Ukraine in general is a super underrated tourist destination. And although Kyiv (Kiev) is the capital of this country, AND it has a long history and many things to do for a tourist, many people see it as an industrial post-soviet city with no tourist value. And while I agree that at first it might seem like that, Kyiv does have its hidden gems.
The city contains beautiful architecture, amazing views, and places of great history. If you have read my blog before, you know that I live in Lviv now (the cultural capital of Ukraine), but I also used to live in Kyiv for many years. And it was during my university years I discovered how beautiful this city is. So, to help those of you who are planning to visit Kyiv I created a list of things to do in Kyiv with all the best information.
Kyiv, like many other parts of Ukraine, can have very rough weather. If you have a choice I would not recommend visiting Kyiv in winter. It is quite depressing during the colder months, not just in Kyiv, but in any Ukrainian city, unless you are going to Bukovel to ski.
The best time to visit Ukraine starts from the beginning of May until the end of September. The weather is great and you definitely will enjoy this city and country way more than in winter. Although specifically for Kyiv, I think the best time to visit is May.
One of the things that characterizes Kyiv is the countless number of chestnut trees all over the city, and the beauty of the city when the chestnut trees are blossoming.
Kyiv has two international airports: Boryspil airport and Zhuliany airport. The main and the biggest one is Boryspil, although it is located basically in a neighboring city. To get from Boryspil airport to Kyiv you can go by a bus, taxi or train.
The most convenient of course is by taxi. Kyiv has Uber, so it is the best and cheapest option if we are talking about taxis. The price will be around 350 – 400 UAH ($12-15) and take around 20 minutes with no traffic.
If you want to save a bit, you can take a train. The ticket costs 80 UAH ($3) and it takes about 30 – 40 minutes to get to Kyiv. But be aware that although the train and train station are new, they are not modern. There is no toilet at the station, and no plugs on the train. If you are travelling in winter, the train is not the best option, since you will have to wait for the train to arrive outside.
Frankly, the government of Kyiv made such a big deal about opening a new train route that connects Boryspil and Kyiv that everyone expected something really nice and comfortable. But due to corruption it didn’t happen. In fact, just after the route was opened, the train broke down on the way to Boryspil and people didn’t make their flights. I bet no one was reimbursed for their unpredicted expenses.
The bus from Boryspil to Kyiv is a normal deal. There is a company that operates this route and takes you to the subway station “Kharkivska” for 60 UAH ($2), or to the railway station “Pivdennyi” for 100 UAH ( almost $4). The company is called Skybus.
Kyiv is one of a few cities in Ukraine that has a subway system. There are just three lines: red, blue and green, but it is quite enough to explore Kyiv and to get where you need to be. The cost for a ticket is just 8 UAH ($0.30) for a ride. However there is a catch; since the government decided to make everyone stop using ‘zhetons’ (subway tokens) and just use cards, the cashiers at the subway station don’t sell more than one zheton (token/ticket) for one person. Therefore the lines to buy a ticket are usually pretty long. Stupid? I agree!
There are also buses and trams in Kyiv that you can use. But both of those types of public transportation are quite old. On the trams you buy a ticket from a driver or a conductor (if he/she is present) and then put your ticket into a small ticket machine that makes holes on it. In case you forget to do that and you get caught, you will have to pay the fine.
To use a bus, you need to pay for a ride directly to a driver. There is also marshrutka, a small yellow bus that you can use, but if you have never tried it before the experience won’t be really pleasant. Usually marshrutkas are too full and there is no place to sit. This is usually the cheapest way to get from city to city within Ukraine.
Note: if you are going to use public transportation in Kyiv, prepare lots of change.
Andriyivsʹkyy Uzviz is the secondmost famous street in Kyiv after Khreshchatyk street. It is a cable street (descent) that leads to the Podil district and river Dnipro. At the top of the descent there is the charming church of St. Andrew. The church was built in the middle of the 18th century in the Baroque style.
Along the Andriyivsʹkyy Uzviz there are many cozy cafes and some fancy restaurants. In summer, at the bottom of the descent, vendors sell paintings, books, and other art related stuff.
Andriyivsʹkyy Uzviz is one of the oldest parts of Kyiv and it is great place to start your introduction to Kyiv city, its history, architecture, and culture.
Location: Kyiv, 02000
The glass bridge is one of the best places to overlook the left bank of the Dnipro river. The bridge was built recently by the famous boxer/mayor of Kyiv – Vitaliy Klychko. And although they say that this bridge cost a few times more than it should have, and that the project of this bridge is not original, people in Kyiv are finally happy it is now completed.
The bridge was built in a great location and it connects two popular tourist places: the Arc of Friendship and Volodymyrska Hirka (it is a park with a funicular).
In warm weather there are many street musicians on the bridge. It is a fun place with an even better view.
Location: Parkova Rd, Kyiv, 02000
St. Sophia’s cathedral is located on Sofyivska square in the center of the city. The square has become the place where the Kyiv government instals the main Christmas tree since the revolution in 2014. On the square there is also a statue of Bogdan Khmelnytskyi, one of the most famous military leaders of the Ukrainian kozaks.
The first thing you will see in Sofyivska square is a beautiful blue and white bell tower. To see the main cathedral you will need to get a ticket. There are a few types of tickets: one to get on the territory, the second one allows you to see the cathedral from inside, and with the third one you will be able to climb up that beautiful bell tower. And I would recommend you to do all those things. St. Sophia’s Cathedral is one of the oldest in Kyiv. It was built in 1037 and it does look amazing from inside.
Location: Volodymyrska St, 24, Kyiv, 01001
The Golden Gate was the main entrance to Kyiv way back when it was the capital of Kievan Rus. It is one of the oldest monuments in Kyiv. Due to many sieges and wars on this land, not many places were preserved. Unfortunately all that is left of the Golden gate is just two walls.
To protect the monument, a replica of the Golden gate was made over the original walls. Nowadays it is a museum and you can see the remains of the main entrance to Kievan Rus and learn some history of Kyiv and Ukraine.
Location: Volodymyrska St, 40А, Kyiv, 01034
The National Opera of Ukraine is definitely worth your time. If you have a free evening in Kyiv try to visit a ballet or opera in this beautiful building. You will be surprised how cheap the tickets are here in Ukraine.
The building itself is just 3 minutes from the Golden Gate, so if anything you’ll be able to walk by it on a self guided walking tour.
Location: Volodymyrska St, 50, Kyiv, 01030
Pirogovo Open-Air museum is a collection of old traditional Ukrainian houses, churches, schools and other buildings. It is basically a park full of old beautiful buildings. There are a few similar museums around Ukraine. One of them is also located in Lviv – “Tarasivskyi Hai”. Pirogovo Open-Air museum is a must visit place if you want to learn more about Ukrainian culture and history.
Inside this museum you also will see some vendors that sell paintings, traditional clothes and other souvenirs. There is also a small open cafe that offers traditional Ukrainian food. There you can get sausages, pickles, potatoes, meatballs, and other things.
Location: Vulytsya Akademika Tronʹka, Kyiv, 03026
In the center of Kyiv there is a grand red building with red lights and full of students. This is the main university of the country – “Taras Shevchenko university”. Across the street from the red building is Taras Shevchenko park. A nice charming park with many benches to relax, statues, fountains, and green lawns to have picnics (in summer of course).
The best time to check this location is on warm summer evenings. There are usually street musicians performing, people dancing, and sometimes students organize an open-air cinema in the park where they play movies in English.
Location: Tarasa Shevchenko Blvd, Kyiv, 02000
Khreshchatyk is the main street in Kyiv. It also leads right to the main square of the city – “Maidan Nezalezhnosti” (Independence square). Khreshchatyk is a wide street where all the main political events happen. In 2014 it was the place where people put their camps and started the revolution, and it is the place where many of them were killed by snipers.
Nowadays the street looks like it did before 2014, peaceful and beautiful. Every Sunday Khreshchatyk gets blocked and turned into a walking street.
On Maidan Nezalezhnosti there are many street performances, coffee shops, and locals resting on the benches or meeting friends.
Location: Independence Square
One of the cool places that was opened just recently is called Bukhta food station. It is located in the Podil area next to Dnipro river. The venue has many different cuisines including Mexican, Vietnamese, and Thai.
There are many tables where you can relax while enjoying your food and drinks. Bukhta Food Station also has a number of bars that offer drinks, hookah, and bean bags to sit on and enjoy the river view.
Location: Почтовая площадь, 3а, Kyiv, 04070
The arch of friendship is one of the most famous monuments in Kyiv that was made during the USSR. This is a must visit monument for every tourist that visits Kyiv.
The arch of friendship is located in the center of Kyiv, just a short walk from Maidan Nezalezhnosti. The whole place is located on a hill and overlooks the river Dnipro. From there you can get on the glass bridge and walk to the Podil area as well.
After Russia invaded Crimea and started the war in Eastern Ukraine a painting of a crack appeared on the Friendship of Nations Arch. This feature still exists.
Location: Parkova Doroha, Kyiv, 02000
One of the highlights of Kyiv is its famous cave monastery “Pecherska Lavra”. The word “pechera” means a cave and the word “lavra” means a monastery.
As it often happens, the whole monastery started with just one person (monk) and one cave. This cave monastery was founded in 1051 and with time the number of monks and the number of caves grew. Nowadays Kyiv Pechersk Lavra is a huge complex which includes a few churches and a few long tunnels that connect the caves.
Kyiv Pecherska Lavra is open for tourists and you can get into the caves as well. To read a full review on Kyiv Pecherska Lavra and how to visit it click here.
Location: Lavrska St, 15, Kyiv, 01015;
One of the most iconic images of Kyiv is its Motherland statue. It is one of the tallest statues in Europe (102 meters) and is located in the center of Kyiv on the right bank of river Dnipro.
Next to the statue is an open air museum dedicated to those that lost their lives in the second World War. The open air museum is mostly free, but there are a few parts that are closed off and you will need to pay a small fee to get in.
To visit this location I suggest you choose a nice sunny day; you don’t want to get caught in the rain since there is no place to hide. I advise you to also wear comfortable shoes and bring a bottle of water (expect a long walk).
Location: Lavrska St, 24, Kyiv, 01015;
Kyiv is especially beautiful in late spring, when all the chestnut trees are blossoming and in every botanical garden you will find magnolia gardens.
Kyiv botanical garden is a great place to escape the busy city and get close to nature, especially if you are coming well… in any season except winter.
Park Kultury i Vidpochunky or Park of Culture and Rest is one of my favorite places to be in summer. This park is full of things to do and see. There is a Puppet Theater, a museum of Water, a few cute statues, lookout points, a countless number of benches hidden under a tree’s shadow, and many other things.
Another great thing about this park is its location. You can enter the park next to the Arc of Friendship and exit it at Mariyinsky park, next to the palace.
Location: Kyiv, 02000;
Mariyinsky palace is a palace that was built in 1752 in the baroque style. The color scheme of the palace is sky-blue and white, and it definitely attracts the attention of tourists. Nowadays the palace is the residence of the president of Ukraine and is not open to tourists. Nevertheless, the facade of Mariyinsky palace makes it worth it a visit.
Next to Mariyinsky palace is another government building called Verkhovna Rada that you can see. The word “verkhovna” means “top” or “highest” and can also be interpreted as “main”, and the word “rada” means “council”. Verkhovna Rada is the building where the parliament sits.