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The city of Kiev is one of Eastern Europe’s hidden gems. It’s not on the tourist trail, it’s cheap and has tons of cool things to do. The city is shaped by stunning neo-classic architecture and opulent churches, combined with traditional Soviet architecture, following decades of Soviet rule. It’s a really interesting city and makes a great place for a weekend away.
From learning about the worst nuclear accident in the world, through to shotting drinks from test tubes in a hospital-themed bar, we’ve got you covered with a 48-hour guide to Kiev.
9 am – Go back to the 11th century
Start the day at the stunning Kyevo-Pecherska Lavra church, which is an opulent, 11th century Orthodox Church and a UNESCO world heritage site. It’s one of the most important churches for Orthodox Christians and draws in a lot of pilgrims each year. The church sits on top of a beautiful, grassy hill and is surrounded by acres of green mountains. Take some time to marvel at its architecture and gold-tipped domes before heading underground.
11 am – Catacombs
Head to the famous catacombs beneath the church for an eerie experience. The narrow, candle-lit caves are home to the bodies of mummified Monks, who lived there from the 11th century onwards. Their bodies were mummified naturally in the underground caves due to the cold temperatures. AllTheRooms tip: to enter the catacombs women must wear both a headscarf and a skirt that covers the knees. Men must wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers.
2 pm – Lunch
Jump on the metro and head to Khreshchatyk Street, which has some of Kiev’s most popular bars and restaurants. Head to Restaurant Kreshhatik, beneath the Kreshhatik Hotel for a delicious chicken kiev, which is fried chicken covered in breadcrumbs and garlic butter. Afterward, head to the nearby Lviv Handmade Chocolate Cafe for a cup of coffee and a delicious chocolate treat.
4 pm – Independence Square
Take a trip to Independence Square, which is the city’s main historic hub and home to many protests. Here you can see an interesting mix of opulent neoclassical architecture, combined with functional Soviet buildings. In the middle of the square sits the Independence Monument, which is a statue of a Slavic goddess called Berehynia. The statue was erected in 2001 to celebrate ten years of independence from the Soviet Union.
7 pm – Secret Dinner
Head to the Last Barricade to sample modern Ukrainian cuisine. The restaurant is hidden behind a gift shop, and you have to say a password to enter — mimicking what life was like during the Soviet era. The Last Barricade serves delicious modern Ukrainian cuisine, such as oysters, black caviar and smoked meats.
9 pm – Drinks in test tubes
A perfect place to finish the night is Palata No.6, which is an underground bar themed like a hospital. The bartenders wear nurse uniforms and serve drinks in syringes and test tubes. Drinks are cheap and it’s a popular spot with Ukraine’s young, artsy crowd. If you need a place to crash after, we love the Light Life Hostel for its clean rooms and fun atmosphere.
9 am – Saint Sofia’s Cathedral
Start the day at Saint Sofia’s Cathedral, one of the oldest churches in Eastern Europe. The church was built in the 11th century and features stunning architecture with gold spires and pale-green domes. Take a walk inside the church and head up to its bell tower for beautiful views of Kiev.
11 am – St Michael’s Monastery
Walk to the nearby St Michael’s Monastery, which was built in the 12th century. The church has an interesting history: it was destroyed by the Soviets in the 1930s and has since been rebuilt. In more recent years, it was home to protesters escaping police violence during the political protests that took hold of Kiev in 2013.
1 pm – Lunch
Head to Andrew’s Descent, one of the most beautiful streets in Kiev. Here you’ll find a restaurant called Kanapa, which serves Ukrainian classics such as borshch soup made from beetroot and meat. The restaurant is themed like a 19th-century literary bar, so you can really take a trip back in time. Take a stroll down Andrew’s Descent after your meal.
3 pm – Learn about Chernobyl
The incident at the Chernobyl power plant in Ukraine in 1986 was the worst nuclear accident in history. Spend a few hours at the Chernobyl National Museum learning about the accident and how it has shaped Ukraine today. The museum tells the chilling story of how the incident unfolded and how the aftermath still affects the lives of thousands of Ukrainians.
7 pm – Dinner
For dinner head to the uber-cool Whisky Corner, which is a Scottish, whiskey-themed restaurant with a splendid array of whiskeys to try, along with nice food including barley risotto and smoked salmon.