In part one of this guide to the best things to do in Kyiv we looked at the unmissable landmark architecture and some of the local guides favourite neighbourhoods and things to explore to get away from the tourist crowds.
In this part we’ll take a breather in two beautiful parks and a botanic garden, eat and drink like a local, and explore the two most interesting museums in Kyiv. Finally, if you want to do something completely different after a couple of days of touristy stuff, we’ll give you a few slightly more unusual suggestions.
Volodymryrska Hill is immediately behind the spectacular golden domes of St Michael’s. There are dozens of routes through the park and winding paths on the hillside.
Plenty of stalls selling cold drinks and street food. Bicycles and Segway’s for hire if your feet are already tired. You can easily spend a couple of hours relaxing here, optionally strolling around to the Friendship of Nations Arch or head the other way to the Kiev Funicular.
AV Fomin Botanical Garden
There are two botanic gardens in Kiev but if you’re in the central part of the city then the AV Fomin garden near the university, while not the biggest or most impressive, is a lovely relaxing place to have a break from all the walking.
It’s quite close to the striking yellow Volodymyr’s Cathedral, so after you’ve filled up your camera’s memory card there, head over the road to the botanic garden, grab a cold drink, and sit for a while.
Live like a local
Sample some Borscht or make your own Varenyky
Borscht is the classic Ukrainian dish and you’ll find it everywhere. If you’re vegetarian be careful because even though it’s beetroot soup it’s often made with meat based broth. Stir in some soured cream and it’s a tasty dish.
If you really want delicious and satisfying food that you can’t stop eating, then you have to try some Varenyky. Broadly similar to Polish Pierogi or Russian Pelmeni, these hot dumplings filled with variations of meat, cheese, and veg, are sometimes served in a broth but always with soured cream.
Maybe add a touch of paprika if you like a little kick. I could eat them all day long, and in Kiev you will find gorgeous little cafes and bars serving up Varenyky everywhere you look.
Try the Podli neighbourhood at the bottom of the Kiev Funicular or the Andriivskiy descent. You’ll even find cooking classes on most of the tour booking sites and you can have a go at making your own supper.
Oh man I have to stop writing now and go out to find something resembling Varenyky. Stomach is rumbling, mouth watering. I’d book a flight back to Kyiv just to get more of these gorgeous dumplings.
Explore the craft beer scene
Ukraine’s craft beer scene is exploding just like it has in the rest of Europe. As you wander around, look out for any of a thousand small bars, some making their own in-house brews.
The Podil neighbourhood is a good bet.
The scene changes all the time, and your best bet is to keep your eyes open as you explore and nip into places that appeal. Last month’s ‘Number 1 on Trip Advisor” is probably rammed with tourists.
Look for your own spot instead. One thing’s for sure, you’re no longer going to be limited to the mass-market lagers and Russian Baltika.
Enjoy free open-air concerts
There’s always something going on in Kiev. It might be street buskers or passers-by stopping to bang out a tune on a public piano, or it might be a free concert in one of the main squares.
If you’re lucky enough to be in town when one of these free concerts is going on then get yourself down there to enjoy the music and the atmosphere but also to have some utterly delicious street food.
The street food sold out of the food trucks in Kiev is not like anywhere else. Forget burgers and hot dogs, we’re talking about dumplings, oysters, Black Sea mussels and shrimps, fried potatoes with paprika and soured cream. Be on the lookout for free public events.
Get some history
Ukrainian State Museum of the Great Patriotic War
This is an easy walk from the Kyiv Perchersk Lavra and is also the site of the towering ‘Motherland’ monument.
Mainly focussed on the second world war but also covering the never-ending conflict with Russia, it’s big, comprehensive, sobering, and a fascinating insight into the war from a different point of view to any western European museums.
The Ukrainians and Russians suffered terribly. The grounds around the Motherland monument are full of old military aircraft and helicopters and the walk between here ad the Lavra is a pleasantly scenic one.
Ukrainian National Chornobyl Museum
If you’re in Kiev in order to visit Chernobyl, then check out the Chernobyl museum first. Some Chernobyl tours include a trip to the museum but it’s easy enough to do it yourself and they have audio guides in English.
Check out our guide to visiting Chernobyl and a trip report revealing what it’s really like to visit the world’s worst nuclear disaster.
Do something unforgettable
Drive a Russian tank
Kyiv Military Tours offer something a little different: Drive a second world war Soviet T-34 tank!
It ain’t cheap. It really is not cheap. But if you’re a military history fanatic then where else would you ever get to drive a Russian tank?
Take a zip wire over the Dnieper river
Near to the Friendship of Nations Arch not far from Volodymyr Hill is the start of a 500m long zipline that crosses the Dnieper river to Trukhaniv Island, which is a great place to chill out in with an ice cream on a hot summer day.
Visit skypark.com.au for details.
Eat at the Islamic market
There are quite a few halal dining spots in Kiev as the Muslim population grows, but the real treat that the locals have started to enjoy happens on Fridays at the Islamic Cultural Centre.
Between 12 and 4pm there is a lively bazaar with a mouth-watering selection of street food like lamb shawarma, rice pilafs, samosas, and assorted kebabs, all at reasonable prices.
It’s a busy community get-together for the Muslims after praying at the mosque but increasingly with all nationalities coming to enjoy the food and shop at the market for ingredients like hummus, dates, and Turkish halva, and all manner of home-made food.
Cheer for Dynamo Kyiv at the Olympiyskiy Stadium
The second largest stadium in Eastern Europe after Moscow’s Luzhniki, the Olympic stadium is home to Dynamo Kiev and also used for concerts.
It’s a very modern stadium. Euro 2012 games were played here. The Olimpiiska metro station is a 5 minute walk away. Dynamo Kiev match tickets can be bought online