Summer is definitely the best time of year to visit Kyiv. Rather than suffer through freezing winter or wet and windy fall and spring, you have chosen to visit in a season that is vibrant, temperate, and reflects the new attitude of the city's residents. Ukrainians themselves love the outdoors, and aside from being able to explore Kyiv's cobbled streets, golden-domed churches, museums and ancient monuments in comfort, the flood of people in the streets provide opportunities to mingle with the generally welcoming and hospitable locals. The city's centre, numerous and vast parks, riverfront beaches, and outdoor cafes bustle with activity and people eager socialize and enjoy the open air. On a historical note, Kyiv is the birthplace of Slavic culture as is reflected in the language, architecture, art, and traditions of the people living here. Geographically speaking, Ukraine is part of Europe and since the country's independence from the Soviet Union has been redesigning itself along the lines of other European capitols.
The last few years have seen the centre transformed from a quiet, cobblestones and cafť-lined plaza into a slate-paved thoroughfare packed with pedestrians, cars, and boutique shops, with mixed feelings from the inhabitants. It was only one year ago that the Soviet hammer and sickle was removed from Independence Square and replaced with the Ukrainian Trezub. The standard of living has been increasing toward and exceeding European levels for some Ukrainians, but the majority of the population still lives in a state of relative poverty. The hopes of many Ukrainian people for a bright economic future rest partially on this years presidential election. Expectations for the future are high yet uncertain, reflecting a developing democratic sentiment within the country that does not always seem to be shared by the governmental leadership. However, the country has come a long way in a short period of time despite after centuries of occupation, decades of totalitarianism, and years of merely trying to establish itself as a nation. While some of these relatively rapid and drastic changes are not always visible to the short-term visitor, be assured that you are visiting Ukraine at a very unique time in its history: a time when it is creating its history.
If the confines of Kyiv are not enough to keep you entertained, you should consider a trip to Lviv or Odessa, both of which are featured in our guide. Lviv is the capitol of what many people consider the true Ukraine, where traditional culture, language, and customs are preserved free of Russian influence. While Kyiv resembles other large European capitol cities in terms of its modern look and international standing, a trip to Lviv and its surrounding territory can feel more like an excursion to the beginning of the last century. In contrast, Odessa has historically been a very un-Ukrainian city. Established as a Russian colony and seaport, the Pearl of the Black Sea quickly drew merchants and immigrants from all over Europe, Central Asia, and around the Mediterranean. Today, Odessa is a popular summer tourism destination for Ukrainian and Russian vacationers, but has recently been drawing European and other tourists as well. The Black Sea coast features many beautiful beaches, and is an exciting and relaxing destination for travelers from any origin.
Kyivís sightseeing to-do list is topped by its famous gold-domed churches and cathedrals, magnificent sanctuaries of worship that impress with their history and art. Since everybody needs souvenirs to take home, God kindly created Andriyivsky uzvis. Next are the cityís museums, historical monuments, and finally a wonderful open-air museum on the edge of the city limits. While it is more of a summer hang-out, the attractions of the Hydropark ranging from clubbing to table tennis have began to open as the weather improves. Kyiv has the highest number of square kilometers of park per resident in Europe, lined with benches and dotted with monuments. Spring is generally mild, so there should be plenty of opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and the central squares. You will never be alone as Khreschatyk streetís musicians, vendors, and rowdy revelers make their appearance and the chestnut trees rise from their winter sleep.
Kiev (Kyiv, in Ukrainian), the capital of Ukraine, has a population of nearly 3 million inhabitants and covers over 43 km from east to west and 42 km from north to south. Approximately 85% of the Ukrainian population are Orthodox Christians; 10% are Catholics of the Byzantine rite; 3% are Protestant (mainly Baptists); 1.3% are of the Jewish faith. Kyiv has much to offer in the cultural and architectural arenas with its wide tree-lined boulevards and historical buildings reflecting various styles and periods of the ancient Kyivan-Rus Empire. Kyiv is a major industrial center that includes companies specializing in electronics, engineering, aviation, food and chemical production, etc. Kyiv's economic development has been enriched by its advantageous location along the Dnipro River, which links Kyiv to the Black Sea.
As you leave the St. Sophia museum, turn left onto vul. Volodimirska which opens onto St. Sophia Square. The equestrian statue standing in the square's center is in honor of the great Cossack Hetman (leader), politician and military hero, Bohdan Khmelnitsky(1595-1657). It was designed by well-known St. Petersburg sculptor Mikhail Mikeshin and was erected in 1888 through donations. Follow the street running down the right-hand side of the square with the statue to your left and a small park to your right. At the end of this street (3 blocks) you will come to Saint Michael's Square. The square takes its name from the Mykhailivsky Zolotoverkhyi Monastery (Michael's Monastery of the Golden Roof), and the cathedral with the same name, which used to stand here. Saint Michael was considered Kiev's patron saint and is depicted on the coat of arms of the city.
The cathedral, as well as the monastery, was founded on this site by Kiev Prince Sviatopolk in 1108. It survived the brutal Mongol invasions and the years of Polish and Lithuanian rule, but, unfortunately, not the Soviets. The Cathedral was destroyed in 1934-35 to make way for the building on your left of the Central Committee of the Ukrainian Communist Party (1939). Today, this massive Stalinist looking structure on your houses Ukrainian governmental offices. To the right of this building is the upper entrance to Kiev's Funicular (cable car). Built in 1905, it is a quick, exciting, and inexpensive ride (the cost is the same as the fare for a car, except on Sunday, when rides are free) down to the Podil (Lower Town), the old trading quarter. This two minute trip will give any child a thrill and provides an excellent view of the Dnieper River and the Left Bank of the city. It leaves you at Poshtova Ploshcha, Post Office Square. Here you will find the Poshtova Ploshcha Metro Station, on the blue line, as well as the Kiev Richkovy Vokzal (River Station), River Passenger Terminal. River boats operate here from early spring to late fan. Now, let's continue our excursion of Kiev's Upper City. On St. Michael's Square notice the stone and metal statue dedicated in 1993 to the memory of the 7-12 million Ukrainian peasants killed by the Stalinist regime during the Great Famine of 1932-'33. Turn right off the square to 6 Three Saints' Street. Here is the Refectory (1713), a white stone church with a single wooden cupola. Once, it was part of the Michael's Monastery of the Golden Roof. Daily services are at 7 AM and 5 PM. On your right, as you head down Three Saints' Street, is St. Alexander's Catholic Church, named after the Russian Emperor Alexander 1. It was built in 1817-1842 to commemorate the victory over Napoleon. Its style is similiar to Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. During Soviet rule, the Church was drastically modified and used as a planetarium. Reconstruction has recently been completed. Services are held daily. Weekdays: 7:30 AM & 10 PM in Polish; 7 PM in Ukrainian. Sundays: 7:30 AM and 12 noon in Polish; 9 AM in French; 10 AM and 7 PM in Ukrainian English.
From its northern end of European Square to Bessarabska Square and its southern terminus, Kyiv's most central, most famous and best people-watching street is not even 2km long. Despite what has been called the most impressive unbroken string of Stalinist architecture anywhere, Khreschatyk's gently curving design and wide chestnut-lined sidewalks make it a lovely place for a relaxing stroll. The trees also provide welcome shade during hot summer months, although on weekends and holidays when the street becomes a pedestrian area many prefer to frolick in the street among street performers and Teletubbies. It's hard to believe that this area was once a valley surrounded by a dense forest. The valley's name was `Khreschata', meaning `crossed', because of the many ravines that crossed it. Now there are plans, or at least rumours of plans, to turn the entire underground area of Khreschatyk into shopping centres. Malls already exist at Bessarabska and metros Khreschatyk and Maidan Nezalezhnosti, and another is definitely in the works for European Square as well. As for above-ground shopping, TsUM - the central department store - is actually becoming rather modern and has little to show of its Soviet past. Perhaps in an act of poetic justice the whole street will collapse under this retail strain and again revert to a valley. In the old days the royalty of Kyiv liked to hunt here - but for the foreseeable future the only hunting done on Khreschatyk will be for souvenirs, clothes and pretty Ukrainian women. Now there are plans, or at least rumours of plans, to turn the entire underground area of Khreschatyk into shopping centres. Malls already exist at Bessarabska and metros Khreschatyk and Maidan Nezalezhnosti, and another is definitely in the works for European Square as well. As for above-ground shopping, TsUM - the central department store - is actually becoming rather modern and has little to show of its Soviet past. Perhaps in an act of poetic justice the whole street will collapse under this retail strain and again revert to a valley. In the old days the royalty of Kyiv liked to hunt here - but for the foreseeable future the only hunting done on Khreschatyk will be for souvenirs, clothes and pretty Ukrainian women.
Andriyivsky Descent/Andriyivsky uzviz
The best way to get to the Andriyivsky descent, one of the most popular streets in Kiev, is from the Poshtova Ploshcha Metro. To reach the bluff where the descent begins, take the funicular (cable car) located at the bottom of the hill, just outside the subway. When you reach the top, walk straight to the square ahead of you. The building directly ahead of you contains the new BRAMA Contemporary Arts Center. From there, veer right down the steps to the square and cross over to Desyatinna Street, named for the Desyatinna Cerkva (Tithe Church) or Church of the Holy Virgin (989) that once stood at the end of this short street. At the end of the street, veer to the left to the middle of the block and wade through of street vendors and tourists up a flight of stairs and you'll find the outline of the church's foundation, which was reconstructed with red granite. Looking to the right past the site of Desyatinna Cerkva, you'll see the Historical Museum, located on the bluff. The museum's extensive consists of 8 sections dealing with different aspects of Ukraine's history. Behind the museum there is a path that provides a good view of Podil, Kiev's lower town from the highest point of old Kiev.
The Podil District is very different from the Khreshchatik, which is dominated by the monumental architecture of the Stalinist Era. A stroll through the Podil's narrow, quaint streets gives you a sense of life in Old Kiev, when, before the revolution, the Podil was inhabited by merchants and craftsmen. From the bottom of Andriyivsky Uzviz, go straight one block to Petra Sahaidachnovo Street. From here, you can return to the Khreshchatik by turning right and walking a few blocks to Poshtova Ploshcha Metro (Blue Line). To tour the Podil, turn left on Petra Sahaidachnovo Street. On your left starts the broad, long Kontraktova Ploshcha (Contractor's Square). Immediately on your left, at No. 4, is the Hostinny Dvir shopping arcade, built in 1809 by the architect L. Ruska. Near the northwest corner of the building, is the Fountain of Samson, constructed in 1749 by the famous Ukrainian architect Ivan Hryhorovych-Barsky. There are many legends connected with this fountain. According toone of them, a person who drinks fountain's water will settle in Kiev for good. At Kontraktova Ploshcha No. 2 stands the Kontraktovy Dim (Contractor's House), which gives the square its name. It was built in 1817 expressly asa a headquarters for negotiating contracts.
Ukrainian wooden cathedrals. The church is currently being remodelled but is open for services on Saturdays at 9 AM and 5 PM and Sundays at 10 AM. Turn left at the church onto Pritisko-Mikilska. Flofrivski Monastir (St. Flor's Convent) is just a few steps down the street on your right at No. 6/8. This is a functioning convent, whose history dates back from the 15th century. Enter the convent through the Bell-Tower Gates, designed by Andre Melensky in the 1824. The Convent's complex consists of the Voznesenska Cerkva (Church of Ascension), 1722-32, the two-story Refectory, the Bell-Tower (1740) and the House of the Mother-Superior. The 19th century paintings of this beautiful church have been preserved and rate a visit. As you exit through the bell tower on your left No. 7 vul. Pritisko-Mikils'ka is one of Kiev's first apothecaries, 1728. Restored to its original appearance, the building contains a functioning pharmacy, as well as a museum devoted to the history of medicine. Tel.: 416-2437. Open, Tuesday - Sunday, 9 AM to 4 PM. To reach the nearest metro, return in the general direction of Peter the Great's House, turn right onto Kostuantinivska Street and follow the tram tracks bearing to the left two blocks to Metro Station Kontraktova Ploshcha (Blue Line). Here you can catch the metro to all parts of the city as well.
Southeast of the main center of Kiev, spread over two large hills along the banks of the Dnieper, is the Kiev-Perchersk Lavra (Monastery of the Caves). To reach the monastery, take the metro to Arsenalna Station (Red Line), exit and cross the street and take Trolley bus 20 two stops. 21 Sichnevoho Povstannya. Tel., 290- 7349. Hours, 10 AM - 6 PM, closed Tuesday.
Kiev Pecherska Lavra Monastery is a "must see" visit while in Kiev. This twenty-eight hector functioning monastery contains numerous churches, towers, a printing works, miles of maze like underground tunnels containing numerous churches, ancient crypts, ecclesiastical objects, and some of Kiev's riches museums. Among the museums are the Museum of Historical Treasures, the Museum of Ukrainian Decorative and Applied Art, and the Museum of Ukrainian Books and Printing, where Russia's first printing press was established. To begin your excursion of the monastery, purchase your ticket just outside the majestic blue and gold archway of the Trinity Gate Church (1108). Please note, tickets for the Museum of Historical Treasures, the Bell Tower, and the Caves, where you buy a candle in lieu of a ticket, must be purchased at those respective sites. Excellent English, Russian, Ukrainian, French, German, and Spanish tour guides are available just inside the gates in the long building to your left. Should you elect to "see it on your own", the monastery offers a variety of reasonably priced, informative, brochures in English, which provide detailed information about the exhibits. If time permits, set aside a full day to see this magnificent and fascinating part of Kiev's long history.
"Lavra" is the term used by the Orthodox Church for its largest monastery. Pecherska Lavra was one of the most famous monasteries in historical Kievan-Rus and the former Russian Empire. A site of pilgrimage for Orthodox Christians throughout Europe, for centuries it was Orthodox Christianity's "Rome". Founded in 1051 by monks Antony and Feodosiy, the primary goal of the monastery was to spread the newly adopted Christian religion. A cave is "pechera" in Ukrainian, hence the name of monastery. Monks worshipped and lived in the caves which still can be visited. The monks were also buried in these caves. The mixture of the cool temperatures and humid atmosphere of the caves allowed the bodies of the dead to mummify. At the time of monastery foundation, this appeared to be a miracle, enhancing the monastery's prestige. Even today,their bodies remain almost perfectly preserved. In 12th century, Lavra became a leading religious and cultural center of Eastern Europe. Lavra had icon-painting studios and a scriptorium where works of ancient and contemporary foreign writers were translated into Slavic. Outstanding figures of Kievan-Rus, including writers Nikon, Feodosiy Pechersky, Polikarp, and Yakov Mnikh, the great physician, Agapit, and the artist, Alimpiy, lived and worked here. The historian Nestor wrote the renowned old Slavic Chronicle, "The Story of Bygone Days", while living in the monastery. Archeological excavations of the 1950's revealed that the monastery housed a workshop which produced mosaics that decorated many Kievan churches.
Pyrohovo Village (The Ukrainian Museum of Folk Architecture and Peasant Homes). This open air museum offers an exciting walk through history into Ukrainian homes, barns, mills, and wells typical of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. The majority of the, buildings are original and were moved here for restoration. Exhibits include traditional Ukrainian clothing, housewares, and ceramics. The most ancient of artifacts date to the 16th and 17th centuries. English speaking guides are available.It's a very pleasant way to spend an entire day.