Kiev tends to surprise first-time visitors expecting an imposing, Soviet-style city with more concrete than trees. There are, of course, plenty of Soviet monuments and flashy modern office buildings, but between those lie churches, parks, pedestrian plazas and gold domes that glimmer in the sunlight, illuminating the tree-lined banks of the Dnipro. While in the Ukrainian capital, definitely do all the typical tourist things, but also take time to simply drink in the atmosphere. Stroll through the hilltop parklands that look over the river, wander through the charming streets and snag a table at a cafe on Khreshchatyk, where you can watch the city go by. It is in those moments that Kiev really steals your heart.
If all Italian roads lead to Rome, then all the roads in Kiev lead to Independence Square. It is where hundreds of university students sparked the independence movement with their 1989 hunger strike and where many of Kiev’s citizens cheered when an enormous red marble statue of Lenin fell years later. In 2002, the square underwent reconstruction and once again emerged as the epicenter of a revolution. This time, locals crowded the square during the 2004 to 2005 Orange Revolution, protesting electoral fraud and massive corruption during the presidential elections.
Today, the square is a symbol of the new Kiev, where neon advertising signs light up the night and glass domes, green spaces and fountains greet visitors during the day. In the summer, beer and food tents sit side by side with book sellers as old women in babushkas and teenage skateboarders compete for space in the pedestrian square.
Independence Square may be the center of the city, but the St. Sophia Cathedral is its crowning glory. The gold-domed Greek-cross church is a symbol of Eastern Christianity and an impressive example of early 11th-century Ukrainian architecture. Surrounded by a complex of monastic buildings, the stone church is an UNESCO World Heritage site that impresses visitors with its gleaming crosses, huge vaulted ceilings and detailed frescoes.
Just down the street stands St. Michael’s Cathedral, which is smaller than St. Sophia’s but no less beautiful.
Painted in a dazzling shade of heavenly blue and topped with golden domes, the cathedral is another important spiritual center in the Russian world.
The nearby Monastery of the Caves is another must-see for visitors. Built in 1051, the monastery is topped with, unsurprisingly, more golden domes and its facade features frescoes of over a dozen saints. The 11-hectare compound is still a living monastery, with monks’ dormitories circling the courtyard. Get there early to experience the serene beauty before the crowds arrive, then head down to the Caves, a necropolis for ancient saints and a centuries-old pilgrimage site. Lit only by candles carried by visitors, the walls are lined with glass caskets protecting mummified monks and other relics. The atmosphere is peaceful, and the entire experience is oddly touching.
Emerge from the catacombs to discover St. Andrew’s Descent, a cobblestone street that twists and turns through Kiev’s most charming neighborhood. There, cafes and museums sit next to picturesque homes and galleries and cozy restaurants serve up some of the capital’s best food.
On Friday and Saturday nights, an international crowd descends on the city for weekend bacchanals. Rich Russians rub elbows with local celebrities at packed techno clubs, open-air raves rage until the sun comes up and hordes dance to pulsating beats played by world-class DJs. If that is too much revelry for your tastes, spend your evenings taking in the city’s many opera, ballet and theater offerings.
Kiev Geographical Location
Kiev is located in the central north of Ukraine on the Dnieper River.
The approximate population of Kiev’s metropolitan area is 3,650,000 and is the largest city in the Ukraine.
Ukrainian is the official language of Ukraine and is spoken by the majority of Ukrainians while Russian is common among a quarter of the population. Other languages spoken within the Ukraine are Romanian, Polish, and Hungarian.
Kiev Predominant Religion
- 50.4% Ukrainian Orthodox- Kyiv Patriarchate
- 26.1% Ukrainian Orthodox- Moscow Patriarchate
- 8% Ukrainian Greek Catholic
- 7.2% Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox
- 3.8% Other
- 2.2% Roman Catholic
- 2.2% Protestant
Although most of the population is Ukrainian Orthodox, a large portion of the population does not consider themselves religious.
The Hryvnia is the official currency of Ukraine.
The summers in Kiev are warm, though not hot, with cold winters. Snow is common during the winter with precipitation occurring throughout the year.
Kiev Main Attractions
- Saint Sophia Cathedral
- State Historical Museum
- Kiev Pechersk Lavra
Other Attraction in Kiev
- St Michael’s Monastery
- St Vladimir’s Cathedral
- Golden Gate
- National Museum of the History of the Great Patriotic War