Be my guest
KHARKIV. Discover the potential of the east
Eastern Ukraine hides one of the largest cities in the country with about 1.5 million inhabitants, that is the main centre of the Slobozhanshchyna region – Kharkiv. Here, old history and culture intertwine with the Soviet and modern era.
The airport is located about 12 km from the city. You have several options to choose from if you want to get to the centre: from a regular taxi, through Uber or Bolt, to city transport. The trolleybus and the famous Ukrainian “Marshrutka” buses stop about 100 meters from the terminal A at “Romashkina” stop and will take you to the nearest metro station for just a few hryvnias. Regardless of the chosen means of transport, you can already admire the beautiful architecture of the city on the way.
What to see:
The Pokrovsky Cathedral (the Protection of the Virgin Cathedral) – built in 1689, the church is the oldest building in Kharkiv and one of the most delightful monuments. Gorky Park, i.e. Kharkiv Disneyland – I recommend the Ferris wheel, and then a cable car ride to the Sarzin Jar natural mineral water spring.[/one_half][one_half_last]It is worth spending more time at the Centre for Contemporary Art – Yermilov Centre. Shopping at the largest Eastern European marketplace known as Barabashovo will also be an attraction.
What to eat:
Slobozhansky borscht – Ukrainian borscht is a dish that looks different in each region. In Kharkiv, it is served with beans and meatballs. Warenyky – known in Poland as dumplings. They can be filled with practically anything: potatoes, meat, mushrooms, cabbage, cheese, and in the sweet version, fruits and berries. Grechaniki – meatballs with buckwheat, popular in the region, sometimes served with mushrooms.[/one_half][one_half_last]Kraft beers from local breweries, such as Tandem Plus, Probka, AltBier, Gershir, SoCraft, are also becoming increasingly popular, and can be tasted at some of the city's best pubs – Heisenberg or Vasko Da Gama.
In the Art Museum existing since 1805, you will see, among others, unique works of Ukrainian and Russian art from the 19th and 20th centuries. The entire collection consists of approximately 20 thousand art pieces! At the Museum of Photo Illusions you will fly into space.[/one_half][one_half_last]On the other hand, kids will love the WOOM Museum of Scientific Discoveries, whereas whole families will not get bored at the State Museum of Nature. The Holocaust Museum, the ATO Museum (War in Donbass) and the Literary Museum are also worth a visit.
In the urban style
Some travellers say that to fully experience the true atmosphere of the city, it is best to get lost in it. However, in order to sink into the atmosphere of Kharkiv, you just simply need to walk along its streets, feel like a student for a while (there are over 160 thousand of them here) and eat a cake at the Kuliniczi café or lunch at Puzata Hata.
It is best to start the journey from the Constitution Square, which you can easily and quickly reach by subway. A little bit further, there are the monumental and breath-taking Annunciation Cathedral and the peculiar House with a Spire – a tenement house from the Stalinist era, with 11 floors and a tower.
Around the corner
On Sumska, the main street, the hustle and bustle never stops. You can turn from it directly into Gogolya, the shortest street of the city, where the famous mural presenting Shakespeare’s Hamlet and the neo-Gothic Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary can be found. It is also worth checking out the Kharkiv Choral Synagogue built in 1909-1913, which is the largest synagogue in Ukraine and the second biggest in Europe.
If you continue your walk, you will reach the Kharkiv symbol of love – the impressive “Mirror Stream” fountain erected in 1947, which is a popular meeting spot.
Closer to clouds
Freedom Square is one of the largest squares in Eastern Europe. Its shape resembles a light bulb or an elongated drop of water. Tourists are especially attracted by the Derzhprom – the first skyscraper of Soviet Ukraine.
After reaching the square, I suggest a short break for coffee which you can drink in an extraordinary company. Nearby you can find the “Kitty Cafe” cat café and “EHOT Coffee” café with raccoons, who will definitely charm all animal lovers.
Art lovers should visit one of the thirty theatres in the city. I strongly recommend Theatre 19, which has many specta cles by Sławomir Mrożek in its repertoire, or the famous Drama Theatre named after Taras Shevchenko, which in the years 1922-1933 functioned as the Berezil Theatre.
Those interested in opera and ballet will love “Carmen” or “Nabucco” at the Kharkov National Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre named after M. Lysenko or concerts at the Kharkiv Philharmonic.
The cable car in Gorky Park was built in 1971. The wagons were grey or beige and marked with large black numbers. In 2014, they were replaced by new ones. Each of them holds a maximum of two passengers.
The ride lasts 18 minutes, and colourful cabins hang at a height of 8 to 26 meters. In 2016, the British “The Guardian” newspaper listed the Ukrainian cable car among the top 10 attractions of this type in the world.
The capital of street art
Kharkiv graffiti is not only an unusual wall decoration, but also a witness to the history of the city and an important medium of social communication. Here you can find the record-breaking and largest murals in Ukraine with a picture of Gagarin and Shevchenko, covering an area of approx. 500 m2. The works of artist Hamlet Zińkowski deserve special attention. There are over eighty of them throughout Kharkiv and they are distinguished by monochromatism and philosophical inscriptions.
Particularly noteworthy are the “Thermometer” mural, which shows the temperature, a portrait of the Ukrainian singer Kuzma Skryabin, scenes from famous Soviet films, bright bird murals or illustrated historical events, such as the Battle of Kruty. To see most of these street art works, it is best to use the subway, whose design also makes quite an impression. Noteworthy are for example Kyivska and Akademika Barabashova stations.
Amidst castle walls
For a longer stay, it is worth going on a trip out of town to see Sharivskyi Palace and Garden Complex “Sadyba”. Built in the neo-Gothic style, this 19th-century palace is called the “White Swan” because of its characteristic form.
To reach the complex you only need 1.5 hours by car from the centre of Kharkiv. You will also get there by marshrutka, but prepare yourself for a few-kilometre walk. You can also decide to buy an organized trip.
Dinner is served!
As in every big city, Kharkiv offers meals that suit every pocket. Delicious dishes are served at the gastro pubs “Zori”, “Tractor” or “MnohoMias”. People who prefer fast food can visit the “Ampersand” burger house, which stands out with its original design, while those who like café atmosphere should go to the “Butter” café. If you have more money, try local specialties in the Victoria Hotel restaurant or visit “Mielnica” restaurant located in the old windmill that is famous for its excellent Georgian cuisine.
Another attraction will also be a dinner on the roof of the “7th heaven” restaurant, with a panoramic view of the entire city. Or maybe you want to learn cooking? Then you must pay a visit to the culinary studio “Kitchen”.
From dawn till dusk
If you work even during holidays, you can try coworking in the revitalized Fabrika.space (this place used to be a factory founded in 1933). Fabrika.space is also a place where interesting events and parties take place, for example, the French Animation Festival (October 24, films in English with Ukrainian subtitles). On the ground floor there is a bar with kitchen, serving, among others, salmon jushka soup.
In the evening, Kharkiv shows its other side. The Constitution Square becomes an evening dancefloor for everyone. If, after a full day of sightseeing, you still have a lot of energy, a large number of clubs and pubs will allow you to enjoy the city’s rhythm for a long time and come back with fully charged batteries.
About the author
A fan of traveling on his own (visited over 20 countries), founder of the website about Ukraine in Polish: PoznajUkraine.pl. A PhD student at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, translator from Ukrainian.
The airport is located about 12 km from the city. You have several options to choose from if you want to get to the centre: from a regular taxi, through Uber or Bolt, to city transport. The trolleybus and the famous Ukrainian "Marshrutka" buses stop about 100 meters from the terminal A at "Romashkina" stop and will take you to the nearest metro station for just a few hryvnias.