Kyiv is said to be the heart of Slavic culture and civilization – and this more than 15 centuries old city can definitely live up to this claim. From being a trading post to the seat of Eastern Europe’s political, religious and economic power and now a modern Ukrainian capital, Kyiv has retained much of its rich historical glory and natural beauty. There is so much to see and do in this bustling metropolis that a day may not be enough to squeeze in all the interesting sites. Here we provide a list of the must-see places that should be in every visitor’s list when they plan a trip to Kyiv.
1. Saint Sophia Cathedral
Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990 and one of the Seven Wonders of Ukraine in 2007, this impressive architectural monument was built around the 11th century under the rule of Yaroslav I the Wise and took two decades to complete. The cathedral was named after the Hagia Sophia cathedral in Constantinople and was originally intended as a burial place for Kievan rulers. The cathedral was built with amazing details in its mosaics and frescoes made by Byzantine masters and artists, as well as the architecture.
2. Maidan Nezalezhnosti
The “Independence Square” located on Kreschatyk Street bears political and cultural significance. Aside from it being the centre of the capital city, it was also the scene for most of the mass protests after the collapse of the Soviet Republic such as the Ukraine without Kuchma and the Orange Revolution. As a cultural centre, Maidan Nezalezhnosti has much to showcase: aside from the government and office buildings that have retained much of the old European style architecture, it has a fountain that pays homage to the founders of the city, the Independence Column with a statue of Archangel Mikhail and the magnificent fountain of the Friendship of Nations. The Independence Square also has a number of shops, hotels, cafes and restaurants.
The busiest street in the bustling capital and the address of many luxurious hotels, historical buildings and other attractions, Kreschatyk is actually a boulevard lined with plenty of greenery. In the summer it is nice to take a walk along the street and enjoy the quaint charm of the city.
4. Kievo-Pecherskaya Lavra
The “Cave Monasteries” is definitely one of the must-see places while in Kiev. Located on the hills of the right bank of the Dnipro River, it is said to be the largest monastery in the history of the Russian empire and for a long time was the seat of spiritual, social and cultural growth in the land. It has 23 temples and six cave temples with 36 altars and showcases the breathtaking Assumption Cathedral. The monastery is also the burial ground for the members of the Pecherskiy Monastery and visitors can view the mummified monks.
5. Babiy Yar
Remembering the horrors of genocide, anti-Semitism and World War II, Ukrainians built monuments on Babiy Yar, a ravine that was the communal grave of thousands who were mercilessly slaughtered by the Nazis. The place has become a historical landmark where people come from far and wide each year to pay homage to all those who lost their lives during the Nazi invasion in Ukraine.
6. Golden Gate
Another legacy from the rule of Yaroslav the Wise, the Golden Gates of Kyiv was one of the three main stone gates to the ancient city. Nowadays, the historic gateway serves as a museum and also has a station of the Kyiv Metro.
7. Chernobyl Museum
For a better understanding of the events that transpired during this cataclysmic event, Kyiv has built this engaging museum. English-speaking visitors can take the guided tour through an extensive collection of visual media, memorabilia and other artifacts during and after the disaster.
8. The Museum to the Great Patriotic War
Located in Ivan Mazepa Street, this large museum holds over 300 thousand various artifacts from the ravages of World War II and the German invasion and is one of the most popular attraction in the city. The imposing 62-metre tall Defence of the Motherland Statue is one of the most recognized landmarks of the city.
9. Andriyivskiy Uzviz
A quaint, cobblestone street in Kyiv that has retained much of the old world charm, it is where visitors can find unique souvenir items to bring home. At the top of the street is the Saint Andrew’s Church. There is also a museum as well as several restaurants and art galleries.
10. Saint Michael’s Cathedral
This golden-domed cathedral is located on the Western side of the Dnipro River and is another significant religious architecture in the city built in the Byzantine style.