I ‘heart’ Ukraine.
And yes, it’s Ukraine, not The Ukraine, not since their independence from the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1991. Did you also know the third largest Ukrainian population in the world, is in Canada, mostly living in Alberta and Saskatchewan? If Ukraine isn’t currently on your bucket list of family travel, keep reading as to why you need to take a family vacation in Ukraine.
First off, the people. Many of the locals speak English, and the one attribute you’ll find is shop owners will try their hardest to help you. There’s a beautiful merge of cultural kindness that takes place with barely any words exchanged.
Secondly, the beauty and architectural structures here are ones of extraordinary awe. Your experience is through the stories told and the detailed history you’ll find at every turn.
Thirdly, it is extremely affordable, which makes it great for family travel! For example, a chicken kyiv dinner at Chicken Kyiv (I know, awesome) is only 3 Euros. Also known for its family brunch weekends, there is no doubt you’ll not only eat well, but you’ll eat a lot. Be sure to take a trip to the magical shop of Roshen (owned by the President of Ukraine) a confectionary haven of chocolate, candy and Kyiv cake!
At this point, you’re probably wondering “how do I get my family there?” Well, that leads to another thing I ‘heart’ about Ukraine: Ukraine International Airlines. Win cool parenting points by upgrading your family to Premium Economy. It’s a few extra bucks (remember you’ll be saving on your dining experiences), but you’ll thank me since it’s a 10-hour flight (from Toronto) into the capital, Kyiv. The staff is extremely friendly and helpful, and you’ll eat delicious meals, receive a package of sleep accessories, plus snacks, drinks and entertainment.
I think by now you know that I fell in love with Ukraine, and I know you will too. Another recommendation to make your trip memorable is booking your experiences through JC Travel Ukraine; a family-owned business customizing every booking to your family’s needs. JC Travel offers tours to see Ukraine as a local, including Historical Walking Tours.
With over ten years of experience and receiving the Experience of Excellence award by TripAdvisor in 2017 & 2018, they’ll make your visit one to remember.
Walking Tours in Kyiv
Walking tours are the best way to see all the beauty and architectural wonder Ukraine has to offer. Explore the ancient part of Kyiv City Center, the Golden Gates- the historic defensive fortress from the 11th century, St. Sophia’s Cathedral where monuments of architecture, art, sculptures and artists, history and pride are housed representing an integral part of Ukrainian culture. Andrew’s Descent is a street marked by historic landmarks, museums, art galleries antique shops and souvenir booths. Visit the Motherland Statue, the original symbol of courage and strength of the Ukrainian people. The best viewing platform is at the top which is also the centre of the National Museum of World War 2.
The Chernobyl Tour allows you to explore the world’s biggest radiation accident (18+) and is a day-long tour but worth it. You’ll visit the deserted town of Pripyat, the abandoned villages and even dine at the cafeteria; an educational experience for older children.
Walk along Khreshchatyk Street-the shortest yet widest main street in the world, visit Maidan Square, home of all Ukrainian Revolutions and Kyiv’s Pechersk Lavra Monastery caves – the most ancient monastery and UNESCO Heritage site. Why not visit the Mezhyhirya Residence, home of the former Prime Minister and President of Ukraine, Victor Yanukovych, featuring 140 hectors of the stunning mansion, luscious gardens, the classic car garage and exotic zoo? Another family favourite is Kiev Rus Park, a tour that JC Travel Ukraine can help book. A 1-hour drive from Kyiv, it’s like going back into mid-evil times for kids and adults alike.
Located in the heart of Kyiv and close to many attractions like the Opera House and the Main St. Botanic Gardens, it features a boutique style of 140 rooms, including a white room made for Britany Spears, called the Moroccan Room and where the famous soccer team, Real Madrid stayed during the 2012 Champions League. The décor is classical in line with the opera setting, cosy and personalised. They are always taking requests from their guests to help make your stay more comfortable. For example, they provide a nanny service which they can arrange with an outside company in case you want to slip away for a romantic Ukrainian dinner for 2, in which case I would recommend slipping downstairs to Teatro Restaurant for some incredibly delectable Mediterranean dining courtesy of award-winning Sicilian chef, Gaetano Sgroi.
A short one-hour flight from Kyiv aboard Ukraine International Airlines is the beautiful and youthful city of Lviv. It was the most important province of the empire during the 19th century boasting rich architectural heritage protected by UNESCO. It’s a city known for its old buildings and cobblestone streets, art, literature, music and theatre. Lviv means lion and is named in honour of the eldest son of the former King of Galicia, Leo. It’s also why you’ll find countless lion statues around the city.
Purchasing a LVIV City Card offers you and your family transportation along the city’s trams and trolleybuses, entrance to 20 museums and galleries and discounts at restaurants and shops!
You can pick up your card online or at the Visitor Centre, who also offer free walking tours every day between 11 am and 3 pm. Walk 500 steps up Ratusha Tower for fantastic views of Lviv, visit the
Museum of Weapons, see the Lviv TV Tower, (their version in Eiffel tower), Potocki Palace, Lviv Opera House & Jewish memorial – ‘The Space of Synagogues’ or visit over 150 active churches, featuring baroque and modern style architecture.
Lviv is also the capital of chocolate, coffee and beer! Lviv is broken up into four quarters, making it easy to explore. Market Square is the hustle and bustle of the city located in the main square where you’ll find different shops, bars and restaurants. In Old Town on Armenian Street, you’ll find a chocolatier who makes tool shaped chocolate and a Marzipan workshop where I found John Snow.
Leopolis is where luxury and comfort meet, offering spacious rooms situated in the historical part of the city close to the main square of Lviv. Like, a minute walk close. Inside your hotel room, you’ll find cool pastel colours and Italian furniture, great views and one of my personal favourite touches, heated floors in the bathroom.
Leopolis is eleven-years-old and family owned. Boasting 72-boutique rooms in a restored 18th-century building listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Leopolis once hosted Canada’s own Prime minister, Justin Trudeau. Enjoy cosying up in front of the fireplace in The Library and in warmer months the Summer Terrace, Patio and Rooftop are the places to be. One spot for parents to slip away to in a peaceful and unique cave-style space is the Cigar Lounge, located downstairs with the serenity spa and fitness centre.
Does your family like to eat? Why not book a Lviv culinary tour with !FEST a chain of unique restaurants (many of which require a password or located underground) and creative projects including experiences like The Lviv Coffee Mining Manufacturer, Arsenal Ribs and in the heart of the city, the seven-story Handmade Chocolate Lviv building with a spectacular rooftop view of the city.
I just have one word for Ukraine: Dyakuyu (that means, thank you).
To find out how to get you and your family to Ukraine aboard Ukraine International Airlines, click www.FlyUIA.com and to book your tours once you’re there, check out JC Travel Ukraine http://enjoy-ukraine.com/ .