Kiev is a wonderful city with loads of culture, theatres, churches, monasteries, parks, nightlife, shops, restaurants and sights. It is the Ukrainian capital and, to be honest, a place to fall in love with.

Location

Kiev is a little north of central Ukraine. It has 2 airports, both of them international. The largest one is Borispol, about 30 km southeast to the Kiev's city centre. The smaller airport is Zhuliany, only 6 km southwest of the centre. In 2009, Zhuliany was reopened after a period of repairs and improvement. Borispol is becoming more and more modern. The old part of the airport was renovated around 2010, when terminal F was added. This is all part of the preparations for the European soccer championship in 2012.

Neighbourhoods

Kiev has 2.6 million inhabitants and is definitely worth visiting. The centre is beautiful, compact and easily viewed on foot. The Podil district has many historic buildings. The suburbs are less attractive, often dating back to the Soviet era.

Parks

Kiev has a number of parks, the city is quite green. The parks are very nice, especially in summer when there are many people and it really is a social hotspot. Sometimes there is live entertainment. Schevshenko park is beautifully landscaped with lovely trees, flowers and plants. There are tables where people play chess together. Especially when it's hot, this park is very pleasant to stroll around or to sit on one of the many benches and watch the people go by. In summer you can enjoy some beautiful evenings here. Another great park is Mariinsky Park. It is located along the river and near Mariinsky Palace. Here, you may also find entertainment and sometimes you can attend an open-air concert. While walking through the park, you have wonderful views across the river.

Dnieper

The Dnieper River runs through the city. You might enjoy a boat trip down the river. Or go to the islands, called Hydro Park. Here you can swim in the river and visit the sandy beaches, an entertainment park, and several cafes and eateries. Take a stroll through the green strip along the river. There is also a war museum near the river with a monument honoring the many men who were killed in World War 2. You can spot it from afar, as the museum includes a 62 meter high statue. It's called the Museum of the Great Patriotic War, the Russian name for World War 2. The park surrounding the museum contains the tomb of the unknown soldier, military vehicles and an eternal flame.

Soccer

Kiev has a football team called Dynamo Kiev. This club has a glorious past, especially the era of coach Lobanovsky. The stadium is named after him. It lies just north of the center. South of the center, the Olympic Stadium was officially reopened in October 2011. It was completely reconstructed to satisfy modern standards, with a capacity of about 70,000 visitors. In 2012, the finals of the European Championship will be played in this stadium.

Metro

Kiev has an excellent subway system. It's not very luxurious but it works perfectly. Moreover, some metro stations are beautiful pieces of architecture, they are not unpleasant places to be and they are actually worth the visit. The trains come and go in quick succession and are an inexpensive and fast way to get from one point to another. During peak hours, the subway is filled with commuters, but it also has its charm to see so many people together in one place.

Friendly

You may notice that people generally do not talk much in public transport. They are all very disciplined and polite, people will wait as you are getting into the subway or onto a bus, for instance. Sometimes they form a line, so everyone knows who can go first. Most people you will meet are friendly and helpful. People may come to you spontaneously when they see you need help. And they are very tolerant. Vandalism or youngsters causing nuisance are rare and there is little evidence of crime. There is a lot of respect for the elderly, people make room on the bus for an elder when he or she needs a seat. It is really just very nice to stay in Kiev and get to know the people. Not many people speak good English, though it is improving with the next generation.

Streetlife

You might see people doing some traditional dancing after their day on the subway. It is a merry spectacle, involving not only elder people dancing, but also young people who are watching them. There are many subway stations and small shops along the foot paths too, selling things like flowers, fruits and vegetables, clothes, anything really. In Kiev's city center, you will often hear music from musicians who perform on the street to earn some pocket money. You may also see small groups breakdancing. There are many public holidays in Ukraine. And if it is a public holiday (like Independence Day), the streets are bustling with activity. Every Sunday the main road named Kreschatik is closed to traffic. You can then walk the 8-lane road and see all the people who come downtown to shop, meet each other or stroll around. Kreschatik is a beautiful, wide and long road through the center. It is quite busy too, with all its subway stations, shops, cafes and restaurants.

Central square

There is a central square, also known as the Square of the Orange Revolution or Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti). This is where, end of 2004, a peaceful mass protest took place: the democratic revolution. The country was being separated from the former Soviet Union and the people weathered the extreme cold for hours, to stand up for their rights. It is a beautiful square with fountains, steps, monuments, benches, walkways, plants and beautiful cobblestone stairs. Underground and in the high glass Globus building, you will find a modern shopping center including restaurants, eateries and an art gallery. You can enjoy something to eat or drink while overlooking the square. Or you go up to the roof and look across the square and the city. This place, which is nicely landscaped with plants, trees and seats, really is a must.

Churches and monasteries

Kiev's rich cultural history is generally well-preserved. The Pechersk Lavra Monastery (Monastery of the Caves) is quite famous and many people come from far and wide to visit it. Especially since it serves as a place of pilgrimage for Orthodox Christians. It's an impressive stronghold of churches, homes and an underground system of passages in which important historical figures are buried. You can visit this place for a reasonable price, there is a lot to be seen. Church services regularly take place and I would certainly recommend attending one. People often place candles and say a prayer. This is a customary ritual, faith has an important place in the lives of most Ukrainians. There is another monastery elsewhere in the city, smaller and less impressive. There are also many beautiful churches and cathedrals to visit in Kiev, they are usually open all days of the week. Consider visiting the churches of St. Michael, St. Sophia and St. Andrew. The latter is a beautiful little church along a steep cobbled street. There are also stalls where you can buy souvenirs and paintings. It is a picturesque scene.

Art Nouveau

Near the center is also a botanical garden. The exterior of the Mariinsky Palace and the park there are really worthwhile. You can find them near the Ukrainian parliament and the stadium of Dynamo Kiev. Bankova Street is also of interest. Here, you will find the presidential administration building and residence. This residence is a striking building in Art Nouveau style. The facade shows many animal forms, making the building very attractive and extraordinary.

Nightlife and streetlife

Like other large cities, Kiev has many entertainment venues, including restaurants, eateries, bars, cafes, night clubs and discos. On the street you'll find plenty of opportunities to buy food or drink. There are also many kiosks and practically anything is sold on the street. Many people come here to earn some extra money, selling fruits and vegetables from their own garden, for instance.

We could go on and on about Kiev. Most importantly, you should see this place with your own eyes, so you can have your own impressions and experiences.



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