Kyiv sights

Kyiv sights – Top 10 best things to see (+Bonus)

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The capital of Ukraine is one of the most exciting cities in Europe and there are countless Kyiv sights. As a resident of Ukraine, I am often in Kyiv and of course take a tour every time and look at the Kyiv sights. It is always exciting what great attractions you can discover here. There is a wide range of such sights that everyone must see to the real insider tips. But I want to give you an overview first, so that you can better decide which sights are worthwhile for you. Let’s start with the top 10 must-see Kyiv sights.

Top 10 Kyiv Sights – These are the must-see places in Kyiv

There are many unique Kyiv sights and we could easily make a top 20 list here (which we actually do). However, we have made a subjective selection of what we think are the things you should not miss. If you are wondering why Chernobyl is not included here, please check out our separate article on Chernobyl day trips from Kyiv. Chernobyl is, of course, a sight unrivaled. But the exclusion zone is a two hour drive from Kyiv, that’s why it is not included here on the list.

View at Maidan
View at Maidan

Maidan Nezaleshnosti and Kreshchatyk

Not only because of the protests in the winter of 2013-2014, the Maidan Nesaleschnosti has become a landmark of the city. What many people don’t know or forgot: Independence Square, known simply as Maidan by Kyivites, was already a central point for rallies during the Orange Revolution protests. It is a symbol of Ukraine’s development since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. It is a stark difference to look at the exhibition on the square and compare the images from back then with this clean and bright square today.

Heavenly Hundred -Memorial for the Maidan protest victims
Heavenly Hundred – Memorial to those murdered on Maidan

In the avenue of the Heavenly Hundred next door there is also an exhibition about the people who gave their lives during the Revolution of Dignity. There were about a hundred of them, that’s why in Ukraine they are called Nebesna Sotnia (Heavenly Hundred). If you want to learn more about them, you should take a Revolution Tour with Kiev Free Walking Tours .

Kreshchatyk is the avenue next to the Maidan. It is considered the shortest main street in Europe, which is of course relative. Nevertheless, there are many interesting buildings and stores, including a few for Ukrainian designer clothes, which are well worth a visit. On Sundays, the Kreschchatyk is car-free and you can simply walk here.

Kyiv Cave Monastery
Kyiv Cave Monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Kyiv Cave Monastery

The Cave Monastery is the most important monastery in Ukraine. The bodies of dozens of famous deceased monks and several relics are kept here. The monks are mummified and displayed in a cave, which can be visited. Many believers gather here, often spending hours praying at the coffins and kissing the glass panes with the mummies inside. For outsiders, this cult is sometimes strange, but it is definitely a cultural experience. The monastery is owned by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, which gives fuel to many discussions as Ukraine now has an independent Orthodox Church. The buildings and many cathedrals are well worth seeing and you can easily spend several hours on the grounds.

Kiev Mother homeland statue Kyiv
Mother Homeland commemorates the victory of the Soviet Union over Nazi Germany.

Mother Home Statue and Museum of the Second World War

The Mother-Homeland Statue (in Russian Rodina Mat, in Ukrainian Batkivchyna Mati) was erected in 1981 by the Soviet administration in memory of the victory of the Soviet Union in World War II. With its pedestal, the statue is so far the seventh largest statue in the world and exceeds even the Statue of Liberty in height. By the way, if you are really brave, you can climb up the arm for just under 10 Euros and go to the small viewing platform there. The climb is adventurous and from there you have a great view of the Dnipro River and the surrounding Kyiv sights.

St. Sophia Church Kiev Sights
St. Sophia is one of the oldest churches in Ukraine.

The Cathedral of St. Sophia

St. Sophia Cathedral is not only a Unesco World Heritage Site, but also one of the oldest churches in Ukraine. It was built during the reign of the Prince of Rus, Yaroslav the Wise. It is considered one of the most important testimonies of Eastern European church architecture and was built to resemble the churches of Byzantium. A walk through the monastery definitely belongs on every visitor’s program and the climb up the tower is also worthwhile.

Andriivksi Descent and St. Andreas Church

Andriivksi Descent (see cover photo) is one of the most picturesque streets and always worth a photo also because of St. Andrew’s Church. Some call it the Kyiv Montmartre because of the stalls and the paintings of Kyiv artists sold here. The descent is comfortable, the ascent for some rather arduous.

Street art in Kyiv sights
Street Art in Kyiv

Street Art in Kyiv

Since the Revolution of Dignity, Kyiv has continued to change its face. After the Euromaidan, there was a spirit of optimism in civil society and also among urban planners. Many renowned artists have since come to Kyiv and left their traces on one of the capital’s facades. Kyiv street art is spread all over the city.

Golden Gate Kyiv
The Golden Gate used to be one of the city gates of Kyiv.

Golden Gate Kyiv

The Golden Gate is one of the most unique buildings in Kyiv. Once it was the gate to the city and is said to have been built from the year 1017. Yaroslav the Wise had the gate built to commemorate the victory over some nomadic tribes at the site of the battle. The gate was considered a city gate until the 18th century. However, the building in its present form was completed only in 1982, after the Soviet authorities had the historical shape of the gate replicated. The main tower contains the Annunciation Church. Today it houses a museum on the history of the city, especially focusing on the heyday of Kyivan Rus.

House with Chimeras Kyiv
The House with Chimeras is one of the masterpieces of Władysław Horodecki.

House with Chimeras

Another building that exists only in Kyiv is the so-called House with Chimeras. It was built by the Kyiv architect Wladyslaw Horodecki, who came from a Polish family. He decorated the building with chimeras, fabulous hybrid creatures (the Sphinx is also such a hybrid creature). The otherwise neo-Gothic house is considered one of the most beautiful in the city and is a real masterpiece.

Horodecki is also sometimes called Gaudi of Kyiv, because he left his mark, similar to the Catalan in several places of the city. The house was previously part of the government district and accessible only with permission. Meanwhile, it is possible to see it from the street. However, those who want to enter the House of Chimeras must book a tour. It is still a government building for representational purposes.

Bessarabska Market

The Bessarabska market is one of the culinary sights of Kyiv. Even though the market hall has now been renovated and has a modern flair, it is still a good opportunity to get to know local products from Ukraine. The name of the market, by the way, refers to the name of the Bessarabia region, which, contrary to what some might think, is located in the south of Ukraine, south of Odessa. There are many stalls here with jars with pickled and fresh food. Many products are still made by hand. Older ladies stand at the stalls waiting for customers. If you have a little time, you can try a a few things here and there and perhaps take home a souvenir or two from the Bessarabska market.

St. Michael's Monastery Kyiv Sights
St. Michael is the seat of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church

St. Michael’s Monastery

The Monastery of St. Michael is another of the great monasteries in Kyiv and is today also politically one of the most important in Ukraine. The reason for this is that the official seat and high clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which was not recognized as independent until 2019, is located here. This church is also often referred to as the Kyiv Patriarchate, since it is not subordinate to the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow, but is considered autocephalous, much to the discomfort of the Moscow Patriarch. Incidentally, the monastery itself was rebuilt until 1999, after the communists blew it up in 1936 and removed the remains.

Other Kyiv sights you should not miss

Even if these 10 sights are quite a few for your program for a Kyiv city trip, Kyiv is also not only large, but has an incredible number of sights to offer. Therefore, we want to add a couple more Kyiv sights that we also find very worth seeing.

Babyn Yar

German soldiers and their helpers murdered more than 33,000 Jewish people – mainly women, children and the elderly – in a massacre during the German occupation in just 36 hours in 1941. The perpetrators even bulldozed the bodies into the Babyn Yar ravine. At the site of this indescribable crime, a memorial is to be built in the future to commemorate the massacre. The memorial is desperately needed, because until now there has been hardly anything in the gorge to remind of the crimes that took place here.

Podil – Bars and pubs

Kyiv also does not have one nightlife district. Most of the bars are scattered all over Kyiv and it is not uncommon to need a cab to get around the nightlife. But the biggest concentration of bars and restaurantsStories of my study abroad in Kyiv is in Podil. Here you’ll find super nice cocktail bars, hipster pubs and restaurants with foreign cuisine, which is especially good if you’ve had your fill of vareniki and borsch.

Arch of Friendship Kyiv
The Arch of Friendship is supposed to symbolize the brotherhood of the people of Russia and Ukraine. Since the Ukraine war, the arch has severe cracks.

Arch of Friendship

The Arch of Friendship was erected as a symbol of Ukrainian-Russian friendship. As “brother nations”, the Soviet authorities thus wanted to weld the two cultures closer together from the official side. Unfortunately, this friendship has since been severely cracked by the occupation and annexation of Crimea and the war in the Donbas. The arch itself has been the target of heated debate. In 2017, it was to be transformed into a rainbow, as a sign to the LGBTQ community and also as a provocation towards Russia, where homosexuals are criminalized. The churches and conservative circles prevented this during the making. Otherwise, we would have put it in the top 10 sights instantly.

St. Volodymyr

Volodymyr (Russian: Vladimir) was the prince of Rus who christianized it. That is why he is considered a saint. The church is named after him and is one of the most beautiful in the city. If you like orthodox churches, you should not miss this one. Located on Taras Shevchenko Boulevard, the massive halls offer a great opportunity to get some rest from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Kyiv Old Town – Vozdvyzhenka

Kyiv Old Town – if you ask someone in the city where it should be, then there is actually no clear answer. The oldest part of the city is around the monastery of St. Sophia and the Golden Gate. But the streets there are wide, the houses are not exactly small and nobody would think of calling this Kyiv Old Town. That’s why we have our own proposal. The Vozdvyzhenka district is small and cozy. There are pedestrian streets, restaurants and cafes here. Everything is nicely renovated and the colorful houses make great backgrounds for Instagram photos. In this respect, it’s probably something like Kyiv Old Town.

Metro Kyiv sights
The Kyiv metro is its own underground realm.

Metro Kyiv

Everyone who visits Kyiv probably rides the metro at least once. And this is also highly recommended. The Kyiv Metro is one of the most impressive subways in the world. It is also home to the deepest metro station in the world, Arsenalna station. If you go down here, it takes 4 minutes just to get from the surface to the platform. The steep escalators even make some visitors dizzy and are an experience in themselves. There is also still a lot of art from Soviet times to be seen in the subway stations. For friends of Soviet art, this alone is quite a day trip.

Mariyinsky Palace Kyiv sights
Mariyinsky Palace is as impressive as many palaces in Russia, having been built by the same architect as the Winter Palace.

Mariyinsky Palace and Mariyinsky Park

Today, Mariyinsky Palace is the place where the Ukrainian president receives his guests. The 18th century palace was commissioned by the Russian Tsarina Elizabeth when Kyiv was part of the Russian Tsarist Empire. It was designed by Bartolomeo Rastrelli, the architect who also designed the famous palaces in Russia. Thus, in addition to the Mariyinsky Palace, the Winter Palace, which today houses the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, was also penned by him. So was the palace in Peterhof and many others. The palace cannot be visited, but it makes good photos. Mariyinsky Park next door is one of the most popular parks in Kyiv. Here you can relax after a walk.

Verkhovna Rada
The Verkhovna Rada is Ukraine’s notorious parliament.

Verkhovna Rada – Parliament of Ukraine

Those interested in the Ukrainian Parliament will find the Verkhovna Rada (High Council) building next to Mariyinsky Palace. Ukraine’s parliament remains highly controversial. Stories about the politicians and the parliament alone could fill a whole series of books. Most of them, however, are rather inglorious – much to the dismay of Ukrainians.

The building itself was designed and built after Kyiv became the capital of the Ukrainian SSR again in 1934 (it replaced Kharkiv). It served as the seat of the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian SSR until Ukraine’s independence in 1991. It is built in the neoclassical style and harmonizes more or less well with the Mariyinsky Palace, next to which the Soviet authorities had it built as a symbol of power and which it was intended to overshadow.

Kyiv Opera
The Kyiv Opera is one of the most beautiful in Europe.

Kyiv Opera

Opened in 1901, Kyiv Opera is the national opera of Ukraine since 1992 and is named after the national poet Taras Shevchenko. The neo-Renaissance building is one of the most beautiful in Europe. Tickets are comparatively cheap and the ensemble is of a high standard. Curious fact: here in 1911 an assassination attempt was made by a social revolutionary on the Russian Prime Minister Piotr Stolypin who was visiting Kyiv at the time. Also present was the Russian Tsar Nicholas II, who, however, remained unharmed. Stolypin died of sepsis a few days later.

Mikhail Bulgakov Museum

Mikhail Bulgakov was one of the most brilliant writers of the Soviet Union. Born in Kyiv, he spent most of his life in Russia. Nevertheless, the museum in the house where he lived from 1906 to 1919 is dedicated to Bulgakov’s life and work. Here you can learn a lot about the background of the satirical features of his characters and about the writer’s life under Soviet censorship.

Kyiv Funicular

The Kyiv funicular connects the Podil district with St. Michael’s Square above. The funicular takes less than three minutes to cover the roughly 300-meter distance. However, it is a welcome rest, especially for the steep climb. The railroad itself was opened in 1905, but the carriages date from the 1960s. For around 30 eurocents, the railroad is a real bargain and popular with millions of visitors.

Holodomor Memorial Kyiv sights
The Holodomor Memorial commemorates the millions who died in the famine in Ukraine in the 1930s.

Holodomor Memorial

It was one of the greatest, but also little known, crimes of the 20th century. Between 3 and 8 million Ukrainians died during the famine in the Soviet Union in the 1930s. Stalin’s henchmen had the food removed from Ukraine under threats of punishment. Nothing remained for locals. Whole regions were depopulated and then repopulated with Russians and other Soviet citizens. This genocide is commemorated in the Holodomor Memorial. A must-see for anyone who knows nothing about this crime against humanity.

Book recommendations

You haven’t had enough of Kyiv yet? Then why not order some books that are worth it? Here are some recommendations.

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Peter Althaus is a journalist, author and blogger. In 2011, he founded the travel blog Rooksack. But his real love has always been Eastern Europe. He now lives in Lviv, Ukraine, where he runs a tour operator. But since he still loves to write, today there is Wild East – the Eastern Europe travel blog.

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