Visit Kiev and discover a fantastic blend of old architecture, a vibrant art scene, buzzing nightlife and tasty food. Travel to one of those brilliant cities where the respective cultures of East and West meet!
What you need to know about Kiev
Language: Ukrainian is the local language. English is more widely spoken in Kiev compared to other smaller cities in Ukraine but not everyone will speak it so be sure to learn a few handy Ukrainian phrases in case you need them.
Currency: The Ukrainian Hryvnia is the currency in Kiev.
Banking: ATMs are found all over the city, with all normal credit and debit cards being accepted by retailers, restaurants and points of sale.
Weather: The weather can be nice and warm at times like in summer when the temperature is a pleasant average of 20 degrees. The summer months are also when there is normally the most rainfall so keep that in mind when packing for your holiday.
In the winter months it is stereotypically cold and you should expect sub-zero temperatures (average in January is -5 degrees for example) so definitely pack a hat and scarf!
A trip from Kiev to Chernobyl and Pripyat is the no.1 thing to do
Of all the attractions that are available in Kiev the best thing that you can do when visiting is to book onto an official trip to the town of Pripyat and the Chernobyl disaster site.
A journey that will take you around two hours drive as part of a group excursion, it is an incredible experience and one that is 100% guaranteed to be the highlight of any travel you undertake to the region.
The town of Pripyat was evacuated in super fast time so the abandoned buildings and the area in general is literally a time capsule. The natural elements have encroached into many of the buildings but you can, carefully, walk around the swimming pool, school building, hospital, houses and more. You will also see the famous Ferris wheel that has recently been erected before the nuclear disaster but was never used due to the evacuation.
Tours will generally provide you with lunch (if not then it will be stated on your booking) and give you some novelty things like your own personal geiger counter to let you monitor the ambient radiation that you are walking around in. Fear not, a day trip to Pripyat will expose you to less radiation than your likely dose experienced during your flight to Kiev so there is nothing to worry about.
You can expect to be briefed on a few rules such as do not touch items in the area and not to interact with your surroundings in any way (e.g. do not sit on the furniture). The biggest rule will be not to try to take anything out of Chernobyl or Pripyat - some less than cool travellers do this for selfish reasons - and you can expect to be potentially searched. All of this is for your own protection so be compliant at all times and enjoy a truly unique experience like nowhere else on earth!
A warm and welcoming city with modernising aspirations
The people in Ukraine, and Kiev especially, are friendly and welcoming to visitors. The country has gone through some turbulent political times recently but the overriding sentiment from both election results and the outlook of the population is that they are outward looking and happy to embrace the global world.
Learn a few key phrases in Ukrainian to be polite but expect people to be fairly helpful and warm, especially the younger generation and those working in the service industries.
As well as all the historical buildings and traditional touches to be found in the city, there are loads of other attractions that may appeal including the unique and wacky House with Chimeras, the Landscape Alley park area and the National Opera House of Ukraine where you can see a lovely variety of performances.
The churches in Kiev are beautiful and plentiful
You are sure to come across some of the most beautiful and stunning churches and cathedrals anywhere in Europe. Some are big, some are small, but all are impressive and worth a visit.
Of the options to visit on your trip we would say the following are the ones to have on your hit list:
- Uspenski Cathedral
- St. Sophia's Cathedral
- St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Cathedral
- St. Volodymyr's Cathedral
If you can only visit one or two as part of your travel itinerary then Uspenski Cathedral is definitely the one to visit. The cathedral is the centre piece of the massive monastery complex that you can find in the middle of the city and it is an absolute must-see when you are in Kiev. You will find it on the banks of the Dnieper River where it has stood since 1073 and is simply stunning.
Find your way to Lavrska St and you will easily come across the temple complex.
Be prepared to see statues that are big, small, weird and wonderful
There is a bit of a teutonic vibe to some of the architecture in Ukraine's capital city. Much of it celebrates triumphantly significant moments in its past.
Some of the statues are universally loved by locals. Some of them are less noteworthy during everyday life. The most imposing of them all is the 102 metres tall statue of Rodina Mat (or "Nature's Mother" when translated) can be seen from pretty much every part of the city and is obviously enormous. The reason the statue is noteworthy from a tourist's perspective, aside from being a photography subject, is that you can enter inside her right leg and ride an elevator all the way up until you are inside her head - not a bad ride for 200 UAH (about £0.02 or $0.05) which make this not only a pretty neat thing to do but also super cheap!