Pronounced “Keev” by Ukrainians, Eastern Europe’s oldest Slavic city — 1,500 years strong — is full of magnificence and mystery. Reached via the Dnieper River, which pours into the Black Sea, Kiev is home to opulent turrets and cupola-topped Byzantine buildings, some of them the homes of former nobility and others present-day churches. The cruise pier leads directly to a walkable adventure through the tourist-friendly Right Bank, although public transport is also readily available.
What We Love
The Food: Nix notions of bland plebeian fare. Kiev’s culinary scene includes everything from Asian to Mexican cuisine. But for traditional Ukrainian dishes such as borscht (beet soup) and pierogi (dumplings), some with unexpected twists, head to downtown restaurant Taras Bulba.
Amazing Architecture: The Right Bank is key to Kiev’s history. Saint-Sophia Cathedral, its oldest church, was built in 1037 with a 13-cupola roof and an interior full of murals and mosaics. Also, Kiev’s rich Jewish history is revered at the Brodsky Synagogue and Golda Meir memorial.
Best Known For
Vodka: Yes, it’s a cliché, but vodka is the adult drink of choice. Sip it straight, or enjoy a blend from the budding mixologist bar scene in Independence Square. Bring home a bottle of the coveted Khortytsa, rarely found in the States.
Its Soviet Past: Although hammer-and-sickle images have been mostly erased (Ukraine achieved independence in 1991), the scent of Soviet authority still permeates the air. Try to take a picture of the old KGB headquarters and grim-faced guards will point to the Cyrillic sign banning photos.
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Who It's Best For
The Culture Club: Museums galore are dedicated to the Ukraine’s world contributions, from art and technology to medicine. Music lovers can attend an afternoon or evening performance of Tchaikovsky’s "Swan Lake" or "The Nutcracker" at the grand National Opera of Ukraine.
Political Pundits: Those fascinated by the Ukraine’s complicated history, from its World War II German occupation to Soviet Union ties, and ultimately independence, will find a goldmine of information in the city’s Great Patriotic War Museum.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Chernobyl May Be a No-Go: Many tourists are interested in visiting Chernobyl, site of the infamous 1986 nuclear power plant disaster. It’s about 60 miles from Kiev. Know that security is strict, and tours may be cancelled at any time due to the political climate.
Chanize Thorpe is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Brides and Uptown.