10 unusual things to see and do in Kiev

Visiting Kiev in Ukraine: what to do and ideas for off-the-beaten-track tours? Here are our top 10 unusual things to do in Kiev!

How can you visit Kiev without going to the tourist haunts and following guidebook itineraries to the letter? Like all destinations, the Ukrainian capital has its share of unusual things to do, to travel differently. Gone are the Orthodox basilicas, museums and gardens that you visit just to fill your memory card with banal photos.

Kiev, between Eastern Europe and Central Asia, had a population of 2.9 million in 2018. Crossed by the Dnieper River, Kiev became a city in the 9th century and has a turbulent history, torn between the empires of Europe and Russia. After becoming the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1920 following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, Ukraine experienced one of the most painful episodes in its history during the Nazi Occupation, during which, between 1941 and 1943, Kiev emerged as a hero-city, one of the fiercest bastions of Soviet resistance against Nazism. Opened up to the market economy after the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, Kiev became a major European capital and a major economic, financial and cultural center of the country.

What’s the most unusual way to visit Kiev? Here’s our spotlight on this trendy destination!

1. A cruise on the Dnieper

Kiev, Dniepr

What else is there to do in Kiev but cruise its waterways? For an unusual view of the city, a cruise on the Dnieper River is a must! Admittedly, it’s not an out-of-the-ordinary activity, but it’s an opportunity to enjoy beautiful views of the city’s banks as you sail from north to south or vice versa.

Have you enjoyed Budapest from the Danube, Paris from the Seine or Istanbul from the Bosphorus? Enjoy the day and night views of the Ukrainian capital from the Dnieper. The Dnieper is an ideal stopover for cruises. A guided tour will reveal the role played by the river in the city’s history since Antiquity.

2. A gourmet tour of Kiev’s restaurants

Varenyky

Photo credit: Pixabay – pasja1000

Ah, because you were planning to visit Kiev without tasting Ukrainian specialties? That would have been a shame, as Ukrainian gastronomy is renowned and Kiev is home to some excellent restaurants where you can eat for cheap.

Book your gastronomic tour of Kiev and discover the famous Borsch – a traditional beet soup -, Varenyky –ravioli filled with meat, purée or cheese -, Oseledets – pickled herring with onions -, Galoubtsi-cabbage rolls stuffed with meat -, vodkas and local beers.

3. Skiing in downtown Kiev

Kiev

Photo credit: Wikimedia – Kiyanka

Skiing in Kiev? Yes, snow covers the ground for an average of 98 days, from mid-November to the end of March, and the average height of this white powder is 20 centimetres in February, with accumulations of up to 4 metres over the whole winter.

To keep young and old alike entertained, two ski lifts have been installed in the city center, and the municipality has made rental equipment available so you can ski right in the middle of the city! Even if the runs are short, skiing right in the center of a European capital city is still out of this world!

Also read in the Kiev guide :

4. The Kiev funicular

Built in 1904 and opened the following year, the funicular is a means of transport in Kiev, linking the lower town – Podol district – to the upper town, the historic center. It can be accessed by paying for a conventional metro ticket or buying tokens individually, and climbs a hill for just 220 meters, in the Volodymyrska Hirka park.

The ride takes just 3 minutes, but it gives you a good view of the Dnieper and the city.

5. Visit Kiev by night and by bike

Kiev

Not sure what to do in Kiev? At night, the city sparkles with a thousand lights. Take advantage of balmy summer evenings or warm spring days to discover the Ukrainian capital by night, on foot or by bike!

You can book a bike online with the BimBimBikes platform, for example. Beware of traffic, however: cycling to visit Kief is unusual, but not without its risks!

6. Bessarabska Square

Kiev

Photo credit: Wikimedia – Tiia Monto

Looking for other unusual things to do in Kiev? What if, instead of scouring the city’s museums, you immersed yourself in the people of Kiev, smelling the scent of local produce – fruit and vegetables, charcuterie and meats – tasting Ukrainian specialties in a popular atmosphere, and all in the heart of the city?

The Bessarabsky market is a covered market held on the square of the same name, an extension of Kiev’s main thoroughfare (Khreshchatyk). This long avenue cuts through the Old Town district and leads to Maïdan Square. Here you’ll find a teeming population, shops, bars and restaurants galore, and remnants of Stalinist architecture.

7. Arsenalnaya metro station

Arsenalnaya is the name of a famous Kiev metro station. Why visit Arsenalnaya to discover Kiev? Because it’s the deepest metro station in the world, plunging 105.5 meters into the underground. It takes 5 minutes to descend to the bottom of the metro mouth! Excavated in 1960 at the height of the Cold War, it was built as an atomic shelter to protect the population from a possible nuclear bombardment of Kiev.

Nearby are the Arsenalnaya Museum, the Cathedral of Lavra of the Caves, Victory Park, the Motherland Statue and Vishnoyi Slavi Park, Slavic Park and theHolodomor Memorial.

8. Private lounge pools

Kiev has a cold, temperate climate, but you can still go for a swim in private outdoor pools. Although very popular, they offer the advantage of being inexpensive. Among these pools, two are a must: the City Beach Club at Ocean Plaza and the Olmeca, located on Dolobetskiy Hydropark Island in the middle of the banks of the Dnieper.

If you feel like lounging in the open air on a summer’s day, don’t hesitate!

9. Shooting ranges

Do you like guns? We’re not really, but since you insist… You can also visit Kiev and take a shooting course, learning to aim right at a target with American or Soviet firearms (the famous Kalashnikov « AK-47 »). It’s also an opportunity to discover the weapons – anti-tanks, machine guns, rifles, etc. – used by the French army. – used by the army of the Russian Empire and the Red Army, from the end of the 19th century to the Second World War, and during the Cold War until the fall of the USSR in 1991.

Of course, you’ll be aiming and shooting under the supervision of a seasoned instructor, who will support you in handling the weapons safely. If this sounds like a creepy activity to us, it may still appeal to you, but note that you won’t be able to fire the AK-47 in bursts anyway! In Ukraine, we shoot by the shot.

There are several shooting centers in Kiev, and travel agencies even offer online ticket booking services!

10. Going out in Kiev: party bars

Kiev

Photo credit: Flickr – spoilt.exile

It’s often said that you should save the best for last: visiting Kiev also means coming into contact with a young, student crowd in the city’s many bars and discos. Places to go out are concentrated in the historic center, and Kreschatyk Street is closed to traffic on weekends and public holidays.

Kiev’s nightlife is renowned throughout Europe for being very lively, even wild. You can dance the night away, get drunk, hit on each other, dance the night away and drink and laugh with your friends. In short, the list of places to party is long!

Map of hotels and accommodation – Kiev,ua