Long before Russia and Ukraine existed, there was Kyiv. The inhabitants of the city were already pacing up and down the hills, promenading along Khreshchatyk and idling on the Dnipro River. The city is embodied by 24-hour parties, vintage cafes and urban art. Friends of mine who run an Edmonton physiotherapy clinic had an absolutely amazing time during their trip to Kyiv! Thanks to them and some of my own research, here are the top experiences in Kyiv, Ukraine.
St. Sophia’s Cathedral
The most astounding aspect of the oldest standing church in Kyiv is the interior. Many of the frescoes and mosaics are original, dating to as far back as 1017 to 1031 when it was built. Equally attractive are the cathedral’s 76m bell tower and gold domes. It is worth climbing the bell tower for a spectacular view of the cathedral as well as 360° panoramas of Kyiv. Named after Hagia Sofia, the Byzantine architecture of St. Sophia announced the political and religious authority of Kyiv. It was a center of culture and learning, housing the first library and school in Kyivan Rus.
Be it revolution or celebration, whenever the locals want to get together, the meeting point of the nation is the Maidan. The square saw protests for independence in the 1990s and in 2004 the Orange Revolution. But all these protests were eclipsed in 2013 to 2014 by the Euromaidan Revolution, when it was converted into a guerilla camp beleaguered by government forces. The square is more about festiveness in peaceful time with a nightly show and weekend concerts. All streets in the center seemingly spill into this square, and with them is a cross-section of Kyiv life: lovers and bums; snake charmers and skate rats; as well as vendors selling souvenirs and food.
PinchukArtCentre is a world-class gallery with rotating exhibits featuring elite names in the world of contemporary design and art, all financed by Viktor Pinchuk, a billionaire mogul. Works by art giants like Ai Weiwei, Damian Hirst and Antony Gormley have all exhibited here. Make sure you visit the coffee shop at the top floor for a view of Kyiv’s roof. The oligarch-style security personnel inside the gallery and at the door can put you off, but you can regard them as modern-day art objects.
The newest tourist attraction in Kyiv is Mezhyhirya, the estate used to belong to Viktor Yanukovych, the wannabe Ukrainian dictator and ex-president. Wandering through the opulent grounds will give you an idea how corrupt his regime was. The estate is now a national park and is centered on the personal country house of Yanukovych, a 620 square meter pinewood behemoth. Other highlights include a museum of exotic cars, a rare-breed dog kennel, a golf course, tennis court, horse stables and zoo.