With a population bordering on 3 million, Kiev is the capital and largest city of Ukraine and the 7th largest in Europe.
Kiev offers a wealth of history for visitors to discover. It has existed in some form since at least the 5th Century AD and has been invaded by Vikings and Mongols. Ukraine was annexed into the Soviet Union, with Kiev regarded as one of the Hero Cities of the Soviet Union.
Nowadays Kiev is one of the main industrial, scientific, financial, educational and cultural centres of Eastern Europe with a modest gay scene. The Ukrainian political climate is currently quite sensitive, so it is not uncommon to see large scale demonstrations on the streets.
When it comes to LGBT rights in Europe, Ukraine frequently performs quite poorly in international rankings. Although same sex activity is legal with an equal age of consent (16), same-sex households are not offered any of the same protections given to heterosexual couples.
The constitution defines marriage as a voluntary arrangement between a man and a woman, and it looks like it’s going to stay that way for a while. The government, did however approve action to produce a draft bill for registered same-sex partnerships by 2017.
Homosexuality is a taboo subject, amplified by the influence of the church and prevailing Soviet attitudes to “abnormal” non-heterosexual behaviours. There have been cases when gay couples have been asked to leave restaurants, and homophobic violence is not unheard of.
Kiev acts as Ukraine’s gay centre, although in comparison to other European capitals it may seem lacking. There is a modest selection of Gay Bars & Clubs and Gay Saunas for gay visitors to enjoy which attracts provincial gay Ukrainians.
While Kiev may seem like a cosmopolitan in comparison to other towns in Ukraine, we would advise keeping public displays of affection to a minimum.
It has taken a while for Kiev to host its first regular gay pride parade (known as equality march). The first was held in 2003 and due to cancellations by city authorities and for safety concerns the second was held in 2015. 1,500 people took part in 2016’s equality march.
Kiev has two international airports: Boryspil International Airport (KBP) and Igor Sikorsky Kyiv International Airport or Zhuliany (IEV). Boryspil is Ukraine’s main airport with European and intercontinental connections. Zhuliany is mostly served by budget carriers.
Skybus takes passengers from Terminals B, D and F of Boryspil into the city centre. The journey takes 45-55 minutes, with services every 15 minutes during the day (30-45 at night). Tickets cost 80 UAH to the main rail station and can be bought on-board or in the terminal.
There are bus, minibus and trolleybus routes serving Zhuliany with buses/trolleybuses costing 3 UAH to the centre and minibuses costing 3-6 UAH due to it being closer to the centre. From the domestic terminal, it is a 500m walk to Volnysky train station which connects to the centre.
Taxis can be caught from both airports. From Boryspil it will usually cost around 250 UAH to get into the city centre and from Zhuliany 40-70 UAH. Locals use taxi apps to get the best deal and it is best to avoid touts in the airport as these will definitely try to rip you off.
Kyiv-Passazhyrsky offers a range of regular services to and from central and eastern Europe, including Berlin, Venice, Vienna, Moscow and Prague. There are also less regular connections further afield in Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.
The best way to take in Kiev’s sites is by foot but you may wish to take public transport between sites. It is also worth bearing in mind that almost all street signs are in Cyrillic and English is not widely spoken should you get lost.
The Kiev metro is a fast, clean and efficient means of getting around. A single costs 4 UAH to any destination however day tickets do not exist as such. It is advisable to buy as many tokens as you require or a contactless travel card.
At peak times, the metro runs every 30 seconds however this drops to every 15 minutes when it’s quieter. The service operates from 5.30am until midnight.
By bus, trolleybus or tram
These options are less popular than the metro but are also efficient means of getting around the city. Singles cost from 3 UAH which can be bought on-board or from a kiosk and must be validated and kept for the full journey.
Trams run 6am until 10pm, buses 7am until 8pm, and trolley buses 6am until 10pm. Full details of running times and fares are accessible at the stop.
The standard rules apply, as with any major city, when it comes to taking a cab in Kiev. It’s better to book a car via a taxi app as it is commonplace for tourists to be ripped off. A journey in downtown should cost no more than 60 UAH
For our list of some of the best hotels in Kiev for gay travellers, please visit our Gay Kiev Hotels page.
Chernobyl Museum – fascinating museum covering the aftermath of Europe’s worst nuclear disaster. Signs are in Ukrainian but an English audio-guide is available.
St Sophia’s Cathedral – the oldest church in Kiev with a great selection of mosaics. This church became a museum in 1934 and charges 60 UAH to get in.
Motherland Statue and War memorials – here you’ll find some excellent examples of pompous Soviet memorial architecture and preserved items of military hardware.
Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) – important square and key place to people watch. Recognised interationally as the place where supporters of Viktor Yushchenko camped for several weeks in 2004.
Mariyinsky Palace and Park – incredibly popular location for Kievans to stroll and unwind. This picturesque neo-classical building serves as the official residence of the Ukrainian president.
Golden Gate of Kiev – reconstruction of the 11th century entry into Kiev. This is a fantastic opportunity to find out more about medieval Kiev.
Kiev experiences a humid continental climate which means you can expect damp and hot summers and chilly winters in equal measure. Rain is distributed throughout the year but is most common between April and July.
The summer months attract the largest number of tourists however the varied programme of winter events draw tourists who aren’t afraid of the icy weather.
Kiev hosts a wide variety of festivals throughout the year including an international film festival, fashion week, world music festival, a fire festival and an opera gala. The equality march (pride) is held in June.
Kiev is not part of the European Union, however the government is (somewhat controversially) cosying up with the EU and has introduced visa free travel for those in the EU, up to 90 days.
For those outside the EU, you may need to provide documentation on arrival to demonstrate the purpose of your visit. Full information can be found here.
The currency of Ukraine is the Hryvnia (UAH). You will find exchange booths in the city centre but exchange rates vary. You will need to keep your receipts if you wish to change Ukrainian money after leaving the country.
You can find ATMs throughout the city (referred to locally as ‘bankomats’) and most major credit cards are accepted. It might be worthwhile, however, notifying your bank before you travel that you intend to visit Ukraine.
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