Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It is the second-largest European country after Russia, which sits on its east and northeast borders.
Ukraine has a rich cultural history characterized by a love of nature and delicious food. Unfortunately, the constant threat of geo-political conflict is a concern for all in the country.
The Ukrainian region has been pivotal in human history. Settlement by the Gravettian culture, in the Crimean Mountains, dates back to 32,000 BC. And Ukraine is also considered to be the likely location of the domestication of the horse.
Modern Ukraine was declared an independent country following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
After significant upheaval, Ukraine has emerged as a unitary republic under a semi-presidential system. And its people speak Ukrainian as well as Russian, English, and Polish.
Famous Landmarks in Ukraine
1. St. Sophia’s Cathedral
Saint Sophia Cathedral is the oldest Catholic church in the ancient city of Zhytomyr. The cathedral is the center of Catholicism in Kyiv.
The city of Zhytomyr, founded in 884 AD, sits in the north of the western half of Ukraine and the city is the center of Ukraine’s transportation.
Bishop Samuel Jan Ozga chose the location of Castle Hill, Zamkovaya Gora, in the heart of the city for the church in 1746.
After fire damage in 1868, the church was redesigned in the Classical style. But the Baroque interior including the stucco detail and frescos remains.
Saint Sophia Cathedral was closed to the faithful during Soviet-era rule but was restored after the Fall of Communism in 1991.
Pope John Paul II, in the fall of 2011, was installed as Pontiff on the steps of the Cathedral, which has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
2. Kiev Pechersk Lavra
The Caves of the Kyiv Monastery were first occupied in the 11th century as an Eastern Orthodox Christian monastery. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the expansive complex was granted separate nation status because of its historical and cultural importance to the Ukrainian people.
The Lavra contains dozens of unique structures, including the iconic bell tower and fascinating natural cave systems that earned the monastery its name.
Listed as one of the Seven Wonders of Ukraine, the Lavra underground corridors measure roughly six feet wide and eight feet tall. These naturally carved passageways were originally used by the monks as living quarters.
The Lavra contains the Great Lavra Belltower and the Dormition Cathedral. There are also at least eight other churches, such as the Churches of the Nativity of the Virgin and the Life-Giving Spring. There are also theological schools and the Debosquette Wall within the monastery walls.
3. Slavut·sʹkyy Istorychnyy Muzey
Slavuta Historical Museum, Ukraine is a natural, socio-economic, and historical museum that was founded in the late 1800s. It is located in Slavuta, a city in Shepetivka Raion, on the Horyn River. Slavuta sits roughly 50 miles (80 km) from the oblast capital, Khmelnytskyi.
The Slavut Historical Museum has more than 12,000 items in numerous historical and scientific galleries.
One of the Museum’s major exhibits is a World War II exhibit depicting instruments of war as well as Ukraine’s use as a wholesale concentration camp, known as the Big Hospital, “Groslazaret Slavuta – tsvai. Camp 301.” Photographs, newspaper reports, and artifacts remain to tell the story of over 150,000 prisoners of war who died there from 1935 to 1941.
While Ukraine’s contemporary history is one of war and occupation, the region was once known as a cultural center.
The museum also supports a walking tour of major monuments throughout Slavuta. This one-hour tour includes the areas of the original settlement and the Slavuta Brewery.
4. Ukrainian Motherland Monument
The Motherland Monument is a monumental statue in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. Located on the southern outskirts of the Pechersk District, on the Dnipro River’s right bank.
Sculpted of stainless steel, the WWII memorial statue stands 203 ft tall in front of The Ukrainian State Museum of the Great Patriotic War. The base of the statue weighs roughly 560 tons.
Completed in 1981 it was dedicated by then Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev, himself a Ukrainian. The active flame held by the statue uses 14,000 cu ft of gas hourly — burning only on national holidays.
5. Independence Square
Independence Square, Maidan Nezalezhnosti, is the central square of Kyiv. Known to locals as Maidan, s one of three squares located along Khreshchatyk Street.
The square extends to multi-levels. At street level is the square’s busy intersection. The Kyiv Metro station, Maidan Nezalezhnosti, is located underground. And the Obolonsko–Teremkivska north-south line runs along the right bank of the Dnieper river.
There is also the Hlobus shopping mall underneath the square. Hlobus is an expansive shopping complex with trendy stores, a food court, and a multiplex cinema.
6. St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery
St. Michael’s sits in Kyiv on the edge of the bank of the Dnieper River, northeast of Saint Sophia Cathedral. Dedicated to the Archangel Michael, the religious center was originally founded in 1113 by Kievan Rus’ Sviatopolk II. Emperor Sviatopolk is buried with his family beneath the main cathedral.
Originally of Byzantine architecture, the Monastery’s design was updated to Ukrainian Baroque in the 18th Century. And the building’s hemispherical roof is believed to be the first golden dome in Kyivan Rus.
St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery was honored in 2018 as the headquarters of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
7. St. Andrew’s Church
The Cathedral of Saint Andrew is located in one of Kyiv’s oldest neighborhoods, Podil. There has been a church at or near the site of St Andrew’s Church since the early 1000s.
Catherine the Great commissioned Russian court architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli, who designed the great cathedral, in the late Elizabethan Baroque style, and construction was finalized in 1754.
Located on a steep hill, believed to be the site, Andrew the Apostle foresaw the Slavic lands as the cradle of Russian Christianity. This majestic church is consecrated in his honor.
In 1968, St Andrew’s Church was converted into a cultural heritage museum and is curated by the National Sanctuary.
8. Golden Gate
The Kievan Rus’ Golden Gate of Kyiv was the main gate into Kyiv in the 11th Century. Referred to by townspeople as Zoloti Vorata, construction of the gateway through the city’s fortified walls began in 1017 and took seven years to complete.
The Golden Gate was one of three gateways constructed by Yaroslav the Wise and is a contemporary of Saint Sophia Cathedral. Originally named the Southern Gate, and could be easily identified by the gilded domes.
Named after the Golden Gate of Constantinople, this fortified archway was destroyed by the Mongol Hordes in the Middle Ages. It was rebuilt with significant embellishment by the Soviet Union in 1982.
9. Tunnel of Love
The Tunnel of Love is an industrial railway section near Klevan, Ukraine. The Tunnel of Love, located on a side spur of the Kovel-Rivne Line, is a Cold War relic. Originally built as a military line, the trees were used to camouflage the track.
This unique tree tunnel extends roughly 3 miles, and its archways are covered by greenery and vines, creating an intimate setting.
During Autumn, the trees show their colors and create a firey orange archway. And, in winter, the snow collects on the trees for a breathtaking sight.
Since trains are only scheduled on the railway three times daily, it is a popular place for couples to walk and has been referred to as the most romantic place in Ukraine.
10. Khreschatyk Street
Khreschatyk Street is Kyiv’s main road. Roughly a mile in length, it links European Square in the northeast part of the city through the central square of Maidan, and the Bessarabsky Market in Bessarabska Square in the southwest end.
Khreschatyk Street follows an old ravine that was filled and paved at the start of Russia’s industrial revolution in the early 19th Century. In 1892, the first electric tram line in the Russian Empire ran in Kyiv, replaced by trams, and then trolley-style buses.
Originally home to the administrative buildings of the city, now the street is a contemporary retail thoroughfare.
Some of the major attractions along Khreschatyk Street include PinchukArtCentre, the National Musical Academy Concert Hall, and numerous luxury hotels. It is common to find seasonal festivals, national parades, and street musicians along the main street.
The area is also a popular shopping district with upscale boutiques, jewelry shops, and restaurants.