AN ITINERARY FOR FIRST-TIME VISITORS TO UKRAINE
When your friends or family suddenly decide to visit Kyiv, you’re expected to not only organise their stay but also make sure it’s an unforgettable experience (for all the right reasons). How do you bring the best out of Kyiv in just three days? And what if it’s in the middle of winter..?
FROM SHANGHAI TO KYIV
In mid-December, I received a call from Shanghai. After living in China for two years, my best friend Ana was coming back to Ukraine to spend the New Year with her parents in Kharkiv. She had decided to invite her Chinese friend Steven to travel along with her. The only option of getting from Shanghai to Ukraine was a flight to Kyiv, so Ana and Steven decided to take this opportunity to stay in the capital for a few days: Ana want-ed to show off Kyiv’s best bits to her friend. She asked me to assume the role of local tour guide, and I thought, “well, why not?”
THE VERGE OF DISCOVERY
As a tourist destination, Kyiv has just start-ed to increase its popularity, though people travel to Ukraine’s capital for many differ-ent reasons. Some visitors want to explore the museums of post-soviet heritage, while others want to hang out at music festivals or attend sporting events. Kyiv attracts travellers with its magnificent scenes, affordability, and…obscurity.
In the first half of 2018, Kyiv hosted over 850 000 international visitors. By comparison, London welcomed 20.4 million, Istanbul – 12.8 million, and Barcelona – 9.06 million. This isn’t to say that Kyiv is less interesting than these iconic tourist spots, but rather, it proves that locals should celebrate the vibrancy of Kyiv’s unique history and culture in the eye of the world.
With these thoughts, I drafted an eventful three-day plan that would allow my guests to see and sample Kyiv. Of course, 72 hours in Kyiv is not nearly enough time to experience it all, but I was up for the challenge. It would be three days they will never forget.
10.30 Ana and Steven land at Boryspil Air- port. We head to their Airbnb apartment to drop off their bags and then head to Ostannya Barykada for a late breakfast.
12.32 After having an incredible borshch, Chicken Kyiv, and varenyky with cherries, we are ready to get acquainted with the city. We start sightseeing in the place that host-ed three Ukrainian revolutions – Maidan Nezalezhnosti.
13.04 Magnificent mosaics and the frescoes of Saint Sophia’s Cathedral mesmerise Steven at first sight. The walls that have seen Yaroslav the Wise and survived the Mongol invasion depict the history of Medieval Kyiv better than any book could.
14.22 We сlimb Sophia’s belltower to view another masterpiece of Kyiv’s architecture – Saint Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery (12th century).
14.35 We stop by the Christmas fair to have a bite of Kürtőskalács. I mean, why else would people come to winter fairs?
15.03 After enjoying the stunning panoramic city view from Saint Volodymyr hill, we head to the oldest part of Kyiv – Andriivskiy Descent.
15.15 The late-baroque Saint Andrew’s Church (17th century) looks spectacular basking in the golden hour. When will they finally finish the reconstruction and open it for visitors?
16.02 While walking along Andriivskiy De-scent, our toes start to freeze, so we decide to warm up at the bottom of the hill with a hot chocolate in Lviv Handmade Chocolate. 16.55 When passing by the Christmas fair in front of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, we refuel with grilled meat and pilaf. After a glass of mulled wine, we are brave enough to put on some ice skates and step onto the rink.
18.07 Near the Fountain of Samson the three of us decide on an early dinner at Beliy Shum café.
20.10 We raise our glasses to an awesome day at the 1818 rooftop bar, taking in the vi-brant atmosphere of Podil.
10.20 Our day starts with syrnyky, pancakes, and avocado toast at Zhyzn Zamechatelnykh Lyudey café. After finishing his breakfast, Steven says that this spot should be a must for anyone coming to visit Kyiv.
11.35 While strolling along Khreshchatyk, we drop by Besarabsky market to see the building from the inside and also pick up some hot coffee to go.
12.23 We walk by the Alley of Heroes of The Heavenly Hundred to pay tribute to the people who sacrificed their lives for Ukraine in 2014.
13.14 The mystical House with Chimaeras encapsulates European Art Nouveau of the early 1900s. How can one building be so spectacular and frightening at once?
13.45 We head over to the National Art Museum of Ukraine to explore Ukrainian culture through the masterpieces of Mykola Pymonenko and Oleksandr Murashko. 15.52 Before it gets dark, we enjoy the un-rivaled panoramic view of the city near the People’s Friendship Arch.
16.19 Poshtova Ploshcha gives us a glimpse of the snowy river port.
18.36 The three of us agree that a mouth-watering four cheese pizza at Mimosa Brooklyn Pizza is yet another reason to keep coming back to Kyiv again and again.
20.02 We wrap up the day listening to live music and sampling signature cocktails at Barman Dictat. Kyiv is gorgeous during the day as well as at night.
WHAT DOES STEVEN THINK ABOUT HIS 3-DAY TRIP TO KYIV?
My biggest impression of Kyiv is its culture, its architecture, and its people. For culture, it is distinct in terms of how many
citizens value their roots and what a strong patriotic spirit they have. All sorts of architecture, old churches, and long apartment buildings in neighborhoods are what caught my eye the most. The people I interacted with – they all have warm hearts that can melt snow. They make sure you have a good time in their country.
10.30 Before leaving Zoloti Vorota metro station, we linger to appreciate one of the most beautiful subway platforms in the world.
11.05 We spend 15 minutes choosing what to have for breakfast at Honey café. There are too many appetising dishes on the menu!12.18 When roaming along Yaroslaviv Val, the shadow of Karaite Kenesa looms over us, and the winged demons that defend the Castle of Baron Shteingel watch on.
12.30 Monuments of the Golden Gate and Yaroslav the Wise pull back the curtain on a chapter of the city’s history when Kyiv was one of the most influential cities in Medieval Europe.
13.24 After a hot latte inside Kashtan coffee shop, I’m eager to show Ana and Steven the most vibrant places and distinctive architecture of Reitarska Street.
15.02 Before our dinner at Kosatka café, we pay a visit to Osnovy publishing house to buy the Awesome Kyiv book as a souvenir. The entrance to Osnovy lies right in front of the spectacular baroque gates to Saint Sophia Cathedral, also known as Brama Zaborovskoho.
19.30 On their last evening in Kyiv, I invite Ana and Steven to Gram bar, where we lis-ten to vinyl music, drink cocktails, and recollect the most memorable moments of their stay in Kyiv. The next morning my guests leave. “We’ll be back in summer, let’s explore more of Ukraine,” says Steven instead of goodbye. It would seem my mission is accomplished, and it would seem Kyiv has won their hearts just as it has mine.
LIST OF PLACES
Zhyzn Zamechatelnykh Lyudey
Velyka Vasylkivska 36
Mon – Fri 8.00 – 00.00, Sat – Sun 9.00 – 00.00
+380 50 393 3636
Yaroslaviv Val 20
Mon – Fri 8.00 – 22.00, Sat – Sun 9.00 – 22.00
+380 67 127 1921
Maidan Nezalezhnosti 1 (GLOBUS Shopping Center)
10.00 – 00.00
10.00 – 20.00
Lviv Handmade Chocolate
Andriivskyi Uzviz 2b
10.00 – 22.00
7.00 – 23.00
+380 44 537 3707
Mimosa Brooklyn Pizza
9.00 – 23.00
+380 66 067 0158
Velyka Zhytomyrska 25/2
Sun – Thu 9.00 – 23.00, Fri – Sat 9.00 – 2.00
1818 rooftop bar (BURSA Hotel Kyiv)
Sun – Thu 12.00 – 23.00, Fri – Sat 12.00 – until the last guest leaves
Instagram: 1818kyiv+380 44 537 7007
Sun – Thu 18.00 – 03.00, Fri – Sat 18.00 – 06.00
+380 50 346 1636
Sichovykh Striltsiv 21
Tue – Thu 17.00 – 23.00, Fri – Sat 17.00 – 01.00, Sun 11.00 – 20.00
Osnovy Publishing House
Heorhiivs’kyi Pr. 7, 3rd floor
Mon – Fri 10.00 – 18.00