I think the first reaction from most people when I said we were going to Kyiv was "Um ok..." and I completely get that. Kyiv doesn't have the same international allure of Paris or Rome , and to be honest, that was one of the reasons we wanted to go. We wanted to go somewhere a little different, a little less crowded, and somewhere that would give us the opportunity to discover a place we knew little about.
Visit Independence Square
A visit to Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti) is an absolute must when you're visiting Kyiv, it was the scene of the 2013 Euromaidan protests which brought Kyiv into the international spotlight. You probably recall the extreme images & videos shared across social media of barricaded protesters being attacked by riot police grabbing headlines the world over.
Kyiv Pechersk Lavra
The Kyiv Pechersk Lavra is an area in central Kyiv which has become an important Christian site owing to its many cathedrals and churches. It's easy to see why Kyiv Pechersk Lavra is one of the most popular places to Kyiv, the place is huge! There is so much to explore that you definitely need to add in some extra time to see it all.
You get the impression that the Lavra is pretty big when you arrive at the ticket office and spend a good 5 minutes trying to determine what you want to see inside the complex. As with most museums in Kyiv, there will be a photography licence to purchase if you wish to take photos. There are multiple buildings; including the famous The Great Bell Tower, Church of the Assumption, Museum of Micro-miniatures, Museum of Historical Treasures, and many others.
One thing you need to know that is the Lavra isn’t just about exploring a series of beautifully ornate cathedrals, the Lavra is in fact, the site of the 1000 year old CAVE monastery! And to make it even more astounding, it’s a working monastery that is still in operation today. The Monastery of the Caves was founded in 1051, all dug by hand between the 11th and 15th century, and is listed on the UNESCO world heritage list. You purchase your tickets for the caves at the back of the Lavra so it makes sense to explore the other buildings first before heading to the caves. The only way to explore the caves is with a guide so if you visit during summer then expect to share your experience with others.
Roma and I paid the 300 UAH (£9) for the next cave visit (unfortunately no photos allowed) and were lucky enough to get a private tour, one of the benefits of travelling during the colder months and our 60 min exploration of the caves was excellent. You will be given a candle to light your way during the tour.
One quick tip for the ladies, upon entry to the caves you will be asked to wear a skirt. Don’t worry if you aren’t wearing one because at the entry point there will be a basket of loan skirts which you can wear around your existing clothing. Roma was wearing jeans and was able to simply wrap the green skirt around her waist and there was no issue. Also, it’s advisable to bring your own scarf to cover your head during the visit as well.
Our guide wasn’t as enthusiastic as we would have liked but it made no difference because the history of the caves and the details of the dead monks on display made up for it.
Did I just say dead monks? Yup, I sure did. As you walk through the caves you will pass by numerous glass cases with the remains of the monks who dedicated their lives to this monastery. You will pass by pilgrims who pray and kiss the glass displays before moving on to the next chamber. Holodomor Museum
Did you know that Ukraine was the victim of a horrific man-made famine orchestrated between 1932 and 1933 which systematically killed over 7 million people?
A visit to the Holodomor Museum in Kyiv was one of the most eye-opening experiences of our entire trip and honestly left us speechless with what we learnt. The museum explains the history of the 1932/1933 genocidal famine engineered by the Soviet Union to wipe out Ukraine.
The museum is located beneath the Ukrainian Genocide Memorial. It contains various exhibits, interactive displays (also in English), and informative videos to ensure that all visitors can begin to comprehend the enormity of the Holodomor.
It is worth noting that the Holodomor has officially been recognised as an act of genocide by Ukraine since 2006 and the memorial day is the fourth Saturday every November. The anniversary coincided with our visit to Kyiv so we were able to observe many people paying their respects throughout the city.