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Kiev’s 1,500-year-old mix of fortunes rings out loudly from caves left by scholarly monks, the dazzling blue St Michael’s, distinctive buildings by Rastrelli – the darling architect of St Petersburg –, the art collected by pre-revolutionary sugar magnates and the Babi Yar massacre memorial. The Stalin Empire architecture, Chernobyl Museum and the proud Independence Square are all part of Kiev's unique charm. The changing eras left their clear marks on the city. The stately mansions of the Lypki district are now government buildings, and the Caves Monastery, parks and Soviet statues define ancient Pechersk. The Upper City has landmark churches, and Saint Sophia's Cathedral, the greatest one of all, was modeled on the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Bohemian Andrew’s Descent delights as it winds down into 19th-century Podil, while a glance across the river offers a starkly contrasting view over the concrete forest of Soviet apartment blocks. Kiev’s music is unmissable, particularly the superb opera (and ballet!) at the Viennese-style Opera House. There is now an alternative music scene as well, which can be enjoyed in underground bars known to insiders only. Summertime is when street musicians create their art right at the city streets, filling the air with uplifting tunes and lovely melodies.
Walking along Kiev streets, one can witness many eras collide: Soviet architecture alongside orthodox cathedrals, and imperial palaces define the Ukrainian capital that has recently been shaken by quite a bit of political turmoil. Kiev has now embraced modernity and has a lot to offer – its eclectic art and cultural scene can keep busy for days on end, so make sure to plan your route ahead.
Bread is central to Ukrainian food culture, and so is borshch, a hearty and red coloured soup with beetroot. However, other local specialties are varenyky (large stuffed dumplings that can be both savoury and sweet), holubtsi (meat and rice rolled in cabbage leaves and topped with tomato sauce) and pelmeny (meat filled ravioli). Kiev’s cosmopolitan restaurants span multiple national borders, and the Japanese kitchen and fusion menus are the current big thing.
Kiev's cafe scene now boasts quite a few trendy places just like those you'd expect to find in hip neighborhoods of big European capitals. A finer, classical cafe experience awaits those who prefer a cup of coffee and slice of cake in a more sophisticated setting. From upscale to low-key, Kiev has something to offer everyone.
Unlike many European cities, most Kiev bars and clubs are open well into the night, so prepare to be out and about until day-break. Locals, expats and tourists alike mix and mingle in the nightlife establishments and their variety will offer something for all age groups and wallet sizes. Jazz and techno dance clubs, casinos, discos – whatever you’re looking for, Kiev definitely has it all.
Looking at the variety of shops and department stores in the streets of Kiev makes it hard to believe that just a couple of decades ago, shopping was practically non-existent. Today, you can find anything and everything in the fashion-conscious Ukrainian capital: while TsUM department store is known as "Kiev’s Harrods" and the posh Mandarin Plaza for its moneyed shop, Dream Town is more down to earth. Markets, bookstores and wine boutiques fill the bustling Ukrainian capital and they will keep you busy for days on end, if you just let them.
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