After my first impressions of Kyiv, I was continually impressed spending time in Ukraine’s capital. Here’s my selection of things to see and some truly awesome places to stuff your face with.
What To See
As always my first port of call in any city when I start to explore is the Old Town and Old Kyiv is just wonderful. The perfect starting point is a replica of the main fortified medieval gate, the Golden Gates. Set within a bustling vibe, you can explore the square nicely with a coffee admiring the confusing architecture the wall possesses. On one side lovely huge bricked structure and the a wooden cabin like structure adorning the other. Don’t forget to fondle the cat nearby and make a wish. Walking further down you reach of the famous churches St Sophia, within a large square and opposite in the distance you cannot miss the another golden domed church St Michael. Close by is Park Landscape Alley and you can see cool funky kids decor, especially of cats. It’s a lovely green space leading to one of my favourite ares of the city, Andriyivsky’s Descent and Podil. Take your time walking down the cobbled street, admiring the vintage buildings, window shopping and soak up the trendy vibe at the bottom in Podil. This was clearly where young, hip people like me hang out. Not sure why my companions laughed thinking it was a joke I said. No idea. But Podil is your Little Brooklyn. Totally trendy and hipster central.
Exploring Tip: Get off the Main Streets once in a while, look for the arch alleyways, this is where you’ll find the hidden gems!
To see true downtown Khreshchatyk area is cool to walk down. You have your huge imposing buildings, water features and the picture friendly I Love Kyiv signs. Of course I took advantage. Over the weekends this road is closed off to cars and has a cool vibe especially when the weather is nice. For me though I loved walking down Velyka Vasylkivska St. This was my kind of street, both sides adorned with restaurants, shops, coffee shops, classic buildings, locals walking around and your eyes just dot around everywhere. Even though I once walked for 30 minutes down this road when the temperature was -10C, which is nothing for the locals, but for me I had icicles forming on my leg hair; I was in awe.
For some green space and to get away from the hustle of the city, head towards the Botanical Garden but not after catching a glimpse of the colour of revolution, or blood, Taras Shevchenko University. It’s really quite red.
My Tip: Even though the city is full of churches, there’s a lovely Mosque called Al-Rahma located at Lukianivska St. Beautifully styled both outside and in.
You cannot explore the city without catching glimpses of some amazing wall murals dotted around the city. Street art is clearly a thing here, there even an app you can use to hunt them all down. For me, such a highlight.
Where to Eat
One thing, other than coffee, Kyiv is not short of is places to eat. Man oh man there are so many! Everything from fine dining, local and international cuisine, comfort food, dirty but oh so yummy digs, and there’s even food markets. Highlights of some of my favourites.
I love seafood, most places for sure always have a few fish dishes on the menu, but to get the yummy ones two places stood out, Chornomorka Na Preobrazhensʹkiy and Odessa. The former is your classic, old school place like you’re dining directly on the fish market, whist the latter is your more modern fare. I fell in love with Vorschmack here, in Odessa it was such a cool touch the waiter made it in front of you at the table. In Chornomorka Na Preobrazhensʹkiy the fried red mullet was so so so good!
Although clearly to show off the best Kyiv has to offer in terms of traditional Ukrainian cuisine, Kanapa and The Last Barricade are obvious choices. The decor in the Last Barricade is truly amazing, and a nice, if a bit gimmicky, touch when you have to say a secret password to enter. Apparently this place was the last place of resistance during the revolution, and before you are sat at the table your hostess gives a lovely quick history lesson. However I was more entertained by the moving bar stools we sat on! Kanapa is just comfy and elegant. The highlight for me was a melting edible garlic flavoured candle stick. That was pretty cool.
But the trend now in dining is fusion. Mixing old with new. Lyubimy dyadya, Life of Wonderful People and Adelle are classic examples of it done right. Awesome modern, hip decor, and food taking inspiration from the middle east and with local tradition, resulted in tummy rubbing goodness.
Heading further east and for a more International palate, recommend Fog Factory for sushi and shisha (genius), Nam for Vietnamese cuisine in a truly majestic setting and my regular haunt Doner and Burger where it was so nice when the waiter’s always greeted me with a Asalamualaiykum (Peace be upon you in Arabic) and shook my hand. And yes it was real Turkish Doner and Halal. Was so good.
Georgian cuisine is equivalent how Indian cuisine is the most popular in the UK. There are so many of them. However the best is Gogi. You are greeted with drinks before even sitting down, and the place has a very relaxed vibe going on. It was where I had a stranger come up to our table and dedicate a poem to me. In Ukrainian, mind you, but I am told it was very nice and deep. Touching.
Check back soon for a Coffee Session entry of my experience in Kyiv. Peace and Love.
Local’s Tip: Check out Ohlyadovyy Maydanchyk just before dusk to get an amazing view of the city as the sun sets.