The second largest country in Europe holds a lot more than its world-renowned historical monuments and lively nightspots. Indeed it is a relatively undiscovered gem that local Ukrainians enjoy and visitors to the country can stand to learn a thing or two about the kind of fun that can be had outside of museums, or trendy nightclubs for expats. There is enjoyment to be had in exploring the less-touristy sites and going off the beaten track. It pays to know where locals often go to eat, celebrate or just head off for a little rest and recreation. Here are a few of those places and activities that Ukrainians do on their free time.
What is becoming an increasingly popular outdoor activity in Ukraine is cycling. Those living in the rural areas have long used bicycles for transportation but the recent years has seen a trend in mountain biking for recreation. The cities are certainly not properly suited for bicycle traffic so local urbanites either head to the parks (such as Hidropark Island in Kyiv) or the wooded areas from Brovary to Boryspil highway. The best places are still in the countryside such as in Crimea, the Carpathian mountains and wherever there are wide open areas.
Another outdoor activity that is a favorite among locals is hiking especially during the summer when the weather is nice. Some book a trek with a professional tour group but many do their own backpacking adventure. Some hikers use logging roads and improvised trails. The Carpathian and Crimean mountains are perfect areas for hiking and camping.
One of Ukrainians’ best kept secret but slowly becoming known to travelers is the skiing destinations around the country. Winter weekends see locals trooping to the ski resorts that are just on the rise so Ukrainians can still enjoy the relatively cheaply-priced accommodations, lift passes and equipment rentals. The main four ski resorts are Slavsko, Bukovel, Tysovets and Drahobrat. There are other lesser known ski resorts in the Carpahtians and Crimea areas. Best time to go is after a good snowfall.
4. Swimming and Water sports
Located on the coast of Black Sea, Yalta is a popular summer destination among local Ukrainians as it is known for its beautiful stretches of beaches and lively seaside resorts. Here, locals enjoy swimming, sunbathing, scuba diving, walking on the promenade or just lounging by the waterfront. The resorts are also known for their good food.
For centuries, Ukraine is known for its healing mineral waters and treatments and locals and visitors alike take advantage of this therapeutic and relaxing pastime. Many Ukrainian spas are situated along the coastal areas and in the mountains as this is where much of the mineral waters and deposits can be found. There are plenty of health resorts that can be found around Ukraine – best ones are said to be in Truskavets and Morshyn.
A popular activity not only for tourists and visitors, Ukrainian cruises allow people to enjoy the breathtaking views that can only be found while gliding along the coastlines. There is a variety of river cruise and a number of companies that offer unique river cruise packages. A popular one is the Black Sea cruise and favorite stops include Dnepropetrovsk, Odessa, Sevastopol and Yalta. Shorter cruises on the Dnipro River are also popular among locals.
Numerous shopping malls, weekend local markets and trade fairs – there is a reason why shopping boosts Ukraine’s consumer economy. There is everything for everyone in Ukraine’s shopping galleries, as long as one has enough hryvni to buy. The farmers’ markets sell fresh produce, flowers and interesting handicrafts sold by different ethnic groups. Flea markets also abound and stalls offer everything from antiques, paintings to vodkas and breads. The shopping centers and department stores are typically open from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. (although some open from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.).
8. Clubbing and Barhopping
When the sun goes down, the locals come out to party and Ukraine’s nightlife takes on an intense and dynamic character. Cities like Kyiv, Odessa and Lviv would be jumping with party action and gaining entry is a matter of passing security (most of the bars and clubs practice face-control). From VIP dance clubs to laid-back jazz scenes, wine bars and coffee shops, local Ukrainians are spoiled for choice when it comes to nighttime fun.
9. Theatre and Ballet
There are more than 100 theatres in Ukraine, proof of its deep affinity for music and the performing arts. There are different genres – musical/drama theatres, dramatic theatres, doll theatres, opera and ballet, cinema and a lot more. The most popular ones are the National Opera and Ballet Theater in Kyiv and the Odessa State Academical Opera and Ballet Theatre.
10. Dining Out
Although dining is regarded as more of a luxury in certain parts of Ukraine, the big cities certainly offer a whole array of restaurants serving various cuisines – from traditional Ukrainian to international fare such as Japanese, Italian, French, Chinese and even American; from holes-in-the-wall joints, to quaint cafes and fine dining restaurants.