When you travel to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, you are going to a city that is at least 1600 years old. It has known many conquerors during its turbulent history, and it has been home to numerous ethnic groups, each of whom has had their own ideas about how to build a city. This accounts for the diversity in Kiev’s architectural styles. When you step out of your Kiev hotel and take a tour of the city, you can’t help but notice the rich variety.
Like other former Soviet urban centers, Kiev is a city of apartment buildings. The Soviet obsession with building utilitarian concrete slabs devoid of character certainly left its mark on Kiev. There is also the fact that Kiev suffered heavily in the Second World War. Large parts of it were reduced to rubble by the German invaders, and the Red Army. But in spite of the carnage inflicted on the city during the war, a surprising amount of historic Kiev’s architecture is still there. Most of these landmarks will be within easy reach of your Kiev hotel.
Kiev’s most recognizable building is Saint Sophia Cathedral. The Cathedral Complex is part of the Sophia of Kiev National Sanctuary. Named for the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, the cathedral, which dates back to the 11th century, is considered an outstanding example of Kievan Rus architecture. It was the first Ukrainian structure to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
St. David’s Golden-Domed Monastery dates back to the 12th century. It is an example of how early architectural styles were later modified. This structure was built in the Byzantine style, but in the 18th century it acquired a baroque exterior. The interior remains one of the finest examples of Kievan Rus lavish décor. Considerable restoration work was done on the church from 1976 to 1981.
St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral dates back only to the mid-19th century, when construction was started on it to mark the 900th anniversary of the conversion to Christianity of Prince Volodymyr the Great. This church was built in the neo-Byzantine style. The colorful interior is particularly striking.
St. Andrew’s Church, constructed in the mid-18th century, is a fine example of baroque architecture. It has a single dome, and five small decorative spires. Cracks that have appeared in the foundation have given rise to fears that the foundation might collapse. A committee has been studying the problem.
The Mariyinsky Palace is a wonder of baroque architecture. It was designed for the Russian Empress Elizaveta Petrovna by Bartelomeo Rastrelli, the leading architect of the time. Elizaveta died before it was completed in 1752, and the first queen to stay there was Catherine II.
Kiev Pechersk Lavra is the most popular tourist attraction in Kiev. It is a monastery complex built in the baroque style over top of an elaborate system of caves. It dates back to the 11th century.