18 Stops on One of the Most Picturesque Kiev Old Town Routes
Any of the professional guides in Kiev will tell you – a walking tour around the old town around the Andriivska street area is the second most popular route in the city, after Khreschatik. Any of the city’s residents will most probably place this street first, or at least among the top 3 of their favorite Kiev places to visit. It has a special and controversial, a bit demonic, but also an extremely charming atmosphere…
…So, Let’s Dive Into This Kiev Old Town Route
Today’s Kiev is split between the left and right banks of the river Dnipro. In the olden days, however, it was divided into the upper and lower towns. The upper one was home to the elite, and still has remains of the luxurious residences. The lower town was where the poor ones and workers lived.
The only bridge between these two worlds was the Andriivsky descent. During your stay in the city, we highly recommend you to take one of the guided walking tours around this area.
It is filled with mysteries, stories, and noteworthy landmarks. While we did our best to pack this virtual Kiev free walking tour around the old town with as many details as possible, there is no such thing as too much of Andriivsky descent. This is something any local will tell you.
We will begin our journey the most logical way, from the top, at Mykhailivska square. The path will lead us down, and we will be stopping to explore the monuments and landmarks. We will have a bite to eat at a local Ukraine-themed cafe and will maybe even wander off to the nearby smaller streets.
Note: Before we proceed, please give it up for our mom. She was the one to write this post. She is currently in Donetsk, and missing her Kiev life.
1. Mykhaylivska Square and the Monastery – Welcome to the Historic Heart of Kiev Old Town!
We offer to start a walk at Mykhaylivska square. A charming beauty is located in the city center, on the historical Knyazha mountain. Though overcrowded at times (on weekends and holidays), the square manages to remain a very cozy place.
Its main attraction is, of course, the St.Michael’s Golden-Domed Church and Monastery. This sky-blue cathedral is famous worldwide for its unique frescoes and shimmering mosaic.
Though being a rather touristic site, it is still working as a monastery. We recommend you not only take a picture next to the cathedral’s entrance decorated with unique frescoes but to also go inside.
Hiding behind the walls is a lush garden, which is particularly lovely during spring and the cherry and apricot blossom seasons. The insides of the church are decorated to the Orthodox canon. A tall bell tower opens fantastic views on the capital.
If you are a female, be sure to cover your head.
2. Walk by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Located in close proximity to the church is a grandiose building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. You can spot it from where you are standing near the St.Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery. Originally the headquarters to the Soviet Ukraine’s Communist Party, it is an example of the monumental and ambitious architecture of the Soviet Era.
Tip: The building is also located next to the cozy park Volodymyrsky Hill, with its gazebos overlooking the Dnipro river and the left bank of Kyiv.
From here, you can not only enjoy the fantastic views of the city, but you can also ride the Kiev funicular down to the Podol area and the Dnipro river. It will be a detour from this route, but it is a ride worth taking. We are currently working on a detailed Kiev walking tour of Podol.
The funicular provides a nice, comfortable and rather cheap ride downhill. By the way, you can pay on the turnstile by your PayPass card, which will be even cheaper, and not many visitors to the city know about it!
3. Try to Spot the Monument to Gogol’s Nose on One of the Buildings
Kiev old town has a fair share of strange monuments, and the nose of Nikolai Gogol, the legendary writer, is exactly one of them.
This peculiar bronze nose framed with ornate mustache adorns the facade of the house №34 on the famous Andriyivsky Descent.
The monument is a tribute to the writer’s famous work «The Nose». There is an opinion that one day Gogol was walking around Kiev in search of inspiration for the next novel, but unfortunately, he had a bad cold, so all his thoughts were only about one thing – about his running nose. The idea to create “The Nose” came to the sculptors after they learned about that episode in the writer’s life.
This is a cute city legend. It is not the only one for such a tiny monument! Another tale of the city says that touching the Nose helps to cure minor colds and runny noses.
4. Discover the Local Goods – Shop at the Vsi.Svoi Market
Sightseeing in Kiev old town is great, but there is another great thing to do in this city, and it is to shop. I do not mean mass-market or brands that you can find at the malls pretty much anywhere around the world, so we’re offering to maybe combine these two experiences during the walk. Why?
One of the positive impacts of the Revolution of 2014 was the rise of the local production. It started out modestly, with a few of the young brands launching social media pages and offering shoes, bags, clothes and other goods produced here, in the small productions.
Today, many of those pioneer startups have turned into the thriving local brands, at the same time showing an example and giving motivation to more Ukrainians to venture into this business, as well.
Why This Particular Place?
What’s notable about the Vsi.Svoi Market is that it first started as a small initiative, too, a fair and a platform for those first brands, and has now evolved into a chain of shopping malls with all-Ukrainian products. The name of the shop means «Our People», by the way.
This is now a place to buy different, often exclusive clothing, shoes, accessories, etc. from the Ukrainian designers. Besides, while the prices are usually the same as in the world-famous branded stores like Zara and whatnot, the level of style, diversity, and quality at Vsi.Svoi is usually higher.
To quote my good friend, the owner of Nine (the local clothing brand): “Unlike some major brands, I can not screw up and sell something of poor quality. The customers usually don’t come knocking on the door of a major brand to complain. But they will come knocking on mine because they know where I live. They know I am local. So, I must deliver”.
What’s really good about this market – three floors of all sorts of products, including some locally produced furniture – is that it also features street food market stalls located on the two terraces. Stop by, if not for the sake of shopping, then at least for a glass of lemonade and a snack.
5. Get Inspired by the Oldest Tree in Town – The Kiev Linden
This Linden (Lipa is what the locals call it) is a definite Kiev old town must-see. It is one of the most legendary old trees in the city, with its own glorious history.
Some sources say that it was the Metropolitan Peter Mogila who planted the tree near the Desyatynna Church at the beginning of the Andriivskiy descent back in 1635. According to this story, the tree is more than 400 years old! There is, however, a version that the linden is close to 1000 years old as it was planted even earlier than 1635.
It is almost impossible to miss this beauty. Its trunk and the crone make it as high as 15 meters. Each summer, in June, the linden blossoms with small yellow flowers, filling the air around with a beautiful aroma. A few years ago, the trunk of the tree was sealed – a move that will help the tree to stay alive for at least 2 more hundred years, the experts say.
Some believe that the tree fulfills desires. The recipe is simple and somewhat entertaining: make a wish and walk around the Lipa 7 times counter-clockwise.
6. Wander Off to Peyzahna Alley
This tiny street is the pride and joy for many locals. Also known as the Landscape Alle due to the panorama of the Vozdvyzhenska street, all the hills and even the left bank opening from it, it is also famous for its colorful, Alice-In-Wonderland-like sculptures.
In 2009, an old street turned into an unusual playground with statues of fairies, cats, zebras, and elephants, as well as with a fountain and benches, all decorated with tiny and colorful mosaic tiles.
Once part of an old fortification that surrounded the city, and from which our ancestors looked outside the borders of Kievan Rus, it is now a cozy place to come to have some tea or coffee and to rest. Because it is also a mini-park, many locals come here with their kids.
The alley also gradually keeps extending, with more and more objects appearing on it.
7. Take a Shortcut from the New Stairs to Vozdvyzhenska Street
A stylish and modern bridge uniting two very popular areas – the Andriivsky Descent and the Vozdvyzhenska street, these stairs are in fact rather old. They were designed in 1695 and got renovated fairly recently.
You can walk past them on your way down the Andriivsky Descent, and come back later to maybe even go up. The stairs have comfortable handrails and many benches to rest.
We especially recommend walking here in the evening. All 247 steps and rails are nicely illuminated, which creates the illusion of a fairy tale. At daytime, the main benefit of this location is, of course, breathtaking panoramic views over the Dnipro river.
It is absolutely safe to walk here in the evening because the stairs are equipped with surveillance cameras. There is also free access to wi-fi.
8. Rub the Ring of the Pronia Prokopovna’s Monument
Returning back from the Peyzazhna Alley detour, you will spot a peculiar monument hidden under a tree not far from the Andriivska Church.
Pronia Prokopovna and Svirid Golokhvosty are the legendary characters from the 60’s comedy «Running After the Two Hares». In the story, a bankrupt business owner decides to marry a rich but a not-so-pretty lady Pronia, while at the same time falling for a prettier but poorer girl and offering his heart to her, too. On the day of his wedding to Pronia, the liar gets exposed. The family then chases him away from the church.
These personages became so popular that people decided to immortalize them. The monument was built in 1999 on Andriiskiy descent and since then gathers lots of fans of the story around it.
The monument shows Svirid Golokhvasty kneeling to kiss the hand of Pronia Prokopovna. Many local couples come here to have their pictures taken in the exact same poses. Also, rumor has it that if you rub Pronia’s engagement ring, you will be successfully married in the nearest future. This is, however, not the only legend about this monument (as you might have already noticed, we, the Ukrainians, loooove assigning many legends per each of the monuments).
Attached to the back of Svirid’s costume is a small bug – a symbol of wealth and prosperity, and also a desirable object for many visitors. For at least 6 times, the mischievous locals managed to steal the bug, and for that exact amount of times, its copy was reattached back.
If you want to fully immerse into the atmosphere of this famous Kiev story, we recommend you to have lunch at a restaurant «Running After Two Hares» near the Andriivska church.
9. Explore the Andriivska Church of Kiev Old Town
St. Andrew’s Church is one of the most famous Orthodox temples in the Ukrainian capital. It is currently one of the four architectural landmarks of Ukraine accepted into the List of Mankind Treasures of Five Continents by the world society.
This graceful church has five green domes – a color not that typical for Orthodox architecture in this town. Its designer is the famous architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli. Many think that the church is the swang song of the master. The church has no bells, which is another thing atypical to the Orthodox canon.
Legend says it that the hill, on which the church stands, was once washed by the sea from all of its sides and it is due to St. Andrew who erected a cross on this hill that the waters retrieved. They are now hidden under the hill. However, the ringing church bells can awaken the sea and cause the flood, which is why St. Andrew’s cathedral does not have any of those.
Even more impressive than its Baroque exterior is the church’s interior with its notable bright-red wooden iconostasis and golden highlights. Today this church is a working temple and services are being held here regularly.
The church’s terrace is a place to admire the panoramic views of the city. The holy territory starts right behind the gates. Women must cover their heads and to wear skirts below the knee.
10. Hunt for Treasures Amidst the Souvenir Stalls
“A picturesque street with diverse souvenir stalls”, “a major tourist attraction in Kyiv old town”, “Ukrainian open-air market” – these opinions about the Andriivskiy descent are the most common among the guests.
This place is famous for its numerous street vendors, big and little gift shops and small art-galleries for every taste. It is a perfect hunting ground for ones who love collecting trinkets during the travel. Among those are old fur hats with stars from the Soviet era, hand-made pipes and our traditional clothes – vyshyvankas. Bad news, though: the place can be a bit pricey, especially for a foreigner. Haggling may work, though.
Despite the fact that it is very tourist-oriented, this is also a very authentic place where you can feel the real atmosphere of Kiev. It is also a convenient area for a snack or for a lunch stop. Those of you looking for a fancier meal can stop by Kanapa (Andriicky descent, 19). This is a fine-dining place offering a mix of traditional Ukrainian cuisine with a modern serving. A salad, main course, and a drink will cost you around 20 USD.
Kanapa’s closest neighbor and a budget swap is a casual cafe Gnezdo (Andriivsky descent, 21), where on average you will spend under 10 USD for a lunch.
Speaking of lunch at Kanapa…
11. …Dine at the Last Wooden House of the City
…the restaurant shares a wall with a peculiar building.
Located at Andriivsky descent 19a is a true wooden beauty. It is the last wooden house of the Kyiv old town. It dates back to the 19th century. The house once belonged to a merchant woman. Today it is an art gallery and, well, a fine-dining place.
12. Ascend Richard the Lionheart’s Castle Stairs
Oh what an odd place this castle is! To be honest, Richard the Lionheart has never lived here. If the king were alive, he would’ve been very surprised to learn he owns such a peculiar residence. In reality, this is a poetized name of the building №15 on the Adriivskiy Descent.
The castle dates back to 1902-1904 and once finished, it became notoriously known for the howling sounds its walls made. It also had a reputation for chasing away its inhabitants. Some were killed, others mysteriously disappeared. Neither of the owners stayed here for long.
Years passed by until one of the castle’s tenants finally cleared the reputation of the building. Intrigued by the devilish noises, he inspected the walls of the building to discover that some of them contained the bottoms of the glass bottles and these were producing noises whenever the wind was blowing. Some believe it was the way that the builders avenged the first owner after he underpaid them.
But even with its reputation cleared, the building remains empty. Which is something we won’t say about its terrace. Located to the left of the main gates, there are the steep metal stairs leading to the upper level of the castle. From there, you can enjoy…
…you guessed right – the panoramic views of the Podol area. In the early mornings in spring and summer, this terrace is also a place where the Kiev yogis gather for the early practices.
13. Wander Off to Vozdvyzhenska Street
Just across from the castle, there is a turn to the Vozdvyzhenska street. This street has an interesting story to it.
Due to its colorful and unusual buildings, this was one of the most popular projects in the city. All of us were waiting impatiently for the construction to be over, and for the street to start living its life. But time passed by. The buildings were completed. And they just stood there empty, for quite a few years.
At first, the entire street reminded more of a colorful decoration in the Hollywood studio. As the years went by, it then became known as the Dead City for the Millionaires. Back in 2012, the price for the apartments here reached around 4 million UAH (approximately 500,000 USD back then). Only wealthy people could afford to live on this street.
In reality, however, behind the luxurious facades of the stylish buildings, there were lots of problems. These included sewerage malfunction, excess dampness, mold…. The houses were pretty. But they were also impossible to live in.
Gradually, all of these problems got fixed. Today Vozdvyzhenka is the go-to place to shop local clothing brands, to wine and dine in some of the best restaurants, and to stay in one of the best Kiev boutique hotels. It is also a street popular among wedding and fashion photographers.
14. Visit the Most Mysterious House of Andryyvsky Descent
The house at Andryyvsky descent 13 is the most mysterious building in the area. It is a place where the legendary writer Mykhail Bulgakov lived. He was the person to write the legendary Master and Margarita novel.
In this house, Mykhail lived with his family. This is where he also wrote The Days of the Turbins – a novel where fiction intertwined with his real life. Today the house at Andryyvska 13a is the museum, where each room tells an episode from the writer’s life. Very much in Bulgakov’s style, each room also hides a mystery. This is a museum well worth a visit.
This is the part of the street that has a mystery number 13 repeated 4 times! The museum stands at 13a, with 13b the restaurant and 13 the house attached to it. The writer lived here for 13 years.
15. Admire the Renaissance Mural
Kiev is known for its murals, and not only in the old town. Artists from all corners of the world come to Ukraine’s capital to paint the walls and metro stations.
The Renaissance mural is located almost at the bottom of the Andriivsky descent. It appeared on the wall in 2014. Its author is the artist from Sevastopol, Oleksiy Kislov. He painted a girl dressed in traditional Ukrainian clothes. This girl symbolizes the rebirth of the Ukrainian culture.
16. Treat Yourself with Some Delicious Chocolate…
Shall we wrap up the walk with a nice cup oh hot chocolate with red pepper? Or with some tea and handmade candies?
Andriivsky descent 2b hosts the famous cafe that came to Kiev from Lviv. It is the Lviv Chocolate Workshop, a cozy place with lots of visitors. You might probably need to wait in line for a table.
But the sweets and the atmosphere is well worth the wait!
17. …Or Maybe, Mingle with The Locals Over a Glass of Cherry Cordial
Adjacent to the Lviv Chocolate Workshop cafe is the no-less famous Drunken Cherry cafe. It serves its signature cherry cordial by glasses or by bottles. As a side dish, it offers chocolate candies with the cherry inside or cherry paste.
In the evening, this is one of the most crowded places in Podol. Many locals come here to have a drink and to mingle. As the place does not offer tables to sit at, the visitors stand by the cafe. This is a very dynamic and fun place to explore.
18. Observe Kiev Old Town from the Podol Ferris Wheel
Technically, this is not Andryyvsky descent anymore, but it is such a nice way to wrap up the walk! A round of the Ferriss Wheel costs around 3 USD and shows nice panoramas of the Podol area.
That’s it for the walk around the Kiev Old Town. Hope you enjoyed it!