This winter I had the first time experience of traveling to the Ukrainian capital Kiev. And oh my was I in for a treat! Suddenly I thought the Pet Shop Boys have never been so wrong when they sang ‘Go West’. Because I exclaim here and now: Go East! And start by visiting Kiev – a buzzing city with beautiful architecture, a great landscape, a vibrant coffee scene, and a cool lifestyle! Here are a few Kiev travel tips for you!
Kiev is sometimes referred to as ‘the Rome of the north’. If you visit the Ukrainian capital, you will understand why. Kiev is built on a hilly landscape and boasts with beautiful churches and monasteries. Speaking of churches and monasteries – you will have the opportunity to visit quite a few while in town but do not miss to visit the Lavra monastery complex. It is incredibly beautiful with golden domes, a huge areal with parks, shops, and a stunning cave church – be ready to enter the most holy of Ukraine right there and then!
But Kiev is much more than its churches and monasteries! It is a truly vibrant city! Walk around the cobbled streets of the Podil area (also referred to as the Montmartre of Kiev) with its flea markets, little cafés and good restaurants. Start at the beautiful St. Andrew’s church (with nice vistas of the city and the river) and descend the Andriivskyi descent. If you want to taste delicious Ukrainian food, have a lunch or dinner at Kanapa restaurant and start with Ukrainian sparkling wine, a caviar selection and guinea fowl paté with cardamom. Yum! Just opposite of the restaurant you will find their café called Kanapka – a great place for coffee or tea and some cake in a very nice atmosphere! Next door is the tiny Coffee Room – literally a tiny room with hipster coffee (while outside a Ukrainian grandmother might sell handknitted socks – I love the vibe). Check out the knitwear along the street, as well as antiques, ceramics and amber from Ukraine!
If you descend all the way down you can also stop over at Lviv Handmade Chocolate – oh my, try the hot chocolate and do not miss to buy a box of their chocolates. It is really good! You will then reach the spacious Kontraktova square with lots of shops, a pedestrian zone, restaurants, and most of the time some outdoor markets, luna parks and more entertainment.
Also stroll around the area between St. Sophia cathedral and St. Michael’s church, go to the famous Maidan square where a few years ago the ‘Orange Revolution’ took place. From there you can walk up the Khreschatyk Street with high street shops and department stores. A good stop is the Vsi Svoi shop – it is specialized in Ukrainian products and crafts – definitely a good place to get a nice Ukrainian souvenir. Have a look at their ceramics! They also have a very cute and hip café if you need more caffeine!
My favorite tip for a souvenir for yourself (or a beloved person) is an original Ukrainian fashion item – the ‘Vyshyvanka’. These are linen shirts with hand-stitched embroideries in various patterns and colors. They are beautiful! I got myself one and love it! Go to Etnodim to find a really beautiful piece – trust me you will be charmed the moment you try it on! And the prices are really good!!
While walking around I noticed numerous cool cafés – so be assured that you will stumble upon a nice coffee place every now and then. Two of my faves include the 16.Coffee, a cool Scandi style café with excellent filter coffee and great pastries. Also the One Love Coffee on top of the Pinchuk Art Center is amazing – all white, puristic, with great views of downtown Kiev.
Spending one weekend in Kiev is great but by far not enough to discover all of the city’s charms. I did not have time to visit a few museums, or even a play at the Opera or a concert at the philharmony. Nor could I got to all the fabulous cafés and shops! But it is a good excuse to travel back one day! The city is really a huge surprise and charming destination – even with bitter cold winter weather! I can only stress it out one last time: Put Kiev on your travel itinerary! You will NOT regret it! You can thank me later:-)
iPhone photography by Igor Josifovic, images by Etnodim, 16.Coffee, One Love Coffee