The summer vacation season gives a chance to explore new places. For visitors who are pressed for time but still trying to see as much as possible, the Kyiv Post offers a one-day exploration guide to the Ukrainian capital’s most fascinating sites.
Start the journey at Kyiv`s central square — Maidan Nezalezhnosti (or Independence Square in English), where the Independence Monument is located. The lively square full of shops and cafes is also the staging ground of all the biggest protests in independent Ukraine, including the EuroMaidan Revolution that drove President Viktor Yanukovych from power in 2014. It is the epicenter of human activity and historical changes.
Stop by Instytutska Street, where memorials exist to the more than 100 anti-government protesters killed during the revolution. One can still see portraits, candles and flowers honoring the “Heavenly Hundred,” as the slain protesters are known. Then cross the road from Maidan Nezalezhnosti, pass by the Globus monument and Globus shopping mall, and walk up Sofiivska Street to head to Saint Sophia Cathedral.
Saint Sophia Cathedral
Only a seven-minute walk from Maidan Square would take one to a UNESCO World Heritage site — Saint Sophia Cathedral. The cathedral was built in the 11th century, and currently is one of the seven cultural and historical monuments of Ukraine, called the Seven Wonders of Ukraine. The cathedral is located nearby the Sofiyivska Square and includes the bell tower and the House of Metropolitan. Apart from that, some live music shows often take place on the cathedral’s territory in summer. Saint Sophia Cathedral is also a part of the National Sanctuary “Sophia of Kyiv,” along with St. Andrew’s Church.
St. Andrew’s Church, Andriyivsky Descent
To get to the other must-visit destination in Kyiv, one should pass by Sofiiska Square, and take up to 10 minutes to walk along Volodymyrska Street until reaching Andriyivsky Descent, which connects the higher central part of Kyiv with its historic lower neighborhood Podil, near the Dnipro River. The great baroque St. Andrew`s Church was constructed in the 18th century. It greets visitors of the descent and offers a picturesque view at the capital. Restaurants line the walk down Andriyivsky Descent. So does writer Mykhailo Bulgakov’s house, which is now a museum, as well as theaters and other monuments. And don’t miss Vozdvizhenka, the recently-built neighborhood of luxury houses that copy historic buildings of the capital.
Walk down Andriyivsky Descent for less than 20 minutes and head right to historic Podil neighborhood, where Kontraktova Square is situated. One of the oldest Kyiv squares now features fairs and festivals, as well as a Ferris wheel that offers a great view of the Podil neighborhood. Tourists can also find dozens of cafes, bars, and restaurants nearby the square. Apart from that, for those interested in architecture Kontraktova Ploshcha also locates ancient buildings like the Pyrohoshcha Church, Samson`s Fountain or one of the oldest universities in Ukraine — Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.
No need to leave the historic part of Kyiv to see the Dnipro River. Take a 15-minute walk from Kontraktova Ploshcha along Petra Sahaidachnoho Street, and head to the capital`s embankment area and Poshtova Square, where Kyiv`s main River Station is located. The River Station was closed for seven years due to the reconstruction of Poshtova Square, and re-opened in May 2019, featuring an art exhibition inside the old building, as well as a food court nearby. After walking along the Dnipro River embankment, take a funicular near Poshtova Square, which connects Podil with Kyiv`s center and offers a great view of the capital. The funicular works Monday-Sunday from 6 a. m. — 11 p. m. The ride will cost Hr 8 and will take one to St. Michael’s Monastery.
St. Michael’s Monastery
St. Michael’s is another historic site. Located three minutes from the funicular upper station, the monastery gives a chance to see a combination of Ukrainian baroque and byzantine architectural styles. Although the monastery was demolished by Soviet Union authorities in the 1930s, it was reconstructed and re-opened in 1999. When leaving St. Michael’s Monastery, one can also stop to visit the Holodomor memorial that commemorates the millions of people who starved to death because of Josef Stalin’s forced famine genocide in 1932–1933.
Those who are still not tired of walking can go along Trokhsviatytelska Street, which starts at St. Michael’s Monastery. Walk down the street and then change to Mykhaila Hrushevskoho Street. In some 20 minutes is Mariinsky Palace, an official presidential residence. This baroque palace was designed by Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli and constructed in the 18th century. Nowadays, the palace`s visitors can rest at the park nearby.
Take some pictures at Ukraine`s Verkhovna Rada, located close to Mariinsky Palace and keep walking to enjoy the beauties of the capital. Turn left to Mykhaila Hrushevskoho Street after seeing Mariinsky Palace and the Verkhovna Rada and spend some time exploring the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, as well as the National Bank of Ukraine.
House with Chimeras
A short five-minute walk from the National Bank of Ukraine down the Bankova Street will lead to the Horodecki House, often referred to as the House with Chimeras. The House with Chimeras was situated in 1903 and is now located in front of the Presidential Administration. The building got its name due to the decorative elements that reflect exotic animals and some hunting scenes. The decorations were designed by Italian architect Emilio Sala. Eventually, the unusual design of the House with Chimeras has given rise to a number of rumors and mystical legends about ghosts and the building’s bad luck.
Motherland Monument (Rodina Mat)
To end the day in Kyiv, one should definitely see the 102-meter Motherland Monument (Rodina Mat). It is especially beautiful at sunset. The Motherland Monument is located a bit far from the capital’s center, so to get there one should go down to Khreshchatyk metro station, and take a train to Arsenalna metro station, and then have a 20 minutes walk directly to the monument. The monument was built in 1981 and is now a part of the World War II Museum complex. Nowadays, some people joke that since the Motherland Monument faces towards Moscow, it protects Ukraine from Russia`s aggression.
And as the day in Kyiv comes to an end, stop by the Dnipro River, a 15-minute walk from the Motherland Monument. Enjoy the sunset and make a wish to come back to Kyiv for more, because the city has a lot to show.