The Ukrainian capital is an amazing place to explore, with spectacular ancient churches, a booming street art scene and delectable cuisine. But if you wish to venture beyond Kyiv, many enjoyable places in northern and central Ukraine are only a couple of hours’ bus ride away.
Not only are these areas unknown to foreign visitors, they remain terra incognita for many Ukrainians as well, so travelling here feels like a true adventure. Here are our top five suggestions for easy day trips from Kyiv.
The ancient churches of Chernihiv
Chernihiv is the hub of northern Ukraine, a region where you’ll find authentic traditions, old cities, pristine nature and numerous elegant palaces and parks. Throughout its rich history, Chernihiv played a role as an important religious centre, first for the medieval empire of Kyivan Rus, then for the Cossack Hetmanate. That’s why the city boasts an impressive number of ancient churches, some dating back to the 11th century. The majority of the churches were lucky to survive the tumultuous years of Soviet rule almost untouched, and today they enchant visitors with original medieval frescoes, baroque facades and Byzantine interiors.
Getting there: Direct buses to Chernihiv go from Kyiv’s central bus station and from Lisova metro station (the Brovarsky prospekt bus stop). The trip takes approximately two hours.
Landscape design in Sofiyivka Park
If you need a break from the big-city bustle of Kyiv, hop on a bus and head to Uman. Here you’ll find the finest park in the whole country – the magnificent Sofiyivka Park. Created as a gift of the Polish noble Stanislaw Pototsky to his wife Sofia, the park is a masterpiece of 19th-century landscape design. With its artificial lakes, waterfalls, decorative statues, romantic grottoes, narrow forested pathways, wide alleys and graceful colonnades, Sofiyivka makes for a great, relaxing day trip from Kyiv. Not surprisingly, it’s also one of the most visited attractions in Ukraine.
Getting there: There are direct local buses from Kyiv’s central bus station to Uman (two hours and 40 minutes). The park is a 10-minute walk from the city centre.
When it comes to museums, the small town of Pereyaslav-Khmelnytsky (90km south of Kyiv) can be proud of itself. With a modest population of 27,000 people, it’s home to more than 20 museums. The majority of them are part of the unique open-air Mid-Dnipro Museum of Folk Architecture and Life. If you want to learn about Ukrainian culture and traditions, this is the place to go. The museum selection here is quite original and at times bizarre. You can start at the Space Museum, set in a wooden village church. Then continue with the colourful Rushnyk Museum, devoted to a traditional Ukrainian embroidered ritual cloth; the Bread Museum, which explains the history of bread making; and the Post Museum, set in a former 19th-century post office. It’s worth coming to this enormous cultural space just to feel the atmosphere of an authentic Ukrainian village.
Getting there: Take a direct local marshrutka (private bus) from Chernihivska or Boryspilska metro stations (one hour and 30 minutes). From Pereyaslav-Khmelnytsky’s bus station it’s 2km to the open-air museum, so you can either walk or catch a local taxi to the entrance.
Nature escape at Dendropark Oleksandriya
Another attractive historical park can be found in Bila Tserkva, 80km south of Kyiv. Competing in brilliance and size with Sofiyivka, Dendropark Oleksandriya is a huge 18th-century garden and one of the largest landscaped parks in Eastern Europe. With late classicist architecture, numerous alleys and fields, Oleksandriya is the perfect place for long romantic walks. Highlights here include the picturesque Chinese bridge, impressive Moon colonnade and artificial ruins with small waterfalls. Although not as well maintained as Sofiyivka, this park is another excellent nature escape from Kyiv and it can be enjoyed during all seasons of the year.
Getting there: Take a direct local bus from Kyiv’s central bus station to Bila Tserkva (one hour). The park is located on the outskirts of the city; catch bus 22 to Pionerska stop to reach it.
Vinnytsya’s eclectic city centre
Vinnytsya is a midsize town in the heart of Ukraine’s Podillya region, easily reached by high-speed train from Kyiv. Although it can’t claim breathtaking tourist sights, the charm of Vinnytsya lies in its relaxed vibe. Start your exploration with a sip of coffee at the European square, observing the brick water tower built in 1912 and today one of the city’s symbols. Then take a walk around the eclectic centre to admire the remains of its 19th-century architecture and the golden-domed Transfiguration Church. Also visit one of the strangest attractions in Ukraine – the Pirogov Church-Mausoleum which houses the mummified corpse of the famous Russian surgeon and inventor of a revolutionary anaesthesia technique, Nikolai Pirogov. End your Vinnytsya trip with a cup of tea, surrounded by old clocks at Mr Zavarkin & Son, a quirky coffee shop and museum.
Getting there: The best option is taking an intercity train from Kyiv’s central railway station to Vinnytsya (two hours and 20 minutes). To get to the city centre from the train station, catch tram 1, 4 or 6.