I’m always excited to visit a new capital city, but I was even more delighted to visit this bad boy because one of my good friends Ian from BorderlessTravels was joining me for the next 3 weeks.
First up, let me say these are in order of the most impressive sights, so if you’re pushed for time, work your way through them in this order.
Rodina Mat and the Defence of the Motherland Monument:
After checking out Brest’s (Belarus) Soviet WWII memorial, and grandly referring to it as the most impressive WWII memorial in the former Soviet world, I guess I’ll have to give second place to Kiev.
Their Museum of the Great Patriotic War is interesting but it’s the 62m metallic Rodina Mat that’ll blow your mind. She stand proudly with her sword and shield aloft, complete with the Soviet Union emblems. Nearby are countless tanks, marble and stone statues depicting the Soviet struggle against the Nazis and yet another eternal flame. All very, very striking and the most noteworthy site in all of Kiev.
An another UNESCO world heritage site and Ukraine’s most popular tourist sight this underground maze, founded almost 1000 years ago, acts as a tomb for over 100 revered monks and is an absolute must see during your time in Kiev. The museum ($6) in the upper area is packed full of impressive churches complete with golden tops and crosses but don’t spend too much time there, head down to the lower section, to the 2 sets of caves, as soon as possible and get lost in the catacombs of the monastery (free).
You can buy a candle to wander around the buried tombs, it’s dark and the temperature is a breezy 8 degrees, allowing the 1000-year-old bodies to not decompose. As you walk around you’ll see the Ukrainian people stoop over to bestow their love and kisses on each individual coffin, a truly remarkable religious experience.
NOTE: Girl’s need to cover their heads, so bring a scarf ladies, and no shoulder or knees either.
St Sophia’s Cathedral:
The cities oldest church, dating back to 1017, is another UNESCO world heritage site ($3). You can climb the 200ft bell tower at the entrance giving you great views of the city, after coming down you can wander around the religious complex. Some of the near 1000 year old church is still on show, untouched, with the original mosaic flooring. No pics are allowed unfortunately but if you’re gonna visit any church in Kiev, this is the one to see.
Also, just 100m across from St Sophia’s is St Michael’s Church, another worth a few minutes of your time. It’s free to enter, and their pastel blue colour scheme is really something.
The city ‘centre’ complete with their huge monument to independence. The area is completely pedestrianized for the weekend, a nd with beer vendors and musicians lining the street they really get a good atmosphere going, make the most of the long evenings with a couple of hours here.
Also, Dinamo Kiev’s football stadium is just around the corner, so you can check that out too. Guys, you can leave your ladies window shopping the square for that one.
Perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea but as a sports fanatic I can’t get enough of these stadiums. That and remember this stadium is hosting the final of the European football championships in July 2012, so when I’m watching it on TV I can proudly (and drunkenly) declare ‘I was there’!
When I came to Kiev I was expecting a former Soviet, gray, grim city but that’s not the case at all. It seems progressive, with sports cars lining their boulevards, and a banging nightlife. The Dnipro river runs through the city too, giving beaches to its citizens on hot days, this really is a cool place. Happy travels!