Kyiv’s 1,500-year-old mix of fortunes rings out loudly from caves left by scholarly monks, the dazzling blue St Michael’s, distinctive buildings by Rastrelli – the darling architect of St Petersburg –, the art collected by pre-revolutionary sugar magnates and the Babi Yar massacre memorial. The Stalin Empire architecture, Chernobyl Museum and the proud Independence Square are all part of Kyiv's unique charm.
The changing eras left their clear marks on the city. The stately mansions of the Lypki district are now government buildings, and the Caves Monastery, parks and Soviet statues define ancient Pechersk. The Upper City has landmark churches, and Saint Sophia's Cathedral, the greatest one of all, was modeled on the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Bohemian Andrew’s Descent delights as it winds down into 19th-century Podil, while a glance across the river offers a starkly contrasting view over the concrete forest of Soviet apartment blocks.
Kyiv’s music is unmissable, particularly the superb opera (and ballet!) at the Viennese-style Opera House. There is now an alternative music scene as well, which can be enjoyed in underground bars known to insiders only. Summertime is when street musicians create their art right at the city streets, filling the air with uplifting tunes and lovely melodies.