Reitarska Street is undergoing aN urban transformation, turning into a vibrant place where young open-minded creatives spend days and nights
Why is one of Kyiv’s oldest streets drawing so much attention? What’s On heads to Reitarska to find out.
Every Friday evening people flock to Reitarska Street in droves. Young urbanites, dressed in bold hipster outfits with 90s-like haircuts hang out on pavements and in yards. The music, laughter, and heated discussions flood the street, and to an incidental passer-by this scene may conjure comparisons with walking somewhere in Berlin rather than in Kyiv. It doesn’t matter if it’s Monday or Friday: Reitarska draws in crowds like a magnet all week long.
What do local residents think about the latest street changes and activities?
Anastasia moved to Reitarska two years ago: “This street has everything that I need for comfortable living in Kyiv’s downtown. Every morning I’m warmly welcomed in ZigZag where I order my favourite breakfast. Before going to the office, I drop by Gorkiy to grab a cup of fresh coffee. Hidden’s balcony is the perfect place to spend time by yourself overlooking St Sophia’s Cathedral. For me it’s impossible to imagine Kyiv without Reitarska.”
It’s hard to define when exactly the transformation of Reitarska occurred. Some point to it as probably happening when the underground-style Bar/13 occupied a cellar on Reitarska 21/13 at the end of 2014. Unlike the other city bars at that time, Bar/13 was a place where guests had a chance to drink signature cocktails, listen to local DJs, and let off steam in a relaxed atmosphere that didn’t require a dress code. Bar/13 has quickly caught on and earned a reputation of a “bar for everyone and anyone”.
Over the next couple of years, a variety of eateries, coffee shops, and showrooms featuring Ukrainian designer clothes settled on Reitarska too. By offering high-quality services, organising parties until sunup, and keeping the street clean and safe, these new arrivals managed to turn Reitarska into a cultural scene key to the youth-focused urban transformation of Kyiv.
Although represented by a mix of architectural styles from the 19th to early 20th century, Reitarska still seems a thoroughly modern street.
However, its roots are much older and date back to the times of Kyivan Rus’. During the rule of Yaroslav the Wise (1019-1054), Reitarska was a bustling part of what was then the so-called ‘Yaroslav’s city’ occupied by merchants. Geographically it led to the Lvivska Brama (Lvivska Square today), one of the main entrances to Medieval Kyiv. After the Mongol invasion in 1240, Kyiv was ultimately destroyed and Reitarska fell into disrepair until the 18th century.
As a result of an agreement signed in 1654 between Cossack hetman Bohdan Khmelnytskiy and Vasiliy Buturlin, The Hetmanate (the former name of the Ukrainian state) submitted to the protection of the Tsardom of Russia. Afterwards, Russian cavalry also known as reiters or “black riders” started arriving in Kyiv. They settled on the place where present-day Reitarska Street lies.
In 1803, Reitarska appeared on the city map for the first time.
The street started drawing talented people long before 2018. A memorial plaque adorning a wall at Reitarska 19B says that famous Ukrainian composer and pianist Mykola Lysenko (1842-1912) lived here. What’s more, it was here he met with Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) who was deeply impressed by Lysenko’s opera Taras Bulba.
Plan for a Perfect Day-off on Reitarska Street
10.30 Shake off the sandman with a coffee and healthy breakfast in Kashtan Coffee. Play chess or listen to music on vinyl inside the café
11.30 Drop by Haze (for the girls) or Chop-Chop (for the boys) to get a stylish haircut
12.30 Take your new hair for a walk and go shopping to Katimo Clothes (for the girls), Riot Division (for the boys), or Kapkan Shop or Syndicate (for both)
13.30 Occupy a table by the window in Zigzag and order meatballs with pasta and pesto
15.00 Head to Dykat art gallery and immerse yourself in modern visual art
16.00 Kick back at the discrete coffee shop Hidden on the second floor of the same building
17.00 Just walk around. Find the entrance of Osnovy publishing house on Heorhiivskiy Lane. Go to the third floor and enjoy the scent of freshly published books.
18.00 Drop by Bar/13 for a cocktail or two and have a deep and meaningful chat with the barman
19.00 Wrap up the day walking along the street and enjoying its incredible heritage
What’s interesting, the brilliant writer Mikhail Bulgakov (1891-1940) and his first wife used to rent an apartment at Reitarska 25 in 1913 right after their wedding.
Architecture and Art
Not only are the houses where Lysenko and Bulgakov lived worth a closer look, in Soviet times, one of the city hospitals occupied a fascinating old building at Reitarska 22, designed in Venetian Gothic style. Legendary Ukrainian surgeon Mykola Amosov used to work here in the 1950s. Unfortunately, today this extraordinary building lies abandoned and requires urgent renovation.
The street also features an example of rational architecture – head to Reitarska 34 to get a real feel of this Italian architectural movement from the 1920s.
Speaking of modern art, the street boasts spectacular murals that completely cover two neighbourhood walls. A portrait of world-known Ukrainian poet Lesia Ukrainka adorns a building standing right at the intersection of Reitarska and Striletska streets. Inspired by her poem Lily of the Valley, Australian street artist Guido van Helten created one of the most beautiful murals in the city depicting Ukrainka in her younger days.
Another mural is hidden in the secret “yard with ravens”. Go through the arch at Reitarska 9 to find it. After passing through the arch, you’ll find yourself in a small yard leading to the underground coffee shop Kashtan. A mural with big grey ravens covers the wall on your right. Take a moment to find three black ravens that have been living in this yard for more than 15 years and have already become a part of the street’s history.
District No. 1
Fortunately for the city, local businesses that have settled in the neighbourhood haven’t neglected its valuable heritage. To encourage people to spend more time on Reitarska, local entrepreneurs have collaborated and kicked-off exciting initiatives like the vintage market Kyivness or The District #1 Block Party. These initiatives aspire to not only make the neighbourhood more liveable but also raise money for the street’s improvement.
The co-founder of Reitarska-based Kashtan coffee shop, Oleg Kamluk, was among the Block Party organisers too. Kamluk says after the event organisers had planned to revamp the square located at the intersection of Reitarska and Striletska streets. But as it turned out, city authorities already had plans for the square’s improvement. So they shifted their attention to another square that lies in front of the former city hospital. Unsurprisingly, local residents were very enthusiastic about the idea of a revamp and so is the new owner of the hospital building. “Right now we’re in the middle of the negotiation process. I hope we’ll finally assert the right to save the square and turn it into a comfortable place for all citizens.”
Today, Reitarska constantly draws visitors, entrepreneurs, and artists who want to be part of the Reitarska community. The District #1 Block Party project has brought a new urban experience to the city. Reitarska proved that one well-thought-out street can attract smart and inspiring people more than new shopping malls or clubs. However, the street still needs some restoration and funds to keep its heritage in good condition, the hope being that city authorities and local residents will support local urban initiatives more actively.
Kamluk reflects on the future of Kyiv positively: “Today we are just beginning. I’m sure in the future there will be more similar festivals and socially-responsible businesses ready to change our city for the better.”
⎯ Sunday/Monday 09.00 – 23.00
⎯ Friday/Saturday 09.00 – 02.00
+380 68 385 6551
⎯ Monday/Thursday 10.00 – 20.00
⎯ Friday/Sunday 10.00 – 22.00
Gorkiy Espresso Bar
⎯ Monday/Friday 07.30 – 19.00
⎯ Saturday/Sunday 08.00 – 19.00
+380 63 886 3643
Hidden Coffee Room
⎯ Monday/Sunday 13.00 – 22.00
+380 96 426 0224
⎯ Monday/Friday 12.00 – 21.00
⎯ Saturday/Sunday 12.00 – 20.00
+380 98 593 4323
⎯ Monday/Sunday 12.00 – 21.00
+380 68 337 9030
⎯ Monday/Saturday 11.00 – 20.00
⎯ Sunday 12.00 – 18.00
+380 93 198 1988
Osnovy Publishing House
Heorhiivskiy Pr 7, 3rd floor
⎯ Monday/Friday 10.00 – 18.00
+380 44 331 0249
⎯ Sunday/Thursday 11.00 – 20.00
⎯ Friday/Saturday 12.00 – 18.00
+380 97 684 5010
⎯ Monday/Sunday 10.00 – 21.00
+380 66 116 0000
⎯ Sunday/Thursday 10.00 – 21.00
⎯ Friday/Saturday 10.00 – 24.00
+380 44 390 9039
⎯ Monday/Sunday 11.00 – 19.00
+380 44 279 0903
+380 44 270 5079