16 Best Things to Do in Kyiv (That Will Make You Fall In Love With the City)
Kyiv is one of the most underrated European capitals. This is also one of the most budget-friendly cities packed with attractions and there are lots of things to do in Kyiv.
The best time to visit the capital of Ukraine is either in late spring, when the lilacs and the chestnut trees blossom, or in early fall to enjoy all the shades of golden-yellow, orange, red, and brown in the numerous parks of the city.
If you are still looking for accommodation in Kyiv, take a look here: Hotels in Kyiv.
In 2018, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine launched a campaign #CorrectUA. Within this campaign, the officials started reaching out to the foreign media that addressed the Ukrainian capital as ‘Kiev’, kindly asking them to switch to the spelling ‘Kyiv’.
The first one is a transliteration from the Russian language, while Kyiv is how the capital’s name pronounced in Ukrainian, the official language of the country. In Ukraine, you will find that the opinions of the locals vary. The majority of the activists strongly support the #KyivNotKiev initiative. However, there is also a large part of the Russian-speaking Ukrainians that find themselves using ‘Kiev’ frequently and being quite relaxed about it.
But regardless of the name, Kyiv always offers lots of things to do, and here are the top 16.
1. Explore Podil, the heart of Kyiv
While most travel guides will most likely first forward you to Khreshatyk (the main street) or Pechersk (with its Lavra and the golden domes), we believe that it is time to give some love to the Podil area. Located by the Dnipro river, Podil is home to one of the first streets in Kyiv’s Old Town, the Adnriivska street.
Back in the days, this was a place where the wealthy people lived. It was also the only bridge between the rapidly growing right bank of the river, and the left bank, which was only starting to develop.
Walk the cobbled streets of Andriivsky descent, which starts with the beautiful turquoise-domed St. Andrew’s cathedral. Stop by the house of the famous writer Mihail Bulgakov, and take a ride on the Ferris wheel. Podil is also the place for the best local bars, coffee shops, and restaurants. One of the most popular among the locals is the NaProsecco bar.
A great way to learn more about the history of Kyiv and see the most popular spots is by joining a walking tour. Here is a great one that takes you all over Kyiv’s Old Town. Book your ticket here>>
2. Take a Boat Tour of Dnipro River
The Podol walk ends by the river station. From here, you can take a boat tour of the Dnipro river and its islands. This is a great way to discover the history of the city and to observe some of its best attractions from the water.
The cruise will cover everything on the scenic hills of the right bank, with the Lavra, the Motherland monument, and the history of Kievan Rus, as well as reveal some of the hidden beaches on the islands. You can either opt-in for a big and scheduled cruise, or choose among many private tours on smaller and more modern boats.
3. Dive into the History of Ukraine in the Ethnic Village of Pirogovo
Located a short public bus ride away from the Teremky metro station, this is a unique open-air museum. It gives the best idea of the true and authentic life in Ukraine back in the days.
To put together this lovely ethnic village within Kyiv, the historians assembled huts, churches, stables, hives, and even a school and windmills from all regions of Ukraine. They brought them to Kyiv and recreated the fragments of the villages the way they were a couple of centuries ago, back when the Ukrainians were surfs.
Walk the roads and trails of Pirogovo. Stop by the thatched huts. Some of them are even opened for visitation. Rest in the shadow of a windmill, which is conveniently located atop a hill, giving a great panorama of the village. In summer, Pirogovo hosts lots of ethnic festivals, concerts, and local food fairs.
The easiest way to see the Ukrainian countryside is by doing a day tour from Kyiv. This one does not go to Pirogovo, but to Skansen. It is very similar, but the village is better accessible on foot than Pirogovo. This tour is perfect, if you don’t want to walk as much and don’t feel comfortable using public transport on your own. Book your Ukrainian Village tour here>>
4. Admire the panorama of Kyiv from the St. Sophia Bell Tower
Visiting churches and cathedrals is definitely among the recommended things to do in Kyiv, and one such go-to destination is the St. Sophia Cathedral. Located on the St. Sophia Square, part of the UNESCO World Heritage, the cathedral is opened to visitors and tourists.
From the gates, head right to the St. Sophia bell tower. Just a few flights up (no elevator, you will need to walk upstairs), and you will be able to enjoy the gorgeous panorama of the historic part of Kyiv.
To your right, there will be the main square, Maidan Nezalezhnosti. Here, the Ukrainians spent a harsh winter of 2014 fighting to restore democracy and to make the corrupt President resign. That winter became known as the Revolution of Dignity.
To your left is the Podol area. Straight ahead of you, there will be the golden domes and the blue walls of the St. Michael’s Cathedral. It is another beautiful Orthodox shrine recommended for visitation.
5. Enjoy the sunset from the most popular mussels bar in Kiev
Street-food culture takes over the city, and there is no place better to experience it than in the Mushlya bar. There are now a few around Kiev, but the best one to be in is on the crossroads of Khreshatyk and Bohdana Khmelnitskogo streets.
This place is always busy, and it may be challenging to find a table inside or outside. But for Mushlya bar, a table may not be needed. Grab your pot of freshly cooked mussels with lots of lemons, and a glass of cider, lemonade, or prosecco (mussels and a drink cost around 4 USD), and find a place to sit on the old stone stairs above the bar.
It is better to come in the evening and to watch the sun setting right above the Bohdana Khmelnitskogo street, to which the stairs are faced.
6. Discover the Unique Pecherska Lavra Complex
Most of the postcard views of the city will feature the Lavra with its golden domes and the bell tower majestically rising above the green hills of Kyiv.
This is the main Orthodox shrine in Ukraine, and also one of the oldest monasteries. It dates back to the year 1051 when Yaroslav the Wise ruled the Kievan Rus. Inside the walls of the Perchersy Lavra complex, there are 14 buildings. It is a small Orthodox city within a city. Most of these buildings maintained the original look from back in the days when they were built in the 11th century.
The only other city in the country that preserved as many Ukrainian Barocco-styled churches as Kyiv is Chernihiv, a cozy and picturesque town a short ride from Kyiv.
When in the Pechersky Lavra complex, take a look at one of the first typographies used in the times of the Kievan Rus. Admire the beautiful altars of the Lavra cathedral. And descend to the Pechersky caves for a guided tour of the burial site of the Orthodox saints.
7. Climb up the Motherland Monument
Erected in honor of those who died defending the Soviet Union in World War II, this is a truly monumental attraction. The statue of the female warrior called by the locals Rodyna Mat (the Motherland) is 203 feet tall, which makes it taller than the Statue of Liberty in New York. The statue was meant to be impressive and tall.
However, when the time came to erect the monument, the Orthodox leaders came forward with a protest. They insisted that no monument or building should be taller than the bell tower of the Pecherks Lavra. While the statue was not taller, the tip of the sword in its arm did rise above the cross on the dome of Lavra. And so, the Motherland that was holding a long sword in all the sketches and drawings, ended up holding a dagger in real life.
Be that as it may, the monument still makes you hold your breath when you approach. Standing atop a hill, it offers a breathtaking panorama of the city. To enjoy it, you will need to take several elevators to the top of the statue. Then, gear up and climb several flights of steps before you exit in the terrace located in the shield of the monument. This expedition will cost around 11 USD.
8. Find the Murals in Kyiv
Kyiv is one of the go-to places for painters and artists from all over the world to create visual stories on the walls of the buildings. By now, there are well over 160 murals in the Ukrainian capital. These are all over the city, including its downtown and remote areas.
There is even a mural painted by the Australian artist that ended up among the Guinness World Records as the tallest one. Look for the portrait of the girl in national Ukrainian clothes. It is on one of the buildings on Lesya Ukrainka’s boulevard. So many other noteworthy murals are scattered around the city that it is always fun looking for those.
If you want to find out more about the meaning of the paintings and the artists that created them, we highly recommend going on a guided Street Art walking tour. Book your tickets here>>
9. Visit the Governments Quarters
Starting from Hryshevskogo street and spreading to Bankova, Mariinsky park area, and several other streets around, it is the governmental quarters. Most of the architecture here is an example of the Soviet monumentalism, including the Administration of the President and the Cabinet of Ministers.
Hiding among these giant and intimidating reminders of the USSR era are elegant historic buildings, such as the Mariinsky Palace. You won’t find many other palaces within the city. The majority of them were built in the suburban areas. One of the most gorgeous remaining castles is Zolochiv Castle, which is about a four-hour drive from Kyiv. It is a highly recommended spot to visit if you have an extra day in Ukraine.
Next to the palace is one of the oldest and most picturesque parks of the city, with its popular landmark, a massive black fountain. It is one of the most beloved spots to meet at. Neighboring the park is the Verkhovna Rada – the building of the main legislative body of Ukraine.
10. Try the Most Popular Kyiv Street Food
Located on Bohdana Khmelnitskogo, there is a small kiosk. Well, not even a kiosk as more of a window, and there is always a long line next to this window. For more than a decade now, this place called the Kyiv Perepichka has been selling fried dough with a sausage inside.
An alternative to the hot dog, for some reason this greasy fried sausage in the dough has become one of the most beloved things to eat for both the locals and the visitors. Even employees of the nearby prestigious financial companies are spotted here. Dressed in their suits and ties, or skirts, tights, and heels, eating the freshly fried perepichka.
11. Escape to the Beaches of Trukhaniv Island
The only season when we would not recommend visiting the island is in winter. Other than that, exploring the Trukhaniv island is one of the most underrated things to do among the travelers.
Its broad sand beaches and miles of trails in the shadows of the forests offer the great escape from the hustle and bustle of the city while staying in its downtown. Swimming, sunbathing, walking, and bicycling are among the most popular activities here.
12. Find Yourself Inside a Giant Soap Bubble
Another attraction that many locals like but not a lot of visitors will hear of is visiting the old water towers. Getting to them is an experience well within itself. Depending on the part of the Mariinsky park that you’re coming from, you will either pass a narrow pedestrian bridge with thousands of locks and romantic messages or will wander past the fairytale-looking puppet theater first.
The water towers are now the Museum of Water. It is a complex of two brick towers that served the city more than 140 years ago. The reservoirs once contained over 110 thousand buckets of water. Today, its basements offer a tour of the museum with stories about how Kyiv lived back in the days.
There is also lots of useful information about water. The cherry on top here is a small pool to which grown-ups and kids stand in line to get encapsulated into a giant soap bubble.
13. Explore Khreshatyk
Khreshatyk street is the main artery of the city and the place to which thousands of visitors flock daily. It once gained recognition for its lush alleys of chestnut trees. These were truly magnificent when they blossomed in spring. As the city grew, the alleys shrank. There are still, however, lots of them growing on Khreshatyk today.
On weekends, the long and broad street becomes a pedestrian area. Musicians and performers set small shows here. The locals love to come out and to spend warm summer evenings among the historic buildings of the Khreshatyk. These are an insane mix of Ukrainian Barocco, Soviet monumentalism, and imperial splendor.
Khreshatyk is also the perfect place to shop. It has souvenirs, artisan shops, and big malls. For the best coffee in the area, head to One Love espresso bar. For good local food, walk toward the Bessarabska square and have some borsh with garlic in Puzata Hata.
14. Kyiv Miniatures Quest
One of the fairly recent attractions, the Kyiv miniatures quest already gained a lot of popularity. It reminds very much of a chase after the gnomes in Polish Wroclaw. In the Ukrainian capital, the quest consists of finding the small bronze sculptures.
These represent some of the most iconic elements of Kyiv’s life. The list includes chestnut tree leaves, chicken Kyiv, the carriage, the tram, the fountain and so much more. These small sculptures are scattered around the downtown. So, while on a walk around the city center, try to spot all of them. By 2020, there were 24 miniatures, but the list keeps growing.
15. Meet the Locals in the Most Popular Bar in Kyiv
Kyiv owes the idea of this bar to Lviv, the capital of western Ukraine. The “Drunken Cherry”, a venue much more sober than it sounds, was first introduced to the residents of Lviv, and many tourists from Kyiv fell in love with the concept, design, and the friendly atmosphere that it offers.
This is a small spot that serves cherry liquor and cherry sweets (the expected assortment of choices considering the bar’s name “The Drunken Cherry”). Located at the Lev Tolstoy square (and metro station) this small place is usually packed Friday to Sunday evenings.
There are just a few tall tables to stand at, and all of them are out in the street. So, most of the visitors just get their drinks and sit on the nearby stairs, porches of the stores, and fences, and socialize. This is a fun way to meet the locals, expats, and fellow travelers.
16. Enjoy Kyiv Botanical Gardens
There are two botanical gardens in Kiev. One is smaller and is located near the University metro station. The bigger one is a close walk from the Pechersk metro station. This one has miles of trails following from one themed segment of the park to another.
Come in early May for blooming magnolias, and in late May for the lilac blossom. Follow the hidden paths to the hills opening panoramas to the left bank, or wander around the Nepal gardens.
In summer, the Botanical gardens of Pechersk host lots of music venues, including the open-air orchestra concerts.
As you can see, Kyiv has a lot to offer and should be definitely on your list of places to visit, when you visit Ukraine. The capital is full of history and as you can see there are lots of things to do in Kyiv, so make sure you plan at least a few days there.
Take a look at some great activities and tours you can do as well, while in you are visiting Kyiv.
Things to do in Kyiv was written by Inessa and Natalie. They are sisters and storytellers based in Kyiv, Ukraine. With one being a screenwriter, and the other one a photographer, they believe that it is the emotional journey that matters the most. This is why together they started a Through a Travel Lens blog to encourage everyone to travel and to do so with a heart and mind opened to adventures. Also follow them on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.