Tuesday, October 1, 2013

What I love: Kyiv architecture

There's just something magical about the architecture in Kyiv.

Doesn't matter if it's a plain apartment building, a gleaming monument to 21st century business, or a heavily embellished structure- there's simply something that gives you pause. Of course I love, love, love Kharkov architecture too, but it tends to be more somber so we'll save that heavy stuff for another day.

On our last trip to the capital we stayed in this apartment. As you can see in the photo above, the view from the window was gorgeous in springtime. The other side of the building was much more modest:

A cool mosaic waited at the very end of the parking lot:

This is by no means unique only to Kyiv, but note how each balcony is different. Everyone aspires to have a balcony and when they've saved up enough money, they add one on according to their budget and taste, creating a hodgepodge of different styles.

The interior was nothing special, just the same institutional two-tone walls that can be found in almost every Ukrainian building.

And speaking of places to stay, I've had my eye on this hotel for ages:
The Hotel Ukraine
It's on the edge of Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) and priced accordingly, meaning that thus far it's remained out of our monetary reach. Maybe after our first million :p

The average apartment building is more like this:

Yes, rather sketchy looking on the outside, but that doesn't necessarily bear any relation to what lies within. Once I read a book about a man who visited the run-down Arctic mining town of Norilsk, Russia, a place that's about as drab, frigid, and depressing as they come. (Maybe it was this book?) He wrote about seeing all the- what else?- drab and depressing apartment buildings from the streets... but was shocked once he actually got to see the inside of someone's apartment. Russians and Ukrainians are crazy about ремонт (remodelling) and like with balconies, people will use whatever cash they can find to beautify the interior of their home. It's a national obsession.

There's one place in Kyiv that's sure to stun you for a moment. Here's a hint:
It's just around the corner!

It's KNU, or the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv.
Almost 200 years old and still kicking ass!
You won't find colors like that elsewhere, but the column idea is very popular. Here's a building on the hill overlooking Maidan Nezalezhnosti and the Hotel Ukraine:

Let's not forget a different building that looks almost identical (and it's my blog background!)- the Kyiv Вокзальна metro station:

(Pssst... it's just as breathtaking inside the metro!)

Anyways, down the street from the shockingly red university is this domed church, decked out in the colors of the national flag:
St Volodymyr's Cathedral?
No visit to Kyiv could be complete without a walk down Khreshchatyk street (again, one of those words that ties your tongue into a knot if you see it in English, but is amazingly easy to pronounce as Хрещатик or Крещатик, honestly!).

Here are some apartment buildings along Крещатик, adorned with fancy balconies:
I can't even begin to imagine how much one of these places would cost to rent. Any ideas?
 Towards one end of Крещатик is this towering... mall?

Another part of the architecture along Крещатик - a statue of Lenin. In fact, every city has one (or five).
We happened across this on a day that the communist party had set up shop nearby (red tent).
Крещатик crosses through Independence Square, an area that always seems to attract the crowds (and shoppers, with its underground shopping mall).

Independence Square interests me because of those evenly-spaced buildings that ring the square. It's almost like Independence Square is a giant palm and these are the giant's fingers rising up. I'm not sure what all of the buildings are, but the one closest on the left is a massive post office, and there's a Coffee Life (or Time?) and McDonalds somewhere among the others. The giant globe marks Глобус, the underground shopping mall. If you were to turn around and face the other direction, by the way, you'd see the Hotel Ukraine in front of you.

As for churches, ugh, I shouldn't even bring them up. Of course they're gorgeous!

And my pièce de résistance, the first/last thing I see every time I visit Kyiv:

When you encounter such an unusual building only steps off the train, you know the rest of the city won't disappoint!

So there you have it, my photographic justification why Kyiv's architecture rocks. But I've only explored a tiny sliver of the city, there's so much more out there! What am I missing? What's your favorite part?


  1. So cool! One of the things I love best about Eastern Europe is the huge mish-mash of architecture from different periods and cultures.

  2. One of our favorite parts about visiting Kyiv was the metro! Sooo efficient! Better than any public transportation that we've seen in the world!

    1. They do have a fantastic metro system! I also adore the SkyTrain in Vancouver, BC because it's fully automated and so user-friendly, but it doesn't compare with the old-world elegance of the Kyiv metro : )