St Michaels Vydubytsky Mens Monastery Photo

Ukraine is a fascinating place sandwiched between Russia and Europe. The last massive buffer zone between the European bloc and the growing world powers of the world’s biggest country. With a long history of settlement stretching back over 30,000 years and centuries of wars with invaders, Ukraine’s lands have been conquered and divided up since making first set foot here. The last 100 years have been particularly brutal with the post-First World War period defined by chaos and anarchy. The famine in Soviet Ukraine from 1932 to 1933 killed up to 10 million Ukrainians. This period is considered a famine-Genocide called the Holodomor caused when vast fertile Ukranian crop lands were exploited by Stalin’s Soviet Party.

During the Second World War, the Nazis took control of Lviv in June 1941, essentially invading the Soviet Union in the process. Millions of Ukrainians died, hundreds of thousands were displaced.

The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and for the first tine in a long time, Ukraine became a free, independent state. But the trouble continued. Protestors against the corrupt government in 2013 and 2014 eventually resulted in street battles in the capital, Kyiv, where 80 people died.
In the same year, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula and separatists in the east of the country instigated fighting

Against this backdrop, the modern state of Ukraine is still in a state of flux. With corruption and economic crises a daily part of life here, there’s plenty of reasons not to be optimistic. Yet, the people of Ukraine are strong-willed and patriotic (as demonstrated by the enormous marches of 2013-2014). They believe in their country and understand it’s strategic importance to Eastern and Western powers. For visitors, it’s a fascinating place. It’s also a complicated place and unlike any other. There are many layers to Ukraine and these photos can’t do it justice. But there’s plenty of beauty to be found. Incredible historical cities are just waiting to be explored. With the currency at an all time low, Ukraine is an inexpensive destination offering many of the charms of major European cities at a fraction of the price.

Ukraine is a fascinating place sandwiched between Russia and Europe. The last massive buffer zone between the European bloc and the growing world powers of the world’s biggest country. With a long history of settlement stretching back over 30,000 years and centuries of wars with invaders, Ukraine’s lands have been conquered and divided up since making first set foot here. The last 100 years have been particularly brutal with the post-First World War period defined by chaos and anarchy. The famine in Soviet Ukraine from 1932 to 1933 killed up to 10 million Ukrainians. This period is considered a famine-Genocide called the Holodomor caused when vast fertile Ukranian crop lands were exploited by Stalin’s Soviet Party.

During the Second World War, the Nazis took control of Lviv in June 1941, essentially invading the Soviet Union in the process. Millions of Ukrainians died, hundreds of thousands were displaced.

The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and for the first tine in a long time, Ukraine became a free, independent state. But the trouble continued. Protestors against the corrupt government in 2013 and 2014 eventually resulted in street battles in the capital, Kyiv, where 80 people died.
In the same year, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula and separatists in the east of the country instigated fighting

Against this backdrop, the modern state of Ukraine is still in a state of flux. With corruption and economic crises a daily part of life here, there’s plenty of reasons not to be optimistic. Yet, the people of Ukraine are strong-willed and patriotic (as demonstrated by the enormous marches of 2013-2014). They believe in their country and understand it’s strategic importance to Eastern and Western powers. For visitors, it’s a fascinating place. It’s also a complicated place and unlike any other. There are many layers to Ukraine and these photos can’t do it justice. But there’s plenty of beauty to be found. Incredible historical cities are just waiting to be explored. With the currency at an all time low, Ukraine is an inexpensive destination offering many of the charms of major European cities at a fraction of the price.

Kyiv - Ukraine's Vibrant Capital

The capital of Ukraine, Kyiv, is an impressive city spanning the wide Dnieper River with gorgeous parks and plenty off recreational areas.

The city offers plenty for history buffs and fans of architecture. While Kyiv is big, it’s also a great city for walking. The subway can transport you to many of the main spots. On the weekend, locals go to hang out in the parks. It appears that the Kyivians that spend their afternoons in these parks and public spaces are happy in their own world. Living in the moment, as it were. With so many people around, it would be easy to imagine a kind of chaos. But there’s a real sense of serenity. Kyiv felt like a very safe place.

But it’s not a city that immediately invites you to love it. The truth is that the stern faces and curt interactions can be a bit jarring. But it’s more of a cultural thing and less to do with their feelings towards you. Once you break the ice, they can be pretty friendly. Ukrainians won’t care much for you until they get to know you. As opposed to the fake friendliness and insincerity one might experience in other countries, in Ukraine, everything is taken at face value. If you haven’t given someone a reason to take interest in you or give you their time, you won’t get it.

The capital of Ukraine, Kyiv, is an impressive city spanning the wide Dnieper River with gorgeous parks and plenty off recreational areas.

The city offers plenty for history buffs and fans of architecture. While Kyiv is big, it’s also a great city for walking. The subway can transport you to many of the main spots. On the weekend, locals go to hang out in the parks. It appears that the Kyivians that spend their afternoons in these parks and public spaces are happy in their own world. Living in the moment, as it were. With so many people around, it would be easy to imagine a kind of chaos. But there’s a real sense of serenity. Kyiv felt like a very safe place.

But it’s not a city that immediately invites you to love it. The truth is that the stern faces and curt interactions can be a bit jarring. But it’s more of a cultural thing and less to do with their feelings towards you. Once you break the ice, they can be pretty friendly. Ukrainians won’t care much for you until they get to know you. As opposed to the fake friendliness and insincerity one might experience in other countries, in Ukraine, everything is taken at face value. If you haven’t given someone a reason to take interest in you or give you their time, you won’t get it.

Bell Tower Of Saint Sophia’s Cathedral

One of the symbols of Kyiv and of Ukraine, this 76 metre-tall bell tower overlooking Sofiyivska Square is a gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage Listed site of Saint-Sophia Cathedral.

One of the symbols of Kyiv and of Ukraine, this 76 metre-tall bell tower overlooking Sofiyivska Square is a gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage Listed site of Saint-Sophia Cathedral.

Bell Tower Of Saint Sophia's Cathedral Kyiv
The Bell Tower Of Saint Sophia's Cathedral

St. Michael's Golden Domed Monastery

From the Bell Tower Of Saint Sophia’s Cathedral, walk across Sofiyivska Square and follow Volodymyrs’kyi Passage until you reach the beautiful baroque-style men’s monastery of St. Michael’s. This is one of the most popular and beautiful buildings in the country. It’s easy to see why.

Note: the current building is a reconstruction (1999) of the original building that was demolished by Stalin.

From the Bell Tower Of Saint Sophia’s Cathedral, walk across Sofiyivska Square and follow Volodymyrs’kyi Passage until you reach the beautiful baroque-style men’s monastery of St. Michael’s. This is one of the most popular and beautiful buildings in the country. It’s easy to see why.

Note: the current building is a reconstruction (1999) of the original building that was demolished by Stalin.

St. Michael's Golden Domed Monastery
St. Michael's Golden Domed Monastery
St. Michael's Golden Domed Monastery
St. Michael's Golden Domed Monastery

National Opera Of Ukraine

The premiere location for Opera and Ballet in Ukraine. The gorgeous Opera house at the junction of Bohdana Khmelnytskoho St. and Volodymyrs’ka St. was one of the most popular and important opera houses in the soviet union.

The premiere location for Opera and Ballet in Ukraine. The gorgeous Opera house at the junction of Bohdana Khmelnytskoho St. and Volodymyrs’ka St. was one of the most popular and important opera houses in the soviet union.

Kyiv Opera House
Kyiv Opera House

Kyiv's Parks

Kyiv has plenty of greenery and the parks are a common place for people to hang out.

The beautifully kept gardens and walkways through the parks make them one of the best places to relax in the city.

Taras Shevchenko Park is right in the downtown area and popular with hipsters and families. Pushkin Park is a bit further out but a great place for joggers and family outings. Khreshchatyy Park sits on the right bank of the Dnieper river and offers some of the best views of the city.

Kyiv has plenty of greenery and the parks are a common place for people to hang out.

The beautifully kept gardens and walkways through the parks make them one of the best places to relax in the city.

Taras Shevchenko Park is right in the downtown area and popular with hipsters and families. Pushkin Park is a bit further out but a great place for joggers and family outings. Khreshchatyy Park sits on the right bank of the Dnieper river and offers some of the best views of the city.

Taras Shevchenko Park
Hanging Out In Kyivs Park
People Playing Chess In The Parks Of Kyiv
Volodymyr The Great Monument From Volodymyrka Hill Kyiv

The Capital Of Ukranian Food

Ukrainian Dish of Meat and Horseradish
Ukrainian Dish of Meat and Horseradish
The Famous Chicken Kiev Dish
The Famous Chicken Kiev Dish

The food in Ukraine might not be to everyone’s liking. Many people think heavy meats and soups when Eastern European foods come to mind. To some extent that’s true. But whoever said there was anything wrong with meat and soup should reeducate in a place like Kyiv.

Chicken Kiev, by the way, was not developed in the Ukranian capital. The dish is a Russian invention (something most modern Kyivians might not be too happy to admit) and earned it’s name from how it was marketed in the United States to Eastern European and Soviet immigrants.

Borscht is one of those dishes that you either love or hate. There’s little in between. I fall into the first category. A very satisfying soup that will warm the belly of any visitor during the brutal Ukranian winters.

The food in Ukraine might not be to everyone’s liking. Many people think heavy meats and soups when Eastern European foods come to mind. To some extent that’s true. But whoever said there was anything wrong with meat and soup should reeducate in a place like Kyiv.

Chicken Kiev, by the way, was not developed in the Ukranian capital. The dish is a Russian invention (something most modern Kyivians might not be too happy to admit) and earned it’s name from how it was marketed in the United States to Eastern European and Soviet immigrants.

Borscht is one of those dishes that you either love or hate. There’s little in between. I fall into the first category. A very satisfying soup that will warm the belly of any visitor during the brutal Ukranian winters.

Ukrainian borscht soup
Ukrainian borscht soup
Black pudding, white pudding, and thick fries
Black pudding, white pudding, and thick fries
Typical Ukrainian Restaurant
Typical Ukrainian Restaurant
Typical Ukrainian Restaurant
Typical Ukrainian Restaurant
Restaurant In Kyiv

Neo-Classical Stalinist Architecture

Building In Kyiv
Kyiv City Council Building
Kyiv City Council Building

Stunning Murals

Kyiv Street Mural Woman Ukrainian Traditional Dress
Bear Mural Kyiv

Imposing Monuments and Statues

The Motherland Monument Kyiv
The Motherland Monument
Soldiers Outside The Ukrainian State Museum Of The Great Patriotic War
Soldiers Outside The Ukrainian State Museum Of The Great Patriotic War
Soldiers Outside The Ukrainian State Museum Of The Great Patriotic War
Soldiers Outside The Ukrainian State Museum Of The Great Patriotic War
Independence Monument And Kilometer Zero Sign Maidan Square Kyiv
Independence Monument And Kilometer Zero Sign in Maidan Square
Independence Monument And Kilometer Zero Sign Maidan Square Kyiv
Independence Monument And Kilometer Zero Sign in Maidan Square

Lviv - Western Ukraine's Largest City

Like a mini Prague or Krakow, Lviv is a charming place and one of the most touristed cities in Ukraine. The city was once part of Poland and the Pollish border is only about 70km away.

Lviv is one of the cheapest cities in Europe and for culture vultures, fans of 19th century architecture, and lovers of the cafe society, Lviv is a true bargain destination. 

 

One of the biggest difficulties in travelling in Ukraine could also be an advantage. In Lviv, few people speak English. Ukrainian is the main language here. If you enjoy learning languages, you have the perfect opportunity to practise. You’ll need it. However, Ukrainian isn’t the most useful world language. Russian will probably get you further than English.

Like a mini Prague or Krakow, Lviv is a charming place and one of the most touristed cities in Ukraine. The city was once part of Poland and the Pollish border is only about 70km away.

Lviv is one of the cheapest cities in Europe and for culture vultures, fans of 19th century architecture, and lovers of the cafe society, Lviv is a true bargain destination. 

 

One of the biggest difficulties in travelling in Ukraine could also be an advantage. In Lviv, few people speak English. Ukrainian is the main language here. If you enjoy learning languages, you have the perfect opportunity to practise. You’ll need it. However, Ukrainian isn’t the most useful world language. Russian will probably get you further than English.

View Of Lviv From Mountain High Castle
View Of Lviv From the lookout point Mountain "High Castle"
View Of Lviv From Mountain High Castle
View Of Lviv From the lookout point Mountain "High Castle"
Statue Of Taras Shevchenko In Central Lviv
Statue Of Taras Shevchenko In Central Lviv

Thanks in part to the large student community in the city, there’s always plenty of things to do. There are over 100 festivals every year in Lviv and you can always find live music or some kind of event.

The old town is quite small and you can wallk around the whole place in a day. But it’s likely you’ll miss some of the most interesting parts. Get a tour guide, hire a local, or befriend someone who knows the city well. There are hidden bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and places to hand out everywhere in this compact city.

National Academic Opera And Ballet Theatre

Lviv Opera House And Fountain
Lviv Opera House And Fountain
Lviv National Academic Opera And Ballet Theatre Named After Solomiya Krushelnytska
The Front of the Opera And Ballet Theatre
Interior Of Lviv Opera House Building
Interior Of Lviv Opera House Building
Tourist Cars In Central Lviv
Lviv Town Hall

Coffee Capital Of Ukraine

Lviv Cafe
Buying Coffee In Coffee Roasters Lviv
Svit Kavy Coffee Shop Lviv
Svit Kavy Coffee Shop Lviv

Beautiful Buildings & Cobbled Streets

Lviv Rooftops From Town Hall Tower
Tram Tracks Running Through Cobbled Streets Of Lviv

The House Of Scientists

House Of Scientists Lviv
The House Of Scientists
Balcony Of House Of Scientists
Balcony Of the House Of Scientists

Odessa - Black Sea Port & Resort Town

Odessa National Academic Theater Of Opera And Ballet
Odessa National Academic Theater Of Opera And Ballet
Odessa National Academic Theater Of Opera And Ballet
Odessa National Academic Theater Of Opera And Ballet

Odessa is one of the main domestic Ukrainian vacation spots. Situated on the Black Sea, it’s one of the furthest south towns in the country, and is only about 60km from the Moldovan border.

The weather here in summer is similar to the weather in the South of France, Italy, and the Greek Islands.

Odessa has many, many coffee shops and locals love their artisan brews. With some of the best coffee shops in Europe at some of the lowest prices, the city is a great destination for coffeeholics.

There’s an air of calm in Odessa, despite the hordes of tourists (over 6 million in 2018). Most visitors are Ukrainian. Odessa is a place to relax and party. Families who spend their day by the sea intermingle with partygoers in the hundreds of restaurants around the city, before the party crowd head to the clubs.

The style of buildings in Odessa is French/Italian influenced with many Art Nouveau mixed into Renaissance styles. Most of the buildings constructed in the 18th and 19th centuries survived intact during the European wars and this gives Odessa a special appeal for fans of architecture.

Odessa is one of the main domestic Ukrainian vacation spots. Situated on the Black Sea, it’s one of the furthest south towns in the country, and is only about 60km from the Moldovan border.

The weather here in summer is similar to the weather in the South of France, Italy, and the Greek Islands.

Odessa has many, many coffee shops and locals love their artisan brews. With some of the best coffee shops in Europe at some of the lowest prices, the city is a great destination for coffeeholics.

There’s an air of calm in Odessa, despite the hordes of tourists (over 6 million in 2018). Most visitors are Ukrainian. Odessa is a place to relax and party. Families who spend their day by the sea intermingle with partygoers in the hundreds of restaurants around the city, before the party crowd head to the clubs.

The style of buildings in Odessa is French/Italian influenced with many Art Nouveau mixed into Renaissance styles. Most of the buildings constructed in the 18th and 19th centuries survived intact during the European wars and this gives Odessa a special appeal for fans of architecture.

Odessa Passage Shopping Gallery
Odessa Passage Shopping Gallery
Odessa Potemkin Steps
Potemkin Steps
The Alley Of Glory In Tarasa Shevchenka Park
The Alley of Glory in Tarasa Shevchenka Park
19th Century Architecture In Odessa
19th Century Architecture In Odessa
Apartment Buildings Odessa
Odessa City Food Hall
Odessa City Food Hall
Fresh Fish From The Black Sea
Fresh Fish From The Black Sea
Sunset on Katerynynska Square
Sunset on Katerynynska Square
Black Sea Beach At Sunrise
Derybasivska Street Odessa
Derybasivska Street Odessa

UKRAINE Travel Tips

1.Learn some Russian or Ukrainian 

Knowing some Russian language will serve you well in the East of the country. Ukrainian is favoured by Western Ukrainians. Pride in their own language has created a frenzy of interest in promoting the Ukranian language. Some bars in the country ban people from using the Russian language. In 2019, the Ukranian government passed a law which bans Russian in official settings.

However, many people understand the language and it’s also used in several other countries. Ukrainian is less useful (outside of the country) but will be appreciated more by locals, especially in cities like Lviv.

Check out this Travel Hacker’s Guide to Learning a Language for more information.

2. Plan your visits for the best weather

The best time to visit Kyiv is summer, without a doubt. Winters are brutal and travel can be difficult when there’s a metre of snow on the ground.

Odessa is a lot warmer in winter, thanks to the warming influence of the Black Sea but it still snows in winter and can get bitterly cold from December to February.

The best time to visit Lviv is in the shoulder seasons when there are fewer tourists but the weather is still nice. May is a rainy month so try for September if you want the best weather with the fewest tourists.

3. Get an English-speaking tour guide for the cities

For a more in-depth view of this fascinating country, have a local (or knowledgable foreigner) show you around. Kyiv, in particular, is a massive city and a tour guide will save you from travelling all over the place and will help you understand the city better than any guide book.

Check out these walking, gastronomic, and cultural tours from Get Your Guide!

4. Bring cash

The local currency, Hryvnia (UAH) is still king (almost) here. Don’t expect to be able to use your credit card everywhere. Carry some notes with you as you will definitely need some when you’re out and about exploring.

5. Check the visa policy for your country

Ukraine is not in the EU and not in the Schengen area. While it’s easy to cross over from Poland, Romania, Hungary, and Slovenia, you will leave the EU zone when doing so.

EU passport holders and citizens of dozens of other countries get up to 90 days within any 180 period. Other countries must apply for an electronic visa which gives a 30-day visit period.

Check iVisa for current visa policies.

6. Don’t skip the capital

Many people visit Kyiv for the sole purpose of travelling to the Chernobyl disaster zone. Thanks to the popular TV series, the Chernobyl facility has seen a huge increase in visitors. Make sur you book in advance. And don’t miss out on the sights of the capital city. It’s definitely worth a few days of your time.

7. Grab a SIM card

Mobile phone SIM cards are very cheap and the connectivity is good. Buy the best plan that covers your visit and enjoy super cheap internet on your mobile devices. Your phone can also be used as a hotspot for your computer in some cases but check with the SIM card provider as this is not always allowed.

8. Get travel insurance

The Ukrainian medical care system and local facilities are still dragging themselves out of the Soviet way of doing things. Corruption over the years means that health care is behind the level of most of Europe. Travel and medical insurance will help you get the best treatment available if something should happen. The population of the country is actually declining and much of this is because of poor health regimes and poor health care.

World Nomads offer comprehensive travel insurance for short-term and long-term travel.

1.Learn some Russian or Ukrainian 

Knowing some Russian language will serve you well in the East of the country. Ukrainian is favoured by Western Ukrainians. Pride in their own language has created a frenzy of interest in promoting the Ukranian language. Some bars in the country ban people from using the Russian language. In 2019, the Ukranian government passed a law which bans Russian in official settings.

However, many people understand the language and it’s also used in several other countries. Ukrainian is less useful (outside of the country) but will be appreciated more by locals, especially in cities like Lviv.

Check out this Travel Hacker’s Guide to Learning a Language for more information.

2. Plan your visits for the best weather

The best time to visit Kyiv is summer, without a doubt. Winters are brutal and travel can be difficult when there’s a metre of snow on the ground.

Odessa is a lot warmer in winter, thanks to the warming influence of the Black Sea but it still snows in winter and can get bitterly cold from December to February.

The best time to visit Lviv is in the shoulder seasons when there are fewer tourists but the weather is still nice. May is a rainy month so try for September if you want the best weather with the fewest tourists.

3. Get an English-speaking tour guide for the cities

For a more in-depth view of this fascinating country, have a local (or knowledgable foreigner) show you around. Kyiv, in particular, is a massive city and a tour guide will save you from travelling all over the place and will help you understand the city better than any guide book.

Check out these walking, gastronomic, and cultural tours from Get Your Guide!

4. Bring cash

The local currency, Hryvnia (UAH) is still king (almost) here. Don’t expect to be able to use your credit card everywhere. Carry some notes with you as you will definitely need some when you’re out and about exploring.

5. Check the visa policy for your country

Ukraine is not in the EU and not in the Schengen area. While it’s easy to cross over from Poland, Romania, Hungary, and Slovenia, you will leave the EU zone when doing so.

EU passport holders and citizens of dozens of other countries get up to 90 days within any 180 period. Other countries must apply for an electronic visa which gives a 30-day visit period.

Check iVisa for current visa policies.

6. Don’t skip the capital

Many people visit Kyiv for the sole purpose of travelling to the Chernobyl disaster zone. Thanks to the popular TV series, the Chernobyl facility has seen a huge increase in visitors. Make sur you book in advance. And don’t miss out on the sights of the capital city. It’s definitely worth a few days of your time.

7. Grab a SIM card

Mobile phone SIM cards are very cheap and the connectivity is good. Buy the best plan that covers your visit and enjoy super cheap internet on your mobile devices. Your phone can also be used as a hotspot for your computer in some cases but check with the SIM card provider as this is not always allowed.

8. Get travel insurance

The Ukrainian medical care system and local facilities are still dragging themselves out of the Soviet way of doing things. Corruption over the years means that health care is behind the level of most of Europe. Travel and medical insurance will help you get the best treatment available if something should happen. The population of the country is actually declining and much of this is because of poor health regimes and poor health care.

World Nomads offer comprehensive travel insurance for short-term and long-term travel.

Ukraine Travel Photos And Tips For Visitors
Ukraine Travel Photos And Tips For Visitors

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