Kiev – A winter city trip to Ukraine

There was a week left for a short trip in December. As always it’s not easy to decide where to go but in the end it was Kiev, Ukraine, which was making the race. The city has a long history and there is a lot to see here and the winters use to be quite cold. Perfect for a city trip in winter as we think it’s a lot better when it’s really cold, or pleasantly warm, than rainy and just a little above 0°C like it is in a lot of parts of Europe during winter.

Important is, that nobody has to be scared to travel to Kiev. I have been asked “Why Kiev?” a several times after I booked this trip. Why not? Some people thought about the area of conflict in Eastern Ukraine at the Russian border. Actually Kiev is about 300km of linear distance away from that area and you won’t notice anything of that conflict in the city. Even cities nearer to that area, such as Odessa, are safe for travelers.

But read why I would recommend visiting Kiev to anybody:

I arrived on a cold and a little snowy Sunday evening. As many things were closed and it was already late when I arrived at the Ibis City Center Hotel, I decided to have a calm first night, had something to eat and a beer in the hotel restaurant and went to sleep not too late as I wanted to be fit for exploring the city the next day.

The next day started with a good breakfast for me and as planned I started with a first small exploration of the city center. As most times I didn’t use any transportation but walked around by foot all the time, even if it was snowy and -8°C outside. Nonetheless, Kiev has a dense public transport system with a Metro with three lines, a lot of bus and minibus lines and many taxis available throughout the city. Using the Metro is even quite interesting as it is has one of the deepest metro stations in the world (Arsenalna is 105.5 m below surface) and all stations have interesting designs of the times they were built in, some are really splendid.

Taking busses is not as easy as the metro if you can’t read Cyrillic signs, as most buses don’t have bilingual signing, so that you can’t read the direction of the bus. Looking up how your destination is spelled in Ukrainian might help you a lot!

A thing that you will notice quite quickly is, that there are underpasses for pedestrians in many places. Some of them are small and dirty, others even have small shopping malls inside that extend below a whole junction or farther. I lost my way in those sometimes as the exit on the other side of the road isn’t always right on the opposite of where you enter the “underpass malls”.

As it was a little bit hazy that day it wasn’t perfect for taking pictures, but I instantly liked this city anyways. Walking along the Khreshchatnyk Street where you find the City Council of Kiew and a little further the well-known Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti) where the Euromaidan protests in 2013/14 took place. A square not too big, but with impressive history.

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Kiev City Council

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Independence Square (Maidan)

Also interesting is St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral at Tarasa Shevchenka Boulevard, a yellow, white and blue building with a nice chime of bells (I unfortunately didn’t capture it on video) and a beautiful interior.

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I was lucky the weather was a little better on my second day here. Still really cold but no clouds and snow.

When roaming through the city center for a few hours I passed by some really interesting sights you shouldn’t miss when in town:

  • The National Opera of Ukraine, the third oldest Opera House in the country, established in 1867

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  • The Golden Gate, the main gate to Kiev in the middle ages (11th century)

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  • Saint Sophia’s Cathedral, nearby the Golden Gate, with the typical golden and green tower roofs

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  • Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery, a beautiful cathedral established in the 12th century that has undergone a lot of changes and damages during its long history but has been rebuilt after the Ukrainian Independency in the 1990s

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There are a lot of Cathedrals throughout Kiev, most of them are built in the iconic Byzantine style, fans of that architecture find a lot to see here.

Also right next to the St. Michaels Monastery you find the Diplomatic Academy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Monument of Princess Olga.

Walking through the city was much fun with this great weather. Not only the famous sights were interesting, also the streetscape with a lot of old buildings in different shapes, pretty parks like the Mariinsky Park, shopping centers like Gulliver and the Olympian Sports Complex with its large stadium right in the heart of the city.

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All in all I had some great days here and will definitely return one day. There’s so much more to see, visit and experience in Kiev and its surrounding, you can’t do all that within two full days, as I left again in the morning day four. It’s one of the most interesting cities I’ve visited and I have only seen a part of it during this stay. Also because it was below -5°C throughout my stay and I took breaks for some warm coffee in between from time to time. It was cozy for sure, anyways.

Here are some recommendations for you:

Where I stayed:

Ibis Kiev City Center (Tripadvisor), a good hotel with a great view from the higher floors. There is also a good bar and restaurant in house which serves at reasonable prices (not more than outside the hotel). Rooms are modern and staff friendly what makes it have a good value, even if it’s not one of the cheapest options in town.

Beside that there are a lot of hotels of different categories in town, just use www.trivago.com, www.kayak.com or www.discavo.de to compare prices.

 

Good restaurants and bars we visited:

 

How to get to Kiev?

You can reach Kiev by train and bus from within Europe but the easiest way is traveling here by plane.

The city has two airports: Kiev Boryspil Airport (KBP) which is home to the national airline Ukraine International Airlines and the destination for other big international airlines, while Zhuliany Airport (IEV), which is nearer to the city center, is home to mostly low-cost-carriers.

The low cost carrier Wizzair connects Kiev (IEV) with a lot of cities in Europe and so does Ukraine International from KBP. Ukraine International Airlines is also flying from New York, Dubai, Beijing, Bangkok and many Middle Eastern and Central Asian cities to Kiev. If there is no non-stop flight from where you live, you can for example fly here on Air France (through Paris), Austrian Airlines (through Vienna), British Airways (through London), KLM (through Amsterdam), LOT (through Warsaw), Lufthansa (through Frankfurt or Munich) or Turkish Airlines (through Istanbul).

I flew here on Ukraine International Airlines, quite a good airline, good price, on time, friendly crews and delicious pre-ordered food (no free snacks, either pre order or buy on board).

As always it’s best to use price comparison tools for flights and hotels, such as www.trivago.comwww.kayak.comwww.discavo.de or www.skyscanner.com.

Thank you for reading, we hope we were able to give you some interesting insight into our trip

You can contact us by commenting below or just dropping an e-mail to thealterlookout@freenet.de in case you have any questions or suggestions. Also don’t forget to follow our Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/thealterlookout) and Instagram (http://www.instagram.com/thealterlookout) to be always up to date about our blog posts and to see some pictures even while we are travelling.

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