Kiev may be an unexpected vacation destination, but it’s so worth it. (Photo: iStock)
By Drew Goldberg / The Hungry Partier
I have now been to every capital city in Europe and I can proudly say that Kiev is one of my favorites.
“But why on Earth would you go to Ukraine? Isn’t is unsafe?”
This was the message that several people sent me before my trip, via emails and social media comments.
And yes, there was a political revolution here over the winter of 2013–2014 (you can watch the Oscar-nominated Netflix documentary “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” to understand what happened when the people called for the resignation of President Viktor F. Yanukovich), but just because of one event in the past doesn’t mean that it’s unsafe to travel to Ukraine today, despite what the media will tell you. I will admit that the situation is a bit more tense on the Eastern part of Ukraine, but as far as I experienced when I visited a few months ago in the fall of 2015, Kiev is a safe place to visit.
Chilling on a bench in front of The Sofiyiskiy Cathedral. (Photo: Drew Goldberg)
I walked all around the city during my week long visit. From what I saw with my own eyes, daily life in Kiev unfolds just like I’ve seen in any other big city: People ride the underground metro to work, friends hang out in parks, they schmooze in cafés, and they go to bars at night. The city is peaceful during the day and it turns electric when the sun does down. I love it.
As I was wandering around Kiev, I noticed how patriotic the people are with a huge sense of national pride. The colors of Ukraine are light blue and yellow (as can be seen in the national flag), and these two colors are painted all around the city — on buildings, street signs, walls, and cars.
Here are ten more reasons why I fell in love with Kiev:
1. Affordability: Ukraine is one of the cheapest countries in Europe, and likewise, Kiev is one of the cheapest capital cities that I’ve comes across in the region. For example, to ride the metro is four hryvnia (about 20 cents USD). I never paid more than five dollars for any meal, and the food is delicious. And any taxi ride across the city won’t be more than three dollars (make sure they don’t rip you off for being a tourist).
2. Amazing buildings: I had to pinch myself a few times to believe that what I was seeing was real life. Beautiful colors, massive, golden shrines…. Did you know the buildings in Kiev were so gorgeous?
I’ll just let the photos do the talking:
More amazing churches — I just can’t get enough of them! (Photo: Drew Goldberg)
3. Lively nightlife: Kiev comes electric at night. The party starts at midnight and goes until noon the next day. There is a wide variety of fun pubs, bars, swanky lounges and insane nightclubs. Beer and vodka shots can be consumed for one or two dollars, and the people are so friendly that you’re never going to want the night to end.
4. Open-minded people: Speaking of Ukrainians, I met some really cool people who were down to earth and friendly — much friendlier than I found in Ukraine’s neighboring countries.
It’s hard to wipe this smile off my face as I’m thinking about all the new friends I made during my trip.
Some of the friendly Ukrainians that I met while in Kiev. (Photo: Drew Goldberg)
5. The Motherland Monument: Climbing to the top of the 102 meter, stainless-steel Motherland Monument was one of the best travel experiences of my life. The statue is massive and it overlooks the city of Kiev. Only a few people per day are allowed to climb all the way up, and you will need a private guide to take you up the steep ladders and narrow passageways.
After about 15 minutes of intense climbing, you’ll see a tiny window at the top. Open it up see a view like this — like you can rule the world!
Climbing to the top of the Mother Motherland Monument was my top highlight of Kiev! (Photo: Drew Goldberg)
6. Underground markets: Whenever you need to cross a big street in Kiev, you will do so by walking underground through a giant market and over to the next side. You can find anything you’re looking for — clothes, electronics, food, hardware, books, and more.
Related: World’s Coolest Underground Wonders
7. Pop-up cafés: I’ve never seen a city with more pop-up cafés and bars than Kiev has. Just go to any popular area in the city and you’ll notice the street corners and sidewalks lined up with pop-ups, which usually take the form of graffitied cars!
They all have a different vibe and sell very cheap drinks.
Pop-up cafés are everywhere around the city, and they are all unique. (Photo: Drew Goldberg)
8. Cleanliness: Kiev is a very clean city. I was impressed to see the citizens always taking very good care of their home by not throwing trash on the street and putting an effort into maintaining the cleanliness of the buildings.
9. The mix of old and new: I really enjoyed how Kiev has an old and a new feel to it. Many of the buildings in the city center are several hundred years old, but also, I found a variety of impressive 21st-century modern complexes that left me stunned.
If anything will make you stay in Kiev for a long time, it will be this.
Trying to navigate my way around the city. (Photo: Drew Goldberg)
And lastly, I will leave you with a few travel tips before you visit Kiev:
– Get your hands on a map, because the city is not well marked (and mostly everything is written in Russian/Ukrainan).
– Don’t ever called a Ukrainian person Russian, or mix up Ukraine and Russia. Just don’t do it.
– Learn basic Russian words and phrases. Even though Ukraine does have its own language, Russian is widely spoken and almost everyone in Kiev can speak it. English is not as common as you’d think.
– Exchange your euros or dollars at an exchange office, because you will get a better rate than an ATM.
– If you can’t speak basic Russian, then don’t attempt to get in a taxi by yourself (because they will rip you off). You shouldn’t pay more than 80 hryvinia to get anywhere in the city.
– Try to stay in the city center (there are many cheap hotels and hostels). I made the mistake of staying a bit outside and it was a hassle to walk to the metro every time. Or use Couch Surfing if you can!
Thanks for reading my post about Kiev, and I really hope that this article inspires you to come here and experiences it for yourself! I know that I’ll definitely be making a visit back to this wonderful place in the near future!
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