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Sofiis'ka Square - Bell Tower
Sofiis'ka Square - Bell Tower | © Michele Ursino / Flickr
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A Guide to Kiev's Architecture

Picture of Maria Sibirtseva
Updated: 13 May 2018
The architecture of Kiev is an extraordinary phenomenon. The unique and extremely diverse cityscape has been transforming for 14 centuries. Thus, the buildings and streets of the Ukrainian capital combine more than 30 different architectural styles, which accurately reflect the stages of the city’s formation. Note that the largest number of must-see works of architecture are concentrated in the very centre and can be explored on foot.

Churches and cathedrals

Kiev is called the city of domes for a reason. The Ukrainian capital boasts around 950 churches and cathedrals, which were under construction from the Kievan Rus era up to today. For instance, Saint Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery and Saint Sophia’s Cathedral were built at the beginning of the 11th century, as well as the calling card of the city, the Kiev Pechersk Lavra complex. This is not to mention the 18th-century gem of Baroque style, Saint Andrew’s Church, plus the Byzantine Saint Volodymyr’s Cathedral, the Gothic Saint Nicholas Roman Catholic Cathedral and many others.

The complex of Kiev Pechersk Lavra
The complex of Kiev Pechersk Lavra | © Star61 / WikiCommons

Theatres

In Ukraine, theatres are not only venues for local Bohemia and art lovers but also masterworks, which constitute an integral part of the general architectural ensemble. Therefore, the National Opera of Ukraine (1091) is among the top attractions in Kiev and the country’s most beautiful theatre. Its exquisite façade decorations amaze locals and tourists alike. However, special attention should be paid to the Art Nouveau Suzirija Theatre, located in the magical tycoon’s mansion. There are also several 20th-century works, like the Kiev National Academic Theatre of Operetta, the Ivan Franko National Academic Drama Theatre and Lesya Ukrainka National Academic Theatre of Russian Drama, that should be put on the list.

National Opera House of Ukraine
National Opera House of Ukraine | © Константинъ / WikiCommons

Mansions

Kiev’s mansions are a major area of interest, taking into consideration their complex architecture and enthralling stories. The House with Chimeras is decorated with hunting attributes, fairy-tale creatures and land and underwater fauna. Such an architectural solution is, obviously, surrounded by legends. One of them relates that the architect’s (Vladislav Gorodetsky) daughter drowned in the sea, and such a creation was how the father immortalized his sadness.

The House with Chimeras
The House with Chimeras | © Quotsu / WikiCommons

The House of the Weeping Widow is an Art Nouveau building representative of the beginning of the 20th century. Its façade is crowned with a woman’s head ornament, designed so that when it rains, the drops symmetrically flow down under her eyes as if she is crying. Thus, the mansion is one of the most mystical places in Kiev. The Chocolate House, in turn, was built in the late 19th century in the Eclectic style, while the halls of the building are designed in different styles: Gothic, Baroque, Moorish Revival, Russian and Art Nouveau.

The House of the Weeping Widow
The House of the Weeping Widow | © Paevska / WikiCommons

Universities

Kiev’s universities, perhaps, are some of the most astonishing architectural monuments in Ukraine and Europe. These buildings are bright ambassadors of the different periods in Ukrainian history. The main building of Taras Shevchenko National University of Kiev — a so-called Red Building — was constructed in the Russian Classicism style with monumental columns that perfectly characterize the mid-19th century. Another building at this university (Institute of International Relations) was built in the style of Soviet Constructivism with an extremely minimalistic design and mainly dull grey stones.

Taras Shevchenko National University of Kiev
Taras Shevchenko National University of Kiev | © Masha Kovalchuk / WikiCommons

Not surprisingly, the favourite destination of locals and tourists alike is the huge campus of Igor Sikorsky Kiev Polytechnic Institute, built in 1898. Its bewitching appearance, adorned with elements of Roman-Gothic architecture, is a reason why it is called the Ukrainian Hogwarts. Besides, it is one of the best architectural works of the turn of the century.

Igor Sikorsky Kiev Polytechnic Institute
Igor Sikorsky Kiev Polytechnic Institute | © SObuk / WikiCommons

Soviet architecture

As a former Soviet country, Ukraine is definitely a city to discover the architectural phenomena of that time. The 20th-century buildings are impossible to bypass, as they constitute the major venues and establishments of the Ukrainian capital. The coolest shopping mall, TSUM, is located in the very heart of Kiev. It was built just before the Second World War in the Constructivist style with prevailing elements of classical forms: monumental and symmetrical. The Kiev City State Administration that adjoins TSUM is another Soviet work, made of red granite, and ceramics. Such decoration is so typical for 20th-century Ukrainian buildings that they were showcased in the 2017 film, The Death of Stalin.

The building housing the Hotel Salut is impressive and appears almost extraterrestrial. Just look at the strict lines of this twelve-story building. At first, it seems to be round, but, in fact, it has the shape of an ellipse. However, it is not the only unusual architectural object in the capital. There’s also a ‘flying saucer’, or a ‘plate’, occupied by the Ukrainian Institute of Scientific and Technical Expertise and Information. This striking representative of Soviet modernism appeared as a result of a building plot, so architects had no choice but to literally hang the construction in the air to leave the pavement accessible to pedestrians.