Never thought of visiting Kiev? You soon will.
Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, is one of Eastern Europe’s oldest cities and the most beguiling destination. And if you happen to be an architecture, food and history enthusiast, you’ll love Kiev’s charming cobblestone streets, golden dome churches, historic sites, and exceptional foods.
Recently, I visited Kiev and enjoyed discovering this city of almost three million people. Here are 5 best ways you can experience Kiev too:
1. Eat your way through Kiev
Kiev may not have the same reputation for food as Paris, New York or Tokyo, but the city now boasts an incredible array of award-winning restaurants. You’ll find exciting restaurants that serve local fare beyond just red borscht and dumplings.
The dining scene in Kiev has experienced a change in recent years with a crop of young chefs plating up new interpretations of traditional Ukrainian dishes.
Kanapa, an upscale Ukrainian restaurant located in a restored 17th-century home on Andrews Descent (Andriyivskyy Descent) is one of Kiev’s most renowned restaurants. The young head chef, Yaroslav Artyukh, will surprise your senses with his creative and masterful culinary creations. The restaurant serves modern Ukrainian cuisine using locally sourced fresh ingredients and a diverse assortment of meat and seafood.
Kanapa is my favorite restaurant in Kiev. I recommend getting the tasting menu that includes pike caviar, Ukrainian borscht, varenyky (dumplings) and chicken Kiev.
A restaurant named after a Ukrainian sweet alcoholic drink popular in the 70s, Spotykach serves traditional and modern Ukrainian cuisine.
Besides traditional Ukrainian fare, Kiev is a hub for international cuisine particularly cuisines from the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Russia.
There are many Georgian restaurants in Kiev. I chose Chachapuri Restaurant, which was only a two-minute walk from Hilton Kiev. Try Georgian khachapuri and Georgian wine.
2. Discover Kiev’s churches and monasteries
Kiev is home to some of the most beautiful golden dome churches in the world. But sadly, most of the original works were severely damaged during World War II. Fortunately now, visitors can visit the restored churches and monasteries.
Christianity started in 988 AD during the reign of Vladimir I (the Grand Prince of Kiev). By the 12th century, the city has over 400 churches and monasteries including the UNESCO World Heritage sites – The Monastery of the Caves (Kiev Pechersk Lavra) and St. Sophia Cathedral.
Kiev Pechersk Lavra (Monastery of the Caves) was founded the monks Anthony and Theodosius in 1051. It is a complex of buildings that includes a series of churches, cathedrals, monuments, and catacombs. Some of these still function as a house of worship, but most are now museums.
Many of the mosaics and frescoes inside St. Sophia’s Cathedral are originals that can be date back to1037 when it was built and dedicated to Prince Yaroslav. The 256-feet bell tower was built between 1744 and 1852 and the surrounding wall in the 1740s.
Other notable churches to visit in Kiev:
- St Michael Church
- St. Andrew’s Church
- St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral
- St, Nicholas
3. Join a guided city tour in Kiev
Apart from the beautiful churches, you can join a guided tour to The Ukrainian State Museum of the Great Patriotic War. At the museum, you’ll see The Motherland Monument, the steel statue that stands at 203 feet tall. Along the museum’s memorial hall are carved marble plaques of war heroes (citizens and soldiers) and inside the museum are over 300,000 exhibits.
Other places of interest include:
- National Opera House of Ukraine
- The Golden Gate (the old gate of Kiev)
- Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square)
- Andriyivsky Descent (the Montmartre of Kiev)
- Children Landscape Park (with eccentric sculpture)
- Besarabsky Market
4. See Kiev by bike
Take a one or three-hour bike tour along Dnieper River, Mariinsky Park, Trukhaniv Island and more. A bike tour will allow you to see Kiev beyond the historical sites and churches in the old town.
5. Take a day trip out of Kiev
Two of the most popular day trips from Kiev are the Chernobyl tour and the Strategic Missile Forces Museum tour. The Chernobyl tour includes visiting Pripyat, now a ghost town, Duga Radar Russian Woodpecker (120 meters tall and over 300 meters wide antenna), and also lunch at a Soviet-style cafeteria.
You’ll travel to the middle of nowhere to the Strategic Missile Forces Museum, formerly a nuclear-missile launch facility. After independence, Ukraine chose to denuclearize, and this launch site became a museum. The highlight was taking the tiny elevator 12 floor underground to the control room where we get to “launch” the missile. You’ll get a genuine “Cold War” experience in the museum.