15 Places You Must Visit in Kyiv – the Capital of Ukraine
Kyiv is one of the most underrated cities in Europe I have visited. A solo trip to Kyiv as a gay traveller was different and interesting. As far as gay travel to Kyiv goes not much has been explored and written. It’s an amazing city with so much to offer. Ukraine has been through some tough times in the recent times with the war with Russia on the Eastern front as well as the internal political turmoil but despite all of this Kyiv and its residents are full of life, fun and hospitality and I have a lot of respect, love and adoration for them.
This solo gay trip to Kyiv came at a time for me which wasn’t the happiest. I was looking forward to a relaxing trip and a change of perspective. I am really thankful to Kyiv that on my return I was light as a feather and happy as a Larry.
Please check more about my solo gay travel experience, food suggestions and on-site experience check my Instagram Stories for Kyiv.
Getting to Kyiv
Kyiv is the biggest city in Ukraine and very well connected. There are two airports that serve Kyiv; Boryspil International Airport (KBP) and Zhuliany Airport (IEV). Most people like me arrive at KBP which is quite big and has the most international connections. It is one of the busiest airports in Eastern Europe. I arrived one sunny afternoon to KBP which si some 36km outside the city. From there, I could take the taxi, bus or train. The train was suspended for refurbishment or some other issue and I ended up taking the bus. The ticket was cheap and the bus was comfortable. It is a special service called SkyBus and you can get more details on Skybus Website.
The bus and train both bring you to the main train station which is again a bit far from the city centre. From here, you can take the taxi or metro. I was quite tired after an early morning flight so opted for a taxi which was a mistake. I got scammed. The taxi driver didn’t start the meter and for a 10-minute ride demanded UAH 600 whereas a taxi ride from the airport to the city centre costs only UAH 300. I was fuming but he didn’t speak any English and started screaming and shouting. I thought about calling the police and the hotel reception also helped me and I ended up paying him UAH 100. Not a good start of the trip!
If you want to use the train for internal travel, you can check the schedules and prices and book tickets on the Ukrainian Railways Website.
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Getting Around in Kyiv
Kyiv has a good and simple metro. It is not as high tech, there is no high tech website, no apps and not even tickets. You purchase the plastic tokens from the ladies at the stations and a token is valid for one journey no matter how long it takes and how many time you change lines. (There are only 3 lines). Just pick the map and use that. I do recommend using google or maps.me app for offline navigation because most of the names are in Cyrillic but you get used to it once you learn some basic letter substitution.
I found the taxis so cheap, I used Uber and UKLON (a local version of Uber) pretty much for most journeys. A lot of places are not very conveniently located within metro reach so taxi apps were amazing. the city centre is also quite handy and nice to walk in and I covered most of the stuff on foot as well.
Check out all the different modes of transportation you can use in a new city.
I was a bit conscious of my solo gay trip to Kyiv because of the stories I’d read about homophobia in Eastern Europe. It turned out to be mostly unfounded. I met some nice guys, went to the only gay bar in Kyiv and Grindr in Kyiv was full of good-looking and friendly men. If you wish to make a gay trip, I’d highly recommend Kyiv as an underrated destination. I also asked the guys I met about living in Kyiv as gay men and while it is not easy, things seem to be moving in the right direction for Kyiv.
Read about staying safe during solo travelling.
Food in Kyiv
Most people think Chicken Kyiv comes from Kyiv which has become a bit of a joke in Kyiv but sadly it hasn’t. Food is pretty average in Kyiv, unfortunately. I am talking about Ukrainian food. Luckily, people have discovered the joys of Georgian food here which is my third fav cuisine (after Thai and Japanese). Overall, food wasn’t the most exciting part of the trip but drinking is another thing altogether. There are a lot of bars in Podil and an evening in Podil is a must for every visitor. Similarly, there are a lot of nice underground bars in old railways arches type spaces which are cheap and offer great ambience and perfect cocktails. I went to Loggerhead Bar and loved it.
Where to Stay in Kyiv
City Centre is quite nice and cheap in Kyiv for accommodation. I booked a nice hotel which was very reasonably priced. It was located between the independence square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti) and St. Sophia’s Cathedral. It was also very safe because of lots of restaurants and shops around. In general, it was a nice area with easy access to public transport, food, shops and most tourist attractions were close by.
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Best Time to Visit Kyiv
I would recommend visiting in Spring and early summer or late summer and autumn. It gets quite cold in winter and snows as well. In summer, it can get very hot and it is not fun to go out most of the day. Even though I visited in early June, it was still quite warm and a couple of days it was uncomfortable to go out when the sun was over my head.
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How Many Days for Kyiv
I would suggest at least 3 days to see the things below. I spent 4 days on this gay travel including once day for Chernobyl. There is a lot more to keep yourself busy with especially with so many churches, museums and bars.
How to Explore Kyiv
I have listed the things below in the order of their proximity to each other. I spent the first day exploring the first five spots. On day 2, I spent the morning visiting Kyiv Pechersk Lavra and motherland museum followed by the Park landscape Alley for sunset. On the third day, I started with the Friendship of nations arch and ended in Podil. If you follow this plan, you will be able to explore things at an easy pace.
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Top 15 Things To Do In Kyiv
Below is the list of my favourite 15 places to see in Kyiv. For a solo gay trip, there are a lot of churches but I see them more in the context of architecture and art than religion. If you like solo gay travel or even just travel, your sure to be impressed as well.
Saint Sofia’s Cathedral
Nearest Metro – Zoloti Vorota
The church of St. Sofia was my natural first spot because I lived very close to it. It is the oldest surviving church in Kyiv with some parts of it surviving from 11th century. I arrived nice and early and turns out I was an hour early but I was allowed to go in and enjoy the sunshine in the gardens. It was a pleasant day and time passed quickly before the church opened. The church is looked after by special volunteer ladies. They didn’t let us take any photos even if I tried to hide the phone or pretended to text. I gave in soon enough and really enjoyed their smarts. The collection of frescos was simply marvellous. It is a big complex and you can easily spend quite a lot of time here.
My favourite part of the whole complex was the tower, though. I wanted to climb up for some nice views but unfortunately, it was closed due to some function outside in the main square. The turquoise paint makes it very unique indeed. It would be a great misfortune if you visited Kyiv and missed this UNESCO World Heritage Listed beautiful church.
St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery
Right after the St. Sophia Church, it took me barely 5 minutes walk and I was at the Golden-Domed Monastery of St Michael. The monastery has some seen some interesting turns of events since the 12th Century. It was destroyed by Soviets and a lot of artwork moved to Moscow and St. Petersburg but it was rebuilt in the 1990s. The light blue colour again makes it very pleasant despite the shiny golden domes.
It isn’t as detailed a site and not as big either but the park behind the monastery is lovely and the views of Dnipro river were grand. Another site not to be missed in Kyiv.
Khreschatyk Street & Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti)
I walked another 10 minutes after the monastery and arrived at Khreschatyk Street. This is the main street of Kyiv and it is usually closed for traffic on weekends and cars are replaced by street performers of every sort. The whole street is very lively even during the week, especially in the evenings. It is just a couple hundred metres longer than a km and quite easy to walk but it is an absolute must to take a stroll through it. There is a shopping mall underground as well which is quite big.
Eventually, I arrived at the central square of Kyiv; The Independence Square or Maidan Nezalezhnosti. It is lined with some interesting buildings, an arch which depicts the gate to Kyiv in the past and some colourful fountains that are lit up. There are water shows as well in the evenings and weekends with water and lights in these fountains. I am not sure it is as grand as Dubai but it was beautiful to watch so many locals especially young families enjoying their evening.
Like most ancient cities in past, Kyiv was also fortified. The golden Gate represents the main gate of that fortification. it is quite beautiful but you have to remember, it is in no way a copy based on fact since no pictures or painting survive of the original but it is great for a visit especially on your way to Independence Square. Another interesting Soviet construction not to be missed.
House with Chimeras (Gorodetsky House)
This place has a few names; Gorodetsky House, Horodecki House or House with Chimeras. The building was originally made to create a different style of architecture (Art Nouveau in this case) to make it appeal more to sell the apartments inside better. It didn’t have much luck at the time and the building was converted into a polyclinic.
Fun Fact: There is no chimaera on the house, it is actually done because of a unique architectural style called ‘Chimaera’. It won the architect the nickname ‘Gaudi of Kyiv’.
The house was restored later. It is kind of hard to understand the reason it was so highly rated until you actually arrive. The whole district around is very well kept and with the office of presidents at a stone’s throw, it is banned for automobiles which made me appreciate this marvel in peace. There weren’t any people around and the area around was also perfect for a nice dinner afterwards.
Why am I including a metro station in the list of must-visit places in Kyiv? Because it is the deepest underground station in the world. At a whopping 105 metres, it takes on average 5 minutes to get to the platform level from the ground level above. Here is a hyper-lapse video of this:
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#Kiev: The metro system is Kiev is host to the deepest station in the world; #Arsenalna. It goes down a whooping 105.5 metres and the riding time to go down to the platform level is more than 4 minutes. I have sped the video 16x to give you a little taste of this engineering wonder… . . . . . . . . . . . . #deepestmetro #engineering #Арсена́льна #kievdiaries #visitkiev #explorekiev #kyiv #hyperlapse #timelapse #travelfun #underground #travelstories #solotrip #ukraine #travelukraine
Kyiv Pechersk Lavra
After the fun escalator ride at Arsenalna, I arrived at Kyiv Lavra Pechersk. This is a big complex and consists of two mian parts. The upper church and the lower church with caves. The entrance is a bit hard to find which was a bit weird considering it is a major spot for pilgrims, tourists and locals alike. The main courtyard is host to the church bell tower and the church opposite.
The white supplemented with golden and several minidomes create a beautiful building. The interior is equally exquisite, worth the oldest cave monastery in the Soviet world.
The lower level is different and is more for pilgrims but there are no restrictions on visiting. The mummified monks were an interesting experience but I didn’t take any photos out of respect. I also don’t like underground places a lot so the visit was short.
I was actually quite excited to visit the bell tower after being unable to get on top of the bell tower of St. Sophia. It wasn’t too bad going up either. Compared to most of the church towers I have climbed (and that’s a lot), this was easy and the space wasn’t claustrophobic. The views were magnificent and I could see my next stop already.
The complex is also host to the little museum of microminiatures. I first decided to skip it but something caught my eye and luckily I went it. It was an eye-opening experience. Most of the pieces are only visible through microscopes and the level of detail was mindboggling. The whole exhibition took about 10 minutes only. You must visit this even if it means missing the church. Yup, it is that good!
Motherland Monument & National Museum of the History of Ukraine
Pretty much every former Soviet state has a motherland monument which is a huge statue of a mother figure with sword and shield. I have seen them previously in Armenia and Georgia and this was my third. I finished with Lavra and headed over to the giant park with the monument. It took 15-20 minutes to walk from Lavra Pechersk to the park.
The entire park has been converted into an open-air museum of National History. there were tanks, vehicles, helicopters, planes and whatnot, the place looked like a display of people killing machines. I am a total pacifist and glorification of wars and weapons never sits well with me so I pushed through and got close to the monument. It was the same; the same steely expression signature of Soviet-era statues, the same massive bosom and the same sword. It seemed like a good time to call myself an uber and head over for some lunch because my stomach was rumbling and there was nothing to eat as far as I could see. Another interesting Kyiv-only experience!
Park Landscape Alley
If you love sunsets as much as I do, this place is not to be missed. It is an interesting park with lots of statues both for adults and kids along with a prime spot for watching the sunset from Zamkova Hora or the Castle Hill.
There is no entrance fee. I met a local guy from Grindr who told me about this place and we decided to meet here. He was positively surprised to find out about my gay travel. We walked around, talking about the fascinating statues, some cute some rather creepy. The statues were decorated with mosaics in bright colours.
The park is made on a slope and from the top of Castle hill, you can see the views of Podil and Dnipro river. on the other side, there is a much different scene with some run-down statues and soviet era brutalist structures and a small jungle.
We ended up watching the sunset which was magnificent as any other and to finish off a nice day, headed down to Podil to get a drink or two to make this gay travel more colourful.
Friendship of Nations Arch
It was a new day and I was ready to explore the leftover Kyiv. This was a relatively easier day and I met Ruslan, my new friend, at the Friendship of Nations Arch. I thought it was a place dedicated to how the whole of Europe came to the rescue of Ukraine after the new Sarcophagus was needed but turns out it is a Soviet-era monument and it was supposed to be demolished. It hasn’t been done yet and instead it is actually used for different events like it was turned into a rainbow arch for Kyiv Pride which is an act of fitting revenge. Another reason for a gay trip to Kyiv then.
The entire area was bustling with people because of the weekend. We started the walk through the park and ended up at the famous Andriyivski Descent later. It was a nice walk and as we went along the number of people dwindled.
Fun Fact: If you come during summer, you can enjoy some nice city beaches on the other side of Dnipro. There are some small islands as well and you can see them all the way from this side with people chilling.
St. Andrew’s Church
The onion church is a real gem in Kyiv, Unfortunately, while the interior was closed for refurbishment, the exterior of this beautiful church is absolutely worth a few minutes at least. It isn’t the grandest of places but it is very charming.
The entire facade, the Baroque domes and the green colour with golden domes are very well put together. I am really impressed with how people in Kyiv have mixed colour with churches, I have never seen it elsewhere.
This is the start of Podil which is one of the newer areas. It is quite a touristy places and as soon as you arrive here, you will find hippie restaurants with vegan menus, artwork for sale and other new age stuff. The famous descent starts from the base of the church all the way to the base.
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A nice lunch later we headed for some coffee to Vozdvyzhenska Barrio. The entire place is modern with beautiful colourful houses lining the streets. The churches had interesting towers and roofs as well. The architecture was different and quirky.
We grabbed some green tea and coffee and sat down after a little bit of exploration. The light was changing and with it, the entire neighbourhood was changing shadows and colours. It was my last day in Kyiv and I was a bit sad about it. Some more wandering later, we finally headed to Podil to grab some lunch and farewell drinks.
Podil is firmly on the list of most travellers for Kyiv and rightfully so. It used to be the merchants’ area but it was destroyed by fires, it was rebuilt in the 19th century and this time with some more glitz. Over time, Podil has seen the gentrification happening with more quirky and interesting restaurants opening. I don’t think any trip to Kyiv is complete without an evening in Podil. How could my gay travel be any different?
There are also tons of bars here which get busy much earlier than I’d expected. We settled for a very nice Wine Bar to talk about being gay in Kyiv and Ukraine and eventually ended up home at 2am.
Kyiv is most definitely an underrated city, it has so much to offer and with changing attitudes and good value for money I’d highly recommend it for a gay trip.
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