Whether you are familiar with Kiev’s main attractions or not, you should do yourself a solid and make time to explore the real city. Indulge in delicious, affordable and authentic food; slowly sip good coffee; peruse local venues that are not flooded with tourists; and let your inner wild child free at vivid nightclubs. Here are the best ways to act like a local in Kiev.
A couple of years ago, the takeaway coffee culture infiltrated the daily routine of Kievans. The morning “fueling up” activity became a tradition, and local coffee shops immediately adjusted to clients’ demands. Not only have food venues started to work at 8 am, the streets of the Ukrainian capital have been invaded by numerous coffee kiosks that grind and prepare fresh coffee for folks on their way to work. The Magic Snail is the most popular mobile pit stop, which can be easily found near underground metro stations or in parks.
In the very heart of Kiev, there’s a cozy entertainment complex called Arena City. It mainly specializes in hosting food venues with the best service in the city. Whether you’re craving a hearty burger with fries or a delicious dessert or a late night cocktail or two, one place has what you are looking for: Arena City. Every native of the capital considers it a necessity to stop by Arena City for at least a cup of coffee once a week.
While many of the city’s popular venues are located on the Right Bank of Kiev, the Left Bank is known for the Ulichnaya Eda Festival (or “street food festival”). For less than a $5 entrance fee, you are free to explore a massive park full of street food vendors and a Platforma Art Zavod that hosts different kinds of entertainment. There are dozens of food stalls, concert stages, relaxation zones with hammocks, playgrounds, pet areas, and a huge area full of deck chairs and even a small swimming pool. The festival is the best way to escape the crazy city bustle without leaving it.
If you are acquainted with Ukrainians, you should know that the motto of their lifestyle is “work hard, play hard.” The local people appreciate every single moment of free time and try to make the most of each day. If they are planning a family dinner, they book a table at the finest restaurant. If they’re going out for a drink with friends, they always hit up the best bars in the city. Most importantly, they never forget to take snapshots of the best moments.
Along with ancient historical monuments and beautiful parks, Kiev can also surprise you with ridiculously affordable, but unexpectedly delicious street food. For example, perepichka (a sausage fried in dough) is served at many street food stalls (one in particular) and is a local delicacy that will cost you just $.30. Add a fountain drink for $.60, and you’ll have a full lunch for less than $1. Be aware that these vendors are not secret places and locals have been loving these fast food treats since 1981. Therefore, you may find yourself standing in line, like a local, for at least 20 minutes.
With the onset of warmer weather, the local people move from cozy cafés to terraces and parks. It would be a shame to bypass the open-air nightclubs that operate from April through October. The internet is crawling with tourist venues, but these are not the places to feel the true Ukrainian spirit. From Friday to Sunday, most of Kiev can be found at the Hangover, Dali Park, Green Theatre (Zelenyi Teatr), or Closer. By the way, the last one is among the Top 20 nightclubs in the world.
Kievans admire walks in the fresh air, so it’s no wonder that numerous parks and gardens are always crowded with people. A favorite destination is Hryshko National Botanical Garden, located near the city center. It is not only a picture-perfect spot for a picnic, but also a fascinating lilac garden that has existed since 1948. It is a truly unforgettable sight of 1,500 trees and bushes simultaneously blooming on the banks of Dnipro River.