On 24th February 2022, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. I visited Ukraine in 2019 and this post is an account of my time there plus the travel advice relevant for that period. Most governments have currently advised against all travel to Ukraine so please review travel guidelines to this area provided by your government. This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure about affiliate links here.
With a population of 2.8m, Kiev is one of the largest cities in Europe. However, its historic centre is very walkable. In this post I’ll outline a self-guided Kiev walking tour that will showcase the main sites for visitors who only have one day available for sightseeing.
Just a note: Kyiv is how Ukrainian speakers spell their capital city where as Kiev is the Russian spelling. However, Kiev is how the city is referred to on major international travel sites and is the version I’ll refer to here.
I can appreciate that there are a variety of spellings for the individual sites and places that I mention in this post. The spellings I use are from English-language guidebooks and Google Maps so apologies in advance for any confusion caused.
As I outlined in my Ukraine Travel Tips post, I enjoyed my trip to Ukraine. Kiev equally comes recommended. Information on transport and accommodation is listed at the end of this post.
KIEV WALKING TOUR START POINT: THE MAIDAN
Also known as Maidan Nezaleznoshti, or simply the Maidan, this is the main square in central Kiev. Over the last 30 years, it has been the site of political rallies and revolutions. Most of the architecture here dates back to the Stalin era. At the southern end lies Independence Monument which towers over the whole square.
If the Maidan is the main square then nearby Khreshchatyk Street is considered the main street. One can find plenty of cafes, street stalls and international retailers here.
Turn onto Bohdana Khmelnytskoho Street and get the metro red line from Teatralna to Universytet. Upon exiting onto Tarasa Shevchenko Boulevard, the Fomin Botanical Gardens will be across the road. Take a left to see the exquisite St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral.
Approximately 200 metres beyond St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral, take a left onto Volodymyrska Street. There are a number of interesting sites here.
The Pedagogical Museum of Ukraine is on right-hand side of the street whereas further up on the left is the stunning National Opera of Ukraine opera house.
Approximately 200 metres further on lies the Zoloti Vorota/Golden Gate which was the main entrance into the ancient city of Kiev. Excellent cafes are in the immediate vicinity of Zoloti Vorota so a good place to re-fuel.
Continue along Volodymyrska Street where you will find St. Sophia’s Cathedral and the cobbled Sofiyivska Square.
Volodymyrska Street continues beyond Sofiyivska Square where the end of the street begins to slope downwards. On the left-hand side lies the ruins of Desyatynna Church. A number of souvenir stalls are located in this area.
A few metres beyond lies St. Andrew’s Church. The church itself was closed during my visit but the grounds were open at a fee. The view of eastern Kiev from the grounds was exceptional and worth the small fee.
St. Andrew’s Church marks the start of Andriivskyi Descent, a sloped cobbled street which easily gets the prize for Kiev’s most quaint street.
There are plenty of cafés and restaurants here so you could mark this as the half way point on this self-guided Kiev walking tour. However, there’s a sizeable amount of eateries in Podil if you’re willing to wait a few minutes.
At the bottom of Andriivskyi Descent lies Podil, an area with pre-Soviet architecture. I really liked the vibe of this area and would consider it a good place to stay. It’s an equally good place to have lunch and hang out.
Exit Kontraktova Square in Podil via Petra Sahaidachnoho Street and walk as far as Poshtova Ploscha. Take the funicular up through Volodymyrska Hill Park. Upon exiting the funicular station, the St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery complex will be on the left-hand side. This large but peaceful area is an excellent place to catch your breath.
Leave St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery complex via the Mykhailivs’ka Square/Triokhsviatytelska Street exit to see two interesting monuments.
The first one is dedicated to the 1933 Famine victims. The second one runs along the Triokhsviatytelska Street wall of the monastery and is dedicated to those who have lost their lives in the recent war against Russia in the east of the country.
For the final leg of the tour, walk down Mykhailivs’ka Street to reach Maidan Nezaleznoshti.
OTHER PLACES OF INTEREST IN KIEV
The above walking tour itinerary could easily be stretched out over two days if you wanted to do some shopping or attend a cultural event while in the Ukrainian capital.
I visited Kyevo-Pecherska Lavra complex in Pechersk, colloquially known as The Lavra. To fully see this site allow half a day. I took the metro to Arsenalna and walked along Lavrska Street.
Beyond the Lavra is Rodina Mat, the enormous Motherland monument which is visible from miles around.
A couple of kilometres North West of the centre is Babyn Yar, a site where the Nazis massacred approximately 34,000 of Kiev’s Jewish community in September 1941. Up to 100,000 members of other ethnic groups were subsequently massacred by the Nazis here as well.
Outside of Kiev, I went on a Chernobyl Day Trip. It took up one whole day of my stay in Kiev but was well worth visiting.
GETTING AROUND KIEV:
I made use of Kiev’s metro system which was easy to use. I bought a ticket from either a cashier or an automated machine. At the time of my visit (2019), a single ticket cost 8 UAH which is less than €0.25! Metro stations are indicated by a green M letter.
Kiev’s metro system is one of the deepest in the world so expect escalator rides of several minutes. At a depth of 105.5m, Kiev’s Arsenalna is the deepest metro station in the world. Some of the metro stations had palatial décor and reminded me of St. Petersburg’s system.
I saw Uber and Bolt taxi services in Kiev but didn’t use them.
GETTING FROM BORYSPIL AIRPORT TO KIEV CITY CENTRE:
The apartment I stayed in arranged for a taxi pick-up. It cost a little more than a regular airport taxi but was worth it. Uber and Bolt can do airport pick-ups and are the cheapest taxi service.
The Boryspil Express train runs from Boryspil to the central train station (Pasazhyrskyi).
The Sky Bus connects Boryspil to the Pivdennyy terminal of the central train station. This service makes a stop at Kharkivska metro station.
BEST PLACE TO STAY IN KIEV
I stayed in near St. Sophia’s Cathedral which meant Maidan Nezaleznoshti was a 5 minute walk downhill. Podil is a good area given the amount of restaurants and cafes plus Kontraktova Square has a metro station. I’ve seen some bloggers recommend the area around Zoloti Vorota.
A wide variety of accommodation can be found on booking.com. Use the map search function on booking.com to narrow the search to the above areas.