Kiev is one of the oldest Slavic cities, situated at an ancient trade crossroads. Set on the right bank of the Dnieper, Kiev has a Western European atmosphere and merits at least a two-night stay.
Although it is the political capital of Ukraine, Kiev is perhaps more important as a magnificent monument to the Russian Orthodox church. The city has seen many churches and monasteries built since AD 988, when the Byzantine wife of Kiev's ruler introduced Christianity to the region.
In the summer, take advantage of Kiev's many parks, especially the Pechersk Botanical Gardens, Mariyinsky Park (home to the splendid Mariyinsky Palace) and Victory Park, which runs along the Dnieper River near the Pecherska Lavra.
We suggest that you try to book ahead to see a performance at the Shevchenko National Opera and Ballet Theater (one of the most graceful buildings in the city) and the Ukrainian Dance Ensemble.
The Days of Kiev festival is celebrated during the last weekend in May, when the city's beautiful chestnut trees are in full bloom. If you're there during the festival, head for Andrew's Descent, where professional and amateur artists display and sell their works.
A sobering, moving experience is a visit to nearby Babi Yar, where invading Nazi troops massacred more than 100,000 Ukrainian Jews during World War II. A stark monument now marks the mass graves.
Visitors to Kiev should note that although tourists are certainly welcome in the city, English is not widely spoken and signage, even on maps, is in the Cyrillic alphabet. Sightseeing with a bilingual guide is strongly recommended.
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