Ukraine had recently been serving as a big juicy temptation for me. It’s a huge country with no doubt plenty to see and it’s actually extremely cheap to get to. And I’d heard that it’s capital city Kiev was actually quite a beautiful place with a distinctly European vibe. I was talking over my plans to visit with my friend Edd at the pub one day and I must have been particularly convincing about it because he decided then and there to join me. So over a couple of beers we booked our trip. Just a short weekend in June to Kiev that ended up happening just a week after my trip to Florence. Despite Edd and me meeting in school and being friends for 10 years, we had never been abroad together before which I could scarcely believe!

Streets of Kiev near our hostel
Viewpoint of the Dnieper River

One of Edd’s stipulations of coming was that we got a room in a hostel somewhere without having to share with a bunch of strangers. So I booked us a twin room no problem. However when we arrived at the hostel, our booking had not been processed properly so we ended up having to share anyway. The girl who worked in the hostel was a little odd and unwelcoming – and we found behind a curtain in our room a bed which I presumed was her’s, surrounded by paintings of naked men. So that was nice.

Some of the tasteful art from the hostel

Kiev was definitely one of those places where I wasn’t sure what to expect. Consequently I was pleasantly surprised to see how clean, relaxed and grand it was. The city mostly sits on one side of the huge Dnieper river which is a delight to view from one of the many hills in the city, each one crowned with a stunning golden domed orthodox church. We climbed the hills in the sweltering heat, sought shade in the manicured parks and admired the incredible architecture.

St. Andrew’s Church
St Michael’s Monastery

In a search for a famous old Russian bazaar, we ended up at the National Expo Center, which had no bazaar but did have a dog show, an ice sculpture museum and lots of places to get very good, very cheap barbecue food. Visiting this distant part of the city may have been a bit of a fail, but at least we had the experience of riding the Kiev underground! (also very good value)

Photo op at the Expo Center!
Absurdly good value barbecue! You can’t see them but there were these huge warm pieces of bread stuffed with cheese that were legit the best thing we ate on the whole trip.

We made it to the impressive and imposing Motherland Monument. It was one of the first things that caught my attention upon arriving to the city as it’s absolutely huge! The park it was located in was also littered with tanks and other war machines which were really good fun. Plus a lot of stark monuments and memorials to various wars and conflicts. There were plenty of reminders that there is a still an ongoing conflict with Russia… scary stuff!

Edd with the Motherland Monument and a tank in the Ukrainian colours
Ukrainian tank and me!
Some of the incredible monuments in the park

A day trip to Chernobyl was kind of out of the question, but we did manage to visit the museum about the disaster. Unfortunately there wasn’t much to read in English and we didn’t fancy doing the tour. I enjoyed the interactive quiz that berated you for not paying attention when you got most of it wrong though! (which happened because I couldn’t understand anything) I was particularly amazed by the before and after photos. I’ve been curious about visiting Chernobyl for years, I’d love to make it there next time!

One of the last places we saw was Independence Square, the location of many protests over the years. Protests for what you ask? Well I recommend you google that because I definitely cannot remember. Sorry!

Independence Square

Edd and I had a pleasant time in Kiev. We prioritised drinking £2 beers and £3 aperol spritzes, ate some good food and found the best views. There was plenty more to see though – we could have checked out the museums or visited the beach that was situated on the other side of the river, which we heard great reviews of. I’d happily revisit Kiev at a later date and it was definitely a good idea to check out for a couple of days!

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