Kiev, Ukraine is one of those places you can't help but fall in love with. You don't know until you know, you know?
Kiev! You're the Eastern European city of our dreams, with the perfect blend of old + new. You've got intricate, turquoise blue cathedrals on one corner and gigantic murals painted by the most talented artists on the other. We love your cafes, waiting for us with cups of melted chocolate. And your iconic, towering statues that can be seen across the city. We're swooning.
Ukraine has been home to ILP programs since the early days — after years and years of helping our volunteers live abroad in Kiev for a semester, we've gotten a pretty good grasp on what you can't miss out on. If you're headed this way, know that the city is packed full of adventures.
Curious about spending your semester abroad in Ukraine too?
See how it all works right here
Our biggest advice for Kiev? Keep a list going of all the things you want to see and do to make the most of your time in this city. One of the major perks about Kiev is all there is to do, and the best part ... most of them are totally (or nearly) free. Kiev is the perfect spot for your semester abroad if you want to see Europe on a budget.
- Explore The Cathedrals
- Swing By Famous Monuments + Historical Sites
Hangout At The Park
Admire The Arts
- Do Some Shopping In Our Favorite Neighborhoods
+ A Few Other Ideas
A Super Handy Map + Other Help
To help make things as easy as possible, all our suggested sites on this post are included in a Google Map. Just open it up on your phone and you've got everything mapped out, so that you can get familiar with everything is in relation to each other.
You may want to pick and choose a few that are close to one another and plan our your exploring days that way. Be sure to make a Kiev bucket list of everything you want to do and cross them off as you go so that you don't miss a thing! Oh and don't forget to use our hashtag #ilpukraine so that we can see which Kiev spots you're loving!
We also have a guide to exploring Kiev with tips on how to get here and around, favorite restaurants, nearby adventures and more. Make sure you check that out as well.
Explore The Cathedrals
I'm starting with my personal favorite. I know, I know. There are beautiful churches in every European city, but Kiev's are seriously stunners. Most of my favorite photos of the city include a cathedral because they're just that captivating. I feel like most people don't even know they exist until they really start getting familiar with this part of the world.
If you only have one day in Kiev, I'd send you to a couple of the most famous:
I'm in major awe of this one. I mean ... just look at that photo and you'll understand. It's a cannot miss sort of thing, for sure. Ukraine actually has its own "7 wonders" and this church makes the list.
Just a head's up, there are small fees to enter and the costs depends on how much you want to see.
Nearest Metro Stop: Arsenal'na (red line)
Address: Lavrska St, 15, Kyiv, Ukraine
This pretty, pretty cathedral sits just a short walk from a famous souvenir street, so if you're short on time this is a great spot to see more than one thing.
Head's up — in early 2020 we heard the church was closed for renovations, but even if you aren't able to go inside on your trip, the outside is still worth the trip in my opinion. There's also a viewing platform if you'd like (cost is 20 hryvnia/less than $1 USD).
Nearest Metro Stop: Kontraktova Ploscha (Blue Line)
Address: Andreyevskiy Spusk, 23, Kyiv (Kiev) Ukraine
Bonus — See Them All
But if you're here for your semester abroad with ILP, I'm challenging you to see all of our favorites. Are you up for it? You'll have every Saturday and Sunday free for 4 months — use that time to go exploring. We've got a list of cathedrals in Kiev that are all located within the city and easy to get to (well one is a bit on the outskirts, but I know you can do it). Let me know if the comments below if you check every one off, and also if you discover any others that we need to add to the list!
Swing By Famous Monuments + Historical Sites
Big Mama, officially known as the Rodina Mat and the Motherland Monument, is a landmark and important part of Kiev. She represents some pivotal parts of Ukraine's history. You can't miss the statue (it's HUGE!) and will see it from multiple places throughout the city. Make sure you take time and go see the statue up close.
Read this post for detailed directions (and more about the statue).
Address: Zapecherna St, Kyiv, Ukraine, 02000
Vladislav Gorodetsky was a famous Ukrainian architect,
See his memorial —
There is a bronze statue in his honor sitting in one of the most beautiful streets in the city. Some locals in the past have called this area "Kyivan Paris" because it's lined with fancy shops and beautiful architecture. A fitting spot for a talented architect's monument.
You'll find him sitting at a table with a coffee cup in his hand. Legend has it that he can grant your desires — just make a wish by following these instructions: make your wish then walk around the statue three times (good luck!).
Address: Khreschatyk str., 15
See his work —
You can actually go see one of his most famous sites as well, an Art Nouveau style building finished in the early 1900's. Apparently Gorodetsky had a particular interest in hunting exotic animals and was actually quite the adventurer himself, so he lined his home with statues of them. See if you can spot everything from elephants to dolphins. We're not major fans of that hobby per se ... but he is revered for his architectural talent and we can give credit where credit is due. We've heard reviews of it being everything from "amazing" to "strange". You'll just have to come see for yourself.
Another cool thing? This house sits opposite the office of the President of Ukraine. You're not allowed in there (The House With Chimeras) but still something to point out.
This article goes into more details on this history of it all!
Nearest metro stop: Khreschatyk
Address: To see the Gorodetsky House just head here.
Freedom Square, also known as Independence Square and Maidan Nezalezhnost (often simply called Maiden, meaning "square") is the heart of the city. It was built to be the main city square, for people to come together.
This square became even more world famous during the riots in 2014's revolution; fires destroyed the square and the celebratory feeling that once lived here.
Several years later, the square is building back up to what it once was. You'll find that this is once again a place where people come to gather and celebrate the city. There are reminders of those who died here and you may see signs for what they fought for "Freedom Is Our Religion".
Grab a friend in your ILP group and find a place to sit and hang out in the square to get a feel for the culture and the history. This is also where you can take a photo with the "I heart kyiv" sign!
Getting here: There's also a metro stop coming right here which makes things really easy. Just take the blue line to the Maiden Nezalezhnosti metro stop and you've made it.Or use Google Maps to find it here.
There are some really cool museums in the city, so if that's your sort of thing I say add it to your to-do list. Here's just a couple that ILP volunteers have recommended seeing:
Ukrainian National Chernobyl Museum —
Come learn about the 1986 disaster that happened in Chernobyl. If you're not familiar with what happened, a destructive explosion happened and the city has been abandoned ever since. Nowadays visitors are permitted to come see what's left of the city. It's a pretty eerie experience, but a pretty infamous part of recent history. And lucky for you, we've got a post to help you plan your trip out to Chernobyl.
But if you don't have time for a trip like that, come check out the museum in Kiev.
*The museum has been closed during 2020 in light of the country's response to COVID19. Check on the status before going.
National Museum Of The History Of Ukraine In The Second World War —
The name is a bit of a mouthful, but one of our favorites to come see. It's closed on Sundays, but would make for a great way to spend your Saturday afternoon.
It's also situated next to Big Mama, so it would be good to combine those two into one trip.
Admire The Arts
Peizazhna Alley, sometimes referred to as the Alice In Wonderland Park, is one of the unique and hidden gems you'll find in the city. The entire area is full of mosaic statues and funky art! Konstantin Skretutskiy was the artist who contributed much of the work, including a playground entirely built with the Alice In Wonderland characters in mind — you'll see some sculptures that will make you feel like you stepped right into the storybook with Alice. It's a great place for photo ops and a fun place to wander for the afternoon.
Address: Find it here on the map
Pinchuk Art Centre
Love wandering art exhibits? Come here! You'll find multiple floors of art located within a historic building that is a piece of art in its own right. Exhibits are constantly changing, so come visit a few different times during your semester in Ukraine and you'll likely get to see new things every time.
Okay, this is a must! One of my favorite parts of Kiev is the fact that artists have adorned the streets with seriously impressive murals. And they're literally everywhere. I mean you can hardly walk a few blocks in certain parts of the city without seeing them.
See How Many You Can Find —
I wasn't kidding when I said they're everywhere. This really handy site highlights hundreds of murals sprawling across the city, and the best part is that they're all mapped out for you. How many can you see in one semester?
Okay ... maybe you don't have time to see hundreds. We get it. We've got a do-able list right here for you, on our post all about seeing the most famous murals in Kiev. And don't worry, I've added a handful of the murals from that list to the Kiev map that I mentioned at the start of this post so that you include those in your planning.
I'm also a big fan of this article — they mapped out a DIY walking tour, giving a route to walk through a part of the city that is packed full of murals. Take an afternoon to do this 5km walk and you'll see many of the most famous murals in Kiev.
If You're Short On Time —
If you are in Kiev for a short trip and can only fit in one, The Renaissance (Revival) is probably the most famous (pictured below). This is one you want to make sure you don't miss.
Seeing A Show At The Theatre
A pretty classic experience here is seeing a pretty classic show. Depending on when you're here you may be able to see favorites like The Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, and Swan Lake. There may be some that you recognize, while others not as much, but either way I say this should be on your bucket list while you're in Ukraine!
We have all the information you need to see a show on this post.
Do Some Shopping In Over Favorite Neighborhoods
Whether you’re looking to admire where the locals are shopping, stopping to see one of Kiev’s most iconic streets, or want a place to shop for classic Ukrainian souvenirs, a trip down a shopping street or two is a useful part of your itinerary.
Kreshchatyk Street + Vsi Svoi
For window shopping, Kreshchatyk Street is your go-to. An expansive pedestrian only route, you’ll find the streets bookended with luxurious storefronts. The street often holds the title of one of the most expensive streets in Europe, but it’s fun to window shop, right? There are also vendors and festivals that pop up along the street. Get more info here.
For clothes shopping, visit Vsi Svoi. It's just one of the shops on Kreshchatyk that we'd bring to your attention because it's so popular. That post has all the details you need, but in a nutshell, it’s the biggest store selling Ukrainian brands, so you’ll be able to come home with a bit of Ukraine after contributing to support local artists and designers.
For souvenir shopping (to pick up painted eggs, nesting dollars, and embroidered scarves, etc) head to Andriyivsky Street; This large walking and shopping street curves down a picturesque road lined with colorful buildings ... see the picture? It’s opened every day, but you may find cheaper prices on the weekends. You also get a stellar view of St. Andrew’s Cathedral, so you’ll probably be in the neighborhood here anyways.
Getting Here: Ride the metro and get off at “Pochtovaya Ploshchad” then you’ll take the funicular Mikhailovskaya Square, and then go down the Trehsvyatitelskaya Street until you get arrive. Or you can walk from the metro stop “Kontraktovaya Ploshchad”.
For Really Cool Neighborhoods, Podil is our favorite neighborhood in Ukraine. It's the oldest in the city, The Podil neighborhood is almost like a mini district, broken up into a handful of different suburbs. It’s all stretched over a couple of miles right by the Dnieper River in Ukraine’s capital city, Kiev. And the buildings here? Painted in every shade you could imagine ... pale yellows, faded oranges, creamy pinks, swirling rows of blues and greens ... I think you get the picture.
A Few Other Ideas
This section is sort of a catch-all for a few other things you might want to check out!
Take A Free Tour
Take a free tour of the city. This is a really popular thing to do all over Europe and Kiev is no different. It's a great way to learn more about the history of the city and learn about the famous buildings, monuments, and statues. If you're only here for a day, it's a great way to pack things in without having to worry about figuring out transportation. Of if you're here for a whole semester, it's still a great way to learn more about the places you walk by all the time!
Relax At The Park
There are plenty of beautiful parks in Kiev; while the weather is nice in the city you've got to make the most of it! Kiev has beautiful summers, crisp falls, and there's nothing better than when the first blue sky day of spring arrives. And bonus, hanging out at the park is free.
We especially love Mariinsky Park! It's situated close to the river, so head to the northern side and you'll find viewing platforms. There's also a fountain and several monuments. It's one of the oldest parks in the city, but well maintained and surrounded by government buildings.
Directions: Take the metro and jump off at the Arsenalna stop. Exit and go right, walking down Hrushevsky street just a bit to reach the park.
Explore The Metro Stops
One of the coolest parts about Kiev is their metro system. I know, sounds weird but hear me out. Every metro stop is decorated differently with unique architecture and art, some are even hung with chandeliers. It's like a museum, without the entry ticket. Make it a goal to visit every metro stop in Kiev and find what your favorites are, take pictures, and explore the little shops you find underground. It's also a great place to people watch.
My favorite thing to do when I'm living in a city and not sure what I want to do on a Saturday (or think I've seen it all), is to grab some friends and go for a ride. Jump off on a metro stop that you've never been to before. Walk around the block just outside the metro and see what's there. You never know what you'll find! Sometimes it's meh ... but when you discover something new, that's the best kind of adventure.
One of our past volunteers who lived in Ukraine suggested this to get you started, "Take the number 5 trolleybus from Ploshcha Lva Tolstogo metro station (blue line) to Nyvky metro station (red line). You’ll get to see several metro stops on the ride, some fun places to stop and eat or shop, and more of the city!"
The Latter Day Saint Temple
Kiev is home to a temple built by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. If you'd like to come see it, you're welcome to head over there and just walk around and relax on the beautiful grounds. If you're a member of the church, know that you may also schedule time to go inside.
Take A Dip In The Lake
If you're in Ukraine during the summer, come enjoy the lake! Almazne Lake is not only a great place for a swim, but one of the most beautiful parts of Kiev. The lake is surrounded by a pine forrest and you'll find locals, biking, fishing, and swimming on warm summer days. There's no "beach" area but it's easy to enter the lake with out one.
Where is it? From the Chernihivska metro station, you'll take marshrutka (one of the little buses!) 416, 419, 418, 236, 434 or 414 to the Kraynya Street stop. Once you're there it's about a 20 minute walk to the lake.
Address: 8B, Velyka Zhytomyrska Street
The former President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, lived in quite the fancy estate from 2002 to 2014 — if you read reviews from local visitors you'll quickly see that he wasn't exactly popular and many criticize him, citing corruption as the reason this home is so luxurious and grand. But either way, it's truly impressive and it's pretty interesting to come see where the President lived for so many years. He abandoned the property during the revolution in 2014 and since that time it has been used as a museum, welcoming in visitors.
The grounds are pretty extensive, so big that there are even bikes and carts available for rent to get around! Plan on spending about 1-3 hours wandering the property.
It's just about 30 minutes outside the city, with the Dnieper River as its backdrop. There are tours you can join if you want (even boat tours coming via the river), but they're on the pricy side if you ask me. If you're up for the adventure, buses will get you out here as well (about 15 miles outside Kiev). If you're looking to DIY it, this reviewer left some details on how they did it.
There are entrance fees — 150 hrivnya (about $5 USD) gives you access to the majority of the grounds, but expect to pay 500 hrivnya (about $18 USD) to tour the house (most reviewers say the price is well worth it).
Looking into a semester abroad in Europe?
ILP (International Language Programs) arranges trips for American volunteers abroad to come teach English in cities like Kiev for a few months. Volunteers get to spend their time exploring not only Kiev but all across Europe together, living with a host family, and of course, teaching. Get more of an idea of what that's like, right here: