Ukraine is a country that has long been overlooked by travelers, but it’s finally starting to get the recognition it deserves. With its rich history, stunning architecture, and delicious cuisine, there are endless opportunities for adventure in this Eastern European gem. As a professional tourist, I’ve had the pleasure of exploring many different parts of Ukraine, and I can confidently say that it’s one of my favorite destinations. In this guide, I’ll share some of my top picks for places to visit, where to eat and drink, accommodation options, and how to get around on a budget.
Introduction to Ukraine as a Travel Destination
Ukraine is located in eastern Europe and shares borders with Russia, Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Moldova. The capital city is Kiev, which is also the largest city in the country. Ukrainian culture is deeply rooted in tradition and religion, and you’ll find plenty of historic landmarks and churches to explore throughout your trip. Additionally, Ukraine has a vibrant arts scene, with museums, galleries, and theaters showcasing both classical and contemporary works.
Best Places to Visit in Ukraine
There are countless amazing places to visit in Ukraine, but here are just a few of my favorites:
1. Kiev – This bustling metropolis is home to beautiful parks, stunning architecture, and world-class museums. Don’t miss out on climbing up to the top of St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery for panoramic views of the city.
2. Lviv – Located in western Ukraine, Lviv is known for its charming old town and thriving cafe culture. Be sure to try the local coffee and traditional desserts like varenyky (potato dumplings) and uzhiki (fruit-filled pastries).
3. Odessa – Situated on the Black Sea coast, Odessa is a popular summer destination for Ukrainians and foreign visitors alike. Take a stroll along the famous Potemkin Steps and enjoy fresh seafood at one of the many waterfront restaurants.
4. Chernivtsi – Tucked away in western Ukraine, Chernivtsi is often referred to as “Little Vienna” due to its Austro-Hungarian architectural style. It’s also home to an impressive university campus that dates back to the early 19th century.
Where to Eat and Drink in Ukraine
One thing’s for sure – you won’t go hungry or thirsty during your time in Ukraine! Here are a few of my favorite spots to grab a bite or sip on something tasty:
1. Varenychna No. 1 – If you only have time for one meal in Kiev, make it this traditional Ukrainian restaurant. Their signature dish is varenykys (potato dumplings), served with a variety of fillings including cheese, sauerkraut, and mushrooms.
2. Pravda Beer Theatre – For those who love craft beer, this brewery and taproom in downtown Kiev is a must-visit spot. They offer a rotating selection of house-brewed beers, plus hearty pub fare like burgers and wings.
3. Dacha Restaurant – Head to Lviv if you want to indulge in some seriously delicious Ukrainian comfort food. At Dacha, you’ll find classic dishes like borscht, pierogies, and chicken kiev, all made from scratch using locally sourced ingredients.
Accommodation Options for Tourists in Ukraine
As more people discover the wonders of Ukraine, hotel and hostel options are becoming increasingly plentiful. Here are a few recommendations based on location:
1. Hotel Rus – Centrally located in Kiev, this boutique hotel offers modern rooms with free WiFi and flat-screen TVs. Plus, they serve complimentary breakfast each morning.
2. Hostel Leopolis – If you’re looking for affordable lodging in Lviv, this cozy hostel is a great option. They offer private rooms as well as shared dormitories, and guests rave about their friendly staff and clean facilities.
3. Hotel Bristol Odesa – Overlooking the Black Sea in Odessa, this luxury hotel boasts elegant rooms and suites with ocean views, plus amenities like a fitness center and rooftop bar.
Getting Around Ukraine on a Budget
While public transportation in Ukraine may not be as efficient as other countries, it’s still possible to navigate the cities without breaking the bank. Here are a few tips:
1. Use Uber – You might be surprised to learn that Uber operates in most major cities in Ukraine, making it easy to catch rides at reasonable prices. Just download the app before you arrive and set up an account.
2. Hop on a marshrutka – These minibuses operate like buses but run on fixed routes, so they’re a convenient way to get around town quickly. Look for signs marked “ÐœÐ°Ñ€ÑˆÑ€ÑƒÑ‚ÐºÐ¸” to locate stops.
3. Walk or bike – Many cities in Ukraine are quite walkable, especially if you’re staying near the main attractions. Consider renting a bike to explore further afield or take advantage of the many walking tours available.
Conclusion: Tips for an Unforgettable Ukrainian Adventure
If you’re planning a trip to Ukraine, don’t forget these essential tips:
1. Learn basic phrases in Ukrainian – While English is widely spoken in larger cities, trying to speak even a little bit of Ukrainian will earn you brownie points with locals.
2. Pack appropriate clothing – Depending on when you visit, Ukraine can be quite cold, so bring layers and warm outerwear.
3. Try new things – From eating salo (cured pork fat) to dancing the hopak, embrace the unique experiences that Ukraine has to offer.
4. Get off the beaten path – Sure, Kiev and Lviv are incredible cities, but don’t miss out on smaller towns like Kamyanets-Podilskyi or Kharkiv, which have their own charm and character.
I hope this guide helps you plan an unforgettable journey through Ukraine. Safe travels!