Kiev

Kiev Travel Guide

Kyiv Travel Guide Cityscape by CC user lord_yo on Flickr

Kyiv Travel Guide Cityscape by CC user lord_yo on Flickr

Introduction

With records of its founding dating it back to the 5th century, Kiev is the oldest continually inhabited city in Eastern Europe.

While political turmoil in 2014 discouraged tourism, peace has since returned to the capital of the Ukraine, and with plummeting value of the hryvni of late, the costs of taking a trip to Kiev is in the ballpark of SE Asian cities like Bangkok or Saigon.

European sophistication at Thai prices … how can you say no to a proposition like that?

Cultural Experiences

Saint Sophia's Cathedral by CC user 26010780@N06 on Flickr

The attraction that should be first on your list of places to see in this city is Kiev Pechersk Lavra, which is an Orthodox Christian monastery that was founded in the 11th century.

Built into a series of natural caves in the valley walls of the River Dnieper, it is one of two religious sites in Kiev that has had the honour of a UNESCO World Heritage designation bestowed upon it.

The highlights of this complex include the Great Lavra Belltower, which was the tallest freestanding version of this type of structure in the world when it was completed in the mid 18th century, the All Saints Church, which is a great example of Ukrainian Baroque architecture, and the cave system, where many monks made their home over countless centuries.

The other spot in Kiev that has been awarded UNESCO recognition is Saint Sophia’s Cathedral. Completed in the middle of the 11th century, the five homes of this Orthodox church is a symbol of national pride in Ukraine, as it appears on the back of the 2 hryvni bill.

Be sure not to miss the milennia old frescoes inside, or the sarcophagi of Yaroslav the Wise, who was credited with building this cathedral.

Formerly called the Museum of the Great Patriotic War, the newly re-dubbed Museum of The History of Ukraine in World War II chronicles the story of one of the most gruesome battlefields in that global conflict.

It was in the Ukraine where some of the bloodiest fights of World War II occurred, as the Germans threw everything it could at Stalin’s Red Army.

Inside the museum, 300,000 artifacts tell the tale of those terrible years, while the gigantic Motherland Monument, which stands 62 meters high (the sword in its right hand is 16 meters high by itself), which towers above the building that sits in front of it.

Other Attractions

Maidan Nezalezhnosti by CC user 26781577@N07 on Flickr

Take some time to hang out in the Maidan Nezalezhnosti when you are in the downtown core of Kiev, as it is the biggest public square in the city.

Aside from being a popular gathering place for locals, it was here where a number of protests that taken place against various regimes, the last of which ousted pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych in 2014.

Apart from various reminders of the most recent insurrection, the architecture of the buildings lining the square, monuments honouring its independence, and excellent shopping opportunities make a visit here well worth your while.

Those looking for a reminder of the medieval era will find a well-preserved remnant of that time at the Golden Gates of Kiev.

Though an extensive reconstruction during Communist times has cast doubt on whether the original gate looked like it did more than 900 years ago, visitors to this place that can suspend their disbelief will be able to imagine it as the last scrap of an extensive city wall that used to shelter this city from roving bands of Barbarians during an often lawless period in European history.

One of the biggest tragedies to befall the world in the 20th century happened in the Ukraine, as a nuclear power plant suffered a partial meltdown, spewing highly toxic radioactive fallout across the country and much of Central and Eastern Europe.

The Ukrainian National Chornobyl Museum recounts the details of what happened in those fateful days, which included the heroic efforts of workers (often at the cost of their losing their own lives in a slow and painful fashion) to prevent a more horrific tragedy that could have made much of Europe unlivable for centuries.