Your first impression of Kyiv is bound to be one of surprise. This cradle of all that is Russian, this receptacle of ‘New Ukrainian’ wealth, this paradise of crooked politicians and gangsters is so...beautiful. Especially if you arrive in the summer, Kyiv will entice you the moment you gaze upon its gold domes lighting up the leafy banks of the Dnipro.
Kyiv’s original settlers surely chose this spot 1500 years ago because of its natural beauty. Modern-day Kyiv is part Kyivan Rus, part Soviet, part Ukrainian-nationalist and part capitalist mayhem. Turn-of-the-20th-century architecture mixes with Soviet monumentalism and flashy office buildings; and statues glorify characters as diverse as Lesi Ukrainka, Lenin and Lobanovsky.
Of course there is a tinge of truth to those gangster stereotypes, as anybody who’s anybody in the often shady world of Ukrainian business maintains a private apartment in the capital. Aggressive drivers and late-model BMWs are the norm. Smiles can seem in short supply.
But the churches and trees and architecture and parks and history have a way of making up for all that. By all means do the typical tourist stuff: check out the mummified monks of the Lavra or visit the charming street of Andriyivsky uzviz. But also leave time to join the ever-present local crowds simply drinking in the atmosphere. Wander through hilltop parkland overlooking the Dnipro River and Soviet-built suburbs on the far bank. Or, in summer, set out your towel on the city beaches of Hydropark. Stroll along the main street of Khreshchatyk, eat well, have a beer, go clubbing – that’s when this whirlwind of a city really sweeps you off your feet.
Best places to stay in Kyiv
Ukraine - Kyiv (Chapter)
This is the Kyiv chapter from Lonely Planet’s Ukraine guidebook. Coverage includes: Sights, Activities, Festivals & Events, Sleeping, Eating, Drinking, Entertainment, Shopping and Around Kyiv.
Top 17 experiences in Ukraine
Voted by Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2011 as one of 10 budget-friendly destinations in 2011, Ukraine is big, diverse and largely undiscovered. It is one of Europe’s last genuine travel frontiers, a poor nation rich in colour-splashed tradition, warmhearted people and off-the-map travel experiences.
Kyiv destination guides
A day trip to Chernobyl
Want to visit a European city so quiet you can hear distant birdsong at noon in the main street? A place where the internet is unknown and mobile phone chimes never break the calm? Do you dream of car-free streets where wild animals can wander as the fancy takes them? Welcome to Pripyat, the ghost city of Chernobyl.
St Petersburg to Budapest
Join us on a journey to unravel the vibrant history of this fascinating European region. Discover the splendours of St Petersburg and the iconic Kremlin in Moscow city, as well as ancient Novgorod - the birthplace of Russian history and religion. Travel onwards through Ukraine by train and continue on to Kyiv, elegantly situated along the glorious Dnipro River.