are a number of artifacts on display from the revolutions that have rocked the city over the past several decades. The food and cocktails are excellent, but you won’t get through the secret entrance if you don’t know the password!

Puzata Hata
Kontraktova Square, 2/1, Kyiv, Ukraine, 04070
+380 44 391 4699 (Walk ins welcome)
We ate at the Globus mall Puzata Hata on our first night. We were amazed at the quantities, selection and prices of these traditional Ukrainian dishes served up cafeteria style. There is another, larger branch near Andrew’s Descent.

Syndicate Beer & Grill
Mykhaila Omelianovycha-Pavlenka St, 4/6, Kyiv, Ukraine, 02000
+380 50 307 5793 (Reservations recommended)
This modern brew pub with a delicious selection of beer serves some tasty Ukrainian and international dishes. Prices are a little higher here, but the decor and food is top notch.

Panda Ice Cream – We loved stopping in at this small, cute, friendly, yummy gelato shop right across the street from our apartment. The weather outside was hot beyond imagining, but the sweet, creamy gelato was cool and refreshing with a surprising mix of traditional and non-traditional flavors.

Ukrainian hand-painted eggs.

Ukrainian hand-painted eggs. Look closely, some tours offer these lessons as well.

Kiev City Center Hotels

Ukraina Hotel

Crystal Hotel

Grata Apartments – This is an old apartment building right in the center…we loved it.

Kiev Airport Hotel

Raziotel

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27 Comments

  1. We ALMOST went to Kiev in 1985, then John got offered a job in Glasgow and all travel was put on hold. I still regret not going – and it’s still on the list. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Great info on an awesome overlooked destination! I will have to pass on the borscht though unfortunately, I’ve always had an extreme hatred of beets no matter how hard I try to like them. Keep up the good work!

  3. Kiev looks absolutely lovely, so much to see, do and eat (especially borch!! I LOVE that dish!) I’ve had the opportunity to travel a bit in Lithuania, Poland and Bulgaria and can’t wait for my next opportunity to visit Eastern Europe. I’ll definitely refresh this article if I make it to Kiev!

  4. Nice post. We live in Kyiv so good to hear of more people visiting. By the way, the Skybus takes you to the Southern train station, and you have to get on the metro to to centre as it’s quite far south. Who did you do the tour with?

  5. I love the Ukraine especially the western parts like L’viv and Uzhhorod. I been to Kyiv a few times and its alright, but there is a lot of people there trying to scam tourists and make extra money. Lucky I speak Russian and spent a heck of a lot of time in Russia and surrounding countries to know the score. 🙂 I will return there one day as I need to do Cheynobyl. Good to see you made the caves in the monastery, a lot of visitors tend to miss that for some reason 🙁

  6. Ironically, I was just talking with a friend last night about visiting Ukraine. For the record, I am a pirogi guy and not a borscht guy, no disrespect intended for the national dish. I would also pick up painted eggs for everybody on the trip. The colorful folk art is one of my favorite parts of Ukraine.

  7. Especially the monastry, but also the treasure museum look sooo beautiful, already that would be a reason to visit. What a wonderful idea that you are taking cooking classes when travelling – I’ve never done that but might add it to my itineraries. I appreciate how informative and thorough your post is put together – great work!

    1. Thank you! Yes, taking cooking lessons is now one of my favorite things to do, because we are often in someone’s home. You really get a good conversation going and learn so much more about the place and the people that way.

  8. I love the Eastern Orthodox church architecture. The mix with the communist era styles is very interesting. I have never tried borscht but I’ll give anything a try once 🙂

  9. Thanks for a look into Ukraine. I had been wondering how it looks and feels, getting just negative news. Love the Cathedral, am awed at that Andrews Descent street art, and would love to taste borscht!

  10. It looks like there is a lot to see and do around Kiev. The national treasure museum looks fascinating, as does the Micro Miniatures Museum. What a great opportunity to have a cooking class hosted by a local. I agree the borscht looks pretty amazing. And as a fan of budget travel, it’s great to hear that public transportation is so economical and will get you most everywhere you want to go.

  11. The Ukraine is such an amazing place to visit with so much to do. It’s cool you did cooking classes, food is such an important part of a countries culture and I think cooking classes are a great way to get to know it!

  12. Great article. My husband had been to Kiev few years back but he did not bring many photos. Today, I got to see the place through your photos.

  13. Loved reading this post about Kiev. Ukraine is such a lovely country which probably has not received its due as a tourist destination. The buildings and churches of Kiev look so grand and magnificent. It has such an alluring old world charm. Your guide is really useful as we do not have much information about the place available online.

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