Fast City Guides: Kiev
Fast City Guides: Kiev
Location: North Central Ukraine
Population: 2.8 million
Welcome to Ukraine’s big bad-ass Stalinist capital. Founded in the 9th Century, a violent history of war and foreign invasion – culminating in WWII – has sadly robbed Kyiv of much of its heritage. Following that final disaster it was rebuilt in as an imposing Soviet Metropolis, giving it the style in which is appears today. But that’s not to say Kiev is a place without much to offer. It does. In droves. You’ll get a real fusion ofUkranian, Russian and Western culture here with all sorts of odd ends in between.
Who‘s it for
Men may like Kiev more than most women simply on account of the number of stunningly beautiful girls everywhere. Oddly enough, this is a city that caters well to budget travelers as the mega rich. A great deal of modern hostels have popped up in recent years as have the super luxury hotel chains – providing Oligarchs and Officials with the type of royal pomp that few Ukrainians can even begin to imagine.
However, those looking for an in between option best prepare themselves for the overpriced, outdated mediocrity that is the Soviet era hotel. While such a business model would have long since epically failed in most corners of the world, these bread and butter establishments – which still make up the majority of the hotel scene – are a hard reminder that you’re still in the wild east of Europe. You have to remember that Kiev receives the majority of its vacationers from within the borders of the former iron curtain – where lousiness is simply acceptable. While newer, better options are beginning to emerge, they are sparsely located at best and you’d be wise to book FAR ahead if you wish to entertain any hope of getting a spot.
Things to consider
- Be prepared for the season at hand. Summers are scorching hot while Winters will have you re-evaluating your idea of ‘cold’
- Learn Basic Cyrillic and some key phrases in Russian or Ukrainian before going – even a little bit quickly becomes extremely useful.
- Wander up the broad Soviet avenues of Kreshatnik and behold the Glory of Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosty).
- Visit the Lavra catacombs – they are as old as the city (1100 years) and house mummified Christian saints from the same era. This is extremely cool/creepy.
- Take a walk around the WWII memorial park. The centerpiece is a 60 meter tall statue of ‘the Motherland’ who herself is surrounded by a May days worth of Soviet military vehicles and weaponry from WWI to the present. Military buffs will go nuts.
- Andriyivsky Uzviz is the oldest and possibly the most famous street in Kiev. It’s essentially a steeply descending slope lined with craft and antique stores, street entertainers, local crowds all watched over by St Andrews Cathedral. The atmosphere is extremely old school.
- Grow some balls (possibly literally) with a day trip to Chernobyl.
- Sample traditional Ukrainian cuisine at Puzata Khata (Paunchy House). This chain buffet style restaurant is like a Ukrainian Denny’s and the equivalent of 6 euros will get you more food and drink than you’ll be capable of putting away.
- Order a bowl of Borsch – Ukraine’s national dish – and get on the Vodka with some locals (keep up if you’re feeling adventurous).
The MUST do
The night scene. Kiev has some of the most sensational clubs in Eastern Europe with some of the hottest talent you’ll ever see. Nightclubs tend to be 70% + women due to the fact that most guys are still too busy drinking themselves stupid at home to go out. But beware Face Control. This is not a politically correct country. As well as maintaining standard dress guidelines, non-European ethnicities and women deemed unattractive should not be surprised if they are barred entry. Forsage and Patipa are super hot while Shooters and Carribean Club are popular with expats and backpackers – in other words – not as good.
Avoid like the plague
Getting on the wrong side of police or security staff. They are known for taking a dislike to people for no apparent reason and demanding fines/bribes for non-existent offences. These are usually small though, and a far rosier alternative to a trip to the police station. Really get on their nerves and you can expect to have the shit bashed out of you. Don’t expect any Rodney King justice.
Flying in is definitely the easiest option unless you’re coming in from Belarus. Budget airliner Wizzair flies direct from London and Venice while Lufthansa and a host of other regular carriers will have you sorted from most major European cities.
I spent 5 days here and did not want to leave. My hostel (Central Station Hostel) was very helpful in organizing tours as well as directing me to some really cool bars and clubs. It was also quiet on account of it being the middle of winter that I had a 4 person room to myself for the whole time. I enjoyed some outstanding hospitality, day tripped to Chernobyl, scrubbed up on my Cyrillic, drank lots of Vodka and met lots of awesome locals. Days were leisurely and breathtaking while the nights were wild. I’m definitely in love.
Desire to return