Who has been dreaming of visiting Kharkov? Probably not many of you, yet this Ukrainian city is getting ready to welcome football fans by the thousands next summer for Euro 2012. Kharkov is quite the spotlight for Eastern Ukrainian culture, that alone makes it a detour worth taking!
It’s not exactly the setting most people have in mind for great holiday: huge blocks of flats, dominating and imposing statues, disproportionately short avenues. There’s no mistake that this was a Soviet city in the past, just take a look at this video and see what we mean!
Sights and monuments in Kharkov
Annunciation Cathedral: this is one of the tallest Orthodox churches in the world, the the bell tower reaches a height of 80m. For 110 years this church has stood strong, only closing its door to worshipers in 1930.
Shevchenko Monument: dedicated to the great Ukrainian poet, artist and humanist, Taras Shevchenko. He was a symbol for Ukrainian culture in the 1800s. The monument in front of Shevckenko Park is one of the most remarkable in all of Ukraine.
Freedom Square: this is the main square of the city, where the whole city meets. In the middle is a monument to the Bolsheviks but the most entertaining thing to do here is watch the locals and the pace of Kharkov life.
Cable car: get on at Gorpark station behind the movie theatre called Park. From the top you’ll have an incredible view of Gorky Park.
- Name: Kharkov in Russian, Kharkiv in Ukrainian
- Population: 1.5 million
- Language: Russian is the regional language (little Ukrainian is spoken here)
- Location: 413km east of Kiev, just a few dozen kilometres from the Russian border
Kharkov has no shortage of museums since it is, as we mentioned before, a centre for Ukrainian and even Russian culture. Make sure you visit the Museum of Internal Affairs of the Kharkov Region (yes, it actually exists). We’d recommend you skip the city’s Dolphinarium where two unfortunate dolphins entertain kids all day, probably caught in the Black Sea some 400km to the south.
For something a little different, you might find the Museum of the World’s Sexual Cultures interesting. It’s up to you whether you take home a cheap replica of an erotic painting or a phallic sculpture home as a souvenir. The museum boutique looks more like a sex shop than a gift shop.
- Address: Mironositska Street, 81a
On a more serious note, the Museum of History is essential. It traces the Battle of Kharkov (which is actually four battles) between the Axe and Red Army during WWII.
- Address: University Street, 5
Where to eat
What’s really great about Kharkov is that you can find practically any (and every) type of cuisine in the city centre. From Italian pizzerias to Japanese sushi, even American fast food chains too!
For something local, stop for lunch at a cafeteria to taste some authentic beetroot Borsch, mashed potatoes and pancakes with meat and syrniki.
How to get to Kharkov
To find out how to get to Ukraine as well as some more general information about the country, check out our previous posts in the Euro 2012 series:
The easiest way to reach Kharkov is with flights to Kiev, then to take a domestic low cost connection from Kiev to Kharkov or travel the rest of your journey by train. Worth noting, there are direct flights to Kharkov from Vienna.
A little word of advice: the police are always about in Ukraine. Do not go anywhere without your passport. It’s worth knowing a few words of Russian as well, they’re not likely to know English.