Donetsk is just about as far east as you’re going to go while touring this part of Europe during the UEFA football tournament. In fact, Donetsk is one of Ukraine’s most easterly cities and is a step into a different culture, a different continent.
A city divided by the Kalmius river, Donetsk is a major centre for finance, industry and scientific research. It had humble beginnings as a coal and steel city, a centre for supplies during the Soviet times. The city’s real pride and joys are the two professional football teams that call Donetsk home: Shakhtar Donetsk and Metalurh Donetsh. If you’re heading this way for Euro 2012, make sure you add Donetsk to your list!
What to see in Donetsk
This is where every tourist tour should start. It’s the central avenue of the city and a great place to see both modern, classic and Soviet-era architecture. You’ll find everything from small parks to stylish and up-scale hotels, small bistros to classy restaurants. The most important historical sight in this area is Lenin Square, featuring a 42m tall statue of Lenin, the biggest in Ukraine.
You’ll continuously run into statues and memorials commemorating Donetsk’s greats and other Soviet heroes. There is a 6m statue of Fyodor Sergeyev, the adopted son of Josef Stalin, on Artema Street. There’s also and impressively large statue of John Hughes, the Welshman responsible for founding the city and setting up the industries.
Donetsk Central Market
As much as this building is a site to see, it’s also a cultural experience to have. All of the locals do their shopping here in this building and it’s the best place to catch a glimpse at the local pace of life. Browse the stalls, you’ll find everything from trinkets and souvenirs to fresh fruits and veg.
Not to miss
Pushkin Boulevard is a great street to wander, especially in the spring when the trees are showing their buds. The promenade runs for 2km, taking you past pretty water fountains, cafés whose tables spill out onto the street (now is your chance to grab a cheap coffee) and statues.
If you can travel further afield, the Sea of Azov is a must. It’s less than 100km to the south of Donetsk, making it a great day trip out of the city. It is the shallowest sea in the world, draining into the Black Sea. It’s a popular spot in the summer, so arrive early in the day to stake your claim on a part of the beach!
Food & Drink
If you’re not keen on Ukrainian cuisine, don’t worry. There are plenty of other dishes on offer at most restaurants. For a taste of home, check out the Golden Lion, Donetsk’s only Irish pub. Tuck into a platter of tacos at the Tequila Boom. Moroccan food is on the table at Marrakech and Netskeis the city’s Chinese buffet but watch out, they charge 2 hryvnia for a pair of chopsticks… so best bring your own!
As for drinking out, there is no shortage of bars in Donetsk as the Ukrainians love to drink! The only question is… can you keep up?
How to get to Donetsk
There are a few ways to reach Donestsk. Grab flights to Kiev and then fly with a local low cost airline to Donetsk International Airport (DOK). There are also direct flights to Donestsk from Munich and Vienna. Alternatively, if you’re already in Ukraine, catch a trip or hire a car. It takes between 6-8 hours to drive from Kiev to Donetsk.
Have you already travelled through this part of Ukraine? What travel advice would you offer first timers? Are you planning to see any of the Euro 2012 games?