Chernivtsi University

Top choice notable building in Chernivtsi

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University buildings are often called 'dreaming spires', but Chernivtsi's is more like an acid trip. This fantastic, Unesco-listed red-brick ensemble, with coloured tiles decorating its pseudo-Byzantine, pseudo-Moorish and pseudo-Hanseatic wings, is the last thing you'd expect here. The architect responsible was Czech Josef Hlavka, who was also behind Chernivtsi's Former Armenian Cathedral, as well as large chunks of Vienna. He completed the university in 1882 for the Metropolitans (Orthodox Church leaders) of Bukovyna as their official residence. The Soviets moved the university here.

The wings surround a landscaped court. To the left as you pass the gatehouse is the Seminarska Church (Семінарська церква), reconsecrated in 1991 after four decades as a food store – students can get married here for free. Straight ahead stands the former main palace residence of the Metropolitans (Палац-резиденція метрополитів), housing two remarkable staircases and a fantastic, 1st-floor Marmurovy Zal (Мармуровий зал; Marble Hall). Other highlights include the Red Hall (Червона зала) and the extensive dendropark behind the building.

As a public facility you can wander the buildings at will but the best rooms are usually locked. Best is to join a tour – official guides put together groups at the gates – but if there's no one around, the guides' office is in the church.

The university is about 1.5km northwest of the city centre.