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Note: Because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I don’t currently recommend traveling to this destination. I stand with Ukraine.
Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to a one day in Kyiv itinerary. You might be interested in a one day in Kyiv itinerary because Ukraine is constantly in the news these days. But have you heard of Mezhyhirya? And how do you pronounce it?
Well, I can’t help you much with the pronunciation, but Mezhyhirya is the former estate of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. If you want to be truly shocked by the lavish lifestyle of an Eastern European oligarch, you have to visit this estate. It’s now open to the public and known as the “Museum of Corruption”.
But of course there’s more to do on a One Day in KyivItinerary than just get sickened by the wealth that stealing from your own people can bring. We’ll also get in plenty of high culture like contemporary art and fine dining. It’s going to be a very busy day, so let’s not waste time!
One Day in Kyiv Itinerary
Where to Stay?
As a solo traveler, when I visit an unfamiliar city, I choose a hotel with a friendly staff that will help me if any unexpected problems come up. That’s why I recommend Sunflower B&B for your One Day in Kyiv Itinerary. The rooms are comfortable and affordable, and the hotel is in a good safe location. But more importantly, the staff was so helpful getting me to the airport when I had a fairly early flight. They arranged for the taxi, and they fixed a breakfast “to go” for me for no extra charge. I’m sure you’ll have a good time here too!
One Day in Kyiv Itinerary
What to Pack?
The weather in Ukraine can be rainy. So the two most important things you’ll need to bring are an umbrella and some rain boots. My favorite travel umbrella is the Repel Teflon Waterproof Umbrella. It is strong enough to stand up to the sometimes-quite-strong winds of Ukraine.
For rain boots, I recommend the Asgard Rain Boots. They are comfy/cozy and keep my feet dry all day. Plus they’re cute enough that I can wear them out and about without feeling like some gauche American with gross feet.
Finally, if you’re not from Europe, you need a universal adapter if you’re going to plug in electronics. European electrical outlets don’t work with either American or UK plugs. I suggest the NEWVANGA travel adapter. It’s usable with any electrical outlet in the world, so you won’t need to keep buying new adapters. I always carry two with me, just in case something happens to one.
One Day in Kyiv Itinerary
Just like the lavish palace Versailles is located outside of Paris, the bonkers Mezhyhirya Residence is located a short distance outside Kyiv. I do not recommend attempting to visit Mezhyhirya on your own unless you are fluent in Ukrainian. When I went, most of the people who work there did not speak English, and the tours were conducted in Ukrainian. You should hire your own English-speaking guide to take you around so you will actually understand what you are seeing.
I recommend taking this tour with Freetours. This is the same company I used to explore the catacombs in Odessa, and I had a great experience with them both times. My guide, who spoke flawless English, gave me an in-depth tour of every nook and cranny. (I don’t remember her name, so I’m going to call her Oksana in tribute to my favorite Ukrainian figure skater.) Get ready for a once in a lifetime experience with…
approximately top 5: Mezhyhirya
1) explore the grounds of Mezhyhirya
Before the house tour begins, you’ll have time to explore the beautiful gardens of Mezhyhirya. These grounds used to be the exclusive property of Yanukovych and his family. But since he fled Ukraine to go live in Russia, now the gardens are available for the public to enjoy. That’s always the way with greedy rulers who build extravagant palaces. Sooner or later they’re going to be open to the public. It happened to Louis XVI, it happened to the tsars, and it’s going to happen to you.
The grounds of Mezhyhirya have something for everyone to enjoy. Do you like rows and rows of birch trees?
How about a gorgeous lake full of birds of many colors?
How about sitting in crazy fake throne chairs? Yanukovych had these installed himself because I guess he felt he wasn’t unpopular enough with your average Ukrainian. I think any ruler who puts chairs like these up in his gardens is just begging to get guillotined.
2) the Mezhyhirya estate
Here it is: Yanukovych’s lavish estate. Oksana told me that he used to call it his dacha, which is Russian for a summer cottage. If you think this building is just a summer cottage, te salut. Oksana said that the estate shows off Yanukovych’s terrible taste because it’s a crazy mishmash of architectural styles.
And I agree. I’m not sure why Classical ruins needed to be part of this dacha. It seems like Yanukovych was unable to decide whether he was a tsar, a French king, or a Roman emperor.
3) evidence of the revolution
Yanukovych was forced to flee Ukraine during the revolution of 2014. He abandoned Mezhyhirya, but Oksana thinks he’s still paying for the upkeep of the grounds. Perhaps he thinks he’s going to come back some day? I asked Oksana how Yanukovych got so wealthy and she said that nobody knows. And I thought the dude couldn’t get any shadier!
After the revolution, some local Ukrainian patriots took over the building and turned it into a Museum of Corruption. They seem to have been pretty angry based on what they did to the pictures of Yanukovych and his followers. Oksana told me the patriots were a little strange, so opening hours at the museum are kind of irregular. But there’s a movement to make the Museum of Corruption more organized, so perhaps the opening times will be more regular when you visit.
4) amenities on amenities
What’s the point of being a corrupt oligarch if you don’t get to live it up? What kinds of ludicrous facilities would you put in your mansion if money were no option? How about a bowling alley?
Your own personal spa? Why not! Oksana said that Yanukovych actually profited from the spa because he would charge his visitors to use it.
What about a fake Greek gymnasium? You need to stay in shape so you can keep up with your much younger mistress. That’s oligarching 101.
Still got money to burn? How about an artificial salt cave in the basement of your mansion? I mean, you need to go down there sometimes and breathe fake salt air for health purposes. I’m sure Gwyneth Paltrow does it too!
Next we need a collection of rare tropical birds! These birds are absolutely not native to Ukraine, so we also need a special, climate controlled room so the birds don’t all drop dead.
But those birds are the only animals at Mezhyhirya. Yes, I’m pretty sure that’s all.
5) lavish furnishings
OK, now that we’ve got the facilities set up, we need to get the right Tacky Corrupt Oligarch Furnishings in this place. First we need a whole bunch of tables filled with real gold and covered with Swarovski crystals.
That’s right, I said a WHOLE BUNCH!
Next we need a solid gold statue of a jaguar, just cause.
Nothing says class like animal skins. So let’s get a whole bunch of vases made out of rare animal skins.
And just in case people don’t get it, we will drape an entire alligator on top of our table. That will show any alligators who try to take over Ukraine that we really mean business!
Of course we need lots of private bathrooms, and all the furnishings need to be made with real gold. That’s right, even the toilet paper cover and the toilet brush holder. We’re talking class out the wazoo here!
One of the most expensive items in Mezhyhirya is this Steinway and Sons Lennon piano. This piano was part of an extremely limited edition series in honor of the piano that John Lennon gave Yoko Ono. I don’t know exactly what this piano is worth, but I do know that these pianos initially cost 90,000 dollars. I’d like to know what Lennon’s ghost thinks about a piano in his name being bought by such a person.
6) love nest
Yanukovych wasn’t just mired in political scandal. He was also deeply involved in personal scandal. He was married to a woman about his age, but his wife, the First Lady of Ukraine, did not live with him at Mezhyhirya. Instead, he was shacked up with his much younger mistress. I really don’t think he was trying to be subtle about this relationship because the mistress’s portrait was on giant display in their bedroom. That’s how you know a man is confident his wife is never, never coming to his house.
Oksana told me that when Yanukovych fled Ukraine, he took his mistress and an unidentified baby with him. Everyone assumed it was his love child. I’d pretend to be shocked by this story, but unless Yanukovych’s wife also had cancer, this story isn’t as horrifying as some of our American politicians’ love child tales.
One Day in Kyiv Itinerary
Afternoon: Pinchuk Art Centre
When you’re in Kyiv, it’s easy to stay hyperfocused on Ukraine’s complicated political situation. But remember that Kyiv is also a cultural capital as well as a political capital. We shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit the Pinchuk Art Centre, arguably the best contemporary art museum in Eastern Europe. And by the time your guide drops you off in Kyiv, it will be lunch time. Fortunately Pinchuk Art Centre has a great cafe, so we can kill two birds with one stone!
Allow me to drop more knowledge on you with…
three fun facts: pinchuk art centre
1) what’s this about food?
The Pinchuk Art Centre has a great cafe with lovely views of the city. But I was pretty hungry after all that walking around the House of the Oligarch. So I was mostly excited about getting my mouth around this avocado, salmon, and egg open-faced sandwich. It’s remarkable how quickly food trends spread nowadays. I could find a yummy sandwich like this in just about any museum cafe in the world.
This sour cherry pie felt a little more Ukrainian, just because of the use of sour cherries. It was basically the world’s classiest diner cherry pie, and diner cherry pie is my all-time favorite dessert. So you’ll hear no complaints from me.
2) are there ukrainian contemporary artists?
Of course! Because the Pinchuk Art Centre showcases contemporary artists, the content of the exhibitions changes frequently. So I can’t guarantee that any of the artists I saw will still be there when you visit. But it seemed like the Pinchuk had a good mix of Ukrainian and international works.
When I visited, the Ukrainian exhibit was on contemporary art and Soviet Lviv. Lviv is the biggest city in Western Ukraine, and it had a large artist community back when Ukraine was part of the USSR. But the artists in this exhibit weren’t necessarily people who had lived in Soviet Lviv. A lot of the art was commenting on Soviet Lviv. So this white “wardrobe” is referencing the legends that artists in Soviet times had to hide their work in wardrobes from the authorities.
And this work combines pieces of wallpaper from the house of an artist named Sokolov with reproductions of the same wallpaper. I think the original wallpaper is behind glass and the “wallpaper” is exposed, but I can’t be sure. Basically this whole exhibit was in air quotes.
3) what about the international artists?
The most famous international artist I saw at the Pinchuk was Takashi Murakami. This beast above is called “Lion Occupying the Throne in my Heart”. You know it’s a Murakami because he’s the only one who can make skulls look so adorable.
Or perhaps you’d prefer this piece, “Still river” by Scandinavian artist Olafur Eliassion. You can tell he’s Scandinavian because only in the Nordic countries is watching ice melt considered to be an art form.
Also no contemporary art museum is complete without random light installations. I liked this one because the purple glow made my skin look really good.
One Day in Kyiv Itinerary
Evening: Dinner at Kanapa
During my tour that morning, I had told Oksana what a demented food lover I am. She suggested that I dine at Kanapa, which is one of the best upscale Ukrainian restaurants in the country. They serve traditional Ukrainian dishes with a modern twist. I can never resist this kind of restaurant, so I ordered their tasting menu. That way I could sample as many of their dishes as possible. It was the perfect way to end this One Day in Kyiv Itinerary.
We started off with pike caviar, Odessa-style. I felt very smug because I had already eaten pike caviar in Odessa. But apparently Odessa-style means you mix the caviar with butter. Caviar + butter is really the ultimate in luxury. Odessans know how to live!
Next we have aspic with hare, pheasant, and horseradish. This felt like a dish some Ukrainian nobleman might serve at his country estate. Also, I appreciate any dish that tastes delicious, is pink, and clears out my sinuses.
24 hour treat: borscht
Of course it can’t be a proper Ukrainian tasting menu without borscht! But this borscht is kicked up a notch with pork ears, prunes, smoked pear, and Hrinovuha, a vodka made with horseradish. I’m beginning to sense a theme for this meal, and that theme is horseradish. This was definitely the best borscht I’d ever had, and believe me, I’ve had a bit of borscht.
24 hour treat: vareniki
My quest to eat every dumpling in Eastern Europe continues! These vareniki were filled with pike perch and salo, which is similar, but not identical, to lard. I’m beginning to see that Ukrainians understand the secret to good cooking, which is just to put a lot of salt, fat, and carbs in everything.
I can see that you’re tempted to leave a comment asking why these vareniki are black. I don’t know. I was afraid to ask.
And now comes the traditional Ukrainian potato course. These potatoes are a light snack filled with sweetbreads, veal brain, and mushrooms, cooked in a caul fat red wine sauce. (If you are a squeamish eater, do not Google caul fat. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!) I can’t say I didn’t get my money’s worth with this tasting menu. It’s really more like a gorging menu!
24 hour treat: chicken kyiv
Speaking of gorging, were you interested in a dessert at the end of this tasting menu? Too bad! Instead you get a chicken Kyiv. Chicken Kyiv is not a traditional Ukrainian dish, but it’s so popular in Ukraine now that you can find it on the menu at many restaurants in Kyiv. It’s a piece of chicken wrapped around butter, then deep fried. It’s kind of the turducken of the turn of the 20th century.
But this is the most unique chicken Kyiv I’ve seen because the chicken bone was left inside. I guess that was to show they used a real, high-quality chicken when making this dish? It was exceptionally tender and delicious, but after everything else I’d consumed, I couldn’t eat the entire thing. If you can, please email me photographic proof and I’ll send you a sticker that says “I Ate the Entire Tasting Menu at Kanapa and All I Got was This Lousy Sticker”.
That’s One Day in Kyiv Itinerary!
What would you with a One Day in Kyiv Itinerary? Do you think you have what it takes to be an Eastern European oligarch? And what’s the all time greatest politician love child scandal? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend a One Day in Kyiv Itinerary. If you have time for another One Day in Kyiv Itinerary, try this. And if you want a One Day in Kyiv Itinerary that will take you on a day trip to Chernobyl, click here.