Following my recent article on the not-for-the-faint-hearted Chernobyl tours, I thought I’d provide some useful information on Kiev, Ukraine, and some interesting spots to visit there. Kiev and Pripyat (where the tours take place) are situated about a two-hour drive from one another, and most tourists tend to fly into and stay in the Ukrainian capital if they’re planning to visit Chernobyl. I’m a bit of a sucker for visiting off-the-beaten-track places, and even though Kiev is a capital city, it’s not exactly your typical spot to head to when travelling around Europe. Nevertheless, if you’re currently planning your trip to Ukraine, or if you’re just curious like me about what it has to offer tourists, then here are some super interesting spots to visit there!
A Bit About Kiev
Well-known for its religious architecture, Kiev is the capital city of Ukraine and home to almost 3 million residents, making it the 8th most populous city in Europe. In 2014, 12.7 million foreign guests visited Ukraine (the majority of them stayed in Kiev), a sharp fall in contrast to the 20 million or so tourists who visited each previous year. I’d love to be able to see Ukraine getting the same amount of tourists again, since Kiev actually has so much history and culture to offer – two things I know I’d love about it! Temperatures are highest in July and can reach the late 20’s, perfect for those who love a good summer city break, but those who can’t stand the cold should avoid Kiev in December and January, when temperatures can plummet to well below 0 degrees. Transport is easily accessible in Kiev, and tourists can get around via bus, metro or taxi if they don’t fancy walking from place to place.
Things to See in Kiev
Saint Sophia’s Cathedral
Built way back in the early 11th century, St Sophia’s Cathedral is the architectural gem of Kiev, and a favourite hotspot for many tourists. For years, it served as a burial place for Kiev princes, and many legendary monarchs remain there to this day. Art lovers from all across the world will certainly appreciate the mosaics inside the cathedral – it’s a popular factor that the cathedral is renowned for. It costs just 3HR to enter, and visitors must purchase their tickets from the kiosk just around the corner from the bell tower entrance. Guided tours in English are available, which will set you back about 80-100HR (Just £2-3…) Yep, Ukraine is pretty cheap.
Ukrainian National Chernobyl Museum
I think this’ll be the first place I go when I visit Kiev! For those of you who don’t know, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster took place in 1986, killing a total of 31 people and causing lifelong damage to much of the population due to the extreme radiation levels. Pripyat was a thriving city situated close to the power plant, and all 50,000 of its residents had no choice but to evacuate, leaving the city completely empty. Only a few people live there now at their own risk, but according to the Ukrainian government, the area won’t be safe for human life for another 20,000 years. The museum holds an impressive collection of video footage and artefacts from the disaster, and provides visitors with an eye-opening insight into the day that every Ukrainian remembers.
National Art Museum of Ukraine
This museum is dedicated to Ukrainian art, and provides a fascinating experience for each and every visitor, especially those interested in all things art. In the 1990’s, the first decade of independence in Ukraine, the museum rose to an international level when its collections were exhibited in famous museums around the world. Since it’s a little more compact than other capital city art museums, visitors only need to put aside an hour or two in their day to visit the National Art Museum of Ukraine – perfect for those who aren’t planning to spend too much time in Kiev.
St Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery
Those with a passion for impressive architecture will absolutely love visiting St Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery. Originally built in the Middle Ages, the exterior of the monastery was reconstructed in the 18th Century in the Ukrainian Baroque style, but the interior remained in the original Byzantine style. Although the original cathedral was demolished by Soviet authorities in the 1930s, it was rebuilt in the 90’s to celebrate Ukrainian independence, making the structure even more iconic and important.
It’s definitely safe to say that Kiev is home to so many historical, cultural and fascinating attractions – it’s sad that this Eastern European capital city is so often overlooked, with tourists heading to more popular spots like Prague and Budapest. If you have any more ideas of cool places to visit in Kiev, stick it in the comments below!