Hello friends! If you wanna go on an adventure, today is the day!
A couple of weekends ago, we went to Kiev, Ukraine. This was one of the most exciting trips we planned as it is a non-mainstream destination. So please keep on reading because maybe you should actually go there!
If you ask me today how was this trip, my answer would be “interesting”… Even though Kiev is a very very nice city, with a loooot of good food and beautiful sights, I did have some very mixed feelings about it.
I have to admit that I’ve been quite intrigued by Eastern Europe lately, and luckily, there are a lot of flights from Stockholm to this part of Europe. The prices are usually really reasonable, and as we had this opportunity to go to Kiev, we just jumped on it and booked!
Arriving in Kiev
There is also an important thing to take into account, there is no visa required to go there (at least with a EU passport) which made this trip a little easier! Of course you still need to go through passport control, and will need to be stamped in and out!
The flights from Stockholm is about 2 and a half hours (flew out with Ryanair and back in with Ukrainian International), so we arranged to leave work a little earlier on the Friday in order to fly out that day, and so be ready to explore from the Saturday morning! Oh, and we also took the Monday off, so it was a long weekend! Which is great as it gave us the time to go through everything we wanted without rushing. The airport is at about 40km out of the center, and the price for an Uber ride was about 12€. So on top of being affordable, we got to arrive right at the door of our Airbnb, in the city center.
Our accommodation was a 5 minutes walk to the Independence square (Maidan Square). I cannot recommend more staying in the city center, as it made our lives very easy throughout our stay. It was also great for the 1st evening as we arrived quite late and it was easy to find a quick bite to eat. Hence, we ended up in a 24h-sushi restaurant and it was glorious! I mean when you’re hungry and tired on a Friday night, how can you refuse good and cheap sushi?!
Below are a bit more details on what we did and saw in Kiev, and hopefully the pictures will change your mind on how pretty Eastern Europe can be!
Day 1: Saturday
We woke up to a grey sky and with empty stomachs, so we started the day off by one of the best breakfast I’ve had in a while! We went to this place called “Honey”, which also has a super good bakery and pastries store. The place was not crowded at all, and everyone was really nice and friendly. It also happened to be close from our place and at the start of the city tour we wanted to have.
Following the breakfast, we started to walk around and just taking it easy. We walked by the Golden Gate, which happened to be a quite mysterious building for us – it is a reproduction of the medieval wall which was around the city of Kiev – but it felt a little weird to have this, in between some nice old buildings. Unfortunately, we could not go inside or anything, just walking around… But we kept on walking around the city and we reached Maidan Square, to finally see it during the day light! Just so you know, there are a loooot of people there who will want to sell you, pretty much, anything!
We decided to head a bit South and of course we got lost in the surrounding streets. But kept on walking all the way to the Taras Shevchenko Park. We took 5 minutes there as the more we were walking in the city, the more confused we were getting. The confusion came from the fact that it was then impossible to identify how we felt about this place. Do we like it or not?! And we were actually wondering, what we were doing there. I think we didn’t have any expectations or any preconceived ideas on Kiev or Ukraine in general, but this place was just not understandable for us.
But we were there and ready to enjoy our stay, so we kept walking and decided to go to St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral, as the sign was pointing to a close by place. And there was a first surprise, the cathedral is bright yellow! So we decided to go in, and explore more around there before heading back towards the center for lunch. At this point we changed our minds, not everything is grey or ugly! There are a lot of colours, and a lot of sights, we just need to find them!
We grabbed a sandwich for lunch, and then decided to head towards the Motherland Monument before it would get dark. Taking Uber is really easy, fast and cheap, especially to reach this place. Otherwise, you can always get a bus ride and a walk. We were planning on this second option, but the bus never came….. So 4€ and 15 minutes later, we were standing right under this impressive statue….! Mind blown! Under the statue is the museum of the WWII, and elevators if you want to go up in the statue. The entrance fee is really affordable and the museum is interesting – so on a grey day, enjoy some times there. And going up in the statue gives an amazing view on the city and the churches’ golden roofs!
If you ask about the evening programme, we have had a great dinner at Kanapa, in the Old Kiev. This restaurants serves traditional Ukrainian food, which is amazing, and at a really good price. Remember to book a table ahead, as it is a known address for both locals and tourists. We then went to the Arena City to get a drink before heading home! If you are planning on a friends trip to Kiev, you could not pick a better place, there is an amazing night life and a lot of very good bars, restaurants and so on!
Day 2: Sunday
We were so excited about day 2 as before going to Kiev we booked this so-called “Underground tour”, and it was planned for Sunday late morning. After getting some breakfast at one of the small cafés on the main square we took the metro to Dnipro station, where we waited for our guide. This was not the first metro ride we took there but, one of the most picturesque station we stopped at! It felt like it has been the same for the last 50+ years! So our tour departed around this station and lasted in total 3 hours. Starting with underground and drainage systems, we then went to a former (now abandoned) nuclear bunker. The most surprising was that these are located in the city center.
The tour was booked through Urbex, and I cannot recommend more their services if you want to do such tour! It is for sure, a “once in a lifetime” experience, but it was also very disturbing. I am glad I did it, but not sure if it is something I want to do again….
After such adventures, ’cause believe me, that was an adventure, we went to a local cafeteria to get some lunch. I do encourage you to go there as it is a true local experience. And also because the food is good! Do not expect people to speak English, but the ladies there were really sweet! The below picture shows the food we had for 2, and a total of 10€! Next in our afternoon program was a walk by the churches and a walk in the Old town. So many people there, which made the city really alive, all with a blue sky and then a beautiful sunset!
We took the metro back towards the center, got a drink at the Alchemist Bar – which is a great place! And decided to stop by the supermarket for a bit of food, and also because I love going to supermarkets when abroad hahah! This is precisely when we found out that the main road was closed to cars on the Sunday. So yes, we walked all the way back, in the middle of the street! At this point when walking back to our apartment, we realised how much we liked this place and how interesting this city is. I do know that we did not see it all, and this is the perfect excuse to go back with friends!
Day 3: Monday
Last but not least! As we were leaving in the late afternoon on Monday, we wanted to make the most out of our last day. And luckily, we got the chance to leave our bags for the day, at our Airbnb. We started the day by some breakfast sandwich and then we went to the metro to go to HydroPark. The reason why I wanted to go there is because of the outdoor gym, right by the beach, which is literally the same as it was during Soviet time. I thought this place was going to be more like a museum, or something just abandoned there… To my biggest surprise, it was used, and even though it was cold, people were outside training on these old machines. I could not be more impressed by the number of machines and their decrepit state.
After this interesting trip to HydroPark, we headed back to the city center as we (mainly me actually) wanted to check out the churches. There are so many of them, 2 were actually a couple of steps outside our place, but better later than never. Off we went there, and I was surprised by the fact that you have to pay to go to Sophia’s Cathedral – UNESCO World Heritage, but not if you go across the street to St. Michael’s Monastery. And to be truly honest, I liked a lot more the second one. So I am glad we started by Sophia’s cathedral, it made me enjoy even more the blue monastery!
We continued our walk around this neighbourhood for a while and went for lunch! We decided to go to a place, recommended on the first evening, which is a Georgian restaurant (ChaCha Bar – ЧАЧА БАР). I never had Georgian food before, so I have nothing to compare it with, but it was absolutely delicious! Following this, we grabbed our bags and unfortunately had to go to the airport. It is quite hard to know how long before the flight one has to be at the airport when passports are being checked. It took us forever when we arrived but literally 10 minutes when we left…
I hope this article made you travel a little and that you’ll think about Kiev for your next trip! This is a really nice and worthy place to go, so why skipping it?!