Dubbed “the mother of Slavic cities,” the Ukrainian capital of Kiev is a growing destination for international tourists. This former Soviet hub is not only rich in history, architecture and tradition — it’s a cosmopolitan city of trendy cafes, cool hangouts and stylish nightclubs.
Where to stay: For modern accommodations with all the comforts of home, the Hyatt Regency Kiev is the best choice. Located in the heart of the city, the hotel is within walking distance of some of the top tourist attractions, including St. Sophia’s Cathedral and St. Michael’s Monastery. In a country where very little English is spoken and taxi drivers are keen to scam foreigners, it sure is helpful to have bilingual concierges on hand.
Where to shop: The main strip of Khreshchatyk has everything from Puma to Nike, Mango to Zara and Soviet-era department stores to Louis Vuitton and Gucci. On weekends they close the strip to cars, making retail therapy all the more pedestrian friendly.
Where to buy Communist-era kitsch: Strolling along the winding cobblestone streets in front of St. Andrew’s Baroque cathedral, you’ll find a whack of kitschy communist souvenirs such as gas masks, Lenin T-shirts, Russian wooden dolls, Stalin shot glasses and Ukrainian crafts. Just a few steps away you’ll find the heart of the Ukrainian art community. On summer afternoons, sidewalks are lined with original artworks.
Where to eat: Koureni, one of the oldest restaurants in Kiev, serves up traditional Ukrainian cuisine in a quaint garden setting. Overlooking the Dnieper River, Koureni has a killer view of the city and some of the tastiest pancakes with caviar.
If you’re craving international cuisine try Avalon, a seafood restaurant with an underwater, mermaid-inspired decor, or Nobu, a venue known for its sushi, sashimi and other Japanese dishes.
Where to party: Buddha Bar is relatively new to the Kiev club scene. Following in the footsteps of Buddha Bars in Paris and New York City, Buddha Bar Kiev is a dinner club with pan-Asian cuisine and a reputation for glamour. While VIPs groove to deep house, could-be-models scan for rich future husbands. Partiers move from the restaurant’s iconic gold Buddha statue to the lounge for martinis. It’s a space of pretty people with mood lighting so dark you can barely see your edamame appetizer.
Where to hang: Many young Ukrainians choose to hang and sip local brew in the famous Independence Square. Home of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, it’s both a historic square and popular spot for a cheap and cheerful night out. Drinking openly in the streets is common, so many spend their summer evenings relaxing on the steps near the Globus Shopping Centre, cracking open a beer and people watching.
In this liveliest part of the city, you’re guaranteed to spot girls in short skirts and stilt-like stiletto heels, boys sporting mullet hairstyles and some of the flashiest fashions in the former Eastern Block.
Catch the second season of Word Travels, a documentary series that follows travel writers Julia Dimon and Robin Esrock. It airs Sundays at 8:30 p.m. EST on OLN.
– Julia Dimon is co-host of Word Travels, airing Sundays at 8:30 p.m. EST on OLN; www.juliadimon.com.