A Local's Guide to Kiev with Ksenia Pletnova

Ksenia Pletnova is a professional tour guide and has welcomed visitors from 65 countries around the world to Kiev.  Her favourite part of the job is seeing people fall in love with the city after arriving with no expectations. Here are her top recommendations for a first-time visitor...

 

Breakfast

"The pie bakery and coffee shop "Nikolay" is the perfect place to enjoy breakfast. They specialise in delicious  freshly baked sweet and savoury pies – beef, lamb, chicken, vegetarian, cheese, fruit and berries – take your pick. I always go for their rasberry pie, accompanied by a cup of herbal tea.

Coffee

Coffee culture is taken so seriously in Ukraine. There are coffee shops, cafes and coffee kiosks almost everywhere you look. My favourite is ONE LOVE espresso bar. It's kind of a hidden gem, not easy to find if you're not a local, but I highly recommend it.  It's a very hip place and draws lots of young people. Drink coffee and play chess or check out their selection of art books. It's the kind of place where people go to work and chill out in equal measures. I recommend their cappuccino made with homemade almond milk.

Hidden Gems

Kiev is a vibrant city where old meets new. This is especially true in terms of art. Pay attention as you walk through the streets of Kiev.  

In recent years, international artists have made the city their canvas.

Talented artists from Ukraine, Spain, Argentina, Australia and Portugal have all made their mark.  Usually you'll find their work hidden on the grey walls of old houses in the very heart of the city.

If travelling with kids, visit the Landscape Alley. Part art installation, part children’s playground, it's filled with whimsical animal statues and contemporary art sculptures.

Dinner

Ostannya Barykada is one of my favourite restaurants in the city. Its name means “The Last Barricade”. It's a hidden place where you need to know the password to get in.  FYI it's "Boritesya Poboryte" which is a famous phrase by prominent Ukrainian writer Taras Shevchenko meaning “keep on fighting and you will overcome anything”. They  specialise in Ukrainian food made from local products - you won't find Coca Cola here!  I always go for their Chicken Kyiv with pumpkin salad and goats cheese. Yummy!

Three Must-Dos

1. Explore the history. Get to know why Kiev is called “The city of Golden Domes” and how old the St Sophia Cathedral is. Visit Motherland monument, Kyiv Pechersk Lavra (monastery in the caves), the museum of Chernobyl and the museum of a countryside life Pyrohiv. 

2. Go for a dinner in a traditional Ukrainian restaurant and taste our world-famous Borsch, a soup made from grated beet stir-fried with tomatoes and other vegetables and served with sour cream. It’s heavenly delicious! Ukrainian wine and craft beer is a must too!  

3. Sample the nightlife. When the sun goes down in Kiev, the nightlife scene heats up! Party with locals in the city's many bars, pubs and clubs - everyone here dances till dawn. 

Best Time to Visit

April to October is generally considered high season. During the warm days in May, many of the city's trees are in full bloom, it's a beautiful time to see the city.

In the summer months, you can swim in Dnipro river and sunbath at the beach, enjoy a cocktail and listen to music. In autumn,  all green areas in Kiev turn red, yellow, orange, brown. It's very romantic! There's also a very popular marathon in Kiev in October. 

Winter is a cosy time to visit -  Christmas and New Year fairs fill the city with the sweet smell of cinnamon, hot wine and gingerbread.

Shopping

Everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to caviar and craft beer can be found at the Bessarabskyi market. You can't miss it, the location is right in the centre of the city. Don't be afraid to haggle. 

One of the best shopping malls in Kiev is Ocean Plaza. Here you'll find around 400 stores and 40 restaurants.

For ancient things and souvenirs, check out Petrivka flea market on Saturday and Sunday morning. 

Bonus Tips

Never ever try to catch a taxi on the street. Especially avoid taxis that are parked at the main tourist locations. They will charge you a fortune! Locals always use Uber and Uklon apps - it is worth downloading these before you arrive. You may have to wait on your taxi for a little longer, but at least you'll know the price in advance.

Avoid people in costumes or with pigeons, even if they insist on taking a photo with you. They'll charge for that.

And finally...

Some people confuse Ukrainian culture with Russian culture, please don't be one of those people!  Ukranians are proud of our unique cultural heritage and language. 

Also, we don't wear ushanka-hats, and it's NOT that cold in winter. The best way to enjoy Kiev is to leave all preconceived ideas at home and let yourself  be open to new experiences. You will be truly amazed by the Ukrainian hospitality, cultural heritage, delicious food and vibrant nightlife."

 

Flights to Kiev