If the mere mention of Ukraine conjures up images of dreary winters, nuclear disasters, and drab Soviet housing, you’re in for a surprise. Kiev, the capital of the nation, may have its share of bad weather and bleak architecture, but vivid colors are also a significant part of the city. From flashy new neighborhoods to gilded old churches, these seven spots are more rainbow than rain.
In the early 2000s, this old craftsmen’s neighborhood was rebuilt in faux baroque style in hopes of becoming a residential area for the rich. But the attempt to copy historic buildings sparked nothing but mockery and spite in Kievans. And while the architecture is not to everyone’s taste, it sure makes for a colorful sight. Pastel green, blue, and orange mansions line up along cobbled streets, and their tiled rooftops look especially good from above. If you go up Zamkova Hora, a hill right next to Vozdvyzhenka, you’ll get a perfect view of the fancy quarter.
2. Comfort Town
On the eastern bank on the Dnipro river, an area chock-full of Soviet high-rises, Comfort Town stands right out. This residential complex comes with Lego-like houses in rainbow colors and couldn’t be more different from the industrial grime around it. Comfort Town is so bright and cheery that it’s even been featured on Instagram’s Instagram.
3. The Landscape Alley
Local residents fought off illegal construction on the Landscape Alley and chipped in to turn it into a children’s park, designed by a Kiev sculptor. Now the alley is a winding path with views of Dnipro on one side and cartoon-inspired sculptures and mosaics on the other. There’s a bright red bench in the mouth of a green bunny; an azure bas-relief of a grinning cat; and peeing statues painted blue, red, green, and yellow. Landscapes may be scarce here, but colors are aplenty.
4. The murals
For the past five years, a volunteer foundation has been inviting artists to paint murals on Kiev’s walls as a way to popularize art and culture. Pop art patterns and dreamy cartoons are appearing around the city, splashing some color onto its grayish-brown Soviet housing. And while many of the murals are way out in the outskirts, the central neighborhoods like Zoloti Vorota and Podil have plenty of eye candy, too. Check out the vita sine litteris mors est (“life without science is death”) on Building 2 of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, the vivid Anna Rizatdinova mural on Striletska street, or pick your own favorites on the Kyivmural website.
5. St. Andrew’s Church and the Alley of Artists
Ornate churches are Kiev’s trademark, but few are as delicate as St. Andrew’s Church. Its dark green domes adorned with gold are seen from far away, and the mint-and-white facade makes the sight even prettier. Below the church, down the hill, is the Alley of Artists — a small marketplace for local painters. Don’t expect to see the next Monet there, but do expect lots and lots of bright hues.
6. Taras Shevchenko Park and University
Named after Ukraine’s national poet, Taras Shevchenko Park is one of the best-kept parks in the city. Even after the summer heat — another surprise awaiting you in Kiev — has scorched most of the greenery, the park stays lush. And its flowerbeds burst with red, pink, and yellow throughout the warm season. No magic involved here — just a good system of sprinklers.
As if all that natural vibrancy wasn’t enough, the namesake University across the street glows with crimson red. Although the 19th-century building wasn’t meant to be colorful, a mishap with the paint made it red instead of brown. But Kiev has since embraced the unusual building and started amplifying its otherness with red light during the night.
7. The Singing Fountains on Maidan Nezalezhnosti
If you want to check out Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the main square in Kiev, plan to do that after dark. From late April to late September, massive fountains light up the square with neon colors at night. Light, color, water, and classical music blend together in a mesmerizing mix, so there’s no better ending for a colorful day in Kiev.
But these aren’t the only singing fountains in the city. If you happen to be in the Podil neighborhood, check out the ones on Poshtova Square, and should you stray from the residential Rusanivka, there’s a stunning fountain complex on the Rusanivsky Channel.