Travelling King - Finance Planner turning holiday dreams into a reality!
Ukraine

Ultimate Travel Guide to Kiev

KIEV UKRAINE - The Gate Church of the Trinity with external icons is one of the most beautiful in Kiev Pechersk Lavra complex in Kiev.

Kiev (or Kyiv) is Ukraine’s capital city, situated in Eastern Europe bordering Russia and six other countries. The country has only been independent for 28 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s and since then, it has slowly been building its reputation as a worthwhile country to visit for travellers. The main destination for tourists to visit in Ukraine is, of course, it’s capital, Kiev. A sprawling metropolis that is a magnet for culture and history lovers who enjoy alternative and unusual city breaks.

Kiev is the seventh-largest city in Europe with a population of almost 3 million and stretches across the Dnieper River which runs from Russia, through Belarus and Ukraine into the Black Sea. It’s home to the UNESCO World Heritage site which celebrates the St. Sophia’s Cathedral, Kiev Pechersk Lavra and other Orthodox buildings for their stunning architecture and influence. Like most huge European capital cities, Kiev is also the centre of Ukraine’s financial world and the Kiev nightlife scene is thriving. 

There are plenty of unusual and exciting things to do in Kiev for the more intrepid traveller, but Kiev is also a very accessible alternative for more popular European city breaks. 

This ultimate Kiev travel guide will show you the best Kiev Ukraine travel tips, what to expect when visiting, where to stay in Kiev and things to do in Kiev which will help you in planning a trip to Kiev.

Plan your trip to Ukraine

Need data for your trip to Ukraine? We use Tep Wireless which offers unlimited data for $8 per day. Travelling King readers can get 10% off using the discount code TRAVELLINGKING on check out.

Don’t be an idiot! Make sure you have Travel Insurance, it’s best to always be prepared! I would recommend travel insurance from WorldNomads.com, which is available to people from over 130 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.

Read more on Ukraine:

Looking for a particular destination, see below otherwise you can go to Ukraine Travel Guide to view current posts

This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

How to get to Kiev

Kiev has three airports, but the one that serves most worldwide destinations is the Boryspil International Airport, though Zhulyany Airport is sometimes confusingly referred to as ‘Kiev International Airport.’ Zhulyany Airport does fly to destinations both domestically in Ukraine and Europe, often by Wizz Air, but Boryspil flies directly to New York, Dubai and more.

Boryspil Airport is much better connected to Kiev city centre via public transport. You can catch the train from the airport to Kharkivska Station and then use the city’s metro system to reach your accommodation.

Kiev is well-connected by rail to other major cities in Eastern Europe. Direct services are available to Moscow and St Petersburg, Budapest, Bratislava, Minsk and others. There are fast and overnight trains to cities in Ukraine like Odessa and Lviv. Many bus companies, such as Autolux and Gunsel, operate numerous services daily to smaller Ukranian cities for very low prices.

BORYSPIL, UKRAINE - Sign "I love KBP" in airport Boryspl

What to expect in Kiev

Ukraine is usually in the news due to the unrest near the Russian border, so is Kiev safe to visit? Luckily, Kiev is nowhere near this Russian border so it’s just as safe to visit as other European capital cities. If you are an LGBT+ traveller, you may want to exercise caution as homophobia is rife in Ukraine, though less so in Kiev.

Ukraine is one of the cheapest countries to visit in Europe. Coffees cost under €1 and most Uber journeys are around the equivalent of €2. The local currency is the Ukranian Hryvnia (UAH). Ukraine is not in the EU or Schengen area so you may need a special visa to visit. The main languages are Ukranian and Russian so there is an English language barrier, but service workers do tend to speak a bit of English. Learning a little of the Cyrillic alphabet will help you massively.

How to get around Kiev

Kiev is a huge, sprawling cosmopolitan city with a lot of hills. So while you may want to walk around the more picturesque, tourist parts of the city, to get around the other areas you may want to use the metro, bus system or Uber if you can use the SIM card in your phone.

Kiev’s metro system is extremely cheap at approximately 8UAH per single journey and is a real local experience. The metro is very deep underground and can be hectic during certain times of the day. The buses and trams cost the same as the metro and you pay onboard using cash. 

Uber is many international visitor’s preferred method of travelling around Kiev. Even though journeys could cost up to ten times the price of a metro ticket, the average ride is still cheap by most western standards if you pay in cash to avoid card fees.

a train with passengers of the Kiev Metro at the station Kiev, Ukraine

The best time to visit Kiev

Kiev is at its most beautiful during the spring and autumn months of May-June and September-October. There are plenty of parks and botanical gardens in Kiev that will either be in full bloom or changing colours during these times. You don’t really visit Kiev for the warm weather as temperatures only reach around 25 degrees Celsius in summer and winter can be bitterly cold and below freezing.

Kiev is generally affordable for the majority of travellers any time of year, and even though summer is peak season it still won’t be expensive to most. October is the best time to visit Kiev for the opera shows and there will be far fewer people with mild weather conditions.

Christmas and New Year is a big affair in Kiev and the buzzing nightlife means it’s an ideal alternative to more expensive cities like Paris or Berlin for New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Traditional Ukrainian Christmas celebration in Kiev Historical Park

Things to do in Kiev

Maidan Nezalezhnosti

Also known as Independence Square in English, Maidan Nezalezhnosti is the main, historic central square in Kiev just off Khreschatyk Street (the main street) and is one of the top places to go in Kiev. It’s the location of many important Ukranian memorials such as the huge Independent Monument column to signify Ukraine’s liberty from the Soviet Union.

It’s also the location of many political protests and many seasonal events such as the Christmas Markets have been moved to Sofiyivska Square to be respectful of the tragedies that have occurred in Independence Square.

KIEV, UKRAINE - Skyline of Independence square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti) - is the main square of Kiev. Kiev capital of Ukraine

Kiev Pechersk Lavra

There are a few different churches and monasteries in Kiev and one that you should definitely make time to visit is Kiev Pechersk Lavra. It made the ‘Seven Wonders of Ukraine’ list and is very important to the Eastern Orthodox Christian religion and still has Monks in residence.

The Great Lavra Bell Tower is one of the main attractions in this absolutely stunning, imposing monastery as well as the underground caves which are so extensive, they are able to house living quarters and even small chapels.

Distinguished Spiritual Center of Ukraine. Kiev Pechersk (Kyiv Pechersk) Lavra monastery and it’s bell tower (Great Belfry). Historical and cultural reserve – UNESCO object. Shrine of Ukraine

St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery

Another golden-domed monastery you should visit in Kiev is St. Michael’s. It’s also an incredible structure with multiple gold domes that dazzle in the sunlight with a striking blue facade on the edge of the Podil neighbourhood. 

The monastery was originally built in the middle ages before being destroyed by the Soviets in the 1930s. It was rebuilt 20 years ago with an attempt to recreate the monastery’s original Baroque and Byzantine style. It’s a beautiful, working church that you cannot miss visiting in Kiev.

Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Beautiful St. Michael s Golden domed male monastery, The oldest Christian cathedral of Ukraine, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate. Kyiv city

St. Sophia’s Cathedral

Most of the golden-domed Orthodox monasteries and churches in Kiev including Kiev Pechersk Lavra, St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery and the St. Sophia’s Cathedral have UNESCO World Heritage status, the first in Ukraine, due to their stunning architectural design and significance to the Orthodox religion.

St. Sophia’s Cathedral is very close to St. Michael’s and was originally built in the 11th-century. This set of three churches in Kiev are possibly the most important monuments in the city and it’s worth taking the time to visit all three if you can.

View of St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery from the Bell Tower of Saint Sophia Cathedral. Kiev. Ukraine

Holosiivskyi National Natural Park

Are you a nature lover who adores being active outside when you travel? Even though Kiev is a built-up, modern city, it’s very easy to take one metro ride out of the city centre to the Holosiivskyi National Natural Park. 

It’s an immense area of trails, lakes and forest that feels worlds away from the busyness of the city centre and you can take some time out from sightseeing to enjoy an afternoon exploring this national park.

Holosiivskyi mens monastery Ukraine Kiev religion christianity culture orthotodox

Podilskyi/Podil Neighbourhood

Next-door to the Shevchenkivskyi neighbourhood is Podilskyi (more commonly referred to as Podil). It’s one of Kiev’s oldest areas but Podil is experiencing a regeneration with new artisan cafés and galleries and specialist restaurants popping up all the time, which might be because Kiev’s university is based in this area. Head to the locals’ favourite hangouts, Living Room and vegetarian restaurant Vagabond Cafe & Vintage Corner.

Kiev, Ukraine - Unknown people walking, taking photos and resting on Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti) in Kiev, capital of Ukraine

Motherland Monument

The Motherland Monument in Navodnitsky park is one of the most important monuments in Kiev. Not only is it a colossal size and can be seen from all over the city, but the statue is also made out of stainless steel which is unusual for such a huge sculpture. 

It stands on top of the National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War. The statue holds a shield with the symbol of the Soviet Union which is also unusual considering Ukraine has made efforts to ban Soviet and communist symbols.

Kyiv, Ukraine - View of the Motherland monument. Symbol of Kyiv (Kiev). The National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War.

What to eat in Kiev

Traditional Ukrainian cuisine is quite typical of Eastern European food in that it’s usually comforting, hearty meals based around potatoes, bread and soups. Borscht is a very popular beetroot-based soup served with a dollop of yoghurt or sour cream with garlic flavoured bread, though there are often different variations available depending on which vegetables are in season and the best part is, it’s usually vegetarian.

Chicken Kiev is possibly one of the most well-travelled Ukrainian food staples and you cannot visit Kiev without ordering it at least once! Chicken Kiev is a fillet wrapped around butter and coated with egg and breadcrumbs and will be very easy to find in Kiev in no-frills, family-run restaurants around the city.

Kiev is a huge, moderately multi-cultural city so there are many restaurants serving food from all over the world as well as a small number of vegetarian and vegan-friendly places.

Fried chicken Kiev or cutlet Kiev-style made of chicken fillet pounded and rolled around cold butter, coated with bread crumbs. Beautiful creative food design on white plate with spices and sauce

Where to stay in Kiev

Budget – You won’t be short of choice when it comes to cheap accommodation in Kiev. A lot of Kiev hostels are very basic unlike the flashy, design hostels in other European cities but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any great options.  Hostel Veselka in Shevchenkivskyi district is in a great location, very affordable and has bright, colourful decor. Dream House Hostel is an alternative in the Podil neighbourhood if you like a modern hostel with more amenities.

Mid-range – Even if you normally stay in hostels, your average budget might stretch to an affordable mid-range hotel in Kiev. Hotel Ibis has two great located hotels in Kiev: City Centre or Railway Station which might be handy if you’re travelling elsewhere after visiting Kiev. Both have fantastic views over the city and have modern, regularly updated interiors. Theatre Boutique Apart Hotel is perfect if you want a cheap hotel room with kitchen facilities.

Luxury – There are tonnes of great affordable luxe hotels in Kiev. Premier Palace is a gorgeous hotel in a building dating back to the early 1900s in the Shevchenkivskyi neighbourhood where all the main things to do in Kiev are located. This hotel has an indoor swimming pool and a retro antique-style decor.

KIEV, UKRAINE - hotel and restaurant complex Seasons SPA. blue swimming pool with sunbeds and bungalows

Tours to do in Kiev

Walking Tour

Kiev may be a large city, but the most historical and important monuments and buildings are concentrated to a small area to the east of the Dnieper River. Taking a walking tour around these top sites in Kiev, especially if you’re short on time, is the perfect introduction to Kiev and you’re sure to learn things about Ukraine’s capital city that other visitors wouldn’t from a knowledgeable, local guide. 

Cuisine Tour

Foodies cannot miss the chance to taste as much of the best authentic Ukrainian food in Kiev on this local cuisine tour. Sample no less than four different foods and learn about the history of favourites like Borscht, Kasha and Ukrainian sausages. Don’t miss the chance to ask the food-loving guides where their favourites restaurants in Kiev are because they’re sure to have the best recommendations.

Traditional Ukrainian Russian borscht . Bowl of red beet root soup borsch with white cream . Beet Root delicious soup . Traditional Ukrainian food cuisine

Pub Crawl

The Kiev nightlife is some of the best in Europe, not to mention the cheapest. So, if you’re a party-goer then this pub crawl around the best bars is the perfect way to drink in all the best bars that locals hang out in, make friends with fellow travellers and have a great night!

Kiev, Ukraine- wooden tall chairs lined up along a bar counter in an Irish pub pub. behind the chairs is a dance floor

Day trips from Kiev

Chernobyl

You really can’t plan a trip to Ukraine without booking a day trip to Chernobyl and this tour from Kiev is the best-rated. The abandoned city of Pripyat is the location of the 1986 nuclear disaster at Chernobyl Power Plant and the entire area had to be evacuated leaving houses, schools, and hospitals frozen in time allowing the plant life to reclaim the city. 

It’s a phenomenal and devastating scene and you have the opportunity to learn about the event and the aftermath on this safe and extensive day tour.

Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Cooling tower overlooking the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl. View of the destroyed nuclear power plant. Chernobyl nuclear power plant, aerial view. Chernobyl NPP

Yanukovych’s Countryside Residence

Ukraine has such a long and troubled history, but you can learn about the recent state of affairs by hopping on a day trip to this lovely country home that belonged to corrupt former Ukrainian President Yanukovych who was forced to leave office 2014. 

It’s such an eclectic and different thing to do in Ukraine and this mansion is so extravagant. You can visit his personal underground shooting range, his private zoo and the rest of the lavish estate while learning all about recent Ukrainian current events.

Ukraine, Kiev. The seizure of the presidential residence of Viktor Yanukovych in Mezhgorye

Ex Nuclear Missile Base 

If you’re one of those people who find military history fascinating (and there are lots of people who do) then this day trip to a retired Nuclear Missile Base in Ukraine is ideal. You can learn more about Ukraine’s part in the Cold War and explore the missile base which has been preserved and turned into a museum.

Soviet Strategic Nuclear Forces Museum. Antiballistic missile 52T6 . Element A-135 system attiballistic defense (tested at Saryshagan,Kazakhstan.Balkhash Lake bank). POBUGSKOE, UKRAINE

Recommended tours in Kiev

If you’d like to save it for later, please save it to Pinterest.

Ultimate Travel Guide to Kiev

Ultimate Travel Guide to Kiev

Ultimate Travel Guide to Kiev

Article written by:

Hi, my name is Samantha, Finance Managing Guru by day, Travel Blogging Enthusiast by... well... day too! Haha! Travelling King is the destination hotspot for the wannabe traveller! Showcasing affordable, luxurious getaways for the budget conscious! With the combination of my financial knowledge and travelling experiences I aim to show you, with a little planning, the right budget and a realistic goal you can fulfil your travel fantasies and explore the world whatever your budget or desires may be!