2019 Discovery: Ukraine

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Crowds got you down? This post is part of a series of 10 European Discoveries for 2019 — off-the-beaten-path gems where you can escape the tourist rut and find a corner of Europe all your own.

I visited Ukraine this year for the first time. Planning the trip felt like taking my medicine — one of the last big European countries to check off my list. But once I arrived, Ukraine was a revelation.

Lovely Lviv — with its cobbled old town, Baroque churches, thriving coffee culture, kitschy theme restaurants, and cozy main square — is a time capsule from a simpler age of tourism. It’s lively with Polish, German, and Ukrainian tourists…but virtually no Americans.

The capital, Kiev, feels like a more manageable, more colorful Moscow on a human scale — a mix of stately Soviet Gothic architecture, vibrant Art Nouveau townhouses, lush parks with stirring views, and gold-domed Orthodox churches on every corner. And from Kiev, it’s an easy day trip to one of the most powerful and thought-provoking sites anywhere in Europe: Chernobyl.

Throughout my visit, Ukraine continually surprised me with its shockingly low prices (a high-end dinner for two for $25, an Uber ride across town for $4), its unexpected sophistication, its sense of burgeoning national pride, and its fully-ready-for-prime-time confidence.

How can such a huge country (Europe’s second-biggest) be so overlooked by travelers? Beats me. But for now, I am more than happy to be in on this particular secret.


I recently shared this post about the experience of visiting Chernobyl, and I’ll be sharing more about Ukraine in the coming weeks. To make sure you don’t miss anything, be sure to follow me on Facebook — and check out my 10 European Discoveries for 2019 for nine more suggestions on where to get away from the crowds.

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