Kiev – the capital of Ukraine and one of the oldest cities in eastern Europe – has a rich history, culture and a versatile city life that can’t be told in a few words. The city experienced various stages of development that have shaped its strength, strong value-system and determination. When you are visiting Kiev, it rapidly takes over your heart and soul. Locals are so open-hearted and welcoming, that in just a few moments you will feel at home. Every step you take there tells you a different story. The mix of both history and modern days creates an exceptional face of the city that simply can’t be forgotten.
I visited Kiev just a few months after the Maidan protests had passed. When I took my first steps in the city, it was already quite late in the evening. Despite that, the city centre was so incredibly lively: lots of locals, tourists, street musicians… And oh those beautiful buildings! But when I got to Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the central square of Kiev, I instantly got the flow of emotions. Nobody was speaking, laughing or rushing. Just pure silence. It seemed that just a few months ago the central square of Kiev was the epicentre of events… And now it’s time to recover.
Two years have passed after my visit to Kiev and I still remember it with a warmth in my heart. Nowadays, the bustling city distinguishes with its vitality, good sense of humour and relentless rebelliousness. Today our awesome team of Kiev’s locals will take you on a 48-hour journey around this vibrant city. They have a lot of tips and want to show you the real face of the city, so get ready, you are about to have some fun!
Day 1: 09:00 – 13:00
Good morning, Kiev! The city is waking up and so are you, so what is your next step after getting out of bed? Breakfast, of course! Our Spotter Olena suggests you start your day at Roast & Brew. The combination of lovely interior and high-quality food makes this restaurant almost irresistible. You can find a variety of dishes on their menu, including Olena’s personal favorite – scrambled eggs with salmon, which is “a nice big dish with more than enough salmon and a thin crunchy toast under the eggs”. Also, Roast & Brew serves a very special green coffee, which is prepared using their own roasting system. By the way, if you can’t imagine your breakfast without a proper dessert, then this restaurant won’t leave you disappointed: they have some spot-on French desserts…
Your visit to Kiev will count for nothing if you don’t visit a local market – it’s absolutely a must! So, let’s head to Bessarabka market. The market dates back to 1912 and most of the buildings have maintained their original appearance (with a few reconstructions, of course). This market is absolutely unique: here you will find some traditional local food, meet lots of local people and feel the pulse of Kiev’s everyday life. It’s a perfect spot to buy some goods for your family and friends, for instance, some pork lard (oh, they will be surprised) or some locally smoked ham. Our local Olena says that “You also will find any fruit or vegetable during any season, caviar, fish, smoked foods, vegan cafe/kiosk and shop, a lot of flowers, coffee, sweets, and bread”. Even if you are not up to buy any goods, you still have to visit the Bessarabka market – it’s simply amazing!
We honestly hope that you bought a rational amount of goods at Bessarabka market so you don’t need to drag your overpacked bags all around Kiev. Anyway, let’s head on further. Our next stop is Ivan Franko theatre and square. Kiev has a lot of beautiful theaters, but our Spotter Elena thinks that this spot has “something cosy, peaceful and very Kievish about it and about the square where it stands”. The theater and square are named on behalf of Ivan Franko who was a famous Ukrainian poet, writer, and a political activist. In front of the theatre, there is a park with a lovely fountain and a few monuments. Elena says that even though this spot is located in the very busy Khreschatyk street, somehow it is still really peaceful. So, it’s a perfect place to walk around or just sit down and enjoy a moment of serenity.
When it comes to history and architecture, Kiev has a lot to offer. Our Spotter Yuliya strongly recommends visiting the National Historical and Architectural Museum called The Fortress of Kiev. It’s an open-air museum and a unique complex of the city’s fortifications. Yuliya especially recommends The Kosyi Caponier, which is a part of these fortifications and is located in the city center. She adds that “My favorite part of this complex is the ramparts – if you go to the top of it you will get the great view on the National Olympic Stadium, <…>, old edifices of the fortress, antique wheel guns and half of the right bank of Kiev in addition”. The fortress is a perfect spot to find out more about the city’s history and enjoy one of the best panoramas of the city.
Day 1: 13:00 – 19:00
Who said that you can’t have lunch in a museum-like restaurant? It’s about the time to drop by Shynok. It’s a restaurant that serves traditional Ukrainian dishes and especially distinguishes itself from other similar spots with its interior. Shynok actually looks like a museum, several areas of the restaurant represent different eras of Ukrainian culture. The menu offers multiple dishes that are typical for each region. The atmosphere in Shynok is simply amazing: a cheerful staff is wearing national clothes and in the background you can hear traditional Ukrainian folk music that is always played live. The menu is super large, so it will probably take some of your time to choose. The restaurant offers everything from salad, cold and hot appetizers to main courses and desserts. Don’t know what otherworldly words such as Pampoushka, Krucheniki or Zhurek are? Just ask the staff, they are always ready to explain the specifics of the dishes!
If you are a person who just can’t pass through the local stores while traveling, then you should drop by the clothing shop, called Invoga. The first thing that you will probably notice is Invoga’s window, which is decorated with amazing pieces of the designers. They are perfectly supplemented with some funny or quirky details. Here you can purchase some exclusive clothes and accessories of brands such as Perrin, Damir Doma, Mykita or local designers like Litkovskaya. Here you won’t find mass-produced clothes, so if you prefer unique pieces of clothing, Invoga is a perfect spot for you. The store is super inviting during the sales: at that time you can buy some really good stuff for very reasonable prices.
“In my opinion Mysteskyi Arsenal is the most beautiful place in the city that hosts different kinds of events”,- that’s how our local Yuliya presents the next place that we are about to visit. It is located in the former Arsenal building, which was built in 1783-1801 as a part of the Old Pechersk fortress. Mysteskyi Arsenal is an amazing cultural spot where various events take place, from local art exhibitions and installations to local fashion events. Yuliya says that the building is really huge so it can host various exhibitions and other cultural events. The entrance fee may vary depending on the event, but sometimes it’s absolutely free!
Let’s head to The National Museum of History of Ukraine in the Second World War, which is located near the Dnieper river. The area of the museum also includes a park and memorial. A great star of this memorial is The Motherland monument (that you can see in the picture above), which is a great symbol of defense against Nazism. The sculpture is really impressive: the figure of a woman with a shield (which is 12×8 meters) and a sword (16 meters) gives off a majestic impression. The whole memorial was built in 1981 and its sculptures reflect the struggles that people dealt with during WWII. Under the sculpture you can see a huge dome: there you can find the museum which has around 17 thousand exhibits that reflect the war period.
Day 1: 19:00 – 23:00
If you want a super fulfilling dinner, there is probably a no better place than Grill do Brasil. The conception of this restaurant is simple: you pay a fixed price for the food and then…You are free to eat everything! Or, to be more clear, you get unlimited access to meat and salad bar. Our Spotter Yuliya explains how the system works: “All the tables are given special plastic chips, turn your chip green side up, signaling to chefs (called Gaucho) that you are ready to start service, then choose a kind of meat you prefer, which is brought to your table by chefs skilled to cut off ideal pieces. When you are full or you want to take a break – turn the red side of the chip up”. Everything is super simple, so all you need to do is to eat – that’s what you are here for. The restaurant has vegetarian dishes as well! Also, don’t forget to get a traditional Brazilian cocktail Caipirinha, which is made from Cachaca (a strong alcoholic beverage), fresh squeezed lime, sugar and ice.
Kiev is a city that offers a wide range of bars and pubs so it might be slightly complicated to choose. But no worries, our Spotter Olena knows the place that you definitely can’t miss. It’s the bar called Parovoz Speak Easy. This spot was opened in the 90s, in one of Kiev’s oldest cinemas. Of course, since that time the bar has been reconstructed completely, but it still kept that special vibe and relaxed atmosphere that it had before. The barmen of Parovoz Speak Easy (porovoz means the locomotive) are complete professionals: they are well-known in Kiev for their impeccable bartending skills. Plus, their cocktails are amazing! It’s a perfect spot for the warm-up before hitting the road to the club. By the way, we won’t be surprised if you decide to stay there till closing time…
Day 1: 23:00 – …
If you want to explore more of Kiev’s nightlife, then lets head to CHI. Although it looks like a super posh club with a fancy interior, it is still one of the most popular places in the city for a night out (by the way, during the daytime CHI is a high-quality Indo-Chinese restaurant). Our Spotter Olena claims that the club is “The best spot in town with a huge terrace facing the deep woods on the Pechersk hills”. CHI has some great signature drinks and cocktails that are prepared by professional barmen. And the dance floor is hectic! CHI usually invites some famous local and foreign DJs. Well, that definitely sounds like a lot of fun… Are you ready for an awesome night in Kiev? Then see you at CHI!
Day 2: 09:00 – 13:00
We are quite sure that you had a kickin’ night, didn’t you? We know what you probably need. Coffee. Say no more, let’s drop by Chashka Espresso Bar. Locals prefer to start the day with a cup of high-quality coffee and this place is spot-on. Our Spotter Anton says that Chashka Espresso Bar serves undoubtedly the best coffee in the city. The whole conception of the bar was inspired by New York City, which can tell from their interior and menu. Don’t worry, this place also has a breakfast menu, which, of course, includes scrambled eggs, sandwiches or oatmeal. Simple, but finger-lickin’ delicious food and a cup of great coffee, what else do you need for a great start of your morning?
Your energy is probably raised to the maximum, so it’s about the time to explore more local favorite spots. Our Spotter Elena recommends visiting the Museum of Natural History. She’s been there a few times and has no doubts that she will come back for more. What’s so special about it? First of all, the building itself. The museum was built in 1960 and, during that time, there weren’t so many renovations. So, don’t expect to find up-to-date technology or a modern interior. The whole old-school atmosphere makes the museum really unique and fascinating. Also, here you can find an impressive exhibition that is divided into four sections: zoology, paleontology, geology, and botany. Elena says that “My favorite parts are zoology and paleontology. They have stuffed animals of all kinds, skeletons of mammoths and dinosaurs, most of which were found on the territory of Ukraine”. Definitely worth a visit!
The next stop – Zoloty Vorota Metro Station. We simply can’t mention this place since it’s truly a piece of art. You can find this station on the Green line, next to the city’s famous Golden Gates. The station is decorated with massive chandeliers, mosaics, and columns. The art and architecture of the station depict the Kievan Rus’ era. Every corner of Zoloty Vorota Metro Station has something unique… According to Yuliya, The Daily Paragraph listed this station as one of the most beautiful in Europe.
“This is a true Central Park of Kiev”, – that’s how our local Alex presents our next spot – Shevchenko park. The park is located in the center of the city, right opposite the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kiev. The name of the park was given in honor of Taras Shevchenko, a well-known Ukrainian writer, and poet. The park is a really popular venue amongst locals and particularly amongst chess-players since there are lots of tables with painted chessboards. The park is a cozy place to walk around, grab some coffee and snacks from food carts or simply rent a bike or segway (if you are too lazy for walking). Sometimes various local events take place at Shevchenko Park: concerts, dancing contests, and even festivals. Also, Alex strongly recommends to try out some delicious pancakes outside the Taras restaurant, near the playground. His personal favorite is a pancake with condensed milk. Mouthwatering!
Day 2: 13:00 – 19:00
It’s about time to grab some lunch and our local Olena knows a perfect place! It’s a restaurant called Klukva-Brukva. This spot has an exceptional food policy: all the dishes have to be prepared using local products such as vegetables, meat, spices, and even alcohol. All dishes have a modern twist, for instance, marmalade made from beetroot or pumpkin. But, despite the unexpected combinations, you can still feel the taste of the traditional Ukrainian cuisine. Klukva-Brukva has a cozy, eco-friendly interior that nicely supplements this unique experience. Enjoy!
The next spot that our local Elena strongly recommends is called Old city triangle. Well, calling it a spot may be a little bit misleading because it is actually an area – shaped like a triangle – which connects three different streets: Striletska, Yaroslaviv Val and Velyka Zhytomyrska by the Golden Gates metro station. While walking along these streets, you will notice that they reflect various styles of architecture – from Gothic to Stalinist – that simultaneously merge together with modernism and urban art, such as graffiti, sculptures and mural paintings. Although the Triangle connects three streets, the area is quite small so it won’t take a lot of your time to walk around it. No need to rush: explore the hidden corners, visit some boutiques and art galleries, that are located at those streets, and enjoy the local life of Kiev.
Kiev has plenty of historical places that definitely can’t be missed while visiting. One such place is Behterevskiy lane. The lane is located on the hill, near the central street of Artema. The lane is quite short and it ends right opposite the entrance of Pokrovsky monastery, which is the biggest monastery in Kiev. Behterevskiy lane has some special spots and our Spotter Elena mentions two of them: “If you walk into the backyard of the building №10, you’ll see three walls of a ruin. These are the remains of a hundred-year-old building. <…> Another interesting place is building 4G which has a small cozy cafe in the backyard. This year they had mini parties with music, movies, and barbeque”. By the way, the previously mentioned building once was a home of famous Ukrainian writer Ivan Nechuy-Levytsky!
Almost all of us have heard about the Chernobyl disaster, a catastrophic nuclear accident that occurred in 1984. The disaster had a lot of tragic sequences that still can’t be forgotten nowadays. So, while visiting Kiev, you should visit the Chornobyl museum, which you can find near Kontraktova square. The museum was established in a former fire-station that took an essential part in eliminating the effects of the disaster. The museum has three showrooms with more than 7000 exhibits that include photos, video footage, secret documents, special equipment, and other authentic material. The museum’s exhibition is equipped with modern audio-visual technologies and art installations that give an additional perception of the catastrophe. The whole museum conveys a significant message, which greets museum’s visitors right at the entrance: “There is a limit of sadness, anxiety has no limits” (translated from Latin: “Est dolendi modus, non est timendi”).
Day 2: 19:00 – 23:00
This restaurant will definitely leave you with some great memories. The name is Ostannya Barykada and it can be entered only if you know the password. Want to find out the password, then read Olena’s article! The restaurant serves Ukrainian dishes that are simply delicious and fulfilling. By the way, this spot also has two bars and a museum where you can find original exhibits from the revolutions.
After your dinner at Ostannya Barykada, we want to take you to a super lovely bar called Gnezdo Bar. Our local Anton says that a bar is a non-touristy place, it’s the spot where particularly locals love to hang out. When you enter the bar it seems that you have just entered an otherworldly place, full of positiveness, coziness, and warmth. The place is full of flowers, colorful paintings, and friendly locals. The experienced bartenders of Gnezdo Bar are going to prepare some top-notch cocktails and the music in the background will lift up your spirits! Also, the bar is located directly on the slopes, so its terrace faces the entire city… Such an inspiring spot to visit in Kiev!
Day 2: 23:00 – …
Do you still have some energy left for clubbing? Then let’s hit the club Closer. Our local Alex, who is a huge fan of this spot, says that “This is a complex of different spaces in the premises of an old factory. Music concerts and parties, fashion shows and art exhibitions, fitness workouts and different festivals, cinemas and lectures are going on here 24/7.” So, whenever you come to Closer club, you can find it moving as there is a lot of space for action. Alex’ favorite spot in the club is upstairs, in the attic, which is called Mezzanine. Overall, no matter which area you choose at Closer, you will definitely feel the vibe of the amazing city of Kiev.