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Kiev, Ukraine highlights

October 29th, 2007

kiev_4Kiev Restaurants
Dining in Kiev is coming up to the level of Western standards, and so are its prices. Nonetheless, there are hundreds of local places where prices are unbelievably cheap for fantastic food, and, with a little research and a handy phrase book, you can order the best of local Ukrainian dishes. Otherwise, new restaurants open regularly, sporting new themes and international cuisines. I’ll focus here on Ukrainian restaurants, whose cuisine runs from game birds and animals to bunny rabbit, goulashes, and perogi-like dumplings called varenyky filled with potatoes, sauerkraut, cheese, plums, or blueberries. Holubtsi are stuffed cabbage rolls filled with rice, buckwheat, and meat.

Khutorets is a floating restaurant on the Dnipro, and offers Ukrainian décor and live music nightly. Prices are reasonable, and portions are large. Open Noon-midnight. Naberezhno-Khreschatyts’ka, Pier 1; metro Kontraktova Ploscha (Blue line). Phone 425 80 39.

Watch silent movies at Pervak, an early-20th century style restaurant with waitstaff dressed in period costume. Open 11am-Midnight. 20% family discounts on Saturday until 5pm. Rohnidyns’ka 2; metro L’va Tostoho (Blue line). Phone 235 09 52.

For a real Ukrainian experience, make reservations at Monastyrska Trapezna, connected to the Vydubychi monastery that is half restaurant, half museum. Glass cabinets exhibit gold and bronze antiques, ancient ceramics, and a collection of Cossack tobacco pipes. Open daily, 10am-10pm. Vydubyts’ka 40; metro Druzhby Narodiv (Green line). Phone 451 42 56.

Tipping has finally come around to waitstaff in Kiev restaurants. They will export more from foreigners, but by and large a 10% tip is acceptable. Some restaurants (but few cafés) include a 5-10% service charge, so read the fine print.

kiev_5Kiev Nightlife
In summertime, beer tents on the street and in squares are a better way to enjoy drinking than hanging out in a dark bar, where you’d likely meet foreigners, not Ukrainians. Also, even as Western standards of nonsmoking cafes and bars increase, you’ll not find that in Kiev, where smokes are cheap and the population sucks ‘em up like the proverbial shots of vodka.

Gambling is legal in Kiev, and there are several top-shelf casinos in town, offering blackjack, roulette, poker, craps, and slot machines. Some casinos are inclusive restaurants, bars, cafés and night clubs, such as you’ll find at Avalon (Leontovycha 3; metro Universytet). Also worth a look are Casino Europe (Gorkoho 8; metro L’va Tolstoho), and Split Club, one of Kiev’s oldest casinos (Prorizna 8; metro Khreschatyk).

Dance Clubs are the hot spots in Kiev for anyone of teen age to 30-somethings. 112 Cocktail Bar is Kiev’s present #1 party spot, with a huge variety of dance music, drinks, and people that want to get to know each other. Hint! (Chervonoarmiys’ka 5; metro L’va Tolstoho). Carribean Club is a Latin disco that plays Salsa. Professionals occasionally show people how the steps are done. (Kominterna 4; metro Universytet). Sound Planet mixes house, techno, and anything else that’s fast, furious and chest-pounding. (Dmytrievs’ka 18/24; metro Universytet). Finally, for a bit of the adult side, Taboo Restaurant & Cabaret has incredible shows and erotic electricity in the air. It’s also located in the penthouse of the 5-star Premier Palace Hotel, with an entrance fee to match (250Hr). (T.Schevchenka 5-7; metro Teatral’na).

Kiev Transportation
Kiev’s Boryspil International Airport handles nearly all international flights. The customs officials speak English, so the language barrier is minimal. Taxis into Kiev center accept dollars and euros. An ATM and currency exchange office is inside the terminal, but you’ll get better rates from both in the city.

Kiev’s Central Railway station is a two-in-one deal, with the modern, futuristic newer station out front, and the platforms between the two. The station is in Kiev, just a short taxi ride to the center, or for an instant adventure, you can take the metro. The metro station Vokzal’na (Bok3arbha) is on your left as you exit the main station. Look for the green letter M. Khreschatyk is three stops east on the red line.

Look to the Kiev metro system as your friend. It will quickly take you to many great areas and to all the city sites. You must take some time, however, to look at the map and distinguish between your guidebook language equivalent to the Cyrillic Ukrainian letters. They seem at first to be a jumble of alphabet soup, with some numbers thrown in just to play with your mind. Likewise, the transfer tunnels at the stations can be a bit confusing. You will find yourself misplaced on occasion, but don’t let this spoil a great underground experience. The platforms are tiled in mosaics, the cars clean and bright, if sometimes crowded, and I felt perfectly safe traveling at all hours of the night. There are no discount booklets: the pay system runs on tokens, and cost about 25-cents apiece. Purchase your tokens at the window inside any of the stations. Buy a handful of tokens the first time through so you don’t have to wait in line each ride.

For a full-on look at Kiev local life, hop onto a trolleybus, tram, or bus. They are used by schoolkids, working class people, and babushkas and dedushkas, and seldom go where you necessarily want to go. Your ride will be filled with chatter, wild looks (at you, naturally), and frequent stops. Fifty kopecs gets you on board; pay the conductor or driver, and validate your ticket immediately using one of the punch machines.

(return to Kiev main page here)

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