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If you only do three things:

1. Stroll down the Andriyisky Uzviz, stopping off for beer and borsch in any of the cafes on the way down. Start at Rastrelli's stunning St Andrew's Cathedral and visit the Bulgakov Museum and Museum of a Street as you go.

2. Visit the Pecherskaya Lavra, an incredible complex of monastic buildings and caves on the banks of the Dnipro.

3. Take the metro to the Hidropark. A somewhat tatty 'funfair' island in the middle of the river, but a great place to share shashlik and vodka with the locals on a summer evening, and to look back across the Dnipro at the city's trees and golden domes.




Kiev (Kyiv)
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"Beautiful in the frost and mist-covered hills above the Dniepr, the life of the city hummed and steamed like a many-layered honeycomb. All day long smoke spiralled in ribbons up to the sky from innumerable chimney pots. A haze floated over the streets, the packed snow creaked under foot, houses towered to five, six and even seven stories. By day their windows were black, while at night they shone in rows against the deep, dark blue sky..."
Mikhail Bulgakov - The White Guard 1924

What to see

AN INTRODUCTION TO KIEV - Kiev (or Kyiv) is the very heart of the country, geographically, historically and spiritually.
The best time to visit is in the spring or autumn, when the riverbank and the main streets are lined with chestnut trees and the city is in bloom.

Kiev is a relatively safe and friendly city to visit, although usual precautions apply. There have been a great many changes in the decade since independence, and Kiev’s status as the economic hub of Ukraine is obvious; the flourishing restaurants, bars and expensive shopping malls are testament to the growing stability and wealth in the country. Of course appearances can be deceptive and poverty and insecurity are daily issues for many Ukrainians.

At first glance Kiev can appear drab and slightly oppressive, particularly when driving in from the airport through the outskirts of grey and alienating Soviet era apartment blocks, but that is a false impression. Much of central Kiev is green and spacious, with its wide streets, golden domes and parkland that leads down to the banks of the broad Dnipro (Dnepr) River. A great deal of old Kiev was destroyed during the bitter fighting of 1941 and therefore much of the city’s architecture dates from the post-war period. The main street, Kreschatik, is a monumental Stalinist boulevard that curves through the city centre, while elsewhere, large residential areas consist exclusively of Krushchev era flats. However a number of historic sites remain, including the Podil district, Andriyivsky Uzviz (St Andrew’s Decent) and the Pechersk area which all retain much of their pre-war character. [top]

Population: 2.6 Million
Airport: Boryspil (Borispol / KBP) - 34 km from the city centre. There is a bus every hour from Ploshcha Peremohy, but your best bet is a taxi, which should cost about $25-30, or a pre-booked transfer (see our hotel booking section).
Language: Ukrainian is the official language and is fast taking over from Russian in many parts of the country. It is now a legal requirement for all signs, notices and official documents to be in Ukrainian however this is often ignored in Russian speaking parts of the country, for example in Odessa and the Crimea. Russian is still widely spoken and certainly understood in Kiev and very often people speak a hybrid of both.
Although many people are able to speak some English, do not be surprised if even some hotel staff do not understand you.
You can get cash from machines in the major hotels and most banks. Small exchange offices (Obmin Valut) operate throughout Kiev where Euros and Dollars can be easily exchanged for Hryvna. British pounds are also widely exchangeable. [top]

Pecherskaya Lavra
21 Sichnevoho Povstannya. Tel: 290- 7349. 10:00 - 18:00, closed Tuesdays.
The Kiev Pecherskaya Lavra remains one of the great holy centres of the Eastern Orthodox world. The Lavra (or monastery) is a stunning complex of 18th and 19th century religious buildings laid out along the banks of the Dnepr. Many parts still operate as a monastery and draw devotional visitors from across the region. The highlight of the complex is the network of underground passages, caves and dark monastic cells that are visited by candlelight. An eerie experience. The Lavra offers a fascinating glimpse of Eastern Orthodox traditions, and a beautiful way to spend a few hours. From Arsenalna Metro Station cross the street and take trolley bus 20 two stops.

St Sophia's Cathedral
vul. Volodimirska 24 Tel. 228-6152
Open daily 10 am - 5 pm, except Thursdays.

St Sophia's Cathedral is the oldest in Ukraine. Built in 1037 and of enormous historic significance to Ukraine. Many Kievans will get misty eyed at the thought of St Sophia's, and the stunning azure bell tower (17th C) at the gate is a much used symbol of the city. With its library, school and meeting halls St Sophia's became the cultural, political and religious hub of the Kievan-Rus period, and is certainly considered one of the great national treasures of Ukraine. Excellent for a visit if you have plenty of time in the city, however, if you are not too interested in the details of history then the Pecherskaya Lavra (see above) probably has more to offer the casual visitor.

We would, however, recommend passing through Bogdan Khmelnitsky Ploshad, a wide square and busy traffic hub from which you can see the bell tower and golden cupolas of St Sophia on one side, the dynamic statue of Bogdan Khmelnitsky in the centre and the blue and gold of the church of St Michael's on the opposite side. Not only is this a magnificent sight, but it also says so much about the way that Ukraine sees itself. From St Sophia's, a genuinely old symbol of wisdom and imperial power, to Bogdan Khmelnitsky, a symbol of a somewhat mythic Ukrainian past of Cossak glory and arguable synthetic nationalism, to St Michael's, a church that appears to be many hundreds of years old but is in fact a complete replica of the original destroyed by the Soviets and opened in the late 1990's. A symbol of regeneration to some, a symbol of waste and regression to others. Ukraine, a very young country, is often caught manufacturing a past for itself rather than embracing the future. An important stage in the development of an independent nation or a hindrance to progress?

Andriyisky Uzviz (Andrievsky Spusk in Russian)
Andriyisky Uzviz (Andrew’s Decent or Slope) winds steeply down from the National History Museum and the stunning Andrievsky Sobor (St Andrew’s Church), a sumptuous fusion of eastern orthodox and western baroque designed by Rastrelli (also responsible for the Hermitage in St Petersburg), to the Podil district down near the river. Andriyisky Uzviz retains its pre-war feel, with most of the original architecture from the late 19th century remaining. Its real attraction is its sleepy atmosphere of another, pre-Soviet, era.
The area is a considered to be the ‘artists’ district’ which roughly translates as the ‘souvenir district’, and stalls selling gaudy paintings and trinkets line the street.
There are a few nice cafes and restaurants on the way down that offer good beer and food. It is worth popping in at the Bulgakov Museum (see below), and also the Museum of a Street which is right near the bottom of the street. The Museum recreates the history of the street with displays about some of the more notable people that have lived on
Andriyisky Uzviz. This is a very small museum, but they have succeeded in recreating the atmosphere from a time before the souvenir sellers. [top]

The Bulgakov House Museum,
Andriyisky Uzviz 13, 10:00-17:00, English tours available.
Rather than try to preserve this small house and its contents in aspic, holding on to every original flake of paint from the period that Mikhail Bulgakov lived here (roughly 1906-1919), the curators of this small museum have tried to recreate the very spirit of Bulgakov’s life and work. If you are a devotee of his classic novel The Master and Margarita you will love the dreamlike quality of the colour co-ordinated rooms, the two-way mirrors and the world at the back of the wardrobe.

The Hidropark,
A somewhat tatty 'funfair' island in the middle of the river, but a great place to share shashlik and vodka with the locals on a summer evening, and to look back across the Dnipro at the city's trees and golden domes. Take the metro to Hidropark.

Mother Ukraine and the War Museum,
Open Tue-Sun 9:30-17:00
The gigantic statue of Mother Ukraine that towers over the city is unmistakable. Set amid the serenity of the Memorial Park, the base of this huge titanium monument houses the Museum of the Great Patriotic War. A powerful collection dedicated to the Ukrainian dead of the Second World War.