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Kyiv weekend: Must-visit places in Ukraine's capital

Kyiv weekend: Must-visit places in Ukraine's capital Photo: Kyiv Pechersk Lavra (Getty Images)
Author: Liliana Oleniak

The capital of Ukraine is a major European city with a rich history and an incredible number of attractions. Despite the war and shelling, Kyiv has not lost its appeal. However, Independence Square and the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra are not the only places that deserve attention.

RBC-Ukraine has gathered information about the most interesting sights in Kyiv that you can visit this weekend.

Sources used: Wikipedia.


Independence Square

Independence Square, or Maidan as it is popularly known, is the main square of Kyiv and a symbol of Ukrainian independence.

Over the years, Independence Square has seen three revolutions: The Revolution on Granite (1990), the Orange Revolution (2004), and the Revolution of Dignity (2013-2014).

Kyiv weekend: Must-visit places in Ukraine's capitalPhoto: Vitalii Nosach, RBC-Ukraine

Imagine that the most famous square in the country used to be a wasteland!

It was only in the 19th century that Khreshchatyk Square began to be built with wooden and stone structures. And in 1912, the first Ukrainian skyscraper, the Ginzburg skyscraper, was built. However, Khreshchatyk Square began to acquire its modern look in the 1970s.

Perhaps the most extensive reconstruction of the square took place in the early 21st century. It was then that the monument to Lenin was toppled and replaced by another, recognizable landmark - a column with a figure of a girl holding a viburnum branch. The name of this monument is the Independence Monument of Ukraine. The first shopping center in the capital, Globus, was opened around the same time.

Kyiv weekend: Must-visit places in Ukraine's capitalPhoto: Getty Images

The most famous street of the capital, Khreshchatyk, has places that every visitor should visit: the Ukraina Hotel, the House of Trade Unions, the October Palace, the Kyiv State Conservatory, the National Philharmonic, the Kyiv Academic Puppet Theater, the Passage, the Heavenly Hundred Memorial, and the Avenue of Stars.

St. Nicholas Church

St. Nicholas Church is a majestic Roman Catholic cathedral in the Gothic style. The famous architect Vladyslav Horodetskyi had a hand in the construction.

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St. Nicholas Church was built over 10 years, from 1899 to 1909. The majestic towers rise to a height of 64 meters. Originally, the building was decorated with 40 unique stained-glass windows, but they have not survived to this day. In 1933, the church was closed and looted, and in 1943, as a result of artillery shelling, the stained glass windows were shattered. Later, a large-scale fire destroyed the unique wall paintings.

Although this architectural landmark was damaged, the church has not lost its grandeur and mystery.

Since 1980, it has housed the House of Chamber and Organ Music. It is one of the places worth visiting in Kyiv.

Kyiv Pechersk Lavra

Every Ukrainian has undoubtedly heard of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, a grand architectural, historical, and religious monument in Kyiv. It is the oldest monastery in Kyivan Rus, founded in 1051 under Yaroslav the Wise by the monk Anthony and his disciple Theodosius.

Amazingly, all the churches of the 11th century have been preserved almost in their original form.

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The monument is known for its amazing temples and churches, mysterious caves with relics of saints, picturesque towers, and other valuable buildings. Every year, tens of thousands of pilgrims come here to seek the divine blessing.

The Kyiv Pechersk Lavra is a real town in the heart of Kyiv, home to fourteen Orthodox churches, a monastery, seven museums, and one of the first printing houses in Kyivan Rus. The Museum of Treasures of Ukraine houses the world-famous golden pectoral.

You can also visit the Pechersk Lavra, an underground complex of caves where the relics of saints rest.

In 1990, the Lavra was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Mariinskyi Palace

One of the most beautiful architectural masterpieces of the capital, the Mariinskyi Palace is located on the right bank of the Dnipro River.

This architectural marvel is worth seeing only because the famous architect Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli worked on it. One of the most important monuments in Kyiv used to be used as a temporary residence for royalty.

Now its luxurious premises house the residence of the Ukrainian President. It hosts solemn state events such as awards, receptions, summits, and meetings of official delegations at the highest level.

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The architectural style of the palace is Baroque. The order for its construction in 1744 was issued by Empress Elizabeth herself.

Opposite the palace is the Mariinskyi Park, which was founded in 1874 and was landscaped by the imperial gardener. The park covers about 10 hectares, where linden, chestnut, and maple trees grow.

In 1900, the park was decorated with a fountain, which still pleases citizens and tourists alike. It is also home to the most romantic place in the capital, the Lovers' Bridge.

Andriivskyi Descent

Andriivskyi Descent is a historic street known for its architecture, art galleries, workshops, and souvenir shops. It is a place where you can enjoy the atmosphere of old Kyiv and buy authentic Ukrainian products.

There is an observation deck on Andriivskyi Descent that offers a beautiful view of Podil and the broad Dnipro River.

But the main pearl of the place is St. Andrew's Church, an architectural monument built in the Gothic style by architect Rastrelli in 1754. It has its peculiarity - it is the only church in Kyiv without bells.

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It is on Andriivskyi Descent that you can immerse yourself in the atmosphere of antiquity, and comfort, and join the extraordinary history that reigns here at every turn.

Perhaps the best way to see the life of Kyivans in different periods is in the Museum of One Street: you just walk along, looking through the windows of houses and seeing what life was like on the street at different times. The museum's collection began in the late 80s of the last century, and it opened in 1991.

Mother Ukraine Monument

The Mother Ukraine is a popular place in Kyiv, which is a grand monument erected on the right bank of the Dnipro River in 1981 and dedicated to the heroes of World War II.

In general, a giant woman with a sword and shield in her hands symbolizes the greatness and strength of Ukraine.

Kyiv weekend: Must-visit places in Ukraine's capitalPhoto: Getty Images

This is the sixteenth-tallest monument in the world. It impresses with its enormous size and is surrounded by a picturesque park where adults and children enjoy walking.

It also houses the National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War.

The architectural wonder is 102 meters high and weighs 450 tons. Inside the sculpture, some elevators can take you to observation decks at altitudes of 36 and 91 meters. They offer incredible, picturesque views.

After Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the statue underwent a small reconstruction - the USSR coat of arms, which is a symbol banned in Ukraine, was removed from the shield. In its place is now the coat of arms of Ukraine.

St. Sophia Cathedral

St. Sophia Cathedral is a symbol of Kyiv and one of the most important architectural monuments of Kyivan Rus.

The amazing cathedral will be the best place for lovers of religious and historical monuments. St. Sophia of Kyiv has a thousand-year history. It was built in the 11th century during the reign of Yaroslav the Wise - the marble sarcophagus from his burial has been preserved to this day.

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Later, the cathedral was rebuilt and given Ukrainian Baroque elements. Visiting the church, you will see a large number of ancient frescoes and unique musical images. The interior of the cathedral impresses with ancient frescoes and mosaics.

The main five-meter-long mosaic of Our Lady of Oranta has survived all the destruction that the cathedral has suffered over the centuries and is considered a talisman of Kyiv and Ukraine.

A little-known highlight of St. Sophia of Kyiv is hidden inside the towers, near the staircase. It's a mural with secular themes and hundreds of graffiti scrawled on the walls by ordinary Kyivans in ancient times.

Arch of Freedom of Ukrainian People and suspension pedestrian bridge

The Arch of Freedom of the Ukrainian People used to be the Arch of Friendship of Peoples. But everything Soviet has been forgotten, and now it is a place where Kyiv residents and guests of the capital like to walk.

Here you can enjoy the views of the Dnipro River from the observation deck.

Kyiv weekend: Must-visit places in Ukraine's capitalPhoto: Vitalii Nosach, RBC-Ukraine

The glass bridge, which is very unusual in design, was opened in 2019. It connects the Arch of Freedom of the Ukrainian people with St. Volodymyr's Hill. It also offers incredible views.

Golden Gate

The Golden Gate is a monument of defensive architecture from the times of Kyivan Rus. It was once the main gate of Kyiv, where the city began.

The defense structure was built during the reign of Yaroslav the Wise. Unfortunately, the original gate has not survived to this day, but a reconstruction with some of the original elements has been created.

The walls are about 9.5 meters high and the passage is 7.5 meters wide.

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The Golden Gate was a stone fortress tower with a wide passage. The gate church of the Annunciation was built on top of the gate. The ancient church was decorated with frescoes and mosaics.

The gate was intended not only for defense purposes but also for the solemn entry of the prince himself and high guests into the capital.

In the 19th century, a public garden was laid out near the Golden Gate, and in 1899 a cast-iron fountain was installed, the shape of which resembled a fruit bowl. Today, the fountain is located in the very center of the square, where tourists gather and Kyiv residents have a rest.

There is a museum inside the Golden Gate, and those interested can go up to the observation deck. Nearby, in the park, a monument to the great Kyivan prince Yaroslav the Wise was erected, holding a model of St. Sophia Cathedral.

House with Chimaeras

The Art Nouveau house was built for himself in 1901-1903 by Vladyslav Horodetskyi, a successful Kyiv architect at the time. He chose a place for the building above a cliff on Bankova Street.

The owner's house was occupied by a mezzanine, and the apartments on the other floors were rented out.

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Being an ardent fan of hunting in distant countries, Horodetskyi decorated the roof and facade of his house with sculptures of girls and various animals, from frogs to rhinos. Hunting trophies and sea monsters are the main theme of the building's equally exotic interior.

Today, the House with Chimaeras is used for presidential receptions.

Kyiv Fortress

The largest earthen fortress in Europe is located in Kyiv, in the heart of the city - in Pechersk, among residential buildings.

The fortress has an above-ground and an underground part. There were cannons along the perimeter, and the underground part was used as a warehouse and armory.

There were legends about the incredible fortification of this place. It is still widely believed among historians that it was this security that forced Napoleon to abandon his march on Kyiv.

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In 1860, the fortress was used as a high-security prison for political prisoners. There were four solitary confinement cells and two shared cells. In addition, the prison had two punishment cells with an area of a couple of square meters with a temperature slightly above zero, the floor of which was specially flooded with water so that criminals could neither lie down nor sit down.

Today, the Kyiv Fortress houses a museum and offers tours.