If you feel that it's time to explore a new European destination, you may want to visit Kiev. The capital of the Ukraine has something to offer for everyone, whether you are a party animal or a culture vulture. Since the Ukraine's independence from the Soviet Union, this city has also become a bustling and vibrant center in Eastern Europe.
There are more than three million people living in the city. Most of these people speak Russian, even though most of the signage in the city is in Ukrainian. The spelling Kiev is from the Russian, while the spelling from the Ukrainian is actually Kyiv.
Kyiv was founded in the fifth or possibly the sixth century. Legend has it that four siblings founded the city on the Dnieper River. One of these siblings was named Kyi, and the meaning of the name Kyiv is 'city of Kyi'.
Founded so long ago, Kyiv is now one of Eastern Europe's oldest cities. Its rulers through the centuries included Mongols, Lithuanians, Cossacks, Russians and of course the Soviets. The city is now once again regaining its Ukrainian identity.
When you fly into Kyiv, you will probably land at Boryspil International Airport south-east of the city. From here you can take a taxi into the city center or you can take Sky Bus to the railway station and then take the train from there. If you don't want to fly in, however, you can get to the city by train, international bus or by car, usually via Poland. You can even reach the city by boat if you take a cruise along the Dnieper.
Once there, you will find a myriad of things to do and places to see. Old churches and monasteries are treasure troves of religious art and architecture. One of the most famous of these is the St Sophia Cathedral, which dates back to the eleventh century and is a UNESCO world heritage site.
More recent history is represented by the Second World War memorials and museums. The Great Patriotic War, as it's called in the Ukraine, caused a lot of devastation in the country. For example, at a site known as Babyi Jar, in the region of 60 000 mainly Jewish and Romany people were massacred when the Nazis occupied the country.
The Chernobyl Museum is dedicated to another tragic event in the Ukraine's recent history, the nuclear disaster from the 1980s. If you're tired of museums and tragedies, though, you can move on to the theaters instead. Kyiv offers opera, classical music, drama, ballet and even a marionette theater. For those on a tight budget there are street entertainers along the famous Kreschatik Street.
Other activities in the city include shopping, a vibrant nightlife, a variety of sports and parks. Of course you cannot visit Kiev or Kyiv and not have real Ukrainian borscht in one of the city's restaurants. To enjoy all these activities and more, you can take an organized tour or simply create your own itinerary.