We spend a lot of time in the charming city of Kyiv (previously spelled Kiev by Russians and the rest of the world) throughout the year on our Soviet tours through Ukraine. Due to its abundance of orthodox churches with their quintessential onion domes, Kyiv has earned the nickname of ‘the city of domes’. In today’s article, we’re going to give you an example of how to explore Kiev and take in some of the most unmissable YPT style spots in the Ukrainian capital from war museums to underground tombs filled with mummies, let’s explore the city of domes…
To kick off your first day in Kyiv, start with a cup of fresh coffee from one of the city’s many fantastic coffee shops. Many people don’t associate Eastern Europe with good coffee but trust us, they’ve got it off to an art form and the locals across the former Soviet Union survive on coffee throughout the day. The city of domes is no exception.
Starting at the Northern end of Kreschatik boulevard, you can pick up some breakfast to go from the historic Bessarabsky market which is opposite the plinth where Lenin stood until he was torn down during the Maidan revolution. Following Kreschatik boulevard, revel in the Stalin era architecture that was used as a feature in the recent HBO series Chernobyl.
At Maidan Square, follow in the footsteps of the 2014 Maidan protest that deteriorated into the Ukrainian civil war. The square features posters detailing the history of the uprising. But remember, there are two sides to every story. A tip at Maidan is to stay away from any tourists touts carrying animals or bracelets. Both of which will insist that they’re free to take or have a photo with. Nothing is free and don’t give in to them, they will mess with your happiness.
From Maidan, take the metro to Arsenalna station. This is the deepest metro station on earth and doubled as a nuclear bomb shelter during the Soviet Union. Take the escalators to ground level which takes around 5 minutes in total. Up above, you’ll be treated to some Russian Civil War history as Arsenalna district was a weapon manufacturing hub making everything from Mosin Nagants to cannon back in the days of the Tsar and was heavily fought over by the Bolsheviks and Tsarist troops. The bullet holes in various buildings still remain as scars of the fighting.
From Arsenalna, take the short walk to the Dytyachyy Maydanchyk park, passing the Hotel Salute on your left which is a prime example of Soviet Brutalist architecture. In the park, you’ll be treated to an array of Soviet WW2 monuments as well as the touching monument to the Holodomor famine that ravaged Ukraine in the early 1930s. On the way, you’ll see various antique sellers where you can practise your haggling skills and pick up some Soviet relics at a bargain price.
You’ll then be able to head to a highlight of the city of domes, the monastery complex at Pechersk Lavra, and home to the infamous Lavra caves. After purchasing a candle for a couple of cents, head into the subterranean network of tunnels which is the resting place for various saints and historical figures in Orthodoxy. The underground climate helps to preserve the bodies, which are wrapped in carpets behind glass. As your surrounded by Babushkas murmuring prayers under candlelight it truly feels like being transported back into the medieval times. A word of warning, if you’re claustrophobic, don’t enter.
Next to the Monastery of the caves is Kyiv’s impressive WW2 museum. Outside is home to a vast array of WW2 and Cold War tanks, planes, rockets, and even ICBM missiles. Inside is a huge range of war artifacts from WW2 up to the current civil war in Ukraine. The museum is large so dedicate a few hours to this and don’t forget the other smaller museum dedicated to the largely forgotten Soviet wars and involvement in Africa, Afghanistan, and Cuba which also has a Hind gunship which you can climb inside.
The final stop of your day is conveniently located at the Museum of the Great Patriotic War and can be seen from all over Kyiv: The Rodina Mat. This hulking Soviet relic represents the motherland and is one of the most important surviving Soviet monuments left in Ukraine today. Weather permitting, it’s possible to climb to the top of the monument but tickets must be booked way in advance as it’s a popular activity.
You’ll now be tired after a long day of exploring and likely be ready for some food. Skip the tourist restaurants and head to one of the best YPT style restaurants in the city, Veterano pizza! Located in a street off Maidan Square, this small pizzeria is run by civil war veterans and aims to give them a start in civilian life. The restaurant is decked out in relics from Ukraine’s current conflict and most importantly, they do one of the best pizzas in Ukraine combined with locally brewed beer!
We hope you enjoyed our guide to spending a day in the city of domes.