Just five years ago, your plans for a Friday night in Kiev would be limited to vodka shots and hookahs in a tacky night club. But as the city’s food and drink scene modernized, the nightlife options grew. Today, you can chill in a deckchair in a student bar, sample Ukrainian wine in a snug wine corner, have seriously good craft cocktails, or hit a true underground rave. Or spend a week doing it all. And while Kiev’s bar scene is not as hectic or pulsing as Berlin’s or Barcelona’s, it has every intention of catching up soon.
These are the best bars to visit in Kiev’s hottest neighborhoods.
Pink Freud $$ — Pink Freud is a cocktail bar that occupies a courtyard between two historic buildings. It’s not a seasonal venue, though, despite Kiev’s chilly winters. The courtyard is roofed and heated in the winter, so you’ll be comfortable even in December. Come here for the custom cocktails, as well as the ambiance. The bartenders have created a list of original drinks designed to fit your mood, and a handy cocktail menu map is there to guide you through the tastes. Sour and refreshing or sweet and potent, the choice is yours. Food options range from upscale sandwiches to desserts. There’s live music on select weeknights while DJs play on weekends.
Where: Nyzhnii Val St, 19, Kyiv, Ukraine, 02000
1818 $$$ — Kiev hasn’t fully embraced the concept of rooftop bars yet, so 1818 is one of the very few. It sits atop the Bursa hotel and overlooks Podil, with views of the city’s ferris wheel and St. Andrew’s Church glowing in the distance. The crowd is a mix of tourists (as to be expected at a hotel bar) and locals. The drinks are somewhat pricey and the menu is minimal, but the view makes 1818 worth a visit. On weekends, things get a little more wild with a DJ playing the soundtrack to what the bar calls “crazy butt shaking parties on Friday and Saturday nights.”
Where: Kostiantynivska St, 11, Kyiv, Ukraine, 04071
HVLV $$ — A few years ago, a bunch of Kiev-Mohyla Academy students opened a simple bar to hang out with their friends. It was called Khvyl’ovyi, or HVLV, and started basically as a basement and a courtyard with fairy lights, but it quickly became a hotspot that’s still popular today. On a more relaxed night, you can grab a deckchair outside and sip a bottled beer or cocktail, but when there’s live music or a DJ, the place will be jumping. Occasionally, HVLV plays host to garage sales and theme parties (“banana” was a recent theme). Check the website for dates.
Where: Verkhnii Val St, 18, Kyiv, Ukraine, 04071
Punkraft $$ — Kiev’s craft beer scene is second only to its cocktail scene. Punkraft is a big pin on the map for anyone into beer, with ales, IPAs, and other craft beers on tap alongside endless rows of bottled options. The selection is ever-changing and seasonal, but there are always fresh beers by Ukrainian breweries Varvar and Tsypa, so do sample those. The bar food is elevated and simple, with foods like cheese plates, steaks, and fried options. If you get tired of eating and drinking, you can play a round on a vintage arcade game.
Where: 14, Ihorivska St, Kyiv, Ukraine, 04070
UBK Beach $$ — Kiev is not exactly a beach resort type of town, but there are more than a few sandy beaches on the Dnipro river. UBK Beach sits on one of those, on the Trukhaniv Island across the bridge from Podil. Don’t expect a Copacabana, but do expect a decent beach bar with beers and ciders, rented deckchairs to work on your tan, movie nights, and open-air parties. There are frequent concerts, and you can keep up with the schedule on UBK’s Facebook page.
Where: Kyiv, Ukraine, 02000
Barman Dictat $$ — Let the staff at Barman Dictat, one of the best bars in town, help you decide what to drink. Sure, you can order a cocktail from the menu, but we suggest you follow your bartender’s lead and let them show off their mixology skills in a custom-ordered drink. The cocktail knowledge, plus an extensive list of every type of spirit available, ensures that there’s something for every type of drink. Be sure to check out the massive zeppelin under the ceiling.
Where: Khreschatyk St, 44Б, Kyiv, Ukraine, 02000
Loggerhead $$$ — A dark metal door in an equally dark courtyard can be hard to find, and unless you know the password (“loggerhead”), you might not be able to get in. Loggerhead is an American-style speakeasy in a 19th-century, brick-lined basement that serves top-notch cocktails. It’s named after the 18th-century cocktail tool that’s an iron ball at the end of an arms-length iron pole. Order the namesake cocktail and watch the bartender melt sugar in it with an actual hot iron loggerhead.
Where: Tarasa Shevchenko Blvd, 1, Kyiv, Ukraine, 01004
Sklad $$ — The owners of Barman Dictat initially rented this space to store alcohol in (sklad literally means “storage”) but eventually turned it into a bar with a straight-pour focus rather than cocktail focus. You can get shots or well drinks in Sklad, but the best option is one of the high-quality spirits. It’s the place to go for drinks that are uncommon in Kiev, and Europe for that matter, like mezcal. It’s also one of the few bars with an indoor smoking room, which is a huge plus if you smoke but a minus if you don’t like the smell.
Where: Bessarabs’ka Square, 2, Kyiv, Ukraine, 01004
Malevich $$ — A coffee shop by day and wine bar by night, Malevich is a tiny venue with a few tables outside. The owners curate Ukrainian wines. If you didn’t even know there were Ukrainian wines, you should definitely come here and taste them. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Where: Reitarska St, 17, Kyiv, Ukraine, 02000
Zigzag $$ — Like its sister bar Kosatka, Zigzag is a loveable hybrid of a brunch spot and a cocktail bar. You can come here in the morning for eggs Benedict and waffles, then drop by again after dark to sip a delicious drink in the busy bar. Ditch the menu and ask the bartenders to surprise you: After a few questions about your preferences, they’ll craft the perfect concoction.
Where: Reitarska St, 13, Kyiv, Ukraine, 02000