As Europe’s largest country, Ukraine offers visitors many attractions, including festivals celebrating its rich culture and impressive century-old buildings. From the rolling countryside to the cobblestone streets of the old city center, Ukraine’s population is as diverse as its landscape, and they’re one of the most hospitable places in Europe.
The word “Ukraine” literally means border area, and the country has been a major invasion area from the very beginning. At various times, the territory was shared by Russia, Poland, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Romania.
Today, you’ll discover an undiscovered Eastern European gem, find your identity, and leave a unique mark on the travel world. When you visit, be sure to chat with the locals at one of the many delicious restaurants or markets. Ancient recipes are reinterpreted in a modern style. Everyone wants to practice their English, so when the conversation happens, take the opportunity to see the best of what Ukraine has to offer from a local perspective.
For sightseeing ideas, check out our list of the best Ukrainian attractions and things to do. Note: Due to recent global health and safety concerns, some businesses may be temporarily closed.
Are you familiar with the term dark tourism? Refers to travel to places associated with death and tragic events. The 9/11 monument in New York City, Alcatraz in San Francisco, Pearl Harbor, Pompeii, and the killing fields in Cambodia are common examples. Visitors to Ukraine can list the Chernobyl nuclear power plant where the disaster occurred at ground zero.
The explosion occurred in the northern Ukrainian town of Pripyat in 1989. The scene was recently opened to the public – but you must visit an approved tour company. If you’re worried about radiation, tests have shown that passengers are exposed to more radiation on transatlantic flights than during their trip to Chernobyl.
About 65 miles from Kyiv, the Chernobyl Tour is an easy full-day trip from the capital. Tour operators can pick up tourists from their hotels and drop them off after the tour. During transport, you will watch an informative video about the disaster. Authentic narrative and footage bring events to life and prepare them for future visitors.
This tour will take visitors to see many buildings, some of which look like theaters. It’s an incredibly moving experience that stays with you long after you’ve left.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Saint Sophia Cathedral named after Hagia Sophia in Istanbul has been a favorite destination for tourists since the 1980s. With its refined Baroque façade with 13 golden domes, this cathedral stands out from other historic buildings. Its beauty leads you into the stunning interior design.
Inside, you’ll find spaces filled with beautiful frescoes, ancient mosaics, and centuries-old frescoes. Visit or get the full experience with the service.
It is named St. Sophia Cathedral, named after Hagia Sophia, has been one of Kyiv’s most famous landmarks since it was built in 1037. One of the best views of Kyiv is from the clock tower – worth the hike to the top!
The city of Lviv is one of the most fascinating and well-preserved destinations in Ukraine. The entire historic center has been granted World Heritage status by UNESCO, and visitors will love walking the cobblestone streets and admiring the view.
Often referred to as the “Paris of Ukraine“, the Old Town has a very traditional European feel, with modern amenities and great restaurants. Coffee lovers will find it hard to beat the cafe scene. This is an area that takes all forms of caffeine very seriously.
For a panoramic view of the city, climb the more than 1,000 clock tower stairs. The scenery in all directions is breathtaking.
With the recent explosion of food tourism, many feel there is no better way to gain insight into a new culture through their food. Traditional Ukrainian borsch can be found in restaurants across the country. Served hot or cold, it’s the perfect example of locals stretching their ingredients during tough times, and if you’re lucky, the best version will inspire you to find recipes to make when you get home.
Sunflower oil is Ukraine’s largest export. In fact, the country is the second-largest oil producer in the world. Visitors will discover huge flower fields all over the country. From buttercup to golden orange, these dinner plate-sized beauties thrive in the region’s soil and climate.
When setting the perfect position for your selfie on Instagram, make sure you’re close to the edge of the field. The flowers are huge, and those who wander will soon find themselves lost in a sea of yellows and greens.
Do some research before your flight and find a restaurant that also offers cooking classes on the famous Ukrainian meatball vareniki. It comes in many varieties, sweet and savory, and foodies will find meat, potatoes, and cabbage, as well as sweet cherry and other local fruit flavors.
It’s so much fun to learn how to carefully seal the dough, let the restaurant cook it for you, and then feast on traditional dishes after your hard work.
The Kamenets Podolsky Castle in Kamianets-Podilskyi is just a few steps away from the Old Town and is a stunning landmark. Dating back to before the 14th century, this castle is the perfect place to take pictures and explore the valley. It reminded us of a fairytale castle.
Tour all its driveways and marvel at the manicured grounds. Although the castle is hundreds of years old, it has modern amenities like restrooms and a coffee shop to ensure you enjoy your visit. The castle is especially beautiful when it is lit up at night.
After a day of exploring, take a short trip to the old town and grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants.
Located on the beautiful Dnieper River, Mezhyhirya is the former residence of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. There’s no shortage of things to do here, and it’s probably the funniest and noisiest place I’ve been.
Today, the stately building is both a symbol and a reminder of greed and institutional corruption. Within the walls are tennis courts, a shooting range, an equestrian club, a helipad, an ostrich farm, a breeding farm, a golf course, and a hunting reserve.
Be sure to visit the Automobile Museum, which houses an ancient and exotic collection of Yanukovych cars; head to the main palace nicknamed “Honda”, or explore the cause of the thermal lake. Excess is the theme here, and some attractions are more ridiculous than others, from the exotic animals at the President’s Farm to the Spanish boat-shaped restaurant.
Housed in a historic building in the city center, the Odessa Opera Ballet is the oldest theater in Odessa, opened in 1810. Visitors can enjoy shows like Swan Lake or Madame Butterfly for the price of a cup of coffee. Here in the US. The unique horseshoe-shaped chamber provides excellent acoustics and gives the audience a full view of the performers on stage.
If you’re here when they offer tours, it’s a great way to get a behind-the-scenes look at this incredible building. Even better if you’re lucky enough to be in town for the holidays. Christmas is not to be missed.
While much controversy surrounds the origins of the famous “Russian” nesting dolls, the talent of the artisans who make them is undeniable. Visit the market to find a variety of handicrafts that highlight the country’s traditional arts. Textiles abound, notably traditional embroidered shirts, called vyshyvanka, and hand towels used in many homes across the country.
Another visitor favorite is the many vintage war items found at flea markets and the fun floral headdresses worn during holiday festivities.
Grab your flashlight or headlamp and head to Tarakaniv Fort outside Dubno, about a two-hour drive from Lviv near the Ikea River in western Ukraine. It was originally built to protect the Lviv-Kyiv railway route, and visiting it is a unique experience.
This ruin has a tunnel entrance and is not claustrophobic. Dating back to the Russian Empire, there are centuries-old tunnels and alleys to explore.
Visitors will want to arrive early to get to the attractions before the group. This is a great place for photographers, history buffs, and adventurers, but be sure to wear shoes and be aware of the occasional bumpy terrain.
The Tunnel of Love, located on the outskirts of Klevan, is another popular tourist attraction in Ukraine. For lovers and singles, the Love Tunnel is a two-mile private railway that gives the illusion of an endless tunnel. The canopy above the path is what actually makes up the “tunnel”.
Weddings and romantics flock here to make a wish or a romantic outing. According to legend, if couples make a wish together here, if they truly love, their wishes will come true. It is also one of the most photographed places in Ukraine.
If you want to see the city of Odessa from a different perspective, be sure to visit the Catacombs. Originally extracted from a rock called coquina, a soft yellowish limestone, these underground tunnels are rumored to be larger than the underpasses of Rome and Paris.
To give visitors access to Odessa’s underworld, there is a network of cellars, bunkers, storm drains and drainage tunnels, creating what looks like the ruins of an underground city. It is one of the largest urban labyrinths in the world, with over 1,600 miles of tunnels.
The history of the tunnel is as interesting as the tunnel itself. During the invasion of World War II, the people of Odessa flocked to the catacombs to plan and execute their counterattack.
Positive evidence that Ukraine is not taking itself seriously is the abundance of experience restaurants in major cities. They both offer a humorous and modern twist to a piece of this country’s history. Almost everyone needs a secret code to get in. It should be a bit of googling, but you may need to work on the pronunciation!
There is a place where you can sing at dinner and reduce your bill. The other is buried deep in the ground, offering an opportunity to experience soldier life while standing on a vintage motorcycle.
Coffee lovers will enjoy illuminating the cavernous latte caramel crust with a Lviv blowtorch. It’s all fun and part of experiencing culture in the process of building your own independent identity.