Walking Tour: Eras & Chimeras

  • Start Maydan Nezalezhnosti
  • End Bessarabsky Rynok
  • Length 6km; three hours

Set out from maydan Nezalezhnosti, walking south along cobbled vul Horodetskoho to pl Ivana Franka, surrounded by tsar-era buildings like the Ivan Franko Drama Theatre and the Kyivenergo Headquarters at pl Ivana Franka 5. Up on the hill behind the square you'll spot Władysław Horodecki's bizarre House of Chimeras.

Retreat from pl Ivana Franka to vul Zankovetskoyi and walk left to vul Lyuteranska. Glance to the right and spot the elaborate art nouveau façade of vul Lyuteranska 6, an apartment house built in 1905. Then head left up the hill, past St Catherine's Lutheran Church, to another art nouveau masterpiece, the Weeping Widow House at vul Lyuteranska 23. It is best seen when it rains and water is dripping down the cheeks of the sad female face on the facade.

Continue straight and take a left at the next corner onto vul Shovkovychna. Many of Kyiv's aristocrats built mansions in this area, known as Lypky, at the turn of the 20th century. Examples include the neo-Gothic mansion at vul Shovkovychna 19 and, next door, the brown-coloured Chocolate House museum. Head inside if you like to view its elaborate Moorish and rococo interiors.

From Chocolate House, follow vul Shovkovychna until it terminates at the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament Building). Cross the street and walk through Park Misky Sad to the right of the Verkhovna Rada. The blue baroque building on your left is Mariyinsky Palace, based on a design by Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli, who built St Andrew's Church and much of St Petersburg. A former Kyiv residence of the Russian royals, it is now used for official ceremonies attended by the Ukrainian president.

Behind the palace, follow a path leading northwest through the park. Eventually you'll spy Dynamo Stadium, just before crossing the high Devil's Bridge adorned with hundreds of locks left by newlywed couples who defiantly ignore the bridge's infernal name. Continue straight past two beloved Kyiv statues – the Love Story Monument, about an Italian WWII POW and a Ukrainian nurse reunited in 2004 after 60 years apart; and Monument to the Frog, which locals rub for good luck. Eventually you'll come to a giant, dull, metal parabola. It is part of the Friendship of Nations Monument celebrating the 1654 'unification' of Russia and Ukraine. Under the arch is a social realist statue of a Ukrainian (on the left) and a burlier Russian, arms raised in solidarity. Miraculously it has not been defaced, given tensions in the east.

Descend the hill via a path leading by the National Philharmonic, and cross pl Evropeyska. On the other side, follow vul Tryokhsvyatytelska uphill, turning right into Volodymyrska Hirka Park beyond the intersection of vul Kostyolna. All trails in here lead to the viewpoint looking down on the statue of Volodymyr the Great – who brought Christianity to the eastern Slavs in 989 – and out across the Dnipro and the monolithic suburbs beyond.

Continue round the elevated riverbank, past a children's playground to the blue-and-gold St Michael's Monastery. From pl Mykhaylivska you can see the tall bell tower and gold domes of St Sophia's Cathedral, which you should now head towards. After exploring St Sophia's, head south along vul Volodymyrska until you hit Zoloti Vorota. Make a quick detour to the Gothic Karaite Kenasa (1900) at vul Yaroslaviv Val 5/7, built by Władysław Horodecki. Karaites are a small Crimean ethnic group who have preserved a peculiar religion mixing Judaism and Turkic paganism. Having lost a massive cupola in the Soviet period, the temple is now home to the House of Actors.

Back on vul Volodymirska walk towards Taras Shevchenko National Opera Theatre before turning right into vul Bohdana Khmelnytskoho and, two blocks later, left onto vul Ivana Franka. At the end of this road on the left stands St Volodymyr's Cathedral.

Turning left, you're on bul Tarasa Shevchenka, named after the Ukrainian national poet, Taras Shevchenko. On the right is his statue in Shevchenka Park. A quick detour will give you a look at Kyiv University.

At the end of the street once stood Kyiv's last Lenin statue, famously pulled down and smashed to bits by Euromaidan protesters in late 2013. Until his demise, Lenin looked across thundering vul Khreshchatyk to the wonderfully atmospheric Bessarabsky Rynok.