We lived for a few months in Ukraine, exploring Kyiv and its surroundings
Highs & Lows
Hidden gems in Podil
Difficult to communicate in English
We came to Kyiv to work and live for a few months. We were lucky enough that most of that time the weather was amazing, the gorgeous hot summer really took us by surprise. We decided to take advantage of it and were trying to get to know the city as much as possible.
You probably won't find Kyiv on one of those "Top 10 cities to see before you die" lists but it's definitely worth to give it a chance. It's a great city to see some Soviet Brutalism architecture. It's also a great city to chill in one of the parks and sip some specialty coffee. It seems like people in the capital are obsessed with coffee and I was very pleased to see that. Kyiv is also a great place to experience some wonderful hospitality. People we met were lovely and so helpful. The word impossible doesn't seem to exist here in Ukraine. As long as you can articulate what you need. And for that you need to know Ukrainian (or Russian) because it's really difficult to go by when you only speak English. I admit it was a source of frustration for us but no place is perfect, so don't let that discourage you from visiting Ukraine.
Here are a few of the highs and lows from our stay in Kyiv
The highs :
- Mariinsky Park and the area around it is beautiful and peaceful and has some gorgeous architecture. It's a great place to visit but also stay while in the city.
- Floorivs'kyy Monastyr. Although I'm not a big fan of church tourism, I loved this place. It probably didn't hurt that there were some lazy cats sunbathing in various places around the Monastyr. But even if you don't like cats, or churches for that matter, I recommend to pop in there while having a stroll in Podil.
- Podil area - for walks, for hipster cafes, for street art, for chilled out afternoons
- Jellyfish Museum. I know it sounds so peculiar but it's not really a museum, more like a jellyfish aquarium. Gorgeous jellyfish, I could stare at them for hours. The only downside is that the place is rather small and filled with children so maybe bring noise cancelling headphones and you'll be dandy ;)
- Trukhaniv Island. Take the pedestrian bridge to cross over Dnipro river and if time allows, plan an entire afternoon on the island. There's a gorgeous beach and quite a big nature reserve to visit.
- Mezhyhirya Residence. Known as Museum of Corruption here in Ukraine. Worth a visit but plan it well as it's not that easy to get there because it's on the outskirts of Kiev. Mezhyhirya is a former residence of Viktor Yanykovych and takes over 140ha. You can rent a bicycle or an electric scooter to move around the estate. Bring lunch and have it somewhere on a golf field or by the yacht pier. Whatever perks you can think of, Yanykovych had it all.
- The Ukrainian National Chernobyl Museum is dedicated to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. The museum is very small and there are practically no information in English so unless you know Russian, I'd suggest skipping it.
- National Botanical Garden. I love botanical gardens so I had high hopes but ended up a bit disappointed. The place is ok but it's nothing special. It looks more like a park rather than a botanical garden.
Q & A
What would you have changed?I would have taken some taken some lessons in Ukrainian (or Russian) prior to the trip. Or at least learn how to read Cyrillic. Not understanding Cyrillic makes a simple grocery shopping trip a real struggle.
Restaurant recommendations?* Hum:Hum - cool, land back place in Podil with good breakfast and lots of vegetarian/vegan options * Mama Manana - Georgian cousine, moderate prices, nice decor, many locations * Puzata Hata - budget option, lots of locations, Ukrainian food * Chernomorka - a few locations in Kiev, very good fish and seafood * The Life of Wonderful People - beautiful decor, many vegetarian options, good breakfast and lunch, nice vibe in the evening * Kyiv Food Market - lots of food options to choose from, live music in the evenings * Viet Bar - best pho we could find * TAKAVA Coffee Buffet - good specialty coffee, many locations * Drunk Cherry - a few locations in Kiev, yummy cherry wine * Lviv Croissants - you'll see it on every corner, good sandwich fast food, some veggie options * Basque - a hole in the wall right in the city centre, excellent basque cheesecake and good coffee, good pit stop if you need a sugar rush
Transportation Tips?Some tube stations in Kyiv are really beautiful. It's worth to take a ride just to see some of them.
Any surprises?Certain areas in Kyiv can be hilly so bring comfy shoes.