15
Apr-2013

10 Awesome Things to do in Odessa

Odessa has many exciting attractions to offer for tourists, however, we won’t dwell on the most typical of sights: Potemkinski Stairs, or Deribasovska Street, or even Primorsky Boulveard. They are all mentioned in the guidebooks, review site sand and traveler reports. Instead, we’ll take you local: to the places most revered by Odesans and most unspoiled by hordes of tourists. Explore our own list of top things to do in Odessa!

‘Odessa mama’ – this is how locals lovingly call their home city. Odessa is grand and shabby, modern and decadent, energetic and confusing, but it’s always real. Odessa is a state in a state. It’s lived by its own rules and , no matter in which country (Russian Empire, Soviet Union or the independent Ukraine), Odessa has always been different. The city has a rather recent history, and even though the settlements in the area date all the way back to 13th century and a Tatar town of Hacibey, the modern Odessa was founded in 1794 – by the decree of Empress Catherine the Great of Russia. Odessa was originally meant to serve a ‘Window to Europe’ –  its architecture bears little resemblance to grey communist house blocks, and was largely influenced by French and Italian styles. The city immediately became an artist heaven, with heaps of Bohemian charm, and a home to people from all nations: Ukrainians, Russians, Greeks, Moldovian, German, Jews, and many others. It’s this contrasting cultural mix of Odessa that makes it so irresistible and unlike any other place in Ukraine. No where else you can find French and Italian Boulevards, or Greek, Jewish and Albanian Streets.

But what we love the most about Odessa is its alluring spirit. The Official Capital of Humor in Ukraine, and a home to a yearly Humor Festival, Odessa is an invigorating mix of sandy beaches,  leafy streets, Mediterranean sunny climate, and the Odesans themselves –  ‘…a breed apart …stylish, cultured, funny, savvy and not easily impressed’ (Lonely Planet).

1 – Sample local restaurants

kompot-cafe-odessaOdessa is known for its good food and quirky cafes. The meals are plentiful, prices are acceptable and the interior design is often fascinating. For an authentic Odessa-Jewish experience, visit Rozmarin – a kosher-food restaurant celebrating the Jewish heritage of Odessa and frequented by locals.  For a more mainstream experience, go to Deribasovskaya st. and sit down at Kompot. Try their traditional cherry ‘kompot’ (fruity drink  in boiled water), served the way babushka would fetch it from her pantry. If you are traveling with kids, go to Dacha on French Boulevard, where they can take part in an exciting culinary calss.

How to get there: Check out our map below for the detailed locations of the restaurants.

2 –  Jump on the Mother-In-Law Bridge

Mother-in-Law-Bridge

This obscure pedestrian bridge links Primorsky Boulevard with Zhvanetsky Boulevard. The story of the weird name goes all the way to 1950ies, when the structure was designed. They say, that it was built by the First Secretary of Odessa Communist Party, for the sole purpose of making the walk to his work to his mother-in-law’s house and her delicious pancakes shorter. While some might claim the story is fake, most of Odessans strongly believe it, as bridge serves no real communication purpose. For those in love with adventures, bring your group of friends and try jumping on the bridge. If you jump strong enough, and if the weather is windy, the platform starts shaking!

How to get there:  Walk towards the start of Primorsky Boulevard, where the Vorontsov Palace is located. From there take a stroll across the bridge to the ‘Old Odessa’.

3 –  Sit for an evening of music at Odessa Opera House

Odessa-Opera-Theater

Odessa Opera Theater is rightfully considered among the most beautiful in Europe. The original building was finished in 1810, but burned down in 1873. Current Theater design was done in the style of Viennese barocco in 1887. Full restoration of the Opera Theater was completed in 2007. Opera Theater has unique acoustics and even the quietest whispering from the stage can be heard in any part of the hall. In 2008 Forbes Magazine named Odessa Opera Theater among its 11 exceptional Eastern European sights

What they say:

Fabulous building and fantastic opera/ballet.. The most beautiful building ever! Beautiful building and a world class ballet – at a great price! Trip Advisor Reviews

4 –  Discover the underworld of Odessa catacombs

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World’s largest network of underground catacombs is located right under Odessa. They are long  – over 2,500 km and still counting, very dark – only a small portion of it is officially open as an museum, and full of history. First catacombs started to appear in 19th century, as underground quarries. During the World War II, local partisans used the labyrinths for hiding. Currently most of the catacombs are accessible only to the groups of enthusiasts and are not advised to be explored on your own. For an introduction to the world of the catacombs, you can visit “Museum of Partisan Glory” in Nerubayskoye, next to Odessa.

How to get there: Take bus # 84 or #87 from Odessa Bus station. Get off at the village. Museum is opened from 10 am till 5 pm every day, except Mondays.

5 – Shop in Odessa markets

odessa_privoz
Colorful, vibrant and kaleidoscopic – Odessa markets sell everything: from delicious home-made food and freshly picked apples, to fridges, animals and Soviet Ladas. Privoz is city’s most famed bazaar, and an excellent spot for finding seasonal vegetables and fruits. Your best chance for good deals is to get there before 3 pm, and browse their amazing selection of smell and taste. 7th Kilometer Bazaar is located right outside of Odessa and is Europe’s largest outdoor market. Take a bus there and ‘…while away an afternoon by wandering row upon row of wedding dresses, leather goods, furniture, jewellery and everything in between‘ (Lonely Planet) Starokonny market in a decadent Moldavanka area of the city hosts an amazing weekly Zoo and flee market, where you can find birds, kittens and anything second-hand that your heart desires.

6 – Check out the Monument to an Orange

Orange monument 512 384

Yes, this is not a joke. Everyone knows how geese saved the Rome, but few can imagine that oranges bailed out Odessa. The legend goes back to 19th century, when Russian Empress Catherine the Great passed away and her son, Emperor Pavel I, took over the ruling power in Russian Empire. Unlike his mother, he did not favor turning Odessa into Empire’s new grand port, especially since most of the funding, previously sent to to the city, miraculously disappeared in the pockets of local government.  Financial contributions stopped and Odessa was on the brink of turning into yet another provincial town in the outskirts. It was then that the Odessans decided to save the city by giving the most extravagant and unexpected present for the Emperor – 4000 of the best Greek oranges! Pavel I loved the present so much that he doubled the city’s funding and Odessa’s construction continued. Witty Odessans of the modern times call the Monument ‘Long live the bribe’ and joke about the Monument’s recent move: from the front yard of city’s local council to the more obscure location at Zhvanetsky Boulevard.

How to get there: Walk from the Mother-In-Law bridge towards Zhvanetsky Boulevard.

7 – Make a wish at the ‘Duke’

2008-08-11-ukraine-odessa-80-duke-de-rishelieu-monument-12

Duke de Richelieu was a prominent statesman during the Bourbon Restoration, and served as a ranking officer in Russian Emperial Army. Appointed as Odessa’s governor in 1803, he greatly contributed to city’s development, and in few years managed to make Odessa third largest city in the whole of Russian Empire. Grateful Odessans erected a Monument to honor Duke’s contribution in 1828.  The statue faces the ever-famous Potemkin Steps and greets the ships visiting Odessa’s harbor. Locals of all generations really love the Duke and hold it as the prime meeting and dating place! Till now the Statue is a regular participant of all city’s festivals: on April Fool’s Day  Duke ‘wears’ cute sailor’s cap, and in Jazz Days tries on the costume of Ellington. Make a wish at the Duke’s Monument or, if you want to make a fortune, touch the sculpture’s bag of money, hugely famous with tourists!

How to get there: Walk up from Potemkinski Steps towards Primorsky Boulevard.

8 – Take a photo of the House with One Wall

3874255-One_Wall_Building_Odessa

What do people do when they do not have enough money to build a proper house with four walls? They build a house with three walls! And they leave the wondering, amazement and surprised photo shoots for those off-the-beaten track travelers, who dare to explore the real neighborhoods of Odessa. The House, located on Vorontsov Lane, is minutes away from the Mother-in-Law bridge, and at the first sight can come across just like any other decadent, falling-apart and rusty building in Odessa. However, if you find the right angle, the building looks like it has only the front wall… and nothing else! This awesome optical illusion is what gave the House its multiple names – Devil’s House, Witch’s House, of Flat House.

How to get there: Walk from Mother-in-Law bridge towards the Primorski Boulevard. At the end of the bridge take a left turn and follow the Vorontsov Street.

9 – Climb over a Soviet submarine at the Memorial of 411th battery

atery

If you ever wanted to explore the real tank, climb over a submarine, or check out the artillery, you should definitely visit the stationary battery of  coastal defence #411, now the Memorial for Heroic Defense of Odessa during the World War II. Memorial has an open-air museum, where you can find a famous Odessa NI tank – an ordinary tractor covered with bullet proof armour, and armoured train similar to those used in the defense days. On the other side of museum there is a tram, that in 1941 followed the route ‘Odessa – front’. And finally, the major attraction is the real post-war submarine ‘Baby/Maliutka’ M-296.

How to get there:  Take bus #194 from Deribasovksaya st. Other buses going to the Memorial are #210, #127, #185. Opening hours: 10 am – 6 pm. Closed on Fridays

10 –  Explore the natural beauty of Dniester Delta National Park

dniester

Northern part of Dniester Liman is a wetland of international importance. The area is home to many endangered species, both plant and animal, which are included into the Red Data Books of Ukraine and Moldova, as well as the Red List of Threatened Species maintained by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). The bird community, nesting in the wetlands, is especially valuable and includes the glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinellus), its most endangered species. Observe and experience the wildlife of Dniester Delta National Park, together with our nature experts at Glossy Ibis campsite. With enormous passion for nature conservation, and intensive knowledge of the local area, our guides will take you to the farthest places in Dniester Delta (Beloe Lake, Turunchuk, Strelka).  To top that, enjoy a lovely fresh fish home-made lunch!

How to get there: Take a bus from Privoz Bus station to the village of Mayaky.odessa_privozodessa_privoz

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