When I first dropped in on Kyiv, Ukraine, back in early 2008, it wasn't the most accessible place to travel as a tourist who didn't speak Russian.
Just thinking about the bus ride that got me there from Poland is still a bit of a shock.
And then, after arriving, I had my choice of about four different hostels in Kyiv city — one of which was a room in a babushka's flat outside of town, and two of which were run by the mob (so I was told).
Even when I returned in late 2008 to teach English for five months, the tourist industry was minimal, but you could tell that a few more foreign-focused endeavors were popping up.
Now, however, Ukraine is considered one of the more up-and-coming Eastern European destinations for travel (see this article), and a quick Hostelworld search showed 26 options in the capital city instead of four.
So, for those that are curious about our former Soviet land on the border (thought to be the etymological meaning of Ukraine), here are five Ukrainian cities that are worth a visit.
Ukrainian Cities You Won't Want to Miss
Kyiv is the largest city in Ukraine, and also the capital. Its history is rich and vibrant, primarily since it acted as the capital of the Soviet Union for some time.
It is here that you can get glimpses of magnificent architecture in bright golds, yellows, and greens — those of which pop from the other concrete giants that line the streets.
Popular Attractions in Kiev
- Pechersk Lavra (caves monastery)
- Chernobyl Museum
- St. Andrew's Church
- St. Sophia's Cathedral
- St. Michael's Monastery
- Pirogovo (open-air museum)
You can shop along the streets of Khreschatyk or in the Bessarabsky Markets, all while the giant Mother of the Motherland statue watches over the city.
>>> Search Travelocity for more things to do in Kyiv.
Lviv, located in the Western corner of the country nearer to Krakow, has a European flair through its culture and architecture.
The old city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Forget the giant concrete blocks. In Lviv, you can enjoy Victorian buildings that will have you feeling like you're in Vienna and nowhere near Kyiv, and rightfully so.
In the past, Lviv has been part of both Poland and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Popular Attractions in Lviv
- Apteka Museum — the oldest pharmacy in Lviv dating back to 1735
- Museum of the History of Religion — chronicling both the history of Jewish and Christian religions
- Market Square — where you can climb a tower to get a view of the Old Town
If you're feeling especially cultured, a night at the S. Krushelnytska Opera House allows you to immerse yourself in the lovely surroundings.
When I taught English in Kyiv, many of my students would talk about Odesa, always mentioning the people as being incredibly funny.
I was glad that when I finally got to visit this Southern city on the Black Sea, they did not disappoint with their humorous street art and even a couple of friendly locals.
Like Lviv, Odesa has more of an Eastern European flair that will feel quaint and comfortable after a stint in the big city of Kyiv.
Popular Attractions in Odessa
- Visiting the beaches, like Arcadia and Malibu (it is a popular summer vacation destination)
- Walking along Primorvskiy Boulevard
- Museum of Western and Eastern Art
Yalta is also located in the south of Ukraine in the Crimea peninsula. It is a resort town and has been for centuries, given its location on the Black Sea.
The smooth pebble beaches are a pleasure to visit in the summer, but be aware that plenty of other people will be doing the same.
Popular Attractions in Yalta
- Livadia Palace — the location of the Yalta Conference in 1945
- Massandra Palace — located in the countryside
- The Nikita Botanical Gardens is an excellent place to spend the afternoon with some of your freshly bought, local Yalta honey
Kharkiv is a bit of an outlier on this list, but it might be of interest to the traveler that wants to get to know all sides of the Ukraine culture.
Kharkiv is located way out on the Northeast side of the country, near the Russian border.
Still, surprisingly it is the second-largest city and one with a solid educational and institutional backbone.
Popular Attractions in Kharkov
- Explore the universities
- Blagoveshensky Cathedral
- Kid's Rail Road
There you have them, my recommendations for which Ukrainian cities are worth your time.
Brooke lives a thrifty lifestyle so that she can travel the world at every possible opportunity. Find more of her writing on her website: Her Packing List. Or follow her on Twitter.
Planning a trip? Go Backpacking recommends:
- G Adventures for small group tours.
- World Nomads for travel insurance.
- Hostelworld for booking hostels.
- Rail Europe for train passes.
Thursday 26th of January 2017
hello everyone. here is some useful information about one of the most fascinating places in Ukraine. Museum of Strategic Missile Troops This place is one of the unique military museums in the world. It was founded on the 30th of October,2001. A part of the missile regiment was used as a perfect location. the museum includes a silo for the missile SS-24, a silo-based command post for the missile launching, equipment and lots of mechanisms which are kept in original condition. Ex- missile troops officers are still working here are always ready to answer any interesting question! There is a shaft for the missile, which was 35 metres deep and its protective device which weight was 121 tons. An original command centre is a huge 45-metres-deep shaft with a metal container inside.This container was divided into 12 floors or compartments with equipment and special functions. But on the very lowest floors two officers were constantly on duty and were able to launch 10 missiles at the same time! This place also displays a nice collection of technic such as the Second World War tanks, armored carriers and many others. I have been working in this museum as an English speaking tour guide for more than 6 years. if you need any help in transportation to and from our museum it's not a problem. I can help you to find a suitable car or bus and a driver. I work there without days off or holidays. feel free to contact me for booking a tour or any additional information any time of day and night . my e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org or my phone number is +380952007578. you should definitely visit this fantastic place some day) I promise you won't regret
Wednesday 17th of April 2013
i want to visit Ukrain its my wish but i have not info how can i get visit Visa
Thursday 21st of March 2013
Hello, I am writer doing some research for a film about a concert promoter from the Ukraine. Is anyone interested in helping me develop and research this female concert promoter? Please contact me at email@example.com
Wednesday 21st of November 2012
It will be my first visit
Tuesday 11th of September 2012
Nice post, but I have some doubts:
"former Soviet land on the border (thought to be the etymological meaning of Ukraine)" - do you mean the etymologial meaning involves de USSR?
"especially since it acted as capital of the Soviet Union for some time" - what time do you mean?
And I think you really missed all the wonderful cafés (starting by "Dim Legendy") and chocolate shops in Lviv... or you didn't like them? It's the first thing I would suggest visitint in Lviv. Either you really hate enjoying a drink with people or you didn't visit Lviv properly...
Monday 1st of October 2012
Sorry for the delay in responding, hola.
Sources say that Ukraine actually means "borderland", coming from the word "kray" which means "edge" or "region". In that sense, Ukraine means on the border or edge, which was true especially for the time that Ukraine was part of the USSR.
Kiev served as the first capital of the Russian state, then known as Kiev Russ, during the Middle Ages.
Thank you for pointing out some additional things to do and see in Lviv. It has been several years since I visited now, but you are correct. Cafes and chocolate shops are a great tourist attraction in the city. I'd love to hear more of your recommendations for Lviv if you'd like to share them :)
Monday 1st of October 2012
Hello, just in order not to come back and find no reply again and again, will you someday reply my previous questions? Thanks.