N-th kilometer

Festive country

23.12.2009 | Lyubov Chyhyr, Viktor Malyshev special for Weekly.ua

In a few days the Christmas and New Years holidays begin. Weekly.ua compiled for its readers a list of the top 10 places in Ukraine to spend the holidays

o matter how you look at it, Ukrainians celebrate New Years more warmly than anywhere else on the planet. This applies both to sitting in front of the tube or getting out of the big city to some holiday resort. Burned out traffic from phone calls and text messages on your cell phone, shooting off fireworks in the backyard, rivers of champagne, Xmas trees, Olivier salad and watching the films Ironiya Sudby, the Soviet New Years classic, or Home Alone, people and all this regardless of the place of rendezvous. This is what really makes our New Years stand out. After all the partying, there is an entire week of festivities ahead of us that should be celebrated in the most interesting spots throughout the country. So, here you have the Top 10 festive places in Ukraine according to Weekly.ua

Photo: PHL

1 Kyiv an undisputed leader

The nations capital has always been in the lead over the rest of the countrys cities when it comes to festive holiday events. As such, it is no surprise then that Kyiv took first place in our ratings. If you do not live in Kyiv, you have an opportunity to bring in the New Year or celebrate Christmas according to a neatly planned culture and entertainment program rather than the routine supermarket table spread supermarket formula.

For example, have you ever met the New Year in a rented subway car? For a humble 10 hryvnia you have it at your full disposal. On the other hand, who is interested in the underground when Christmas trees are lit up, downtown streets are smartly decorated, storefront windows stimulate an appetite for shopping and restaurants and cafes are anxiously awaiting patrons? Also dont forget about theater squares, concert halls and nightclubs that promise you fairy tales varieties, live music and a starry show for any taste.

Residents of Kyiv and visitors to the nations capital gather on the night of December 31 January 1 on Independence Sq. (Maidan) and adjoining streets to see out the old year and bring in the New Year under the countrys main Christmas tree.

New Years shows in the metropolitan and suburbia restaurants are ready to entertain those that prefer feeling warm and satiated. All the more that super stars of music are charging lower prices, Comedy Club has room for all and Santa Claus and his snow maidens these days cost next to nothing. So, if you reserve a table in a restaurant you can greet the Year of the Tiger by clinking champagne flutes with the guys from the tube.

One of the most massive shows for folks on the hill titled Triumph of Passion (admission starting at UAH 3,000) will be held at the ACCO International exhibition center in Pushkin Park. The center promises a carnival and shows in the greatest traditions of the Moulin Rouge (Paris), including a fireworks display, captivating erotic choreography, a legendary French cancan and much more.

One can ride around the nations capital on public transport with an escort-consultant familiar with Kyiv or with the help of the Internet (http://www.interesniy.kiev.ua). You are best off starting with a 3-hour sightseeing tour from the central train station for UAH 40 to set your priorities and jump off the bus at stop to check out a point of interest you wish to take a closer look at.

The Kyivo-Pecherska Lavra (Kyiv-Pechersk Monastery) is a must-see. Dont skimp on paying UAH 20 for a guided tour around the monasterys grounds. The St. Sofia Cathedral is another landmark worth not missing. Visitors to the Mamayeva Sloboda ethnology center opened this year at 2 M. Dontsa St. are promised a tour, a ride in a horse-drawn carriage and even an ethnographic evening in a custom ordered peasant hut for 6 people.

It is worth taking your kids to see the countrys main Christmas tree in the Ukraina National Palace from December 25 to January 10 (tickets range from UAH 30-200) or other equally brilliant shows at the Palace of Sports and live music concerts on many stages around the city. The novelty of the year is the water show with dolphins at the Kobzov Circus. A New Years variant is a romantic evening show with intriguing tricks and unforgettable special effects.

There is plenty of entertainment in the city for active people. They can get their share of positive and healthy emotions at the aquapark in Brovary.

Kyiv also boasts three roller skating rinks that offer to learn how to skate under the supervision of a trainer or simply go and rocknroll for UAH 30. You can skate on large ice rinks for UAH 50. Smaller forms of entertainment including bowling, billiards and others are offered in most large shopping and entertainment centers in Kyiv.

2 Kharkiv fireworks on Freedom Square

Kharkiv is the countrys second largest city so it is not surprising that it took second spot in our rating. One of the largest squares in Europe Freedom Square is located in Kharkiv. Every year, up to 150,000 people come to the square to see the New Years fireworks display, listen to the live music concert and pick up a souvenir at the traditional local fair.

A number of tourist routes in Kharkiv will take you to architectural landmarks in the old city: Uspenskiy Cathedral (Assumption, 19th century), Pokrovskiy Cathedral (Protection of the Virgin Mary, middle of the 16th century), Blahovishchenskiy Cathedral (Annunciation, end of the 19th century), the Archbishops House and, naturally, DerzhProm edifice the house of state industry, the first building in the Soviet Union made of reinforced concrete.

Photo: PHL

The massive constructivism-style building of DerzhProm and the famous V. Karazin Kharkiv National University, the first classic university opened in 1804 in Ukraine, are located on Freedom Square.

We recommend you visit Shevchenkos Garden to check out its unique monument to the famous bard Taras Shevchenko, Kobzar. There you will see the famous Mirror Stream opposite the Opera Theater built in avant-garde style.

Going down the citys main drag Sumska St. with its thousands of multi-colored lights put up for the holiday season you will come to Constitution Square where you can visit the History Museum. This is the old city with its classical architecture of the 18-19th centuries, two of the favorite streets of local residents Pushkinska and Universytetska and many quaint side streets. The famous Gorky Park with an amusement complex, a restaurant and a cable way that carries passengers over the Botanical Garden is another site worth checking out. Next to it is a childrens railway.

Finally, in the Sokolnyky District and neighboring forest parks you can rent skis and ski through the trails all the way to the Kharkiv springs scattered about in ravines covered with pine and oak trees.

3 Lviv: room for ideas

Lviv is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Ukrainians that visit Lviv get the impression they are somewhere abroad. In order to properly celebrate New Years Eve in Lviv visitors to the city need a merry company of friends, a place to crash and a table at a fancy nightclub or a restaurant.

Creative establishments include in their New Years program several anti-glamour tricks. The Kryyivka restaurant (with 280 seats) will exhibit the traditional art of authentic Hutsuls. However, even the correct password Slava Ukrayini! wont get your foot in the door if you dont make a reservation for the banquet in advance.

This also applies to other well-known restaurants in Lviv: Hasova Lampa, Pid Zolotoyu Troyandoyu, Mazokh Cafe, Liviy Bereh and various nightclubs. Just like all people living in large cities, Lviv residents like to gather at midnight on Ploshcha Rynku (Market Square) to celebrate from the soul.

New Years Eve at the citys aqua-park will be brought with decorations of a Venetian Ball for UAH 650. Naturally, guests in the city will find time to visit the local churches and museums despite the full holiday schedule.

4 Winter Odesa

The main sites of Odesa naturally include Troyitska Church (the Holy Trinity), St. Pauls Church, Belvedere, the masterpiece of architecture known as the Opera and Ballet Theater, the Palace Complex and a number of museums.

Photo: Shutterstock

Consider choosing from numerous excursions, because nowhere but in Odesa will you be able to go on a tour about the citys criminal past. You will be told about and shown the places where Sofia Blyuvstein, better known as Sonka the Golden Hand, hung out and the place where the notorious Mishka Yaponchik (better known as fictional mob boss Benya Krik from the Odessa Tales by Isaac Babel) was born and raised.

Take a walk down the old streets of the city: Derybasivska, Pushkinska, Rishelyevska and Lanzheronivska. Dont forget Prymorskiy Boulevard, where the City Hall, the Palace of Count Vorontsov with its impressive colonnade, the monument to Duke de Richelieu and the famous Potyomkin Stairs are located.

Among other things, Odesa is also a health resort where you can improve your health all year round. There are dozens of health spas in the city to suit any taste and pocket. There is the excellent Nemo dolphinarium that operates all year round in Odesa. In winter, you can watch a performance in a pool stylized in tropical style.

To find out more about what you can do in Odesa on the New Years holidays, visit http://www.odessatourism.in.ua.

5 Kamyanets-Podilskiy: winter romance

From October till May, there is a provincial lull in this city. Indeed, this is the off-season and there are not many tourists. The city basically falls into winter hibernation. For real connoisseurs of antiquities, however, this is not an obstacle. It is a great time to put on a pair of comfortable boots and walk around the Old City, the canyon, Karvasary and the Russian and Polish folwarks.

Denis Mudretsov, a local historian and tour guide, told us that the Old Fortress will be seized by tourists on New Years Eve. Besides a costume show, the participants of the tour can relax in the Spa center, go on excursions to Khotyn and Chernivtsi and go horse-riding. The price of a 5-day tour is over UAH 5,000 for 2 with standard room accommodation.

There is no problem finding a place to stay the night the local residents will always recommend visitors a decent place to crash.

On a clear winter day, you can walk the streets of the old city, visit the Cathedral with a minaret built up to it, make a wish under the Stephan August Triumphal Arch, visit the museum of tortures in the City Hall, mint several old coins at the Kamyanets Mint and climb up the highest free-standing bridge in Europe to get a view of the magnificent Old Fortress.

In Kamyanets you will find decent and affordable cafes and restaurants: tourists recommend the New York Street pizzeria, the cafe U Polizmeistera and the Pid Bramoyu restaurant.

6 Poltava: Evenings on a farm near Dykanka

On New Years Eve residents of Poltava prefer to go outside the city to relax in some rural setting, where they arrange festivities Gogol style. Local travel agencies (www.travel.poltava.ua) invite tourists to historic landmarks mentioned and described in many literary masterpieces and even the names of tours remind one of the famous novels by Nikolai Gogol. The modern-day Dykanka is an urban-type village on the bank of the Vorskla River surrounded by thick woods of the local national reserve. The village always was and is to this day considered an ethnographic oasis that preserves the culture and traditions of the Ukrainian nation.

Below we offer readers the New Years Eve party schedule: 30 minutes before midnight the hall will be turned into a true carnival: a dance of the devil, galloping horses, Patsyuk serves vodka, Vakula bends horseshoes, Oksana sings with a girls choir and Solokha will fly on her broomstick.

Dykanka is a very interesting place. Here tourists can visit the preserved burial vault of the Kochubei princes, the St. Nicholas Church with its glass dome and mysterious underground, the ancient St. Trinity Church, which was mentioned in Gogols novel Viy, a fully operational wind-mill and 800-year-old oak trees, said Yevhen Zymyn, a manager of the Vilmat Travel Agency. I will try to add some mysticism to tourists impressions, he added.

7 Zakarpattya

The tourism market is loaded with sightseeing tours in Zakarpattya (including celebration of the New Year and Christmas) such programs cost approximately UAH 1,500. The routes start in Uzhgorod, which is famous for its 12th 16th century castle.

The city amazes tourists not only with its architectural mixtures, but also with the warmth of its numerous cafes and restaurants. A lunch at the famous Detsa u Notarya tavern or the folk show Zakarpatska Hostyna accompanied by national dishes is included in all programs on the Zakarpattya route.

If there is snow, tourists can go skiing at the Synyak ski resort. If there is no snow, they can go for an excursion to the Chynadiyivskiy Castle and Count Schoenborns hunting castle.

You can spend New Years night in the citys central square to watch a fireworks display while sipping bubbly. On the next morning you can try to conquer one of the most menacing fortresses in Eastern Europe the Mukacheve Palanok Castle.

Photo: UNIAN

There are some sights worth seeing in the small town of Berehove: a gothic Catholic church dating back to the 15th century, a neo-baroque castle in the central square and numerous wine cellars, where visitors can taste the local wines. A definite must see is the Berehove thermal swimming pool with its medicinal 38 degrees Celsius water that is rich in iodine.

8 Yalta: without chebureky and karaoke

Yalta waterfront quay is impressive. The second line was cleaned up this summer and a monument to Pushkin will soon be unveiled on Pushkin Blvd. Promenades in Crimean towns in the winter are known for their tranquility and the absence of crowds.

The cost of visiting Southern Crimea without the help of travel agencies will depend on the price of accommodation (starting at US $50 for a studio and as high as US $800 for a villa with a swimming pool).

This years shows during the holidays in Crimea will be held in retro style. The Oreanda Hotel in Yalta invites you to Afric Simones Golden 1980s (UAH 2,650). The Respect Hall resort hotel in Miskhor invites tourists to relax in a sauna (UAH 3,500). The Palmira Palace Hotel in the village of Kurpaty prepared a 10-day Tiger Carnival starring Maski Show, the Baccara duet and other celebrities (UAH 4,000).

The Ai-Petri plateau offers tourists breathtaking landscapes, snow and Tatar exotics. A ticket on the cable car costs UAH 50, which includes hot and thick soup chorba, donkeys and camels. Palaces, parks and caves will be open during their usual working hours. Tourists arriving for more than 5 days will be able to go for health programs at spa resorts.

9 Crimea for fanatics of adventure holidays

Crimean travel agencies offer adventuresome winter holidays, many of which are time-tested. Participation in adventure programs offers a guaranteed company of people with similar hobbies, instructors, transfers, an organized daily program and a New Years banquet.

Here you can celebrate Christmas and New Years in the town of Chatyr-Dag in the mysterious dungeons of Emine-Bair-Khosar. Tourists are offered to walk on plateaus covered in snow, go down into caves like Bin-Bash-koba (The Cave with a Thousand Heads) and Suuk-koba (Cold Cave) and climb the rocks Angar-Burun (1,453 m). Organizers will warm up tourists with sports activities and offer tourist singing nights by the fireside and in discotheques (over UAH 1,300).

The New Year tour called Visiting Astronomer in the village of Nauchniy on the territory of the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory includes stargazing through two dozen different telescopes. You can also visit cave cities, the Kachynska Valley, the Alimov Ravine and Mengiry. Tourists are also taken on a tour of a former secret submarine repair workshop in Balaklava (a five-day tour including 3 meals a day and a festive banquet costs UAH 2,700).

You can also celebrate the New Year with a Snihurochka (Snow Maiden) and Did Moroz (Santa Claus) in a shelter for tourists called The Valley of Ghosts in the village of Luchyste. There you can go for walks in the Valley of Ghosts, taste the wine at the Alushta winery, go horseback riding to the foot of the Medieval Funa Fortress and admire Mt. Demerdzhy (all for UAH 1,650).

10 Slavsko

Here there are approximately 25 rental agencies offering all accessories for skiers and snowboarders, plenty of accommodation from expensive hotels with swimming pools to private houses that lease out rooms during ski season.

At Slavsko you can ski from early morning till late night on Mt. Trostyan. The length of its main ski lift is 2,750 meters. Slavsko is included in many New Years destinations offered by travel agencies as a place for one-day ski excursions or other forms of entertainment.

Holidays come when it snows, people say in Slavsko. At the peak of ski season tourists found an original way to celebrate the New Year they go up into the hills, ski with torches, fraternize and then return to their hotel rooms and rented homes to spend a relaxing evening. Seeing as the only nightclub in the village, Limonium, has face control and a dress code, most tourists spend their time skiing on the hills when it snows.

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