At the bidding of Catherine the Great, Rastrelli, the Italian architect famous not least for the Winter Palace in St Petersburg, built this church in honour of Kiev’s most famous saint. Quite what he did wrong, I can’t imagine, but upon seeing the finished article she sacked him. Most visitors however seem to regard this as one of Kiev’s finest sights though inside it’s a museum, not a working church any longer.
If you are a fan of Bulgakov's cult classic novel, The Master and Margarita, then this is an essential visit when in Kiev. Bulgakov's house has been preserved as this small museum. However, true to the spirit of his writing, not all is as it seems...
Andriyisky Uzviz 13; open: 10am-5pm;
The street in question is Andreyevsky Spusk (Andrew’s descent) which connects the upper and lower parts of the city and is one of the oldest in Kiev.
The museum was only opened in 1991, but the idea was to gather together as many items as possible from the houses in the street through the ages and to build displays from the past, ranging from writing desks to complete room interiors and shop fronts.
It’s a small, but fascinating museum, which is certainly very popular with tourists. The staff also conduct walking tours of Kiev, so it’s a good place to start if you’re in need of a little guidance.
Andreyevsky Spusk 2b; www.artukraine.com/sites_museums/street_1.htm
St Sophia’s is a popular attraction in Kiev, especially to native visitors as it was built in 1037 by Prince Yaroslav, one of Kiev’s most celebrated leaders. The remains of the prince lie in the main church which is no longer used for religious purposes, the whole site now being a museum complex. The church also houses some very impressive and beautiful frescoes and mosaics, some of which are still in the process of being uncovered from behind subsequent layers of plaster. It’s an opportunity to have a good poke around a historic orthodox church without fear of being interrupted by a service.
This outdoor museum, about 30 minutes drive south of Kiev near the village of Pirogov, is a delight that you could easily spend the whole day exploring. They’ve gathered original houses, farm buildings and a church – among other structures - from all over the country and constructed a small village for each of the traditional regions of Ukraine. Obviously this covers quite a large area and it’s fun wandering from village to village – in between there are picnic areas and places to buy drinks and snacks.The insides of the buildings are the way they would have looked when in use. There are often people wandering around in period clothing, which helps to add to the authenticity of the experience. Organised trips are available.
Near Pirogov - take the 27 bus from Libidska metro.
For those of a fearless disposition, trips to see the legacy of the Chernobyl accident can now be taken from Kiev. These currently involve ‘from a distance’ views of the concrete sealed reactor and a look around the nearby town of Pripyat, with all its buildings abandoned at a moment’s notice back in 1986. Those who’d rather keep their distance can visit the Chernobyl museum in Kiev, which has exhibitions varying from depictions of the accident to art installations.
Museum - Provulok Khorevy 1 (in the Podil quarter).
Down the hill from the city centre towards the river is the quarter known as Podil which, roughly translated, means ‘skirt’. Historically, this was the tradesmen’s quarter and is now where you’ll get the best impression of what the rest of the city used to look like. There are one or two nice churches here and the architecture is much gentler than the Soviet sweep of the streets above. This is now becoming a desirable residential area, if you can afford it, being far handier for the city than the tower blocks across the river.
The Podil quarter can most easily be reached by using the funicular behind St Mikhayil’s monastery.
Riding along Kiev’s main street in a bus or coach is the best way to get an initial impression of the Soviet architecture that dominates it. Unfortunately, the original street was booby trapped by retreating Soviet troops as a gift to the advancing Nazis in WW2. The replacement buildings are impressive, but a little too grand for some tastes. The focal point is Independence Square, which now looks more like a shrine to capitalism with its large neon signs and shopping centres. This was where we saw the politicians making their speeches on TV during the recent ‘Orange Revolution’ in front of the protesting crowds.
A huge titanium arch, built to commemorate friendship between the Ukrainian and Russian people – it may have outstayed its welcome. Beneath it stand two beefy looking statues representing each country. It’s in Khreschatyk Park, on top of a hill which has excellent panoramic views across the city that certainly make the walk worthwhile.
If you can possibly arrange it, approach this church from around the corner on a sunny autumn morning, so that your first sight of it is full and glorious. Being mainly almost powder blue and with sparkling golden domes, it’s one of those sights that makes people produce noises usually reserved for firework displays. As you go through the entrance archway the blueness just keeps coming at you until you enter the church which is somewhat more conventional, in a Ukrainian Orthodox way. It was only rebuilt in 2001 after the ravages of the Stalin era, but you’d never know. Truly a feast for the eyes.
This monastery was begun in the 11th century by St Anthony who started it off by living in a cave on the hilly banks of the Dneiper river. He was soon joined by other monks who burrowed a complex of tunnels above which became the site of the fully blown monastery.
The spectacular and colourful architecture (Ukrainian Baroque) now make it a pilgrimage for tourists as well as Orthodox worshippers who can also see Saint Anthony and his chums in remarkably well-preserved mummified form, still lying in their beloved caves whose atmosphere is said to be responsible for their lack of decomposition. It is known in English, somewhat unsurprisingly, as the Caves Monastery and also affords excellent views of the river.
Only two stops by metro from downtown (a 0.07 euro ride) is Hydropark island with miles and miles of clean beaches. Yes, you can swim in the river's water and if you think it is too cold, cool down with a beer.
It also has a huge open air gym, dozens of food and drink outlets, a bungee jump thing, beach volley courts, you can waterski, wakeboard and there are lots of old skool playground rides and two swanky clubs that don't close until early morning.
A glance at a map of Kiev will show you that the northern district of the city is named Obolon. What the map won‘t tell you is that this is where one of the Ukraine’s most famous products is made. Obolon beer was the first to be exported by the USSR, but now days the company is a private operation – the shares are mainly owned by the work force. Beer is becoming much more popular in Eastern Europe generally now, and it’s usually of good quality, though many of them are stronger than the average lager in England. Unfortunately, Obolon don’t seem to do a brewery trip at present, but at least you can try out their wares in the city bars.
It’s maybe not the most picturesque stretch of the river (Dnipro in Ukrainian) that runs through Kiev, but if you can get a short boat trip, the views of the city from it are quite spectacular in places.
River terminal - Poshtova Ploscha.
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