The capital and largest city in Ukraine has a population of 3 million people, requiring a minimum of 3-4 days to explore the main highlights.
Dating back to the 5th century, Kiev is one of the oldest cities in Eastern Europe. Due to its location straddling Europe and Asia, Kiev was frequently under attack by different groups of invaders. After reaching a ‘golden age’ in the 10th-13th centuries, Kiev was overrun by the Mongols. Not long after, Kiev was merged with the kingdom of Lithuania before eventually falling under Russian control. Ukraine finally re-gained independence in 1991.
Today, the city is a mix of modernity with a distinctly soviet feel. It’s an interesting place to explore.
This spacious city blends together cathedrals, monasteries, skyscrapers and old communist buildings.
The top thing to see in Kiev is Pechersk Lavra, an orthodox christian monastery. Located near the Dnieper River in a complex containing multiple churches with gold domes, this area looks like something you’d find in Thailand!
The Pechersk Lavra complex was founded in 1051 and also includes an underground cave monastery. Due to the caves’ cool and dry temperature, visitors can see about 20 mummified priests and saints which have been naturally preserved. Furthermore, despite being an area where tourists can enter, there are still around 100 active monks in the UNESCO monastery residence!
Cost: It costs 60 UAH ($3 cdn) to enter the grounds and an additional fee to go down into the caves. Entrance into the caves closes at 2:30pm so plan your visit accordingly.
After you get your fill of gold-domed cathedrals and mummified priests, the Motherland Statue and War Memorial Museum are a short 10-minute walk away.
This 62-meter tall statue overlooks the Dnieper river and stands guard over the war museum, located underneath.
Introduced in 1981, the Motherland Monument is a relic from the Soviet era. In 2015, Ukraine outlawed Soviet and Communist symbols but the Motherland Monument remains today since it is associated with WWll and WWll statues are apparently ok.
The War Memorial Museum is located underneath the Motherland Monument. It costs 10 UKH ($1.50 cdn) to enter and takes 1.5 – 2 hours to explore the 18 different galleries.
The museum shows how Kiev was almost completely destroyed during the German invasion of WWll and includes an incredible array of artifacts, photos and weapons used during the war.
Without a doubt, this is one of the most impressive museums I have ever seen!
Outside of Pechersk Lavra and the War Memorial Museum, you’ll want to head to the area around Independence Square. Here, you’ll find iconic churches mixed in with a metropolitan city centre.
Kiev was the 3rd largest city in the Soviet Union and it’s common to see gigantic Soviet monuments scattered about…. Just as long as they pertain to the war effort and not communism…
Additionally, in typical soviet fashion, Kiev has a modern metro system. While not on par with Moscow, Russia , the Kiev metro is nothing to sneeze at…
After hours spent checking out the main areas of Kiev, some traditional Ukrainian food beckons.
Delicious and (very!) cheap, Ukrainian food is quite hearty and rich…
.. But good luck reading the receipt…..
While not essential, if you find yourself with an extra day in Kiev, visiting the Mezhyhirya Residence is an excellent option.
Located just outside of the city, this lavish estate housed former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych for 12 years during his time in office. After he fled the country during the 2014 revolution, the state decided to open up the grounds for tourism.
The estate includes a golf course, multiple ponds, a boxing ring, a garage full of vintage cars and a zoo. It’s understandable to see why Ukrainian’s were a little upset over the allocation of tax dollars…
Kiev is a fascinating city that should absolutely be included on your travel list if you’re going around Eastern Europe. Interestingly, Russian is the main day-to-day language heard on the streets in Kiev. While the western part of Ukraine speaks Ukrainian, the eastern part of the country still mainly uses Russian. Apparently Kiev is about 70/30 in favour of using Russian.
SO, brush up on your Russian and stop off in Kiev!
Spah-see-boh (thank you)