You have tickets fro the European football championship in 2012, to be held in June in both Poland and Ukraine, and want to take advantage of the chance to discover Kiev? If you dig the Ukrainian capital, football or even if not, let us be your guide.
With Euro 2012, Eastern Europe takes the spotlight! Here is your opportunity to discover the “other Europe.” Eight cities in total will host matches during the championship, here is our short guide to the first: Kiev.
What to see in Kiev
Kreschatyk Street: Think of it like the Oxford Street or the Champs-Elysées of Ukraine! This wide avenue, skirted with tall buildings can easily make you feel the size of an ant. This is where all the luxury boutiques are hiding. Stroll along like the dandy that you are to Independence Square, metro Mayden Nezalezhnosti. On weekends the avenue is a crowded meeting place for busking musicians and street performers of every kind. Meet with locals walking with a bottle of Ukrainian beer, Obolon, in hand.
St. Sophia’s Cathedral: The Sobor Sviatoi Sofiya is the most famous monument in Ukraine. It was built in the 11th century and is topped with 13 sparkling, golden domes.
Priogovo Museum: This gigantic museum sits on a huge piece of property, 150 hectares, and is one of the biggest outdoor museums in the world. It houses 300+ pieces of traditional Ukrainian art and is a must for anyone with an inkling to get a closer look at this exciting culture.
Hidropark: This type of leisure park is an ideal place to waste a day, well not waste but you can spend an entire day here on the island in the Dnieper. Why not spend a night here too enjoying the restaurants and nightclubs? It’s also a nice place to walk and relax on the sandy beaches. The locals promise a good time on the weekends when they all come to barbecue and spend time with their friends and families. A must: join in on a waltz at the dance hall located in the middle of the park.
Motherland Statue (Rodina Mat): This titanium statue stand 102m tall. You can take an elevator to the top of his shield for the best view of Kiev possible. At 300 feet above the ground you can see Dnieper clearly and Kiev’s skyline. Don’t forget to visit the Museum to the Great Patriotic War (WWII) which greatly glorifies the Soviet forces.
Eating and drinking in Kiev
Potatoes play an important role in Ukrainian cuisine, as do beets, cabbage and mushrooms. Tuck yourself into a big bowl of traditional borsch with sorrel and nettles and garlic. Save money by eating at a local canteen in the city centre that cater to the working class. They are usually crowded but cheap and the food is usually quite good.
- A popular chain of these cantenes is called Puzata Hata, find one along Krchtchatik Avenue and Tara Shevchenko.
In spring and summer there’s nothing better than barbecued skewers of pork or chicken, called shashlik. A beer or a shot (or more) of vodka is the way that the real “Kievians” do it. Somewhat surprisingly, sushi is a big hit in Ukraine and you won’t find it difficult to track down a good sushi joint in the city centre.
The nightlife is an interesting one in Kiev, everything is posh. When choosing a place you’ll find yourself choosing between one chic lounge bar and another equally chic lounge bar. The nights are long and the locals are well-conditioned to dance and drink until dawn. Nightclubs are easily found since they’re so numerous.
- Sorry Babuska: This seems to be a good choice for those who want to get the real party experience in Kiev. With several floors, each with its own ambiance and music, there is plenty for everyone in your entourage.
Where to avoid: The River Palace. Unless of course you are determined to find someone to take home at the end of the night. But to put it bluntly, if you are not interested in paid sex than stay clear away from this place. It attracts tourists because of its location on the river but women should steer clear and watch out for unexpected (and unpleasant) surprises!
Do not take offence if you are thoroughly searched before going into a nightclub, they’re mostly looking for guns and knives. Entry to nightclubs are considered to be relatively expensive for Ukrainian standards.
Weather and language
June is one of the best times to visit Ukraine. Kiev is very nice in the spring as well although you can expect spring to happen about a month later than it does at home. If you’re not a fan of cold weather, stay away from this place from December to March.
Don’t speak Russian (the main language spoken in major cities and Kiev) and even less Ukrainian? English isn’t always a help in Ukraine, even in Kiev. Take a phrasebook with some key pages dog-eared… it will be invaluable. You can pick one up at just about any major book store in the foreign language section.
How to get to Kiev
Unfortunately Ukraine isn’t exactly the best country for low cost flights from London or even elsewhere in the UK. From London, Wizz Air and Air Baltic will get you to Kiev the cheapest although British Airways, Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines also fly the route.
- A flight from London to Kiev for next June when the Euro 2012 football championship is going on will set you back £119 (return, taxes included) with Wizz Air, departing from London Luton Airport for travel June 14-24th, 2012. Not bad!
The flight is direct, taking little more than 3 hours to reach the Ukrainian capital.
Have you got your tickets yet for Euro 2012? Are you heading to Kiev next summer?
Imgs: neiljs, hisisbossi, gpjt, mariyaZ, sarae / Flickr cc.