Thanks to Cobblestone Freeway Tours, I spent an incredible three days exploring Kiev – the heart of the Ukraine! Through city tours led by local expats and experts, I learned about the fascinating history, architecture, and traditions of this beautiful capital city. Kiev is the largest city in the Ukraine which means there is plenty to see and explore. Let me take you through 8 of the most iconic sights you can see while visiting the City of Golden Domes!
1) Maidan Nezalezhnosti – Independence Square
It is hard to miss Maidan, or Independence Square as its the central square in Kiev. Since the late 1800’s, the square has been renamed numerous times. It wasn’t until 1991 during the aftermath of the Declaration of Independence of Ukraine and collapse of the Soviet Union did it gain the name it has today. Since then, Maidan has been the traditional place for political rallies, and celebratory events.
2) Khreshchatyk – Main Street
As well as being home to many government buildings, Khreshchatyk is a popular street with tourists. Why? Shopping, of course! In 2010, it was declared one of the Top 20 most expensive shopping streets in Europe. However, its tumultuous history cannot be ignored. This main street was completely destroyed in WWII and rebuilt in the neo-classical, post-war Stalinist architecture.
3) Saint Volodymyr’s Cathedral
Saint Volodymyr’s Cathedral boasts one of the golden domes that Kiev is so famous for. This 19th century landmark is stunning both inside and out. It is the mother cathedral of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and so it is no surprise the amount of work that went into constructing this masterpiece. It’s definitely worth going inside to admire its striking beauty and colorful mosaics and relics.
4) Saint Sophia’s Cathedral
Not to completely outdo Saint Voodymyr’s, but Saint Sophia’s Cathedral has an impressive 13 golden domes! This UNESCO World Heritage Site should be at the top of everyone’s Kiev list. I was blown away by its scale and beauty. The cathedral dates back all the way to 1037, but most of the Baroque exterior is from the 18th century.
5) Andriyivsky Uzviz (Andrews descent)
If you need a break from cathedral hopping, take a stroll on Andriyivsky Uzviz. Local residents claim it is the most charming street in the city and I would have to agree! If you need somewhere to do your souvenir shopping, this is the place. The street is home to the city’s best artisans, craftsmen, and vendors who sell interesting trinkets, authentic costumes, and Soviet times memorabilia.
6) St. Andrews Church
St. Andrews is a beautiful Baroque church that was built in the mid 1700s. I just love how colorful it is on the outside. Luckily, we visited on a sunny day so photographing the beautiful blue, white, and gold exteriors against a blue sky was a real pleasure. Take time to go inside, as there’s an impressive collection of paintings and sculptures from well-known Ukrainian and Russian artists. The church is actually no longer used as a religious institute, so it’s more of a museum inside. Whether you venture inside or not, it’s absolutely worth a visit. St. Andrews Church is situated on a very steep hill which means you have wonderful views from the top!
7) Kiev Pechersk Lavra – Monastry of the Caves
We had a wonderful guided tour of Kiev’s Lavra Cave Monastery, a real spiritual Mecca and a place that’s become a signature sight of Ukraine. Similar to Saint Sophia Cathedral, it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Even though it is a cultural, tourist attraction, it is still a working monastery with over 100 monks in residence. Pictures will never do this incredible place justice, you just have to see its magnificence in person!
8) World War II Memorial Park
A visit to Kiev isn’t complete without visiting the WWII Memorial Park and paying your respects to the fallen. The memoriral complex where this park resides in covers over 10 hectares so give yourself plenty of time if you want to see it all! Outside, you’ll see several helicopters, tanks, rocket launchers, and other military equipment. There are also impressive and fascinating sculptures to see. The Fire of Glory, a giant metal bowl, is perfectly located on a hill and is impossible to miss. It is one of the many monumental sculptures which embody the beautiful spirit of the Ukrainians who fought so hard.
Cobblestone Freeway Tours showed us the very best of what Ukraine has to offer. Kiev was just one stop on our 13-day tour! You can read more about my trip to Chernivtsi, where I stayed and dined in Lviv, as well as what to see and do there.