Kiev Introduction Walking Tour, Kiev

Kiev Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Kiev

Kiev is a very old city. It was initiated approximately 1500 years ago. Since 1934, it was Soviet Ukraine's capital and remained the main city of the country with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Being one of the biggest cities in Europe, it has a very specific history, architecture and cultural life. One can never be bored in Kiev, as it has endless interesting and captivating places to see.
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Kiev Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Kiev Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Ukraine » Kiev (See other walking tours in Kiev)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.6 Km or 2.2 Miles
Author: Cathy
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Saint Michael's Golden-Domed Cathedral and Monastery
  • Saint Andrew's Church
  • Andreevsky Descent
  • The National Museum of Ukrainian History
  • Bohdan Khmelnytsky Monument
  • Saint Sophia's Cathedral
  • Golden Gate
  • Opera House
  • Kreschyatik Street
  • Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square)
Saint Michael's Golden-Domed Cathedral and Monastery

1) Saint Michael's Golden-Domed Cathedral and Monastery (must see)

Saint Michael’s Golden-Domed Cathedral, one of the city's most impressive architectural monuments, has a rich and tumultuous history. Its foundation was laid in 1108, by the sons of Grand Duke of Kiev, Izyaslav Yaroslavovich. In 1113, the Byzantine style cathedral was inaugurated under the aegis of Demetrius’ Monastery. A series of Mongol attacks in the later centuries inflicted great damage upon the cathedral so that by the 15th century it was in much need of repair. In 1495, the cathedral was renamed Saint Michael's in homage to Archangel Michael, the spiritual patron of Kiev.

Over the course of 18th century restorations, the cathedral was enlarged and its exterior remade into Baroque style. Partially because of that and also due to the Soviet authorities' often unfavourable stance on Christianity, the cathedral was sentenced to demolition in 1934. The edifice was fully restored in 1990, based on the old images and partially relying of the preserved original foundation. The architecture and the interior decorations resemble the original. Some of the old cathedral's relics, such as paintings, mosaics, etc., have been restored or returned to the new building.

Other than the cathedral itself, Saint Michael’s Golden-Domed complex includes a number of religious sites, namely: the Economy Gate (built in 1790), the Bell Tower (1716-1719), and the Refectory of St. John the Divine (1713).
Saint Andrew's Church

2) Saint Andrew's Church

Overlooking the old neighbourhood of Podil from the top of Andriyivsky Hill, Saint Andrew’s Church is one of the most splendid pieces of Baroque architecture in Kiev. It was built between 1747 and 1754 by a team of foreign and local architects, led by Ivan Michurin, to a design by Bartolomeo Rastrelli. The church was meant as a private temple for Russian Empress Elizabeth and thus had no parish or bells to call to masses.

Because of its location on the hill, the church is placed atop a two story stylobate which also acts as a foundation for the building. Shaped as a cross, Saint Andrew’s has one dome and five decorative spires. The interior and exterior were finished simultaneously, thus adding unity to the whole ensemble.

Right from its inauguration and until the recent times, Saint Andrew’s has endured many problems; among them losing the original cupolas to a violent storm in 1815 and closure by the Soviets in the 1930s. In 1992, the Kiev Patriarchate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church took over the stylobate, and then assumed a complete ownership of the building on its 255th anniversary. Today, services are still held inside the church but at irregular times.
Andreevsky Descent

3) Andreevsky Descent (must see)

Andriyivsky (Andrew's) Descent, also known as “Andreevsky Spusk”, is a 700 metre paved run linking the old part of Kiev (the two hills, known as the Royal Residence) with the lower, more modern part of the city. The bohemian style street abounds in historic attractions and, on the warmer days, is dense with numerous stalls set by local craftsmen, artists and sculptors exhibiting and selling their works right there on the side of the street.

The descent in its present form originated in 1711, when the two hills at its upper end were levelled in order to ease carriage traffic. The street is flanked by 18th-19th century buildings, of which most notable is No.13, the home of Mikhail Bulgakov, famous Russian author, who lived here from 1906 to 1913 and then in 1918-1919. Sitting atop the hill is St. Andrew’s Church, which lends its name to the street. Further down is The Castle of Richard the Lionheart, built in 1902–1904. Another key landmark is the One Street Museum. It holds circa 6,500 exhibits on the history and evolution of Andriyivsky Descent. There are also a number of statues installed recently along the street which, in turn, add more charm to the area.
The National Museum of Ukrainian History

4) The National Museum of Ukrainian History

Due to the large number of exhibits, incredibly vast time-span covered and uniqueness of collections displayed, the National Museum of Ukrainian History is rightfully considered to be one of Kiev’s most prominent tourist sites. Founded in 1904, the museum initially comprised mainly archaeological findings from private collections. In 1909, it started to receive governmental support and in 1935 the collections were moved to the Kievo-Pecherskaya Lavra for a better display. During World War II, the museum was evacuated to Ufa, the Far Eastern part of Russia. By 1944, it had returned to Kiev and remained in its current location ever since.

The collection traces the history of Ukraine from the first Trypillya settlements (dating approximately to 7000 B.C), to the Greek period, followed by Kievan Rus, the Cossack period and, finally, the Soviet era (presented somewhat differently to what it used to be under the Soviet Union). The newer exhibits, featuring Ukraine's strive for independence and the recent Orange Revolution, are also on display. Particular mention deserve collections of rare coins, weaponry, books and documents, as well as archaeological relics and ethnographic items, including rare glass and porcelain objects. A special highlight is given to Serge Lifar, famous Ukrainian dancer, who is nicknamed locally “the god of dance.”
Bohdan Khmelnytsky Monument

5) Bohdan Khmelnytsky Monument

The Bohdan Khmelnytsky Monument is dedicated to Bohdan Khmelnytsky, the first Hetman of Zaporizhian Host. It was built in 1888 - it is one of the oldest sculptural monuments, a dominating feature of Sophia Square and one of the city's symbols.

The monument is located almost in the middle of the Sophia Square (formerly the main city's square) on the axis that unites both belltowers of the Sophia Cathedral and the St.Michael's Monastery.

Here on 23 December 1648 residents of Kyiv met Khmelnytsky leading his Cossacks' regiments by entering the city through the Golden Gates soon after the victory over Polish Army at the battle of Pyliavtsi.

History of creating the monument appeared in public on initiative of Nikolay Kostomarov, a historian and professor of the Kyiv University in the 1840s. However, the construction was postponed due to the Crimean War. In 1863 the establishment of the monument was postponed again due to the 1863 January Uprising.

In 1877 there was created a gypsum model of the monument. In 1879 at the Saint Petersburg Baird Works was cast a statue that was materialized in metal on a Mikeshin's draft by Pius Weloński and Artemiy Ober and for which the Naval department donated 1,600 poodi (25.6 t) of scrap metal.

In 1879 the statue was brought to Kyiv, however due to lack of funding for the construction of the pedestal, the works on installation of it were ceased until the mid 1880s and the statue for several years was being holdover in the courtyard of the Kyiv Government Office Building. The city architect Vladimir Nikolayev designed a simpler pedestal and supervised its construction as well as the installation of the monument. The Kyiv Fortress administration donated for the pedestal granite blocks that were left after the construction of the Nicholas Chain Bridge over Dnieper. On 23 June 1888 there took place a grand opening and consecration of the monument.

Since 2001 the monument is included in State Register of Immovable Monuments of Ukraine as the monument of national importance.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Saint Sophia's Cathedral

6) Saint Sophia's Cathedral (must see)

Saint Sophia’s Cathedral is one of the most important cultural, religious and architectural landmarks of Kiev. Built in the 11th century (1011 or 1037, according to various sources), the cathedral was inspired by the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople and was meant to become a regional centre of Christianity. Initially, the cathedral had five naves and two circling galleries. It was badly damaged during Tatar invasions in the Middle Ages and later, in 1707, was rebuilt in a Byzantine style, most common among the Ukrainian orthodox churches. Over the centuries afterwards, Saint Sophia’s underwent many restorations and improvements.

Today, it boasts 13 cupolas and an impressive interior. Most of the mosaics and frescoes on the inside date back to the 11th century and depict religious and laic scenes, including those featuring Kiev's Prince Yaroslav and his family. The scenes are displayed in an ascending order, with the largest ones and most important from religious standpoint appearing on the domes. About 300 graffiti originated in the medieval period have been uncovered on the cathedral's walls during restorations, providing historians with an invaluable source of information about political and social life of that period.

The cathedral is now a museum and a cultural venue. Because of the tensions between two Ukrainian orthodox rites, it is temporarily not used for religious service. The cathedral was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO, along with the Kiev Pechersk Lavra, in 1990.
Golden Gate

7) Golden Gate

The Golden Gate is a key landmark of the Ukrainian capital and a standing reminder of its medieval past. The first mention of the gate was recorded in the 11th century. Legend has it that prior to fighting a nomadic army of the Pechenegs, Kievan Prince Yaroslav the Wise prayed to Virgin Mary and promised that, if he received divine help against the enemy, he would build a monument as a token of his gratitude. Upon his victorious return from the battle, Yaroslav kept his promise and built the gate, topped by a church. Initially it was called “the Southern Gate”, but later was renamed in keeping with the church’s golden dome.

In the 13th century, the gate was reduced to ruin by invading Mongols. Various notes left by foreign travelers, who set foot on Kiev’s land in later years, attest to the grandeur of this architectural monument, and also describe the state of degradation in which they found it. By the 18th century, the gate was almost completely covered by earth and soil erosion accelerated the destruction process.

In 1832, the ruins were excavated and the gate’s walls were examined by archaeologists and historians. It was then that the serious conservation works commenced. In the 1970s, the Golden Gate was fully reconstructed, just in time for the 1500th anniversary of Kiev, celebrated in 1982. Although there is no solid evidence suggesting that the present look of the gate matches the original, the renovated monument is a sure must-see for those genuinely interested in history and antique architecture. The monument also includes a museum featuring exhibits related to the Golden Gate’s past.
Opera House

8) Opera House (must see)

The dawn of the Ukrainian opera came in 1867 when Ferdinand Berger staged the first opera show in Kiev. He also succeeded at bringing into the country famous opera singers and musicians to form a local troupe. The latter would perform regularly at the city theater until 1897, when a great fire destroyed most of the building.

Immediately after the fire, the municipal authorities announced architectural contest for a new opera house to be built. The winner, Neoclassical-style project by Victor Schröter, proved optimal for both performers and spectators. In 1901, the new theater was completed and its inauguration was celebrated with a special performance done by local artists.

During the 20th century, the opera house changed its name several times. Today, it is known as the Ukrainian National Opera and Ballet Theater named after T. H. Shevchenko, the renowned Ukrainian poet and painter.

Before and shortly after World War I, the venue enjoyed wide popularity across Europe and was the third major opera house in the Russian Empire. After the so-called “Orange” revolution of 1991, the Opera House has been renovated and painted its original dark-green and beige colors.
Kreschyatik Street

9) Kreschyatik Street (must see)

Khreshchatyk is the main street of Kiev and a definite must see for any guest of the city wanting to feel the rhythm of the Ukrainian capital. The street extends for about one kilometre and, together with its famous Independence Square, forms a local equivalent to Parisian Champs Elysée. Khreshchatyk houses many official buildings, including the City Executive Board, the National Television Committee and the Ukraine House exposition hall, and is also home to a number of swish restaurants and chic cafés.

As it's seen today, Khreshchatyk emerged fully in 1943. Originally, it was just a minor road that ran along the river Dnieper. In the 18th century the river valley gradually grew overcrowded and the people started to build houses along the road. In the 19th century Khreshchatyk began to take its current shape with more political and commercial establishments setting in. During World War II it suffered great damage which did not, however, diminish its role as a commercial and social hub. Khreshchatyk was quickly rebuilt and returned to the usual swing of things after the war.

On weekends and holidays, when Khreshchatyk is closed off for motor transport, it is the best to explore and mingle with the crowd.
Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square)

10) Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) (must see)

Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the Ukrainian for “Independence Square”, is the place which lies at the heart of Kiev. This is by far the most important and grandest square of the Ukrainian capital which has been a part of the city scape since the 10th century and seen its progression over time. In the course of the centuries, the square, much as its name, has changed a lot, without detriment to its spirit, though. Originally, the place was called Perevisyshch. Later, in the 18th century, it became known as Kozyne Boloto (Goat's Swamp) and remained vacant until the mid 19th century, when it took the name of Khrestshchatitskaya Ploshchad. At the end of the 19th century, the square was renamed Dumskaya Ploshchad (Parliament Square) and in 1919 - Soviet Square.

The current name, Maidan Nezalezhnosti, originated in 1991, reflecting the newly acquired independence of the Ukrainian state. For some locals, however, Maidan Nezalezhnosti, or simply Maidan, has gone down in history as the place of protest against the reportedly rigged presidential elections of 2004.

Today, Maidan is dominated by the statue of Archangel Michael, spiritual patron of Kiev, which is surrounded by many fountains and seedbeds. Historic buildings, flanking the square, add a great deal of charm to it, with the main attractions being just steps away, making Maidan an ideal retreat for tourists and locals who seek to rediscover the beauty of the nation's capital.

Walking Tours in Kiev, Ukraine

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