10 awesome things to do in Kiev

Traveling to Ukraine and wondering about things to do in Kiev? Ukraine’s capital is ancient and modern. It’s a city equally loyal to ‘babushka’s and newly-rich oligarchs on fancy jeeps, to quiet idyllic parks and bustling highways, to top-notch supermarkets and farmers’ bazaars, and to any traveler who approaches it with an open mind and a heart for adventures.

Your first impression of Kyiv is bound to be one of surprise. This cradle of all that is Russian, this receptacle of ‘New Ukrainian’ wealth, this paradise of crooked politicians and gangsters is so…beautiful. Especially if you arrive in the summer, Kyiv will entice you the moment you gaze upon its gold domes lighting up the leafy banks of the Dnipro. Lonely Planet

There are so many places to see and visit in Kyiv, that at times it is confusing for a visitor to choose the starting point. At the same time, some of Kyiv’s best landmarks and activities are not in the traditional guide-books, though are dearly loved by locals.  Since at Active Ukraine we are dedicated to bring you the most authentic and real experiences, we’ve made a short list of awesome things to do in Kiev, that will hopefully serve you as a great starting point for falling in love with Ukraine’s capital.

1. Pray or medidate at St. Cyrill’s Monastery

Completely off-the-beaten track, this small church is as old as time, dating back to 12th century. 800 sq.m of stunning frescoes have been restored in late 1970ies and showcase just a small bit of what this church must have been like in 1187. Paintings of the famous Mikhail Vrubel (1856-1910) take you into a different world. And the fact that the Monastery is away from the main tourist sites in Kyiv will make the experience even more humbling and inspirational.

What they say:

….today it’s an oasis of calm from the modern world outside. It is quiet and overwhelming… …a Rare, Perfect Moment. TripAdvisor’s Reviews

How to get there:  Take a metro to the Petrivka Metro Station. From there take a trolleybus #27 till Olena Teliha st. The Monastery is located at Olena Teliha st., 12B. Working hours: From 10:00 – 17:30, Thursday – from 10:00 to 16:30. Closed on Fridays.

2. Stroll along the green scenery of Kyiv’s parks

Kyiv is no doubt a green capital, and has dozens of beautiful parks for short walks. Mariyinsky and Khreshchatyj Parks are among our favorites in the list of things to do in Kiev! Not only they are located right next to Kyiv’s majestic Dnieper River. They also have wonderful architectural landmarks, like Mariyinsky Palace, gorgeous building of Kyiv Academic Puppet Theater,  and Lover’s Bridge – popular among newly-weds.

How to get there: Walk down from Khreshchatyk Avenue towards European Square. From there, climb up a small hill to reach Kyiv Academic Puppet Theater and the Dnieper River banks.

3. Learn more at National Chernobyl Museum

An unprecedented tragedy at Chernobyl Nuclear Plant is the world’s worst nuclear accident. Pripyat, the town closest to the reactor (3 kilometers distance), was home to 49,000 residents before the disaster, mostly the families of the plant workers; now no one lives there. The city of Chernobyl is only 4 kilometers to the south of the reactor. High radiation levels forced the evacuation of more than 100,000 people from the region surrounding Chernobyl. The ghost of this tragedy will hunt Ukrainian people for a long time, and 1986 is forever carved in the national memory. If you don’t have a chance to go for a tour of Chernobyl site itself, you can learn more about the catastrophe in Kyiv’s most interesting and engaging museum. A must in our list of things to do in Kiev!

What they say:

I didn’t imagine that this tiny museum, which costs pennies to enter, could be so engaging and informative. This museum is a must see… It leaves a lasting impression. A Must See – Eye-opening and Moving… Trip Advisor Reviews

How to get there:  Take a metro to Kontratova Square Metro Station. From there, walk towards Khoryv lane. Working hours:Sunday-Friday from 10:00 till 17:45, Thursday from 10:00 till 16:45. Closed on Sundays.

4. Explore Museum of One Street and buy local handicrafts at Andriyivsky Descent

“Small in size but very deep in substance”, the Museum of One Street is definitely among our favorite things to do in Kiev! It tells the enchanting and rich history of Ukraine’s capital, through the story of its most famous street – Andriyivsky Descent. The Descent, or called by local people – Andriyivsky Uzviz, is a small down-hill street that used to connect the Upper Kyiv with the more commercial district of Podil, located on Dnieper River Banks. The street is packed with historical landmarks: eye-catching 18th century baroque St.Andrew’s Church, the house of the ever-mysterious “Master and Margarita” author – Mikhail Bulgakov, and the Castle of Richard the Lionheart. Andriyivsky Uzviz is also famous for its art bazaar, and is bustling with art galleries, crafts shops and local artisans. Stroll along the street or take up a master class in one of Ukrainian crafts!

How to get there:You can either take a metro to Kontraktova Square and from there walk up the Andiyivsky Descent, or you can take a more traditional route – walk down from Independence Square, towards Hyatt Hotel, then walk along Volodymyrska st until you finally reach the Descent.

5. Go cycling in Golosiyivsky Forest

If you are into outdoors and would love a more adventurous exploration of Kyiv, take off to one of its green areas! Golosiyivsky Park is a unique nature park with its cascade lakes situated right in the central part of Kiev. An enchanted forest, picturesque natural landscape and fresh air will immediately help you forget your daily troubles.In the minds of many believers Golosiyivskiy Park and forest are also strongly associated with Golosiyivsky desert, where pilgrims come not only from Ukraine, but also from other countries. Pushcha – Vodycia is Kyiv’s by far most popular rest area.  A land of forests, small ponds and lakes, and even a tram line that takes you along its pine trees! Rent a bike and set off for green escape, only minutes away from busy Kyiv streets. Add cycling to your growing list of things to do in Kiev!

How to get there: To reach Pushcha-Vodytsia, take tram #12, that departs from Kontraktova Square, and travel all the way to the route’s end point. To reach Golosiyivsky Forest, take a metro to the Lybidska Metro Station. From there, get on trolleybuses #4, #11 or #12 and travel until the stop ‘Park Rylskoho’.  

Join our Cycling Tour in Kiev and explore the beauty of Golosiyivsky National Park!

6. St. Sophia Cathedral (UNESCO World Heritage List)

Dating back to the glorious times of Kievan Rus, St.Sophia Cathedral remains an outstanding architectural landmark and tops the most-visited list of sights in Kyiv. And even though we tried to escape from the traditional lists of things to do in Kiev, St.Sophia just gotta stay here. It’s beautiful, serene and calm. Its 11th century mosaics are captivating and you can’t keep being amazed at how ancient history presents itself here: in every stone, a bell tower with great views of the city and an amazing interior full of paintings over 1000 years old.

What they say:

Very fascinating place…

Unique painted interior..

St. Sophia’s … is the one that brought me to tears with its incredible air of spirituality.

Trip Advisor Reviews

How to get there:
You can take metro to Golden Gate Metro Station, and walk along Volodymyrska street till you reach Soviyivska Square. Alternatively you can reach the site from Independence Square: walk up along Sofiyivska street until you reach the Square.

Working hours:

From 10.00 till 18.00 (Wednesday – till 17:00). Closed on Thursdays.

For a small taste of the grandeur and history of the Cathedral, check out its virtual tour.

 7. Be amazed at the Museum of Miniatures

Have you ever wanted to see the world’s smallest book? Or a golden set of chess that would fit on  a pinhead? Mykola Siadristy can show you just that! He is the only author in Kyiv’s famous Museum of Miniatures. Located at the site of Kyiv Pechersk Lavra (Eastern Orthodox Cave Monastery, in itself inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Site), Museum has incredible and mind-blowing exhibition: a rose in a hair, golden caravan of camels in needle’s eye, mock windmill on half of poppy seed.

What they say:

…overwhelming human capacities…

…absolutely unique items made by unique master!

Trip Advisor Reviews

How to find it:

Take bus #24 from Arsenalna Metro Station, and get off at Kyiv Pechersk Lavra.

Working hours:

9:00 – 19:00. Closed – Tuesdays.

8. Shop organic food and talk to ‘babushka’s at a local bazaar

Oh, ‘babushka’s! The actual Ukrainian name for these hard-working old ladies would be ‘babcia’. But no matter how you call them, ‘babushka’s are the stronghold of Ukraine. They are a typical sight no matter where you go, and always impress you with their endurance and wise outlook on life. The best place to interact with them – local markets! ‘Babushka’s are always there, selling delicious vegetables and fruits, or flowers. Don’t haggle for the price, but instead try their home-made food, buy a kilo of red apples and directly support their livelihood.

Where to find it: 

The closest to Kiev’s city center, though not most authentic, is Bessarabsky Bazaar. It’s located at the end of Khreshchatyk St. and can be easily reached by foot.

For a more local experience, go for Zhytniy Bazaar: located at Verhniy Val st., 16. You can reach it from Kontraktova Square Metro Station.

To experience Ukrainian countryside, add our Rural Kiev Tour to your checklist of things to do in Kiev and spend your day in Ukrainian village!

9. Hang out at Sculpture’s Alley

The Sculptures Alley is called the kindest place in the capital, and it’s indeed the case: probably no person ever passed it without a smile. The alley was built in 1980s by the architect Avraam Miletsky. In 2009 it started to grow with the funky additions of contemporary art sculptures. Easily our favorite off-the-beaten track place in Kyiv!

 How to get there:

Walk from St. Andrew’s Descent towards Kyiv Museum of History.

10. Drink tea on Independence Square

Ukraine’ famous Orange Revolution of 2004 might not have succeeded in changing the social and economic realities of the country, but it left a remarkable imprint on those, who’ve participated in it.  Yes, we’ve been there. And yes, that’s why we put ‘a drink at Independence Square’ (or Maydan, as known among Ukrainians) among our things to do in Kiev.  It might not be the most attractive square, neither a location with outstanding historical landmarks. And while there are many nicer places in the city, Maydan is the heart of Kyiv and the heart of Ukraine.  Walk along its fountains, take a photo in front of its questionably beautiful Statue to Ukrainian Independence, drink coffee in one of its cafes, enjoy some people watching, and listen to the freedom stories of Maydan.

What they say:

…the spirit of Maidan will make an unforgettable impression in your heart.

Worth visiting at night as well.

If you are in Kyiv, you should really see Maidan!

Trip Advisor Reviews

What are your favorite places in Kyiv? What off-the-beaten track landmarks would you suggest to visit? Let us know your list and we will include the best suggestions in our next posts!

By Oksana Arkhypchuk


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