The Best Travel Guide to Kiev
Kiev (Kyiv) is the capital of Ukraine; city on the hills, bearing the title of the Hero. It stretches on two sides of the main waterway of the country – the Dnieper River. It is the largest scientific, industrial, cultural and religious center of the state. It is among the ten largest cities in Europe, and its history goes back over 2500 years. Below is The Best Travel Guide to Kiev.
History of Kyiv
According to the legend, Kiev was founded by three brothers Kyi, Schek and Horyv and their sister Lybid on three hills. The name comes from the name of the eldest of the founders of the city.
During its centuries-old history, it was destroyed several times; it was conquered by the Tatars, the Mongols and the Turks during the raids. It was here that Vladimir the Great baptized Ancient Rus; the history of the grand dukes was written here in the IX-XII centuries. Despite the fact that Ukraine gained independence only in 1991, starting from the XIV century Kiev was the center where the struggle for the national idea was concentrated, and today it continues to play the same role.
The city is located in the central part of Ukraine, so moderate continental climate prevails here. Mild winters and warm summers are characterized by high rainfall. The average temperature in the cold season is from 0 to -11°C, in January there are often frosts down to -20°C and more. In summer it is hot here – from +25 to + 35°C.
Each of the seasons gives Kiev a unique charm. You should definitely come here in April-May – during the flowering of chestnuts – trees, which are the symbol of the city.
What to see in Kiev?
The expression “Kiev is the mother of Russian cities” is confirmed by historical and architectural monuments that are located at almost every turn in the center of the city. Due to this, the metropolis does not look cold and alienated – the atmosphere of affection and hospitality prevails, and all guests of the city mention its positive energy.
Kiev is a city of churches and cathedrals. Objects that are unique in their cultural, historical and spiritual significance are located here, for example, St. Sophia Cathedral, St. Andrew’s Church, St. Vladimir’s Cathedral, St. Michael’s Monastery, Holy Trinity Church, Holy Protection Monastery, Voznesensky Frolovsky Women’s Monastery and many others. On the days of major church holidays, one can hear a chime of bells all over Kiev – this sound does not leave anyone indifferent.
Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, the heart of the city, the grandiose temple complex, which is part of the architectural and historical reserve, is a place where every Christian should go. It is just a little less than a thousand years old – the oldest monastery of this complex was built in 1051. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Every year, pilgrims from all over the world come here to pray and ask for the blessing of miraculous icons and saints, whose undecayed remains are kept in dungeons.
The entrance to the reserve is paid, but the price is low. However, if tourists just want to visit one of the temples or climb the bell tower, they can enter free of charge – the other entrance is right near the one for excursions. On the territory there are strict rules that limit the number of places where you can take pictures; entrance to churches is allowed only in clothing that befits a believer (shorts, tops are not allowed; for women, the head should be covered and men should be hatless). We advise to plan at least four hours to visit this place – it is simply impossible to see all the amazing gems of this place faster.
The Kiev-Pechersk Nature Reserve is located at 25 Ivan Mazepa Street. You can get here by bus or subway, but in case you choose subway you’ll have to walk up from Arsenalnaya station for 7-10 minutes. After the monastery, you can go to the Motherland Monument to see the steep Dnieper banks from a height. You can get to the upper observation deck of this magnificent sculpture and see Kiev in all its diversity. The ticket costs about 300 UAH.
Second World War Museum
Below is a museum dedicated to the events of the Second World War. Several halls show extensive expositions that will be interesting both for adults and children. There are two armored vehicle at the entrance to the museum – as a reminder of the terrible events of the past. These machines were used to liberate the city from the fascists. However, today the machines do not look like war vehicles and look rather peaceful: they were colored bright to demonstrate that the people do not want war.
It is most convenient to get to the monument by subway – go to Dnipro, Pecherskaya or Friendship of Peoples metro stations.
St. Andrew’s Descent
St. Andrew’s Descent, which is also called the street-museum, is a place worth visiting for those who came to Kyiv for the first time. In ancient times it was important trade route, and now it connects historical territories. There is a special spirit of this street – here you can have a tasty meal in cozy cafes, buy souvenirs, jewelry, designer clothes in the national style, art and antiquities and many more. Turning from one shop to another, do not to forget to look around – many of the architectural monuments of the city are located on the Andrew’s Descent: the Bulgakov Museum, Richard’s Castle and of course St. Andrew’s Church.
Khreshchatyk is the central and most famous street of Kiev. This street is not the longest in Europe (its length is only 1.2 km), but it is one of the widest (its width varies from 75 to 100 m). Walking Khreshchatyk and looking into the neighboring streets, you can see a huge number of attractions of the city. Few people know, but under the street there is a river; today it is more like a stream, driven underground due to the city development.
Khreshchatyk is adjacent to Vladimirskaya Gorka, where you’ll see the monument to the Baptist of Russia. The street is also next to European Square and Khreshchaty Park. Having walked up a bit, you can see the amazing building of the Puppet Theater, decorated with statues of famous fairy tale heroes. In addition, Khreshchatyk passes through Independence Square, which is more popularly known as Maidan. You can get to the central street of the city by metro – go to Maidan Nezalezhnosti or Khreschatyk metro stations. You can also walk down from the Sofia Kievskaya National Reserve along Sophiyskaya Street.
Another must-see place is the village of Pirogovo, where the open air ethnographic museum is located. This is where you can see samples of architecture from all regions of the country, so in one day a tourist will literally visit all corners of Ukraine, go to ancient wooden churches, and get acquainted with the traditional decoration of huts. Arriving in Pirogovo, you can literally have breakfast in Slobozhanshchina, and have lunch in Galicia – all objects are divided into areas with the appropriate names. You can get here by bus (No. 496 from the Lukyanivska metro station and No. 156 from the Bessarabian Market) or by trolleybus (No. 11 from the Lybidska metro station). Entrance to the museum is not free; the price is about 30 UAH. For children and students discounts apply.
Ukrainian currency to USD. Where to exchange?
Hryvnia is the national currency of Ukraine and the only one you can use to pay for services and goods in this country. You can change money in bank offices or in exchange offices. There are a lot of them around the city, and in almost every district and at railway stations you can find several options, so finding a favorable rate is not difficult. A pleasant nuance is that the value of the currency practically does not change depending on the proximity of tourist places, as is common in other European capitals.
It is advisable to buy a few hundred hryvnia on arrival, since cash will be needed to pay for transport, to purchase a city map and for other minor expenses. In all other cases, you can pay with bank cards. If a situation arises when the card is not accepted, the money can be withdrawn at any terminal according to the exchange rate of the bank.
Where to stay in Kiev?
The capital of Ukraine is a modern European city, so finding accommodation here for any period will not be a problem. At the train station, visitors are greeted by locals with ads for renting apartments. The competition here is quite large, so you can always find the most advantageous offer. Of course, this option for renting an apartment is quite risky, because until the last moment the guest cannot be completely sure what kind of amenities he is offered. However, for those who travel spontaneously and has time to think through all the details, this would be an excellent solution to the problem.
However, if the tourist planned his vacation thoroughly, he has a much larger choice of offers. Majority of Kiev visitors decide to stay in hotels. There is a large choice of hotels of different levels. At the same time, much attention is paid to the quality of service; therefore, both in a small hotel and in a fashionable establishment, vacationers can count on the service of a European level.
Since most of the sights are concentrated in the center of the city, it is best to choose hotels in the area of the Khreshchatyk, Golden Gate, Palace of Sports, and Arsenalnaya metro stations.
The gem of the Ukrainian capital is a five-star hotel located in the very center of the city – the Premier Palace Hotel. All rooms are decorated with chic; the guests enjoy swimming pool, beauty salon, restaurants and shops on the territory. Fairmont Grand Hotel Kyiv also offers the same high level of service. This hotel amazes with the richness of the rooms interior: such luxurious apartments are worthy of world-class stars.
Young companies for whom the comfort of living is not the main thing, can stay in one of the hostels located in the city center.
If you are looking for true friendly European atmosphere go to the Dream Hostel. The guests like its spacious comfortable rooms, the hospitality of the staff, a large selection of additional services; some rooms have plasma TVs with satellite TV.
A ten minute walk from Khreshchatyk Street will take you to Mini Hostel Kiev. Guests are offered double rooms or beds in dormitories for 10 or 12 guests. In addition, customers are free to use kitchen, balcony, library, individual safes and laundry.
It is simply impossible to come from the capital of Ukraine without souvenirs and gifts. The first and most important thing to buy is the Kiev cake. Air meringue, crunchy nuts, and soft cream layer – it melts in your mouth. Several confectionery factories make this cake; however, the products of the ROSHEN factory received the most positive feedback from the customers. The products of the factory are widely represented in the company’s stores, as well as in the relevant departments of supermarkets.
The price of confectionery depends on its weight. On average, 0.5 kg of sweets costs 105 UAH, 1 kg – 190-220 UAH, and 1.5 kg – from 300 UAH. Those who do not have time to buy sweet gifts in advance can purchase them at the central railway station if the return trip is by train.
Having got into the Ukrainian national spirit on the Andriyivsky Descent, it is almost impossible to get out of there without embroidered shirt. Traditional handmade shirts look very elegant and at the same time comfortable.
They can be easily combined with business or casual wear, thus making the image original and interesting. Modern craftswomen offer models embroidered with satin stitch, cross, and beads. Each region of Ukraine has its own traditional patterns and colors, so tourists will have the opportunity to choose from a wide variety of embroidery.
Considering that such products are made entirely by hand, and sometimes craftswomen offer designer models and patterns, the shirt will be expensive. The average price for women’s and men’s products ranges from 500 to 1000 UAH, and for children – from 300 UAH. However, the tourists shall not be afraid of the high price: good embroidery will last more than a decade, moreover, experts say that this is a kind of talisman that everyone should have.
Another option of gift from Kiev is wooden or ceramic products by folk craftsmen. They can be purchased at Andrew’s Descent or in souvenir shops. Large selection of products makes it possible to find something even for the most demanding customer. These can be carved or painted utensils, caskets, jewelry, smoking pipes, bath utensils, etc. When making purchases on Andriyivsky Descent, one should not miss the opportunity to bargain – there is a chance to bring down the price well.
There are a lot of art galleries and salons in Kiev, where you can buy jewelry, antiques, and paintings – all at fairly low prices. When purchasing such unique gifts, it is important not to forget to take expert certificate so that there are no misunderstandings during customs inspection.
However, if after exploring Kiev and visiting local restaurants, you do not have much money left, do not be upset: you can buy a small souvenir with Ukrainian symbols. It can be an embroidered tie, a painted jug or a clay plate.
In Kiev, almost everyone understands the Russian language due to the fact that the older generation got educated as a part of the Soviet system. Foreigners here are always treated with kindness and locals are always ready to help. However, it is important to show respect for the country, the people and national symbols; impudence and discourtesy are not appreciated here.
To taste national cuisine, visit one of the colorful cafes, which are very common in the city center.
In the subway halls, you can not only see a map of the city, but make some purchases and even have a snack.
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