With return flights from London Gatwick starting at £60, Kiev is the perfect destination for travellers wanting to experience a city a little rough around the edges. The Ukrainian capital is completely safe despite recent political unrest and is a super affordable alternative to your bulk standard European city break. Admittedly, Kiev wasn’t at the top of my list before going but thanks to the cheap/ short flights my curiosity got the better of me and it should get the better of yours too! You really can’t go wrong with this completely underrated destination and in case you can’t already tell, I really enjoyed my time there. So here are 10 reasons you should visit Kiev, ASAP.
THE CITY OF GOLDEN DOMES
There is a reason Kiev is known as The City of Golden Domes… everywhere you look there is another Church with another dome which I’d bet money on, is golden. Most impressive of the lot is Pechersk Lavra, a Christian monastery complex located in the centre of Kiev. You can wander round the monastery and, depending on what ticket you bought (they’re all varied levels of extremely cheap!), you can enter the churches and the cave system the complex is built on. You have to buy a candle to light your way through the caves/ crypts adding an exciting yet creepy vibe.
THE DNIEPER RIVER
One of the longest rivers in Europe, the Dnieper is a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, despite cutting it right in half. There is a footpath running along both sides making it perfect for a bike ride whatever the season. If you have time a boat tour is always an option too, as is crossing the pedestrian bridge to Trukhanic Island where you can relax on the beach and enjoy a little nature.
Definitely check out Barman Dictat. It’s a little hidden away but worth the search. They often have live bands playing and the atmosphere is really great, in fact I would say it is one of the top 3 coolest bars I’ve ever visited! Podil district also has great nightlife options from chill bars to clubs, all with very trendy vibes, attracting a younger crowd than BD. I tended to go out here as it was within walking distance of both hostels I stayed in. It is incredibly cheap as well which is a plus. BD isn’t as cheap but compared to the UK you’re still doing well. People didn’t seem too bothered about dressing up but there are places in the centre of the city to check out if that is what you’re after.
CHERNOBYL DAY TRIP
The highlight of my trip, as morbid as this sounds, was by far the day trip I did to Chernobyl Nuclear Exclusion Zone. It was a wee bit pricey but worth it 100% as it was so interesting. I’ve never experienced anything like it. I went with Chernobyl Tours and my guides name was Ihor. He was amazing too so try and get him if you go! You can’t enter the zone without a guide and from what I was told, you get what you pay for. We also had a Soviet style lunch in the canteen used by the people who live and work in the zone on rotation. It was pretty good!
I’m going to write a whole post on my day in Chernobyl as there is too much to mention here and I really want to share some of the pictures I took as they are especially creepy! Keep a look out for that if you’re interested.
THAT LINGERING SOVIET VIBE
Parts of the city have that unmistakable ex-soviet block vibe that I experienced in Poland. I find it quite interesting, if a little imposing. But The Motherland Monument, pictured above, is very impressive as are the surrounding statues all of which are soviet monuments. Soviet symbols are outlawed in Ukraine these days but they allow war memorials to remain. Just next to the monument is the War Museum which I found particularly gruesome. I probably wouldn’t go back but if you’re a WWII history buff, it is worth visiting. They also have a huge collection of Soviet tanks and other war equipment.
VARIETY OF NEW CUISINES
Kiev doesn’t just offer the opportunity to experience Ukrainian cuisine. In fact, one of the best meals I had there was traditional Georgian food at a place called Mama Manana. I especially loved the courgette, pomegranate and walnut paste rolls and the dumplings! The wine was also delicious, who knew Georgia produced wine?! I now really want to visit Georgia one day. Ukrainian food was good too, though not so much variety for Vegetarians like me. I also had amazing Vietnamese at Pho Kiev so you’re spoilt for choice.
VALUE FOR MONEY
I was shook, not going to lie. Kiev was amazingly cheap. Excluding the Chernobyl tour I spent under £100 for 5 full days in the city, eating out for all meals, paying entry to museums and going out most evenings for drinks. Isn’t that bonkers? So for travellers on a budget, Kiev is ideal. Especially if you’re flying from London because, as I mentioned, return flights start at around £60!
Another reason to visit Kiev is the hostels. The two I stayed at were Dream House Hostel and Sky Hostel. Both were great. I found Dream had a more social vibe thanks to the bar and restaurant attached which made it super easy to make friends. They also had a sofa/ chill out area by reception. The rooms were really nice, beds were solid and everything was clean. Sky Hostel was tricky to find but wow, it is by far the fanciest hostel I have ever stayed in. The rooms were stunning! However, the communal area wasn’t as good as Dream. I’d stay at both again though.
ENDLESS COFFEE SHOP OPTIONS
If you’re a coffee freak like me, this is a great reason to visit Kiev. The cafes and coffee shops are so cool and there are about 10 on every street, especially in Podil district. Ok, I may be over exaggerating slightly but there were loads and they all had that Shoreditch cool, exposed light bulb, artisan coffee vibe which I love. The coffee itself was good too although a few times they added sweetener (maybe a syrup?) without me asking which wasn’t ideal. Alternative milk options were common so overall I was a very happy, caffeinated bunny. I also fell in love with Ukrainian ginger tea which has a lot more to it than the name lets on. It is packed full of fresh herbs and spices left loose, perfect for winter months.
IMPRESSIVE MIXTURE OF ARCHITECTURE
It seemed to me, half of Kiev was falling down but I liked it and I’m sure you will too. The city has been standing for over 14 centuries, predating Russia and Ukraine itself. So it’s pretty random as the funny mixture of architecture reflects the city’s history. From Baroque churches, soviet Constructavism, Gothic, Art Nouveau and more, you can’t get bored wandering around the beautiful city. I really loved it.