How to spend 8 hours in Kiev, Ukraine

posted in: Ukraine | 41

Kiev is a fantastic city to explore and is the heart and soul of Ukraine. Despite recent troubles in the country with the Russian invasion, Ukraine is still a safe country to explore and forget about what the media are talking about. It’s all rubbish. It is unsafe (as of 2017) to visit Eastern Ukraine and difficult to get into Crimea (the land which Russia took away from Ukraine), but in the capital and the west, it is very safe and to be honest we had a blast. With locals being friendly, great food and plenty to see, Ukraine has much to offer. This post is about what to do in the capital for a day (really good if visitors are on a 12 hour layover on connecting flights) or on a long weekend. If anyone else is interested to see what it is like in west of the country, read Danik’s post on his experience (February 2014 – here and July 2014 – here).

The best place to start is outside the centre where the Motherland statue is located. The 68 meter high statue (which stands on a 40 meter pedestal) looks out eastwards and overlooking the nearby Dnipro river. This enormous stainless steel statue of a female warrior holds a 12-tonne sword in her right hand and a shield in the left.  Underneath the statue is a museum dedicating Ukraine’s involvement in the Second World War and in the grounds there are Soviet style statues of soldiers, families, workmen as well as tanks and other fun army equipment.

To the north of the statue and heading back to the centre is another big park with monuments dedicated to the family and more great viewpoints over the river but eventually the next place to check out is the Kyivo-Pecherska Lavra. This is a monastery which is similar to the Vatican City and has the nickname, ‘the Rome of Orthodox Christianity’ which attracts many pilgrims from all around the world. In the huge grounds there are churches, towers and a few museums to check out but the main sight which we hit up was the underground cave system, where monks worshipped, lived and eventually buried down there.

In the caves visitors can actually see where the monks are buried and the bodies are almost perfectly preserved to this day as the coldness of the caves allows the bodies to mummify naturally. To enter the caves, remember to take a candle as it is dark down there, remember to be respectful as there is a lot of praying going on and if you are female to wear scarves (which are provided).

Following the road northwards from the Lavra and overlooking the river (passing all the parks and Dinamo Kiev’s football stadium) is the Mariyinsky Palace which is a beautiful light-blue painted palace which is the official residence of the president of the country. With its Baroque style, the palace is one of the most beautiful built in Eastern Europe.

Passing the beautiful place and heading north (again) through another park, overlooking the river there is a steel rainbow which is called the Friendship of Nations Arch, which was put up in 1983 to commemorate the unification of Ukraine and Russia way back in 1653 and is supposed to be a reminder of the friendship and mutual respect between the two countries. At night, the arch lights up to give a colourful display.

Walking westwards from the arch, the main place to check out in the heart of the city is Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) which has been a crazy place to be in over the last fifteen years. There has been political marches, sleep-ins, on the square which eventually died down, then in 2013, the rallies came back when the Ukrainian parliament decided to stop European Union integration and decided to go with Russian-backing politics. This eventually lead to the violent events which happened in February 2014, where the main square almost burnt down, over 100 people killed and many more wounded when riot police decided to open fire on unarmed protesters. Since then, the country has fell apart (mainly thanks to stupid Ukrainian politics and Russia invading the lands to help ‘it’s people’) but the square as we saw it has been repaired and only a few bullet holes are to be seen. It is like nothing has happened here. On the square there are statues to look at, a beautiful view point from Hotel Ukraine and the Globus shopping centre which lays underneath with glassy domes to be seen on street level.

Kiev is known for its beautiful churches and cathedrals, St. Sophia’s Cathedral being the highlight with his green painted walls but our favourite is located opposite (a few minutes walk) called St Michael’s Golden-Domed Cathedral which was built in the 12th century but was destroyed by the Soviet Union in the 1930s for having ‘no historical value’. Rebuilt in the year 2000, the highlight has to be the sky blue exterior and the golden domes.

Here are our other favourite places to check out in this beautiful city –

Equestrian statue of Hetman Bogdan Khmelnytsky in Kiev

The entrance of St Sophia cathedral

Even the tourist signs have made it to this part of Europe

Famine monument

A view over the Dnipro river and looking out to the eastern side of Kiev

The statue known as ‘Love Story’. The longest long affair story in history…maybe? Luigi Pedutto (Italian prisoner of war in 1940s) and Mikryna Yurzuk (forced Ukrainian labourer) met in a concentration camp in Austria. It was here she fed him food whilst he sewed hats and clothes to impress her in return. They fell in love but in 1945 when the camp was liberated, Yurzuk was sent back to Ukraine but Pedutto was not allowed to join her. Many decades passed, both married and had children but never forget their wartime love. Finally they were reunited thanks to a television show in 2004 and now they have own statue in Kiev in a park next to the Lover’s Bridge, a popular destination for people to confess their love to the other.

Our personal opinion once again is forget about what the media is saying about Kiev (unless war has broke out which we doubt this will happen). Kiev is very much open for business and visitors are welcome. There are the usual scams which readers may know about or seen on their travels and corruption being a problem here (yes, we were scammed as well in our taxi on the way back to the airport in January 2017 despite having the meter on and had to pay an extra $20), but in all, common sense is needed. The locals are lovely and willing to speak English and in some ways, I got the impression when they saw us they were hoping there will be many more visitors to come. It is a beautiful city with many spectacular buildings, green parks and amazing river views as well as great beer and food to be enjoyed all over the city. Eventually Kiev will be thriving again and will be a city where people would want to go to. We felt safe, there was no problems at all and it was a very cheap destination to spend our money.   

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41 Responses

  1. I like Ukraine very much, however nowadays the situation is very difficult 🙁

  2. They have some amazing architecture in Kiev. Those tanks were cool.

  3. I think that 8 hours are very little, but it seems like you haven’t waist your time and take the most out of it. 🙂

    • Hey there. I (Danik) have been to Kyiv and Ukraine many times but this was Claire’s first visit. We had a 12 hour layover between our flights from Beijing to London so we had to quickly do the sights in the beautiful snow 🙂 It was also handy I knew where I was going 😀

  4. I knew so less about this place. The cathedral is stunningly beautiful with its gold colored domes. Good to know the locals are looking forward to more tourists. Rebuilt in 2000 yet it has lot of sights to offer. Hopefully I can get there.

  5. Ukraine is, like Poland, one of those beautiful, beautiful areas that somehow don’t get the attention they deserve. Thank you for posting this!

  6. NYC Single Mom

    The architecture is so identifiable especially the tanks, the statues and especially the churches. I think it is such a unique place to visit but somehow it never seems to be promoted the way Europe is and certainly has so much to offer, architecturally and culturally.

  7. Those are some amazing places to see! I love the gold and the colors of the buildings against the winter landscape. Sounds like you had some really interesting experiences.

  8. I had no idea the architecture is that beautiful!

  9. Kiev is one place I love to read about with all the history and everything. So many other places I want to visit first but this might be on the list one day.

  10. Looks very special in the snow. Ukraine hasd lots to offer indeed.

  11. Beautiful pictures and very informative!

  12. Wow, what a cool place to see! I love visiting spots that are so full of rich history like this! I can’t wait to make it back to Europe again.

  13. While I was enjoying a great dinner with my friend while we were in Poland, a couple sitting at the table next to us and make light chatting before their meals were delivered. They told us about how great Kiev was and, from then on, I’ve really wanted to visit!

  14. I was in Ukraine last year! You’re so brave to go in the winter. I thought Kiev was ok but I loved Lviv. Did you get a chance to make it to Lviv?

  15. Hey guys, I love reading posts that are not about the most popular destinations like France or Rome. Thanks for explaining that visiting Ukraine is perfectly fine despite what media tells us. Your photos are awesome, the contrasting white snow and blue skies are stunning. The many cathedrals and monasteries remind me of visiting Russia’s Golden Circle. I loved the golden ‘union-shaped’ are magical, so completely get that St Michael’s Golden-Domed Cathedral is your favourite. Great post 🙂

  16. Oh that’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to go! I love the architecture – the statues remind me of the statue park in Budapest

  17. This looks like a blast. I think going to Ukraine in winter is probably a great time to go, too. We tried to go a few months ago and our flight was canceled…so still on the list.

  18. I visited Kiev in the summer but I must admit I prefer your photos over mine. I love the effect of the snow! You are right, it is perfectly safe to visit Kiev, just keep away from the east.

  19. A great post, the architecture looks beautiful, especially in the snow. As with most people, we assumed that Kiev and the Ukraine would be a place to avoid at the moment but after reading this we were obviously very wrong.

  20. Tracy (lifeofkuhl)

    Wow! You covered some serious ground in 8 hours. Love all the beautifully ornate buildings. The story of the couple reuniting gave me chills 🙂

  21. Wow your pictures are great. It hasmade me want to visit now. Seems like a great way to send 8 hours. Thanks for sharing.

  22. I love visiting Europe! I am adding Ukraine to my list of countries to see, and Kiev is a city I must visit!

  23. Kiev, Ukraine, looks really beautiful in the winter against the background of snow. The history of Ukraine holds a special fascination for me. Your pictures have captured the charm of Kieve very well. The caves where the monks lie sounds really fascinating too.

  24. We loved Kiev so much, it was definitely one of our favourite cities in Eastern Europe! I also have to agree that the Motherland statue is the place to start especially if you only have a small amount of time. Unfortunately it was too windy when we visited to go to the top!

  25. I have always been intrigued about Kiev with no especial reason. Now I know I would like to see by myself all these caves system in the monastery and a couple of those beautiful orthodox churches. Nice story, the love story, by the way!

  26. Nikki Wayne

    thats a very interesting place to visit! 8 hours isnt enough to feel the place! i would like to visit too!

  27. Wow, this looks amazing!! Ukraine is surely one of those places that I’ve been meaning to go to, especially because it’s one of those places that are often deemed as off-the-beaten-path.

    You might have just stayed there for 8 hours too, but it already looks amazing the coverage you’ve managed to do.

  28. Such an amazing country.. I would love to visit. My son has been talking about Ukraine for a while!

  29. Well done to you guys! You’ve managed to squeeze in lots of places to visit in Kiev in almost a day trip. I did enjoy reading your post and this definitely made me want to visit Kiev. You have captured the beauty of the city really well. Great photos too!

    P.S. Kiev (as a word) reminds me of Chicken Kiev! LOL!

  30. CourtneyLynne

    Oooo so many lovely photos!!!! I would love to visit Ukraine one day! Definitely on my travel bucket list!

  31. This is great tips, im planning to visit kiev this year,.The place is so beautiful I love the building good for photography stroll too!

  32. I haven’t had a chance to visit Ukraine and Kiev yet, but hope to do it in the future. There are so many amazing places to visit.

  33. I can’t get enough of how stunning the architecture is! I’m a sucker for a beautifully designed building and
    Kiev seems to have it in spades.

  34. The Ukraine, Russia, Poland….they are all on my list of must go to places. Everything you’ve recorded here looks fantastic. I LOVE the palace! I’ve seen so many but the external colours and design of this one looks different to those I have visited before. I would also love to visit the caves as this type of experience really intrigues me. Great article, so full of terrific information.

  35. I’m glad to hear that you don’t buy into everything the media says. Kiev looks like an absolutely beautiful place. Look at that blue sky! I should be so lucky if I get the same weather when I’m there 🙂 Great photos and post, thanks for sharing.

  36. I’m happy to hear you think 12 hours would be sufficient! I’d really love to visit one day and have always ignored (mostly) what the media says 🙂 Your photos are beautiful. Thanks for sharing – bookmarking for the future.

  37. Melody Pittman

    Thanks for sharing this post with us. I think too often people believe everything they hear and see and do not do fact check it. It looks like a beautiful place to explore; your pictures are beautiful!

  38. Wow that one statue is absolutely huge! You did a great job capturing everything!

  39. It’s great to know that it is safe and that people can still go and enjoy all there is to see here. I’d love to visit the monastery. The gold tops look so impressive, especially against the snowy backdrop.

  40. Wow! Ukraine is such a nice place! I haven’t visited it but with your amazing photos just took me there. I would love to visit it one of these days.

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