The 10 Most Unusual Things to See and Do in Ukraine

Bridge in Ukraine | ©  SofiLayla / Pixabay
Bridge in Ukraine | © SofiLayla / Pixabay
Photo of Maria Sibirtseva
24 September 2017

Ukraine is known for its versatile traditions and for the heady combination of food and eye-catching landscapes. Tourists always wonder what other unusual facets the country holds. Pork fat, samogon (140-proof vodka), or desperate public transport is only the beginning. The reality that Ukrainians face every day is harsh and diverse. Be ready to discover something striking and unforgettable during your next trip.

Explore the Chernobyl area

The exclusion zone for Chernobyl is a two-hour drive from the capital of Ukraine. There is not open access for tourists due to the accident at the nuclear power station in 1986; however, organized tours are still carried out. They provide guidance for the observance of safety techniques in contaminated areas. The first impression is scary, as the scale of the error, committed by mankind, is horrifying. Virtual reality episodes, computer games, and even Transformers: Dark of the Moon have been inspired by the horrifying Chernobyl zone.

Unravel the crossword on the building

Map View
Residential areas of Lviv also have a lot of interesting things to see. For example, a building façade that has been adorned with a crossword, the height of which is 30 meters (98 feet). The names of prominent artists are encoded there. To unravel the crossword, come to see it at night, because there are word-puzzles inscribed in the squares with a special paint visible only when it’s dark outside. And bring your Ukrainian friend with you – the words are in Ukrainian.

Enjoy a dégustation of holodets

Holodets is a Ukrainian variation of aspic that involves a frozen broth with slices of meat. The way it is cooked does not bring pleasure and excitement. The first step is the boiling of pork legs, followed by the addition of chopped meat, then waiting 6-7 hours for it to be ready. By virtue of traditions and food habits, holodets remains a popular dish. Tourists, not being familiar with such an extraordinary food, are surprised that Ukrainian people prefer to have it for every single celebration.

Holodets with pork | © Vl / WikiCommons

Rebel at Masoch Café

The most atypical venue in Lviv is Masoсh Café. At the entrance, there is a monument to the world-famous writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, whose name is the origin of the word “masochism.” It is a life-sized sculpture, so that every passer-by can put their hand into writer’s pocket and grab what he has inside. The café itself is more engaging. They serve food with aphrodisiacs and extreme cocktails after which you get whipped, have hot wax poured on you, or are locked in shackles. The menu is full of different masochistic fads; the personnel are dressed in leather suits to make customers feel the spirit of Masoсh Café better.

Serbska St, 7, L’viv, Lviv Oblast, Ukraine, +380 50 371 04 40

Take a night trip in a passenger train

Despite the quick evolution and modernization of Ukrainian cities, there are still a lot of remnants of its Soviet past. Passenger trains are one of them. If you are still wondering what is unusual in Ukraine, take a reserved seat in a platskartny third-class coach. It is a budget option of traveling in a common space. 54 seats, two toilets in the opposite sides of the coach, and a water heater, so passengers can drink tea. This kind of trip is not for the faint of heart or the luxury traveler, but for those really looking for something different, it just might be the excitement they need.

Platskart | © Strunin V.S./WikiCommons

Dress up on the highway

When going to the western part of Ukraine, the highway is full of markets. Traditional clothing, knitted goods, herbal teas, and wild honey are gladly offered to travelers. It is much cooler in the mountains than in the rest of Ukraine. For this reason, to get a warm sheepskin coat and a pair of handmade socks is the right decision. The clothes will make you warm and cosy, so you can maintain your sense of hygge while abroad.

Cure your hangover with brine

The morning after a crazy party in Ukraine, brine becomes your best friend. As a hangover means a lack of fluids and salt, a good solution is renewing the balance. Cucumber or sauerkraut brine helps a lot. But the dose should be small, no more than a glass. Moreover, a can of brine might be a relevant souvenir for a party animal friend. Whether it’s a market or a supermarket, the drink is sold everywhere.

Cucumber brine | © So Fuego Productions / Flickr

Visit an abandoned observatory

The Biały Słoń observatory is the highest mountain construction in Ukraine. It’s called “White Elephant” because in winter the building is overtaken with snow and looks like a big white animal. It has already been 70 years since the observatory stopped functioning. The reason why it is so attractive for tourists is that the old equipment and furniture were left there. However, getting there is full of challenges, as the height of Pip Ivan Mountain where it is located is 2028 meters (6653 feet).

Biały Słoń, Ivano-Frankivs’ka oblast, Ukraine

Try varenyky with ostrich meat

If you are tired of extreme sports and parties, it is the perfect time to spend a whole day in the suburbs. There is an ostrich farm just 30 minutes away from Kiev, surrounded by a beautiful pine forest and a small river in the village of Chubinskoye. You can grab some take-out and go for a picnic or visit the restaurant and eat in; both are good ideas in such a beautiful place. The menu contains a range of unusual dishes such as an ostrich-egg omelette or varenyky (dumplings) made from ostrich meat. Why not surprise your taste buds?

Varenyky with ostrich meat | © Deror_avi/WikiCommons

Rope jump from a bridge

Get the feeling of free fall and overcome the fear of heights, while rope jumping in Kiev. There are two spots in the capital of Ukraine that can be described as the most picturesque ones. Tower above the Dnieper in Hydropark or the pedestrian bridge near Trukhaniv Island. Being located at the height of 43 meters (141 feet) and 26 meters (85 feet), respectively, these are the sites that make people scream like crazy.