In the beginning there was Kyiv. Long before Ukraine and Russia existed, the city's inhabitants were already striding up and down the green hills, idling hot afternoons away on the Dnipro River and promenading along Khreshchatyk – then a stream, now the main avenue. From here, East Slavic civilisation spread all the way to Alaska.
Today, history continues to unfold. As revolution has come and gone, and as war in the east smoulders, Ukraine's capital has rebelled yet again, only this time culturally. A creative wave has swept over the city, embodied by urban art, vintage cafes and 24-hour parties. Seemingly overnight, Kyiv has become hip.
It's also cheap. You can eat at superb restaurants and drink at hidden cocktail bars for a fraction of what they would cost in the West. Kyiv's time is clearly now – or until the next revolution rolls around.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Kyiv.
Bila Tserkva’s wonderful Dendropark Oleksandriya is Ukraine's largest landscaped park. It's much bigger than Uman's more-heralded Sofiyivka Park, but it is not as nicely manicured and draws far fewer visitors. The park is dotted with glades, bridges, cafes, gazebos, ponds and pieces of sculpture. It's a lot of territory to cover on foot, so consider hiring a bicycle outside the entrance (per hr/day 35/100uah). Pick up a map of the park and the town at the park entrance (15uah). The park derives its name from Aleksandra von Engelhardt, Potemkin's niece and wife of Poland's Crown Hetman (head of the Polish army) Ksawery Branicki, who in the mid-18th century commissioned French garden architects to create this 200ha chunk of greenery. There is ample opportunity for getting lost and picnicking with the locals among the park's quietly overgrown woods and crumbling architecture. Where Polish silk dresses once rustled and aristocratic canes crunched on gravel paths, now headscarved babushkas march entrusted grandchildren on health walks and couples smooch on park benches, but the style and romantic megalomania of the Polish nobility still shines through in faded lustre. To get here, board trolleybus 1 or 4 anywhere along bul Oleksandriysky (4uah).
A beeswax candle's throw from pl Soborny is the Spaso-Preobrazhensky Cathedral, which has a much more atmospheric interior than the rather plain 1830s exterior might suggest. The complex is surrounded by attractive gardens and there's a statue of Taras Shevchenko off to the south side.