The first thing on my mind when jumping on the Wizz Air flight from Lisbon to Kiev also referred to as Kyiv by the locals was what was going to be in store for me in the Ukrainian capital. I was heading over there for Atlas Weekend Music Festival, the largest festival in the country and one of the biggest events in Eastern Europe. With a population of over 4 million, I knew that there must be some fun things to do in Kiev; from weird and wonderful sites to action-packed activities. Here are five rad things to do in Kiev, Ukraine.
Just outside the city centre on Trukhaniv Island, right on the Dnieper River, you can rent a number of different bikes to go cruising around the Island. It’s pretty straight forward to get to. I jumped off a bus at Pivnichnyl Bridge and headed towards the signs to X-Park, an action sports complex (but more about that later). Right outside the entrance of X-Park is a bike rental. As the island is a mix of dirt and sand single tracks, I opted for a fat bike cruiser. It’s a super route around the Island with loads of secluded beaches to chill and take in the views of the Dnieper.
Veliki.ua is a Ukrainian rental network with locations available throughout the country. The city of Kiev has 20 locations alone, offering a wide variety of bike rental options. The location we rented from was the ‘Bicycle rental point near Park Druzhby Narodov’. To get here, you can take any trolleybus to Petrovka Station, or a shuttle bus towards Troyeshchyna to the stop ‘Park Druzhbiy Narodov’.
Veliki rentals offer a wide selection of bike options to choose from. The cheapest and most basic option is the City Bike, which is available for 75 UAH (around 3 euros) per hour, 200 UAH (around 7 euros) for 5 hours and 250 UAH (around 9 euros) for the whole day. Other bike options include the 24”/26” MTB, Haibike/Cayman/Cruiser, Tandem and the FatBike/Tricycle. FatBikes are available from 150 UAH (around 5 euros) per hour and 600 UAH (around 21 euros) for the whole day.
Children’s bicycles, bicycle trailers, children’s seats and wheel-trailers are also available to rent, as well as a wide variety of accessories including lights, bike bags, helmets, locks and more. Rental conditions also require a deposit in the form of cash (around 3000-5000 UAH depending on the type of rental) or a form of ID (passport or drivers license) and a small cash deposit of around 250-500 UAH.
Yep, I know what you’re thinking… there are no waves in Ukraine; hell, there isn’t even a sea! That doesn’t stop it being a massive draw for hitting up the river and going wakesurfing. I found out that you could wakesurf at X-Park, a massive complex which has every action sport going that you can imagine; from skateboarding, wakeboarding, indoor skydiving, motocross. You name it, they have it here!
I’d never tried wakesurfing and being deprived of waves for a few months, I was super keen to give it a go. Right on the water in X-Park next to the cable wake park are a number of different rentals. I stumbled into City Swell, who have a wicked bar and offer wakesurfing lessons. They gave me a 10-minute introduction on the dock about the best way to get out of the water, which was super useful; hopefully, it would pay off in the river!
I was given my board, some grom 4’7 foot looking shortboard with fins; almost like a skimboard. I couldn’t wait to get out there and give it a try. We hopped on the boat and ventured into the Dniper River. I jumped overboard and was given the rope. The instructor Marina was saying just relax and remember to use your heels to get up, bend your legs and let the rope do the work. As the boat took off, I tried to remember everything she was telling me and slowly but surely, managed to get on my feet. It’s a weird feeling, a bit like wakeboarding, skateboarding and surfing combined.
The main difference to surfing is that all your weight needs to be on your front foot to stay on the wave, otherwise, you lose it and fall back into the water. I managed to get 10 goes in 15 minutes and was absolutely knackered afterwards. It was so much fun and I can’t wait to try it out again!
City Swell surf school is located in Muromets Park, just outside the city centre by Pivnichnyi Bridge. The easiest way to get to the park is via car; however, public transport options are also available. Located just a short walk from the Veliki.ua bike rentals; you can take the subway or shuttle bus to the park.
The cost of wake surfing with City Swell varies, starting at 900 UAH (around 32 euros). The price includes a 30-minute lesson made up of 20 minutes of training on the beach and 10 minutes riding a boat with a trainer. The board, wetsuit and vest rental is also included in the initial price. Following the lesson, it is recommended to take a ’20-minute workout’ on one of three boats. The workouts vary depending on the type of boat and range from 1600 – 2000 UAH (around 57 – 72 euros).
The largest nuclear disaster in the world happened at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant on April 26, 1986. Located 134km from Kiev, approximately two hours away; the devastation was catastrophic and the radiation and air pollution fatalities were in the thousands. A recent TV series amply named Chernobyl, about the disaster, came out in May 2019; putting Chernobyl on the map once again and back in the public eye.
You can now arrange tours with Chernobyl Tour to go to the town of Pripyat and Chernobyl and actually visit the nuclear plant where the disaster happened. I jumped on an organized city tour in Kyiv about Chernobyl. We were picked up from next to Independence Square in the city centre in one of the old buses that took workers to Chernobyl. Before getting onto the bus, there was a reenactment of testing the vehicle for radiation poisoning.
The bus took us to Ukrainian National Museum Chernobyl. Housed in a 20th-century building, the museum gives an enactment of the disaster; with hundreds of artefacts from the power plant and stories from those people that were involved. After the museum tour, we got back on the bus and headed through the city, passing numerous monuments and historical sites.
Right smack bang in the middle of Kiev is not the normal everyday activity. You would expect a Segway tour or hopping on a bike. On the centre of the pedestrian bridge hanging 40 meters above Dnipro River is Kiev’s very own form of bungee jumping known as the rope jump. The guys at Bez Mezh will hook you up for 200 UAH (around 7 euros), which is easily the cheapest buzz you can get! Rock music is pumped out of the speaker on the bridge to get you psyched up. Once you are strapped in, it’s time for the nerve-racking walk up the stepladder to the jumping point!
The Rope Jump takes place on the Parkovy Pedestrian Bridge, above the Dnipro River along the heart of the city.
The bridge is easy to find and accessible by public transport. You can take the metro to Poshtova Ploshcha Station, followed by a short walk across the road to the pedestrian bridge. Located in the heart of the city, you can also reach the bridge on foot in just under 30 minutes from the city centre.
The Bez Mezh Team is a unique combination of ‘active enthusiasts and adrenaline maniacs’. The team of professionals is known for creating unforgettable experiences and emotions through exciting travels and original events. Combining unique opportunities in the heart of the city, Bez Mezh creates the perfect memorable experience for not only the extreme sportsman but any ordinary traveller who wants a holiday to remember.
Towering over the whole of Kiev is the tremendous stainless steel Motherland Monument. Standing at a whopping 62 meters high, it claims the title of the highest monument of it’s kind in Eastern Europe. The Motherland Monument is part of the National Museum of History of Ukraine in the Second World War.
This I had to see! I had heard that you could climb to the top of the shield, making for one of the best views in the city! The Shield itself weighs in at 13 tons, along with a 16-meter sword which can be seen above.
Making a reservation is the best bet to secure your spot on the climb, as they only accept two people at one go and the tour up takes an hour. Luckily, I managed to squeeze in the afternoon I arrived at the National History Museum that day. I got a ticket, signed the waiver and gave my details. I was asked by the reception is I was prepared to climb, if I have an appropriate fitness level and was okay with tight spaces. Where the hell was I going?
I had a bit of time to check out the Museum, which was incredibly interesting and well worth exploring as they have so many military artefacts. You get a better understanding of the Ukraine’s position and the devastation that happened during World War 2.
I met my guide Vladimir at the reception. There were only two of us on the climb up, which gave it this sense that we are not on your everyday tourist trip. First stop was to get in the soviet style elevator to the first platform, followed by a second lift. Then it was time to jump in our harness strap into the side railing and step by step, climb up the ladder. It’s a crazy feeling being enclosed, ascending up the stairs; I felt like I was in some kind of submarine hundreds of meters below the sea.
We finally got to the top and there is a small hatch, which you have to climb through to take you to the 2m x 2m viewing platform in the shield of the Motherland Monument. The view is absolutely incredible from up there; easily a highlight of the trip and a must-do for anyone interested in checking out the views and certainly one of the best things to do in Kiev.
The Motherland Monument is located just southeast of the city centre by the Dnipro River. The location is easily accessible via public transport, with bus stops located just outside the park. You can take bus route 55 to ‘Staronavodnytska St’ or ‘Heroiv Velykoi Vitchyznianoi Viiny Square’, followed by a short walk.
The nearest major airport is Kiev Boryspil Airport, which is located around 30 minutes from the city centre. The easiest way to get from the airport into the city is via train or bus. The airport’s train station is located around 100 metres north of Terminal D and trains operate frequently with a travel time of around 40 minutes into the city centre. Tickets are 80 UAH (around 3 euros) for adults and 60 UAH (around 2 euros) for children.
There is also an express bus service called the Sky Bus (line 322), which travels between the airport and the main railway station Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi. The buses are located outside Terminal D and can be recognized by the bright purple exteriors. Tickets are 100 UAH (around 3.50 euros) for a single journey and 200 UAH (around 7 euros) for a return ticket.
The city of Kiev offers a variety of public transport options from the metro to buses, trolley-buses and trams. The metro is the quickest and easiest way to get around. There are three metro lines; M1-Red, M2-Blue and M3-Green; all lines pass through the city centre. The tickets are super affordable at UAH 8 (around 0.30 euros), making it the cheapest metro ticket in Europe! All the areas that could not be reached by metro were easily accessible by bus. Fares are also 8 UAH; however, you can only pay with cash.
From my experience, I found that the best way to get around by far was taking the metro. There were plenty of buses available as well; however, everywhere we needed to be was accessible by the metro. Taxis were available but were quite dodgy and felt like a complete rip-off. It is known that the traditional taxi companies are not quite up to standard and it is recommended to avoid them. The city does however also have rideshare services in the form of Uber and Uklon. While I did not test these out, they are highly recommended and generally provide good experiences. They are also easily accessible through mobile apps.
The city of Kiev features so many hidden gems you can find just by wandering the streets. One of the best hidden gems is Kiev’s extensive display of murals; with more than 150 unique murals located throughout the city. Many of the paintings take up entire walls and have their own unique history and story behind them.
Ditch the traditional tours and explore the city on a bike! Renting a bike is one of the best ways to get around and allows the flexibility to see all the attractions you want to see and stop wherever you want along the way.
Ukraine is the home of hospitality and delicious food and an opportunity to try out the local cuisine should not be missed. Popular local dishes include the Kievskaya Kotleta (a Kiev cutlet made of chicken) and Kievskiy Tort, a unique local cake.
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