It may not be everyone’s idea of a family holiday destination, but anyone who’s actually taken children to Ukraine will tell you that not only is it possible, it can also be fun. Indeed, over the summer an army of expat children descend on babysitting country grannies to enjoy Ukraine’s fruit, farm animals, swimmable lakes and cheap entertainment.
Best Region for Kids
With its Slavic seaside fun, Crimea was once one of the best places to holiday with young ones, but a visit to the Russian-occupied peninsula is certainly not recommended today.
Naturally the capital has the most facilities and indoor entertainment for children, including puppet theatres and aquaparks.
- Eastern Ukraine
With its pools, beaches, paddle boats and playgrounds, the spa town of Myrhorod is an enjoyable base for children.
- Odesa & Southern Ukraine
Odesa’s beaches are an obvious attraction for young and old.
- The Carpathians
Time among the cool forests and tumbling rivers is the perfect antidote to all those electronic devices.
Ukraine for Kids
Ukraine can be a truly fascinating place for the under 10s: a summer holiday here is a never-ending pageant of farm animals, sandy river beaches, late nights under the Milky Way and bags and bags of bargain fruit. Get it right and Ukraine might be one of your kid’s fondest childhood memories.
Ukraine is Fun
Aquaparks and lakes, puppet theatres and quirky museums, playgrounds and rowboats, new friends and funny fauna – Ukraine can be entertaining and educational to boot. Kids love water and when the temperature rises, there’s no better place to be than by a beach. Puppet theatres may not hold everyone’s attention, but some kids love them; more inquisitive minds will be fed by some stimulating museums. Where families gather, there will always be a playground of varying quality and Ukrainian kids are inevitably spellbound by foreign-language-speaking nippers. Further out animals are everywhere – go salamander spotting in the Carpathians or feed goats on the steppe, but give Ukraine’s stray dog population a wide berth.
Dining with Kids
If your offspring are addicted to sugary junk, Ukraine provides the opportunity to get them eating some real food. The Ukrainian menu of fresh fruit and vegetables, milk products, meat and grains is the ideal diet for growing kiddies. And when it comes to sweet stuff, Ukraine has plenty of that too.
Great places to eat are self-service canteens where kids can see what they are getting. Midrange restaurants focusing on casual dining are pretty child-friendly these days, especially newer establishments. However, special kids' menus are rare. Street food is usually a safe bet and in summer ice cream is available on every street corner. For the tiniest visitors, breastfeeding in public is perfectly acceptable.
Airless minivans and grimy bus stations are not places you’ll want to spend quality family time, so train is the way to go. However, sleeper trains present their own challenges. Even if there are only three of you travelling, make sure you book a whole four-berth compartment. Children up to five can sleep with their parents on one bunk. Take lots of food and an arsenal of games to play. In cities, the metro is usually fine, but for overland journeys taxis might be preferable to buses. Slings are always better than prams in Ukraine.
- Roshen, nationwide The president’s Willy Wonka–style chocolate shops are found across the nation.
- Lviv Chocolate Festival The best kid-oriented festival on the calendar.
- Lvivska Maysternya Shokoladu, Lviv This temple to chocolate will have tots drooling.
- Lvivska Maysternya Pryanykiv, Lviv Sweet-toothed minors will adore this imaginative gingerbread shop.
Wings 'n' Wheels
For all-round information and advice, check out Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.
When to Go
- Avoid extreme temperatures by travelling in shoulder seasons.
- Summer is pleasant for kids in the countryside, but cities bake.
- Stay in apartments – you’ll have access to a kitchen and probably a full-size bathroom.
- Few hotels have been built with children in mind, but the higher up the hotel food chain, the better things get.
- Ask about breakfast as the concept here can be entirely different.
What to Pack
Ukraine’s supermarkets stock everything you need for babies and children. However, there are some things you might want to pack:
- alcohol handwashing gel
- children’s sun cream
- nappies (expensive in Ukraine)
- mosquito-repellent spray/cream
- suitable winter/summer clothing
- medication your child needs (note its Latin name)