Your first day in Kiev was spent hitting the tourist trail, checking the main sights off your list. Now that you have the city’s fundamentals down pat, it’s time to dig a little deeper and explore alternative Kiev — because like any cool city worth a dime, Kiev has an avant-garde side that is very much worth exploring.
On your second day in the Ukrainian capital, we’ll take you to the two neighborhoods dearly loved by local hipsters: Zoloti Vorota and Podil. Their 19th-century buildings are where young creatives dwell; their narrow streets have been colorized with murals; and their dusky courtyards have become bars and party venues.
Start off around Zoloti Vorota, where you have at least two perfect breakfast spots: Zigzag and Assembly. Both have cool interiors with exposed walls and creative flower arrangements, yummy food and coffee, and outdoor seating in quiet historic streets.
If you’re on Reitarska on a summer weekend, it can get a lot more lively due to Rayon #1 Block Party. If not, check out The Naked Room, an indie gallery showcasing local artists, and the dark and mysterious House of Actor, a Karaite temple turned event venue. For sustainable shopping, head to Laska Charity Store, a shop that sells worn clothing and donates the profits to charities.
You’ll see some murals on the way, and if you stray a bit further away, you’ll discover the Instagrammable Cycle Track. The oldest cycling track in Europe, it was almost demolished by developers eyeing the spot. Local activists managed to save the track and got the city to reconstruct it in 2017. Now it’s open to anyone willing to train or take photos, and comes with its own mural of a hipster on a bike.
100 Rokiv Tomu Vpered serves “Ukrainian food without stereotypes” — authentic recipes collected around Ukraine and modernized. But whatever you order — forest catfish with beetroot sauce or baked chicken with cabbage — the highlight of your meal is likely to be the homemade bread with fragrant sunflower oil.
Like a neo-Ukrainian restaurant should, 100 Rokiv Tomu Vpered has a clean interior with just a nod to traditional patterns, and its playlist features new Ukrainian bands rather than folk songs. As a bonus, the restaurant is conveniently set between Zoloti Vorota and your next destination, Andriyivskyy Uzviz.
It used to be a dirt road, where merchants drove their loaded carts from the Old Town down to Podil. Now it’s a cobbled street, where merchants sell pottery, embroidery, Soviet memorabilia, and art.
Andriyivskyy Uzviz is touristy and has its share of tacky souvenirs, but Kievans love it regardless. Start by St. Andrew’s, a jewel of a church, and amble down between museums, galleries, murals, and theaters. The One Street Museum is a glimpse into Andriyivskyy’s past, so give it a shot.
If you happen to do this walk on a weekend, there’s likely to be a Vsi Svoi market just across the street from St. Andrew’s Church. Vsi Svoi is four floors of Ukrainian brands, with monthly markets for clothing and shoes, home and decor, and artisanal foods.
Andriyivskyy Uzviz will lead you to Podil, one of the oldest parts of the city. Podil has a shabby charm with its crumbling churches, rusty trams, and a 17th-century university. The Ferris wheel inexplicably set in the lowest point of Kiev makes for a good photo, but doesn’t provide much of a view.
For a bit of history, check out the Ukrainian Treasures Museum or the Pharmacy-Museum in Podil. For a hot beverage and a few minutes of rest, head to Svit Kavy, an award-winning coffee roaster, or Call Me Cacao, a cute shop serving natural cocoa.
One of the best things about Podil is that it sits on the river. If you walk to the Poshtova metro station, you’ll find yourself on a promenade leading up to a pedestrian bridge. Right in time for the sunset, cross the bridge and land on Trukhaniv Island. There’s a beach bar called UBK Beach, where you can rent a deckchair, grab a drink, and watch the sun go down over the roofs of Podil.
On your way to the beach, you passed the building of Kiev River Port, now repurposed as an art and event venue. Between the building and the river is Bukhta Food Station, a street food market that’s perfect for a no-frills dinner. Brace yourself for music, crowds, sizzling and smells, and tons of cheap, tasty food.
After dark, young people flock to Podil to have a casual drink at DIY bars Living Room and HVLV, sip cocktails at Pink Freud or Podil East India Company, or sample craft beers at Punkraft or wine at Win Bar. Follow their lead and check out one or even all of those. If you’re feeling particularly hip and edgy later in the night, head to Closer, an underground techno club in a factory building.