17 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Ukraine
Ukraine may be new to most people, but this former Soviet republic was in fact once part of Russia. Today, however, it is a vibrant and diverse country, with a capital city that's home to the popular capital of Lviv and an endless series of beautiful sights.
One of the world's best-preserved landscapes, Ukraine also contains plenty of famous historic sites, like the ancient city of Kievan Rus'. You can also witness the work of the country's home-grown Tatar and Russian artists, who have set up permanent homes and studios here.
For a taste of the colorful culture and breathtaking landscape that make Ukraine so compelling, visit the capital city and the country's glorious capital, Kiev, which serves as the perfect base for exploring the rest of this enchanting land. Learn more with our list of the top tourist attractions in Ukraine.
Located on the banks of the Dnipro River, Zhytomyr's northern neighborhoods are filled with wonderful restored 18th-century wooden architecture, but it is its charming old center that sets this city apart. Old Zhytomyr has a medieval feel, with its cobblestone streets and the 400-year-old Church of the Holy Trinity, a wonderfully preserved structure that presides over one of the city's oldest neighborhoods. These lanes, called Gardeners' Row, are a must for anyone visiting Zhytomyr. After visiting the Old City, hop on a Dnipro River cruise to discover the meandering canals and thickly wooded back alleys of the Zhytomyr Old City District.
A vast medieval city ringed by the dense stone of the medieval Khreshchatyk and Potichnytsky monasteries, Kharkiv is one of the largest cities in Ukraine. Its chief attraction, however, is the country's largest and best-preserved city square, the Maidan Nezalezhnosti. Kharkiv is a natural center of Ukraine's steel and chemical industries, as well as of fashion and food production. The city also contains Russia's best-preserved medieval walls. Known for its preserved Ukrainian Baroque churches and imperial palaces, the city has been designated a Unesco World Heritage Site. Other attractions include the Rosmaryvka copper smelter, the 19th century All Saints' Cathedral with an exceptional collection of paintings and icons, the Nikolaevsky Palace with a collection of Russian art, the Khreshchatyk, a multistory former water pipe, and the 1.3-million-square-foot Kharkiv Trade and Exhibition Center. The western edge of the city is dominated by Lenin's tomb, itself a major tourist attraction. Kharkiv is a city of two rivers, the Kharkiv and the Ochakiv. Kharkiv River is known for its restaurants and vibrant nightlife. Kharkiv is an important transport hub for the Kharkiv oblast.
More than 500 years ago, merchants from Venice sailed to Ukraine to sell the amber of the Cherevkainsky region. In time, there was a surplus of amber and more Venetian merchants settled, founding a small town along the Dniester River. This interesting city is full of charming churches and narrow alleys, and for the beach-goer there are many lakes that can be rented for watersports. Odessa is a great place to find traditional wooden Ukrainian houses and interesting museums, particularly of local fashions. It's also an excellent base for day trips into the nearby city of Chernivtsi, famous for its architecture and the nearby wine and grape-growing region of Zakarpattia.
The ancient capital of Ukraine has been the capital of the country since 1686. Kievans are fiercely proud of their city and consider themselves far more cosmopolitan than other Ukrainians. But the largest city of 1.5 million people, Kiev still has much to offer: the famous St. Sophia Cathedral and the fantastically ornate St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery have survived under Soviet rule, and St Volodymyr's Cathedral, with its five gold domes, sits at the edge of the market and entertains visitors with its proud display of Ukrainian culture. History is one of the best things to do in the capital; the city's museums showcase a rich and varied collection of ancient and modern Ukrainian culture. Start with the state-of-the-art National Museum of Ukraine, a contemporary structure designed by the German architects behind the Reichstag, Berlin. The museum's Ancient Art Gallery is renowned for the dazzling jewelry collection it contains.
Dnipropetrovsk, the capital of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast in the central-eastern region of Ukraine, was founded in 1703 by the Petrovolsky brothers. Their founder, Gregory Belosevich, was a merchant. As is common in many central and eastern European cities, Dnipropetrovsk today is a mix of old and modern. The city is best known for its 2,000-year-old ice church, opened in 1987, which is the largest and best-preserved of its type in the world. A model of the San Vitale cathedral in Ravenna is the largest and most authentic ever made in the history of European building techniques, or so locals like to say. The highlight of a visit to Dnipropetrovsk is to take the country's most iconic road, Highway 57. This takes visitors through the picturesque riverside countryside on its way from the Trans-Siberian Highway in Siberia all the way to the heart of Europe.
To the northwest of Lviv, 30 minutes away by car and still a city in Ukraine's Carpathian mountain heartland, lies Chernivtsi, a mix of charm and cobblestone streets and imposing buildings that conjure up an ancient eastern European vibe. Today it is at the center of the vibrant religious and artistic life of the region, hosting some of the finest productions of religious music, dance, and theatre in the country. Yet while its atmospheric surroundings attract locals and tourists alike, Chernivtsi retains a spirit of bucolic simplicity. While exploring the surrounding countryside on your visit, consider stopping in the tiny villages and towns along the way, where a sense of alternative and unspoiled Ukraine still prevails. For example, the small town of Karishma is known for its wooden synagogue and the ancient cellars of the 18th-century Kholodny house. For people of a traditionalist bent, the original stone churches dot the surrounding towns and villages; one of the most accessible is the seventeenth-century Monastyrya, carved into the cliff-face overlooking the confluence of the Svitlyna and Karishma rivers. The city is a short distance from the national capital, Kiev, and served by a network of excellent roads. It is also relatively accessible by rail.
Lviv, known by its German name Leopoldstadt, is Ukraine's second-largest city and its cultural, political, and industrial capital. In the city center, you'll find the Baroque St. Michael's Cathedral, the National Philharmonic, the Museum of the Book, and the Andrievsky Library. Lviv was declared an Unesco World Heritage site in 2000 for the palaces and elegant buildings dating back to the 19th century. Not surprisingly, the city is home to many art galleries and museums, including the Museum of the Communist Party, which is dedicated to the famous August, a tall bronze statue and the world's tallest work of art. For the most interesting collections of Communist propaganda, there are the War Memorial, the House of Revolution, and the Kremlin, which is home to Ukraine's best collection of Soviet-era propaganda posters. The World Heritage listed Lviv Great Synagogue is Lviv's most notable landmark. At its entrance you'll see a memorial dedicated to the 1939 synagogue fire, the ashes of which were scattered over the monument. There are regular cultural events here including concerts, music recitals, and arts festivals.
Simferopol is a beautiful Black Sea port on the Crimean Peninsula. Its flat, sandy beachfront area is ringed with small marinas and restaurants. The best place to view the beach is at the Yuzhny Airport, which has a covered mall and snack bar with panoramic views of the beaches. Simferopol has some interesting buildings, such as the grand City Hall with its ornate domes and Byzantine spires. Nearby, the Petroglyphs are caves carved by ancient Crimean tribes. The city also has museums of local history and art. As the gateway to the Crimean beaches, Simferopol offers easy access to the famed resort town of Alushta on the Black Sea coast. If you are going to Simferopol, you'll need a Russian visa before you leave Russia. An international airport is located a few miles south of the city on the Simferopol peninsula. There are also regular ferry connections from Simferopol to the Ukrainian cities of Odessa and Istanbul.
Rivne, the capital of the western Ukraine region of Zakarpattia, is a pleasant city with a rich history and fascinating architecture. There are several parks with memorials to the city's history, including the lovely boulevard called Nauki Prospekt, and the large green island in the middle of the city, where a national museum, park, zoo and botanical garden are located. In addition to its rich history and historic architecture, Rivne is also home to a busy cultural and sports scene, including a number of theatres, opera houses, art galleries and museums. You can reach Rivne by train, bus, car or taxi, with the last two options being more convenient for most travelers.
A beautiful old city on the Dnieper, the second largest city in Ukraine, Zaporizhia (or Zaporizhia on the Dnieper) is known as the 'city of bridges'. It lies on the site of an old trade route between Moscow and Kiev, making the city a major industrial center in the country. The city itself is mainly the result of Soviet reconstruction. Despite the heavy-handed Communist urbanism that was employed, however, Zaporizhia has retained a couple of things: the beautiful and very narrow lined National Street (Zaporizhia-bystrisa) and the leafy boulevards of the city's old parks. Many of the city's old houses dating from the 19th century have survived. Even the apartment blocks of the 1960s built in a post-Stalinist style have been preserved. If you are interested in visiting the city, you will find that you will need some time. There are many very small islands in the Dnieper, and there is also a lot of 'forest' in the city, making sightseeing a little bit of a challenge, but that should not stop anyone from enjoying the city's natural charm. The area around the city is much less crowded than Kiev or Moscow, but travel to the city can be difficult. If you plan to visit in winter, you may need to fly to Moscow or Kiev instead, as the sea freezes in the winter. The streets of the city can be crowded, but there are more opportunities for a quiet stroll.
Chernihiv (pronounced Chiren-ha-vo, sometimes called Khorol), meaning 'black city' in Ukrainian, was once the capital of the Khorezm Khanate, one of the greatest and longest lasting khanates in the history of Central Asia. The capital of an empire that became the ruler of a significant portion of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, Khorol is also the burial place of Genghis Khan, and his famous tomb is located just outside the town. The Khorezm Khanate was for a long time one of the largest trading areas between Asia and Europe, and today a blend of Cyrillic and Latin scripts decorate the city's medieval buildings, with the Khorezmsk fortress, dating back to 1229 and covered in murals, to house the tourist centre. To the north of the city is the Battle of the Chernihiv Hussar Regiment memorial, and to the west the beautiful wooden and earth embankments of the famous Dnieper canal.
Boryspil International Airport, Kyiv
Boryspil International Airport (Boryspil) lies on the southeastern outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine. Kyiv's largest and busiest airport is at the end of the Boryspil Highway. International flights operate to major destinations in Europe, North America, Africa and Asia. International flights operating to Kyiv include the following: London Heathrow Airport (LHR), Paris (CDG), Brussels (BRU), Dublin (DUB), and Nice (NCE). Domestic flights to Kyiv are operated by Aeroflot (AF). Transportation options to Boryspil include the following: Taxi (about 90 UAH); City-trolley (5 UAH); Bus (about 1.50 UAH). Shuttle Bus service (Boryspilsky Borshchiv) costs 7.50 UAH and it takes about 50 minutes to reach Boryspil from the airport. Prices to various parts of the city are 10 UAH for each mode of transportation. Boryspil is situated on the Kamianka, a branch of the Dnipro River. The name Boryspil is associated with a 13th century city called Boryshev (literal translation of Boryspil), which was destroyed in a huge fire during the time of Prince Dmitry Bogatyryovo. The city was rebuilt and after being briefly occupied by the Swedes, was captured by the Russian troops of Vasily Zolotarev. Today, it is an administrative city.
Bakhchysarai, a town of some 20,000 in the very southwest of Ukraine, is famous for the incredible protective 'Mani-lith', stone man-shaped guardians and the 30-meter-high Jug-Dug, a menhir, or upright boulder. The Mani-lith guardians are carved with faces and wield shields to ward off evil spirits, while the huge Jug-Dug weighs some 50 tons and is surrounded by spiraling stairs that probably functioned as transportation routes for transporting the boulder up a hill. This town is also best known as the location for the 1979 film, "The Wicker Man". Not only was the principal location filmed in this region, but several other areas in Europe were also used in the movie. Director Robin Hardy originally considered this as a possible location for Robin Hood. Among the places in Bakhchysarai to visit are the Zverin Cemetery, a cemetery about a kilometer from the town center which features more than 1,000 stone carvings, most dating from the 1800s; the Mangyshlak Cave, where you can see two interesting examples of stele-like standing stones; and the Soviet-era ski resort at Kachanovka.
Chernobyl Exclusion Zone
Few places in the world are as haunting as Chernobyl, which was destroyed when a nuclear reactor exploded. The ancient Slavic town was evacuated by the thousands in anticipation of the worst radioactive fallout that could be imagined. Today, the surrounding exclusion zone is a haunting landscape of destroyed houses, abandoned airports, and a functioning nuclear power plant. Although much of the 30-mile-wide exclusion zone has been turned into a nature preserve, the nearest settlements have been forced to close off most of their public access, which remains a sensitive issue. The most popular areas for visitors are the abandoned town of Prypiat, with its viewing tower, museum and the ruins of Pripyat, and its death-camp museum. Etiquette in the zone is quite strict, but visitors can do little more than peer through the fence. Police regularly patrol the zone and inspect foreign visitors, and may ask why you are there and give you a free tour. Most places offer tours, either in groups or for those who wish to explore the area by themselves.
Uzhhorod is in the mountains and surrounded by rolling green hills. The city's site is on the banks of the Sihaliukha River, the only source of drinking water in the town. St. Vladimir's Monastery and Orthodox cathedral in the main square are good places to see. The statues and frescoes there are an early example of Ukrainian religious art and tell a story of how Christianity was accepted and celebrated in the region. Uzhhorod is best reached by car. It is well connected by public bus to Zakarpattia, which has ski resorts.
Ivano-Frankivsk, a beautiful city of a little more than one million people, nestles against the banks of the River Dnister. In the pre-war period, Ivano-Frankivsk was famous for its fine arts and architecture. It is also one of the few places in Ukraine where you can visit a fully-functional castle, with its own moat, which dates back to the 16th century. A visit here allows visitors to gain an insight into a bygone period, with the main attractions in the city including the History Museum, which contains a large collection of Russian-style furnishings and paintings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries; the castle; and the famous Smolensky square.
Lying on the banks of the River Dniester, the modern city of Lviv (known as "Lemberg" or "L'viv" in old-school Ukrainian) is a particularly scenic spot. With a population of just under two million, it is one of Ukraine's major cities and attracts a great number of both tourists and locals on sightseeing and for its famously good local cuisine. In the center of Lviv is the enormous Stare Vkrainky (Old Square), one of the most picturesque and bustling squares in Ukraine. Often overlooked due to its width, the Old Square is easily visited on foot or by trams. The building that surrounds it houses the Mausoleum of the Lviv Cossacks, a memorial to the anti-Russian Ukrainian Cossack movement of 1831–38. There are countless museums in Lviv; our favorites are the Museum of Folk Art (where displays include traditional costumes and decorative household items), the Museum of Archeology and History (with its fine display of national treasures such as gold jewelry and figurines from the Illyrian period) and the Uzhhorod National Musical Hall (with exhibits of antique musical instruments).