Ukraine is one of the most diverse countries in Europe. This is not only because Ukraine is also the country with the largest area, which is only in Europe. With 600,000km2 it is almost twice the size of Germany. The landscapes and places are very diverse as well. Therefore, we wanted to give you an overview of the most important Ukraine sights and which Ukraine destinations are particularly worthwhile.
Kyiv – capital of Ukraine
Kyiv (not Kiev, this is the Russian spelling) is the capital of Ukraine and was the seat of the Kyivan Rus until the 12th century. The princes had their residence here. The most important monasteries and churches of the country are located here. The Kyiv Cave Monastery (Pechersk Lavra) is the most famous and beautiful monastery and one of the best Ukraine sights at all. However, St. Sophia has also stood here for more than a millennium and was modeled after the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Also worth seeing are St. Michael’s Monastery, seat of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, as well as St. Andrew’s on Andrew’s Descent.
At Maidan Nezhalenosti (Independence Square) you can learn about the history of the Revolution of Dignity, also called Euromaidan. The most beautiful way to travel around Kyiv is to take the Kyiv Metro. The stations themselves are also a Kyiv attraction. Tourists love the Mother Homeland Statue, built as a memorial to the victims of World War II in Soviet times, as well as the Arch of Friendship between the Ukrainian and Russian people, which has some cracks due to Russia’s war against Ukraine and the annexation of the Crimean peninsula.
Chornobyl exclusion zone – Visiting a nuclear disaster for a day
Being a joke with some truth, my friends from Kyiv who work in tourism claim that most tourists visit Chornobyl and then pass by Kyiv on their way back. In fact, this is almost true, because since the HBO series Chernobyl, the Chornobyl exclusion zone has been experiencing a boom. Since access is officially restricted and only open to organized tours, guides are careful not to expose guests to radiation. Chornobyl is also popular because it is a perfect time travel to the Soviet Union of 1986 and you can learn a lot about life under communism.
Lviv – Time travel to Austria-Hungary
Lviv is a journey back to more than a century ago. The city is one of the best examples of architecture of the imperial Austrian period. The old town is a Unesco World Heritage Site. In summer, many internationally known bands play at countless festivals. Galician cuisine is also a unique testimony of Lviv as a melting pot of cultures with influences from Ukrainian, Polish, Jewish, Austrian, Hungarian and a few other cuisines.
Ukrainian Carpathians – Pristine mountain landscape
The Ukrainian Carpathians are in many parts one of the most pristine mountain regions in Europe. Many locals live a very simple life, some living only on what they grow and harvest themselves. The peaks of Hoverla, Petros or Pip Ivan are very beautiful Ukraine destinations, especially in summer, and reward hikers with amazing views.
Tunnel of Love – Curious sight in the forest
One of the rather unusual Ukraine sights is the so-called Tunnel of Love. Originally cut through a swamp near Klevan as a trail for a local railroad line, the Tunnel of Love is overgrown on all sides and therefore makes an interesting photo motif. So much so, in fact, that it has been printed on photo wallpapers in Asia, where it has also gained fame in films. Meanwhile, a little to the amazement of Ukrainians, it is one of the most popular Western Ukraine sights.
Odessa – Take a walk down the Potemkin stairs
Founded by Catherine the Great, the Russian Tsarina, Odessa is now one of the most popular Ukraine destinations. Since Russia’s occupation of Crimea, the beaches have become even more crowded, as many Ukrainians have since avoided Crimea. However, Odessa isn’t just filling the gap. The city has much to offer, with one of the most beautiful opera houses in Europe. Every visitor should climb the famous Potemkin Staircase at least once. And the city’s Jewish history is rich in anecdotes and jokes, as well as sadness. Those who descend into the Odessa Catacombs can learn more about World War II and the Holocaust in Odessa.
Kharkiv – Exploring the beginnings of the Soviet Union in the Dershprom.
A real hidden secret is the second biggest city in Ukraine – Kharkiv. With 1.4 million inhabitants, it’s bigger than Odessa or Dnipro. However, the name is virtually unknown to most people. But that is completely unjustified. Kharkiv is home to the Dershprom, the first skyscraper in the Soviet Union. It stands out as a microcosm of Soviet architecture from all decades of its existence. And in Kharkiv you learn more about the tragic fate of many Ukrainians during Stalinism. If that’s too much Soviet history for you, you can also visit the impressive cathedrals, walk along the rivers, explore the stunning nightlife, or discover Ukrainian cuisine in Kharkiv.
If that’s too much Soviet history for you, you can also visit the impressive cathedrals, walk along the rivers, explore the stunning nightlife, or discover Ukrainian cuisine in Kharkiv.
Sofiyivka Park Uman – Prettiest landscape park in Ukraine
Sofiyivka Park in Uman is one of the most beautiful landscape parks in Ukraine. Here you can easily spend the whole day. There is an artificial waterfall, you can do boat trips, visit caves and see fountains. Artificial rocks and picturesque bridges make Sofia Park a perfect day trip. Those interested in contemporary Jewish life in Ukraine can also visit the pilgrimage site at the tomb of Rabbi Nachman, to which nearly 30,000 Hasidic Jews make a pilgrimage every year for the Jewish New Year.
Palanok Castle – Heart of Transcarpathia
Transcarpathia is one of the often overlooked Ukraine sights. Yet this border region is culturally one of the most interesting in Ukraine. Here Ukrainian meets Hungarian, Slovak and Jewish influences. In Transcarpathia, besides wine, there are also local specialties, which are based on the Hungarian and Ukrainian cuisine. The lands have been watched over by fortresses such as Palanok Castle near Mukachevo for centuries. Here you can learn more about the Hungarian rule of this area and about the present life of the Hungarian minority. Uzhgorod, on the other hand, pays homage to the Lemko painter Andy Warhol. His family came from a village in the east of Slovakia not far from Uzhgorod.
Chernivtsi – City of Poets
Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in Ukraine is Chernivtsi. Also called Little Vienna, Little Paris or Little Jerusalem, Chernivtsi has always been a melting pot of cultures. Ukrainians, Jews, Romanians, Austrians, Germans called Chernivtsi their home. Even today, this history can be felt everywhere in the city. In the University of Chernivtsi, which is part of the Unesco World Heritage, you can see the splendor that the Bukovinian metropolitan had built. The halls of the university are among the most beautiful Ukrainian sights. With Paul Celan and Rose Ausländer, some of the most famous German-speaking Jewish poets also come from Chernivtsi. Their spirit can be felt everywhere in the alleys of the old town.
Kamianets-Podilskiy and Khotyn Fortress – Two of the most beautiful Ukraine sights
The fortresses of Khotyn and Kamianets-Podilskiy are the two most famous and impressive castles in Ukraine and both are picture book motifs par excellence. Khotyn is located right next to the wide Dnistr River which flows hundreds of kilometers downstream into the Black Sea. The up to 40 meters (120 feet) rising walls seem massive and inside the castle you can well imagine the life in the Middle Ages. Kamianets-Podilskiy besides the fortress also offers a beautiful medieval old town, where you can learn a lot about the history of the region. And quite a few people here will wonder about a strange column next to the Catholic church in the center. It was once the pillar of a mosque and was supposed to symbolize the victory of the Ottoman Empire and Islam. Today, the Virgin Mary is greeting from it.
Khortytsia – Cossack fortress in Zaporizhia
A fortress that is of utmost importance to Ukrainian history stands on an island in the middle of the Dnipro, the largest river in Ukraine. The Cossack fortress on Khortytsia Island was home to the Zaporyzhian Cossacks are the most famous Cossacks in Ukraine. From here they set out to rule the southern Ukrainian steppe and protect the lands from Tartars and other invaders on behalf of their respective rulers. The museum shows the life of the Cossacks in the past centuries and is one of the best Ukraine sights not only because of the exhibition.
Ukraine book recommendations
If you are planning a trip to Ukraine, it is worth reading up a bit beforehand. There are already some good travel guides that can be worthwhile for you.
- Koller, Peter (Author)
- Lonely Planet (Author)