Must see attractions in Southern Ukraine

  • Top ChoiceSights in Odesa

    Prymorsky Boulevard

    Odesa's elegant facade, this tree-lined, clifftop promenade was designed to enchant the passengers of arriving boats with the neoclassical opulence of its architecture and civility, unexpected in these parts at the time of construction in the early 19th century. Imperial architects also transformed the cliff face into terraced gardens descending to the port, divided by the famous Potemkin Steps – the Istanbul Park lies east of the steps and the Greek Park west of them. At the boulevard's southeastern end, you'll spot the pink-and-white colonnaded City Hall, which originally served as the stock exchange. The cannon here is a war trophy captured from the British during the Crimean War. In the square in front of City Hall is Odesa's most photographed monument, the Pushkin statue. The plaque reads 'To Pushkin – from the Citizens of Odesa'. Continuing along the boulevard, at the top of the Potemkin Steps you'll reach the statue of Duc de Richelieu (Памятник Ришелье), Odesa's first governor, looking like a Roman in a toga. Underneath the eastern section of the boulevard, the Istanbul Park was reopened with much pomp in 2017 after a thorough Turkish-funded reconstruction that turned it into a rather manicured patch with welcoming benches, sunbeds and an impressive sandstone grotto looming in the middle of a fountain. At the northwestern end of bul Prymorsky stands the semiderelict Vorontsov Palace. This was the residence of the city's third governor, and was built in 1826 in a classical style with interior Arabic detailing. The Greek-style colonnade behind the palace offers brilliant views over Odesa's bustling port. Both were under reconstruction at the time of research, along with the Greek Park underneath the western section of the boulevard.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Odesa

    Potemkin Steps

    Fresh from a controversial renovation, which changed its original outlook, the Potemkin Steps lead down from bul Prymorsky to the sea port. Pause at the top to admire the sweeping views of the harbour. You can avoid climbing back up by taking a funicular railway (3uah) that runs parallel. Or, having walked halfway up, you can sneak into a passage that now connects the steps with the reconstructed Istanbul Park. In the film Battleship Potemkin, a woman yells at a tidy line of soldiers as they take aim. An officer commands: 'Fire!' It takes many painful seconds for her to collapse and release a pram with a baby inside, which starts slowly tumbling down the steps – these very steps. All of that never happened during the real battleship Potemkin mutiny, but the genius film director Sergei Eisenstein made the world believe it did.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Odesa

    Vul Derybasivska

    Odesa's main commercial street, pedestrian vul Derybasivska is jam-packed with restaurants, bars and, in the summer high season, tourists. At its quieter eastern end you'll discover the statue of José de Ribas, the Spanish-Neapolitan general who built Odesa's harbour and who also has a central street named after him. At the western end of the thoroughfare is the pleasant and beautifully renovated City Garden, surrounded by several restaurants. A large wrought-iron arbour in the centre of the gardens serves as a stage for live jazz and classical concerts during weekends. Nearby, ex-Soviet tourists line up to get photographed with bronze sculptures, one of which is simply a chair – a reference to the satirical Soviet novel The Twelve Chairs. The other one is that of Odesa-born 1930s jazz singer Leonid Utyosov. Across the street, the opulent art nouveau edifice of Bolshaya Moskovskaya Hotel, designed by Lev Vlodek in 1901, stands locked, waiting for a long overdue reconstruction.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Odesa

    Museum of Odesa Modern Art

    The war in the east and regular political strife give Ukrainian artists a lot of here-and-now material to reflect on, and the result is often brilliant, to which the exhibitions in this great establishment attest. Located in a stately imperial doctor's manor house, the museum is the main base of Odesa biennale. The awkwardly constructed official name abbreviates as MOMA. Because, Odesa.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Odesa

    Odesa Opera & Ballet Theatre

    The jewel in Odesa's architectural crown was designed in the 1880s by the architects who also designed the famous Vienna State Opera, namely Ferdinand Fellner and Herman Helmer. You can take a Russian-language tour of the theatre (150uah), starting at 5pm on Friday and Saturday or, better yet, buy yourself a night at the opera.

  • Sights in Odesa

    Route of Health

    The dystopian Soviet name has stuck to this 5.5km stretch of sandy, rocky and concrete beaches that form the city's recreational belt. Packed like a sardine can and filled with noise and barbecue smells, the beaches are anything but idyllic, yet this is a great place for mingling with Ukrainian holidaymakers in their element. Starting at Lanzheron Beach, which boasts a wooden boardwalk, the route ends at Arkadia, the newly renovated nightlife hot spot, filled with clubs and fancy resorts. The route is great for both walking and cycling or there is a park train running frequently from one side to the other. You can also rent a bicycle at Veliki.ua on Lanzheron Beach. The Route of Health can be accessed in the middle via an antiquated Soviet-era chairlift that connects bul Frantsuzsky with Otrada Beach underneath.

  • Sights in Odesa

    Falz-Fein House

    City tours inevitably stop near this portly art nouveau house with two atlantes holding a sphere dotted with stars, a depiction of the universe as if seen from the outside. Built by Odesa's most celebrated architect, Lev Wlodek, the house belonged to baron Friedrich von Falz-Fein. He was the eccentric German aristocrat who bred zebras and wildebeest at his steppe estate of Askaniya Nova, where he was born in 1863. Or maybe he was only eccentric by the standards of his time, since these days he is remembered as a pioneer of environmental protection, cage-less zoos and, indeed, safari parks. This is a residential house, so it's not possible to enter unless you befriend someone who lives there.

  • Sights in Odesa

    Pushkin Museum

    This is where Russia's greatest poet, Alexander Pushkin, spent his first weeks in Odesa after being exiled from St Petersburg in 1823 by the tsar for mischievous epigrams. Governor Vorontsov subsequently humiliated the writer with petty administrative jobs and it took only 13 months, an affair with Vorontsov's wife, a simultaneous affair with someone else's wife and more epigrams for Pushkin to be thrown out of Odesa too. Somehow, he still found time while in town to finish the poem 'The Bakhchysaray Fountain', write the first chapter of Eugene Onegin, and scribble the notes and moaning letters found in this humble museum, along with Freemason artefacts and pictures of women Pushkin charmed during his Odesa stint.

  • Sights in Odesa

    Lanzheron Beach

    Perhaps to copy Brighton Beach, New York – where half of Odesa seems to have emigrated – the authorities built a boardwalk at the beach closest to the city centre. It looks modern and attractive, but it is small and hence often crowded. Reachable by foot via Shevchenko Park in the city centre, Lanzheron is the first beach on the Route of Health, a seaside promenade that goes all the way to Arkadia Beach.

  • Sights in Odesa

    Passazh

    The opulently decorated Passazh shopping arcade is the best-preserved example of the neorenaissance architectural style that permeated Odesa in the late 19th century. Its interior walls are festooned with gods, goblins, lions and nymphs. Commissioned in 1899, the building is sadly underused, with the main occupant being a rather mediocre hotel. But the shops inside the arcade are worth browsing.

  • Sights in Odesa

    Odesa Fine Arts Museum

    Located in the former palace of Count Pototsky, this museum has an impressive collection of Russian and Ukrainian art, including a few seascapes by master talent Ayvazovsky and some Soviet realist paintings.

  • Sights in Odesa

    José de Ribas Statue

    José de Ribas, the half-Catalan, half-Irish illustrious gentleman who built Odesa's harbour, is honoured with a statue at the eastern end of vul Derybasivska.

  • Sights in Odesa

    Duc de Richelieu Statue

    At the top of the Potemkin Steps on bul Prymorsky you'll find the statue of Duc de Richelieu, Odesa's first governor, looking like a Roman in a toga.

  • Sights in Odesa

    History of Odesa Jews Museum

    Less than 2% of people call themselves Jewish in today's Odesa – against 44% in the early 1920s – but the resilient and humorous Jewish spirit still permeates every aspect of local life. Hidden inside a typical run-down courtyard with clothes drying on a rope and a rusty carcass of a prehistoric car, this modest but lovingly curated exhibition consists of items donated by Odessite families, many of whom have long emigrated to America or Israel. Perhaps most touching is the photo of steamship Ruslan carrying the first Zionist settlers to Palestine in 1919, along with their immense hopes and terrible fears, both of which would soon materialise. English-language tours are available, but need to be arranged in advance.

  • Sights in Odesa

    Archaeology Museum

    Occupying a purpose-built, neoclassical edifice in the historical heart of the city, this half-renovated museum contains a fairly rich collection of archaeological finds, both sculpture and gold, from ancient Greek colonies in the northern Black Sea region and Skythian burial mounds. A separate hall in the underground floor displays Egyptian artefacts and mummies. There are signs in English.

  • Sights in Odesa

    Museum of Western & Eastern Art

    This mid-19th-century palace houses a collection that's both rich and eclectic – apt for a cosmopolitan port city like Odesa. Classical Italian and Dutch art comes together with Asian treasures from as far away as Tibet and Indonesia, while temporary exhibitions showcase great examples of modern Ukrainian art.

  • Sights in Odesa

    City Hall

    Located at the eastern end of bul Prymorsky, the pink-and-white colonnaded City Hall originally served as the stock exchange. The cannon here is a war trophy captured from the British during the Crimean War. In the square in front of City Hall is Odesa's most photographed monument, the Pushkin statue.

  • Sights in Odesa

    Preobrazhensky Cathedral

    Leafy pl Soborna is the site of the gigantic, newly rebuilt Preobrazhensky (Transfiguration) Cathedral, which was Odesa's most famous and important church until Stalin had it blown up in the 1930s.

  • Sights in Odesa

    Arkadia Beach

    Reconstructed to resemble the glitzy resorts across the sea in Turkey, Odesa's main fun zone shines like a mini Las Vegas and remains crowded with revellers till the wee hours. A wide promenade lined with cafes and bars leads towards the seafront, which is jam packed with beach clubs that double as nightlife venues after dark. Arkadia сan be reached by walking, cycling or riding a park train along the Route of Health from Lanzheron Beach. Travelling from the centre, take tram 5 from the tram stop near the train station, in front of the McDonald's on vul Panteleymonivska, to the end of the line via the lovely tree-lined bul Frantsuzsky, where the crème de la crème of Odesa's aristocracy lived in tsarist times. Enjoy the views of the old mansions and sanatoriums along the way. Public transport to Arkadia gets extremely crowded in summer, so consider taking a taxi (around 70uah).

  • Sights in Odesa

    Panteleymonivska Church

    Near the train station you can't help but spy the five silver onion domes of this Russian Orthodox church, built by Greek monks with stone from Constantinople in the late 19th century. According to legend, every time the Soviets painted over the church's elaborate frescoes, they would miraculously reappear. While the Soviets eventually succeeded in covering them up, many of the frescoes are once again visible thanks to vigorous restoration efforts.