Kiev (or Kyiv) is something of a surprise; the modern lush cityscape is dotted with modern architecture, Soviet monuments and Byzantine relics. There’s plenty to do here; cruise down the leafy Dnieper River, visit the thought-provoking Chornobyl Museum and browse the handsome churches and cathedrals.
Admire St Sophia’s Cathedral
Construction began on St Sophia’s Cathedral in the 11th century, and features many unique aspects that define it as a prominent landmark. Originally built as a rival to the great Hagia Sophia in then Constantinople (now Istanbul), St Sophia’s is the oldest remaining church in Kiev. Included on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1990, the cathedral draws admirers from across the world. Many of the surrounding buildings were initially constructed from wood, and rebuilt with stone after a fire in 1697. The church expanded throughout the years, and is now a conglomeration of faith, history, beauty and art encased within the walls of the church.
Visiting this location is an ideal way to learn more about the history of the area itself as well as the religion residents practice.
The modern St. Michael’s Cathedral by contrast opened in 1999 and features golden domes and is pictured to the left. This monastery stands on the banks of the Dnieper River and can be combined with a visit to St Sophias.
Explore St Andrew’s Church on Andriyivsky Uzviz
Andriyivsky Uzviz is loosely translated to “Andrew’s Descent”, this street has much to offer in addition to the beautiful St. Andrew’s Church. Located at the top of the steep cobblestone street, the crisp blue domes of St. Andrew’s Church will catch your eye first. This Baroque masterpiece was opened in 1754 and during construction, the first brick laid by the hand of Tsaress Elizabeth Petrovna, who intended to personally tend to the church after it was constructed. It was designed by the same architect that created St Petersburg’s Winter palace, Bartelomeo Rastrelli. Heading down the Andriyivsky Uzviz from the church, visitors can soak up the city’s rich culture and history, browse the numerous vendor stands, galleries and museums located on either side. During special times throughout the year, festivals and celebrations are held on the street to honour the past and present.
Take a moment at the Chornobyl Museum
Many will remember the harrowing news from 26 April 1986 as the Chernobyl disaster unfolded at a nuclear reactor in Pripyat. One of the most infamous and sombre sites in the world, Chernobyl is now the home to a museum commemorating the disaster of 1986. Many different artifacts including photos, diagrams, and even examples of what the radiation did to animals and other organisms is located in this museum. The reactor itself is within the “exclusion zone” and although there are people working there to keep the plant itself functional, the damaged reactor is encased in a concrete sarcophagus intended to keep the area as safe as is possible, however there is still radiation present, and the nearby towns remain abandoned – for the most part.
Enjoy a family day our at the Kiev Hydropark
Spanning two islands; Venetian and Dolobetsk, the outdoor recreation area of the Hydropark is filled with various activities and is just one of the many great family friendly things to do in Kiev. Including beaches, boats, a casino, restaurants, an even an open-air club, this location has it all. For a small fee, visitors can enjoy the area for the day and even into the night hours as well. The city beach area includes a space for those looking to sunbathe ‘au naturel’, and there are often parties here that last long after the sun goes down.
National Opera House of Ukraine
Established in 1867, this opera house is currently home to the Kiev Opera Company. Although the original building was lost in a fire during 1896, the structure was rebuilt in the Viennese Modern style, with a large stage. Known for drawing world class talent, this facility is one of the most prestigious in the country, and anyone visiting or viewing it will understand why. Lavishly decorated both inside and out, this Opera House is a valuable testament to the history of the area.
Browse the great Museums of Kiev
As in any area with such a long and rich history, there is much to learn about the Kiev area, and plenty of museums to provide information. The Mikhail Bulgakov Museum was built to honour a successful local writer. Artifacts inside include papers, photos, postcards and other items from the man’s life, giving a unique perspective into a creative mind.
Another famous museum is the National Museum of the History of the Great Patriotic War. Located on the outskirts of town, and on the bank of the Dnieper River, this museum and its contents are commemorative of the German-Soviet War. The current location is the third in the history of the building, and features more than 300,000 exhibits. One of the most famous parts of this museum is the Motherland Monument, a 62 meter tall statue.
Other notable museums include the Pirogovo Open Air Museum (pictured above), the intriguing Mykola Syadristy Micro-miniatures Museum and the State Aviation Museum.
Explore the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra Caves Monastery
The center of the Eastern Orthodox Church in Eastern Europe, the currently active monastery of Pechersk Lavra is also a much visited attraction. Perched high above the Dnieper River, the gold domes are the first thing you’ll notice. One of the Seven Wonders of Ukraine, this facility is also known as the Caves Monastery, and is made up of many structures. These include underground caves, belltowers, cathedrals and numerous separate churches. Visitors can also walk through a large museum that is located on the grounds and can even see the mummified monks.