Stop Overlooking Kyiv, Eastern Europe's Diamond In The Rough

I’ll be brutally honest, Kyiv was never very high on my list.

Between the recent revolutions, ongoing conflicts with Russia and – I’ll be honest – brutally cold weather, it was a place that, as intriguing as all of this was to me as a journalist, it just wasn’t a place I was sure that I wanted to visit, let alone promote that someone else visit.But I was wrong. And it didn’t take much research, or many conversations, to quickly figure that out.

Because there are some seriously cool things happening in the city. Things that is setting Kyiv up to have a moment (if it isn’t already). From secret speakeasies and world-class cocktails to social projects supporting progressive endeavors across the city, to the coolest neighborhood to stay in when you visit and where you can actually get behind the wheel of a tank (yes, a tank), there’s so much more to Kyiv than you could ever imagine. Here’s what’s making Kyiv Eastern Europe’s coolest capital city to stop overlooking.

The cocktail scene is worthy of international recognition.

The cocktail scene in Kyiv is one of the most exciting I’ve seen in a while.

Beautifully balanced, well-curated cocktails are replacing straight shots of vodka (which, don’t worry, you’ll still find those as well) as locals demand a more sophisticated bar and restaurant scene.

From Alchemist Bar where there’s a speakeasy within the speakeasy in the form of a hidden, but well-guarded, seated-only backroom (which I highly recommend – and prefer – to the chaos that goes on in the front of the house) to Parovoz Speakeasy, a bar hidden in plain sight below a buzzing street-side cinema and Barman Dictat, Kyiv is proving to be a place fit for the cocktail inclined.

Rumor also has it that there’s even a secret “bartenders-only bar” (as told to me by a bartender from another city) that opens at 2 am and only locals who work in the city’s bar industry are allowed in. I can neither confirm, nor deny, this rumor, but I like the idea, and the mystery, of it.

There are some very cool art and social projects popping up in town.

Places like Urban Space 500, a restaurant that was funded by 500 backers (based on the original Urban Space 100 concept in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine) whose profits go back into social projects and start-ups helping to develop the city are creating ways for locals to get involved, giving them a way to make actionable progress in developing the city at a time when it needs it the most.

And at The Naked Room Gallery, a space that’s promoting local artists, giving them a voice – and a place – to showcase their work. The gallery also doubles as a coffee shop during the day and a hidden wine bar at night, so there’s never been a better excuse to spend time getting into the local art scene.

Bursa Hotel is setting out to do the same, helping give local artists the chance to get in front of an international audience thanks to their #pickthewall art initiative where the hotel buys all the necessary supplies for an artist to create a piece of work, then displaying it with the aim to sell it on behalf of the artist to interested guests at the hotel. The initiative coincides with Bursa Art Gallery, the hotel’s art gallery that lives in the basement of the building and is meant to get people thinking and talking, rather than to showcase more typical pieces of work, which is something the gallery is doing quite well.

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