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14 Top Attractions & Things to Do in Kiev, Ukraine

Written by Alison Abbott
Dec 30, 2019

Kiev is having a moment. Regularly the subject of the nightly news, the city is just waiting to be discovered by tourists. You may know it as the capital of Ukraine and a manufacturing powerhouse, but what you may not know is that this lesser known European city also makes a dream destination for visitors.

Walk through the streets and visit the many small shops, restaurants, museums, and landmarks. The city has a population of three million, but in most neighborhoods, it retains its small-town vibe.

As the hub of science, industry, and culture in Ukraine, there isn't much you won't find in this undiscovered Eastern European gem. Whether you are looking for romance, history, or just a getaway to somewhere unique, Kiev offers a little something for everyone within the city limits.

Although there are many places to visit in the city, find the best spots for sightseeing with our list of the top attractions and things to do in Kiev.

1. St. Sophia's Cathedral

Saint Sophia's Cathedral

St. Sophia's Cathedral (also called Saint Sophia Cathedral) is one of seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Ukraine and was awarded the important status in the 1980s. It was constructed in 1037 and is named for Hagia Sophia. Since it's a favorite of tourists, visiting earlier in the day is recommended.

It's one of the oldest and most jaw-dropping of Kiev's impressive churches. Beautiful murals, ancient mosaics, and frescoes adorn the interior. Additional structures have been added over the years; one entrance fee is good for all.

Enjoy the views over the city form the bell tower. Tours are available.

Address: Volodymyrska St, 24, Kyiv

2. St. Andrew's Church

St. Andrew's Church, Kiev

Another of Kiev's important landmarks is found in Podil, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. It was built by the Russian architect, Bartolomeo Rastrelli, during the time of Catherine the Great.

Churches were often built high on a hill for all to see, and St. Andrew's is a prime example. While the church is no longer religious in nature, it does house an important collection of paintings and sculptures. St. Andrew was a patron saint of Kiev, and the impressive Baroque architecture reflects his importance.

Address: Andriivs'kyi descent, 23, Kyiv

3. National Art Museum of Ukraine

The National Art Museum of Ukraine illuminated at night

One of the most visited museums in Ukraine is the National Art Museum. It was established in 1897 by a successful patron of the arts, Bohdan Khanenko, who was determined to build the first museum in the country. Succeed he did—the historically important building contains a collection of important sculptures, artwork, and icons.

Represented are Ukrainian artists, both local and those who have moved to other countries and continued their career in the arts. The museum also shows the work of contemporary artists and is recognized around the world as an important representation of art from Eastern Europe.

Address: 6 Mykhaila Hrushevskoho Street, Kyiv

4. Kiev Pechersk Lavra Monastery

Kiev Pechersk Lavra or the Kiev Monastery of the Caves

This monastery complex was founded by two monks of the caves: St. Anthony and St. Theodosius. Constructed over a series of caves excavated by the monks, it is remarkable to think they date to the 11th century.

The Baroque style of Ukraine is again at work in the series of additional buildings in the complex. You might hear the attraction referred to as both the Near and Far Caves. Make sure to visit both areas, as you will find hundreds of artifacts.

Do not miss the underground crypts, where monks are buried under glass. Here, you'll find a fairly creepy and somewhat claustrophobic look into the past, and one of the most unique sights of the city.

5. Mariyinsky Palace

The Mariyinsky Palace

This Baroque palace is the official ceremonial home for the President of Ukraine. After a fire destroyed the first structure, Alexander II had the palace reconstructed in 1870, following the model of the old drawings. The pale blue exterior lends a dreamy quality to the magnificent architecture.

Inside, visitors will find a collection of artwork by Ukrainian masters, as well as cultural and historic treasures. The surrounding landscaped gardens are a nice place for contemplation.

Address: 5A, Mykhaila Hrushevskoho St, Kyiv

6. Independence Square

Independence Square

Independence Square had its international debut in 2004 as the scene of the Orange Revolution, when the power of the people changed Ukrainian history and the future of the country.

As the central square in the city, many festivals, concerts, and parades take place in the area. The attraction contains six fountains, a waterfall, and a large column representing Ukrainian independence. In the evening, it makes for a great people-watching spot, and there is often a light show and music with the fountains on colorful display.

Visitors will find this area a convenient location for their stay in the city as it is close to many shops, restaurants, and popular areas.

7. Mezhyhirya: Former Presidential Palace

Main building in Mezhyhirya, Ukraine

Mezhyhirya is situated in a lovely location on the banks of the scenic Dnieper River. The comples is the former residence of ex-president of Ukraine, Viktor Yonukovych. If you are lucky, your tour guide might be a caped member of the former resistance. Charged with protecting this example of political greed and corruption, he makes for quite an interesting hour of commentary.

Visitors will be overwhelmed by the extravagance on display. Today, in all its glory, the building is a symbol and reminder of overindulgence and institutional greed and corruption. Within its gated walls, there are tennis courts, a shooting range, an equestrian club, helicopter pad, ostrich farm, dog kennel, golf course, and hunting grounds—all built while the population of the country struggled to feed itself.

The surrounding gardens are beautifully maintained and a nice place to have a picnic while trying to process all that you have just taken in on the tour.

Address: Novi Petrivtsi, Kyiv Oblast

8. National Opera and Ballet of Ukraine

National Academic Opera and Ballet Theater of Ukraine, Kiev

From its humble beginnings in 1867, the National Opera of Ukraine has been a cultural mainstay in Kiev. The impressive structure that houses the cultural institution is filled with unique architecture and has modern amenities after it was rebuilt following a devastating fire in the 1980s.

It's one of the most popular cultural attractions in the city—millions of people over the last century have graced its halls and viewed classics like Swan Lake or the Nutcracker.

The National Opera isn't just a great place to view a performance. Outside is the perfect spot to people watch or grab a bite to eat. There is a waterfall sculpture outside, and across the street are a few excellent restaurants from which to choose.

Address: Chaikovs'koho Ln, 1, Odesa, Odes'ka oblast

9. Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War

Monument of Soviet liberators who fought with German invaders, Kiev

Opened in 1981, the Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War is located on the banks of the Dnieper River. Within the complex, you will find everything related to the role that Ukraine played in the Second World War commemorated in statues and relics, like uniforms, letters, and larger pieces of history like airplanes and artillery.

Although most of the exhibits aren't in English, you will still get a sense of what it was like to be a soldier during that time, and walking around outside, you can see some impressive views of the city below.

10. St. Volodymyr's Cathedral

St. Volodymyr's Cathedral

As one of Kiev's key landmarks, St. Volodymyr's Cathedral is probably one of the city's most significant churches. Surely it is one of the most impressive. Many would consider it a key component of the Ukrainian Orthodox structure.

From the moment you walk in the door, you are greeted by the amazing Byzantine-style architecture and art that most visitors find breathtaking. The craftsmanship is exquisite and one-of-a-kind, complete with gilded murals, paintings, and hand-carved accents all nested into this holy space. The grounds are equally beautiful, on a tree-lined street near Shevchenko University.

When you visit, take note that both men and women will need to be appropriately dressed, and women will need a headscarf. Be mindful of the time as well. Regular services are hosted daily.

Address: Tarasa Shevchenko Blvd, 20, Kyiv

11. The Golden Gates

Golden Gate, Kiev

Although the original "golden gate" was dismantled in the Middle Ages, the gates that are here today pay honor to the main gate in the 11th century that helped fortify Kiev.

Modeled after the Golden Gate of Constantinople, the structure that stands today was built in 1982 amid controversy. There were no photos to compare it to, just oral tradition as to what the gates would have looked like, so there are many who feel as if this isn't an accurate representation.

At the gates, you will also find a branch of the Sophia of Kiev museum, and several vendors in traditional dress sell local wildflowers around the monument.

Getting here is easy—there is a station of the Metro with easy access.

12. Feofaniya Park

Feofaniya park with St. Panteleimon's Cathedral in the background

Feofaniya Park is a beautiful respite in the bustling city of Kiev. Located near the southern outskirts, this park became part of the Soviet state farm system and home to the main observatory for the Institute of Botany of the Ukrainian Academy of Science. This school is well known in Ukraine and Europe in its studies of biodiversity.

Take a stroll in the park and explore the lush greenery and unique plants that call this park home. It's a great way to spend a lunch break or just get away from the city to recharge in a welcome sea of green.

13. The Motherland Monument

Motherland statue devoted to the Great Patriotic War in Kiev

This statue, located in Victory Park, commemorates the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany and is a focal point in Kiev. Take a walk around the grounds and admire the views overlooking the Dnieper river.

Inside, visitors will find the Museum of the Great Patriotic War, opened in 1995 at the base of the statue. Thousands of visitors have flocked here to observe and view World War II memorabilia, from weapons to battle dioramas.

This giant titanium statue is taller than the Statue of Liberty. There is a viewing platform that can be reached by elevator, but only with a guide. When you are here, be sure to check out the Hall of Glory and the Hall of Remembrance and Sorrow, a sober reminder of those who lost their lives.

14. M.M. Gryshko National Botanical Garden

The M. M. Gryshko National Botanical Garden in Kyiv (Kiev) at sunrise

Named after the famed botanist Mykola Gryshko, this beautiful nature preserve is filled with local flora and fauna, as well as plants from all over the world.

Take a walk through the hothouses, greenhouses, or conservatories, where you can check out the exotic plants, as well as a plethora of flowers, from peonies to magnolias. If you are lucky enough to visit here during the spring, you can revel in the gorgeous lilacs in the central gardens, which are a favorite of visitors.

There is a small entry fee charged, but visitors could easily spend several hours here if they are looking for a green space to walk and enjoy the outdoors.

Address: 1 Timiryazevskaya Street, Kiev

Official site: http://www.nbg.kiev.ua/en/

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