Chernivtsi National University facade.

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Chernivtsi University

Top choice in The Carpathians

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.

Nearby The Carpathians attractions

1. Museum of Bukovinian Jews

0.46 MILES

This museum brings to life the now virtually extinct Jewish culture of Bukovyna, focusing on the period between 1774 and 1941.

2. Former Synagogue

0.46 MILES

Chernivtsi’s former synagogue was once famous for its exotic African/Middle Eastern style, but was turned into a cinema in 1954.

3. Kobylyanska Theatre

0.47 MILES

Set on the exquisitely central European pl Teatralna, Chernivtsi's main drama and music theatre is a beautiful art nouveau confection that wouldn't look…

4. Vul Kobylyanskoyi

0.75 MILES

When you’ve had enough of Chernivtsi’s barmy traffic, head for the tranquillity of vul Kobylyanskoyi, a pedestrianised street running between vuls Holovna…

5. Cathedral of the Holy Spirit

0.84 MILES

Painted a garish Disney-princess pink, the huge, mid-19th-century Orthodox cathedral that straddles gated parkland between vuls Holovna and Kobylyanskoyi…

6. Former Armenian Cathedral

0.86 MILES

In addition to Chernivtsi's fabulous university building, Josef Hlavka was also the architect responsible for the Former Armenian Cathedral.

7. St Nicholas Cathedral

0.99 MILES

Chernivtsi's cathedral is nicknamed the 'drunken church', because of the four twisted turrets surrounding its cupola – painted blue with golden stars,…

8. Former Jewish Cemetery

1.62 MILES

The Former Jewish Cemetery is a melancholic jumble of leaning, overgrown headstones to the west of the city.