I spent 7 days in Kiev, Ukraine in October, 2015. In this post, I’m going to share with you my experiences and tell you why this city stole my heart.
My biggest goal in writing this post is to spread the message to the world that Kiev is a spectacular city and I highly recommend you to visit here.
General Thoughts about Kiev
If you follow me on any social media channels, then you already know how obsessed I am with Ukraine’s capital city. I have now been to every capital city in Europe and I can proudly say that Kiev is in my Top 3 favorite.
As I’m writing this post from a coffee shop in Kiev, I’m on the final day of my 13-week Eurotrip across some 26 countries and more than 50 cities. It’s been a crazy journey with lots of ups and downs (mostly ups), but I’m thrilled to complete this chapter of my life in such a fascinating city.
“But why on Earth would you go to Ukraine? Isn’t is unsafe?”
…. This was the message that several people warned me before my trip via emails, Instagram comments and messages.
Sure, there was a big Revolution here in January 2014, where several people were killed and tempers were flaring, but doesn’t something like this happen in many other countries too? Does that always mean that it’s unsafe to visit these places?
My point is, just because of one event in the past doesn’t mean that it’s unsafe to travel to Ukraine today, despite what the media will tell you. I will admit that the situation is a bit more tense on the Eastern part of Ukraine, but as far as I’m concerned, Kiev is a very safe place to visit.
I walked all around the city during my week long visit. From what I saw with my own eyes, the daily life in Kiev unfolds just like I’ve seen in any other big city – people ride the underground metro to work, friends hang out in parks, they schmooze in cafes, and they go to bars at night. The city is peaceful during the day and it turns electric when the sun does down. I love it.
And to be honest with you, it’s almost a good thing that people are scared to travel here because that makes the city even more of a hidden gem. Travelers, like myself, can benefit from virtually no tourists on the streets, because it gives it more authentic feel.
Just let the world think Ukraine is a scary place, and come here for yourself to see how freaking awesome it is!
As I was wandering around Kiev, I noticed how patriotic the people are with a huge sense of national pride. The colors of Ukraine are light blue and yellow (as can be seen in their national flag), and these two colors are seen painted all around the city — on buildings, street signs, walls and cars.
Alright, so now that you have an introduction about my feelings and experiences, here are 10 more reasons why I fell in love with Kiev:
10 Reasons Why I Love Kiev
1. Affordability – Ukraine is the cheapest country in Europe, and likewise, Kiev is the cheapest capital city that I’ve comes across in the region. For example, to ride the metro is 4 Hryvinas (about 20 cents USD). I never paid more than $5 for any meal that I ate and the food is delicious. And any taxi ride across the city won’t be more than $3USD (make sure they don’t rip you off for being a tourist).
2. Amazing Buildings – I had to pinch myself a few times to believe that what I was seeing was real life. Beautiful colors, massive, golden shines…. Did you know the buildings in Kiev were so gorgeous?
I’ll just let the photos do the talking.
3. Lively Nightlife – Kiev comes electric at night. The party starts at midnight and goes until noon the next day. There is a wide variety of fun pubs, bars, swanky lounges and insane nightclubs. Beer and vodka shots can be consumed for $1-2USD, and the people are so friendly that you’re never going to want the night to end.
4. Open-minded People – Speaking of Ukrainians, I met some really cool people who were down to earth and friendly – much friendlier than I found in Ukraine’s neighboring countries.
It’s hard to wipe this smile off my face as I’m thinking about all the new friends I’ve made over the last week.
5. Mother Monument – Climbing to the top of the 102 meter, stainless-steel Mother Monument was one of the best travel experiences of my life. The status is massive and it overlooks the city of Kiev. They only accept a few people per day to climb all the way up, and you will need a private guide to take you up the steep ladders and narrow passageways.
After about 15 minutes of intense climbing, you’ll see a tiny window at the top. Open it up see a view like this – like you can rule the world!
6. Underground markets – Whenever you need to cross a big street in Kiev, you will do so by walking underground through a giant market and over to the next side. It’s crazy that the majority of the cheap shopping and food stalls are below the street! You can find anything you’re looking for — clothes, electronics, food, hardware, books, and more.
7. Pop up Cafes – I’ve never seen a city with more pop up cafes and pop-up bars than Kiev has. Just go to any popular area in the city and you’ll notice the street corners and sidewalks lined up with pop up cafes, which usually take the form of graffitied cars!
They all have a different vibe and sell very cheap drinks.
8. Cleanliness – As mentioned in the introduction, Kiev is a very clean city. I was impressed to see the citizens always taking very good care of their home by not throwing trash on the street and putting an effort into maintaining the cleanliness of the buildings.
9. Old and New – I really enjoyed how Kiev has an old and a new feel to it. Many of the buildings in the city center are several hundred years old, but also, I found a variety of impressive 21st century modern complexes that left me stunned.
10. Beautiful Girls – And last but not least are the beautiful women of Ukraine… and I’m sure you could sense this one coming 😉 Sorry if you’re a girl reading this, but for you guys out there, I can tell you that Ukrainian girls are (without question) the most beautiful in Europe and quite likely in the world.
If anything will make you stay in Kiev for a long time, it will be this.
Where to Stay in Kiev?
From cheap hostels to luxury condos, Kiev has a large variety of places to stay that will satisfy your budget needs. Below is a list of some of my favorites places around the city (some were recommended to me by friends).
For a more comprehensive list of hotels in Kiev, check out Agoda.com and book your stay today!
1) For Budget Travelers – Podolsky Hotel (Book Online Now)
*rates – $10/night for a twin room
The Podolsky Hotel is a cheap place to sleep if you are planning to spend most of your time exploring the city and not in your room. It’s cheap and clean and in a good location to see the city. Recommended for budget travelers.
2) For Mid-Price – Staro Hotel (Book Online Now)
*rates – $71/night for standard room with breakfast
Staro Hotel is probably the best bang for your buck in Kiev. The only downside is the location, which is a bit far away from the city center and main tourist attractions, but it’s in a quiet neighborhood. The hotel is new and in great condition, English is widely spoken and people are very friendly. The staff is helpful to plan your trip.
3) For Luxury – Premier Palace (Book Online Now)
*rates – $234 for a standard double room
As the name suggests, Premier Palace is probably the best and most luxurious hotel in Kiev. The staff is very helpful and the hotel is clean and neat. There is a swimming pool, gym and sauna, and the location is great for walking around the city. If you have the budget, then you won’t regret staying at Premier Place!
And lastly, I will leave you with a few travel tips before you visit Kiev:
– Get your hands on a map, because the city is not well marked (and mostly everything is written in Russian/Ukrainan)
– Don’t ever called a Ukrainian person Russian, or mix up Ukraine and Russia. Just don’t do it.
– Learn basic Russian words & phrases. Even though Ukraine has it’s own language (mostly used in the Western part of Ukraine) — Russian is widely spoken and almost everyone in Kiev can understand it. English is not as common as you’d think.
– Exchange your Euros or Dollars at an exchange office, because you will get a better rate than an ATM
– If you can’t speak basic Russian, then don’t attempt to get in a taxi on by yourself (because they will rip you off). You shouldn’t pay more than 80 Hryvinas to get anywhere in the city. Have a local get one for you on this popular phone app they use to get a good rate (it’s like Uber).
– Try to stay in the city center (there are many cheap hotels and hostels).. I made the mistake of staying a bit outside and it was a hassle to walk to the metro every time. Or use couch surfing if you can!
Thanks for reading my post about Kiev, and I really hope that this article inspires you to come here and experiences it for yourself! I know that I’ll definitely be making a visit back to this wonderful place in the near future!
Please comment below or contact me if you have any further questions!