“Distinctiveness and strangeness is what Kiev is all about,” says Kate Zubarieva, Kiev native and co-founder of leisure clothing brand Sleeper. While her best friend and business partner Asya Varetsa works in the U.S., Zubarieva stayed in their beloved hometown to bring Sleeper’s comforts to their Ukranian fanbase.
Though Ukraine is relatively young, gaining independence in 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union, its capital city has a distinct culture to share with the world—and even after several years of living and working in Podil, one of Kiev’s oldest neighborhoods, Zubarieva finds that there’s still plenty of that culture to explore.
The Kiev she loves is one of friendly faces and quirky customs; of stunning Soviet-influenced architecture, avant-garde artwork, and Eastern European delicacies; and of a million secrets hidden in plain sight—all of which, to Zubarieva, make it one of the most unique cities on earth.
“Here, as nowhere else, the eye has to travel,” she shares.“Adventures occur in abundance, at every place and every corner.” Here, the entrepreneur reveals where in Kiev to find such adventure—as well as relaxing massages, underground techno, and the perfect picnic.
Kate Zubarieva’s Perfect Day in Kiev
6:00 a.m.—A well-kept secret
In Kiev, there are many off-the-beaten-path destinations that might surprise you. For example, Kiev Crematorium. I realize the oddity of my advice, but if you are a true fan of architecture, be sure to go to Baikova Street 16 at dawn—this place is an outright masterpiece.
9:00 a.m.—A Kiev-Does-Venice Breakfast
My favorite breakfast and coffee are served at Casa Nori, which belongs to a Venetian! They serve truly amazing Italian coffee. I love espresso, and at this place, it’s real–а full-bodied, oily drop at the bottom of a small cup. They also serve eggs accompanied by bread that looks like salted panettone. It’s a fluffy, airy, yeast bun with cheese sauce that resembles custard.
10:00 a.m.—Relax (in a former Soviet clinic)!
On Saturdays, I’d start with a massage at Ayurveda192, which is a very Kiev sort of place because it’s located in a former Soviet clinic. Although I am not a fan of transcendental meditation, I am really into massage treatments. Here, they make an excellent four-hand oil massage, and then they put you in a steam barrel where you sit alone in total silence for 15 minutes trying not to think about anything—and I manage to do it amazingly well.
11:30 a.m—Market Share
After the massage, I drop by Zhitnii Rynok where I buy food for the week ahead. This is my favorite bazaar. Here one can find Georgian pastries, Italian cheeses, Ukrainian cottage cheese, vegetables, homegrown eggs, prosecco, chocolate, Azerbaijani pomegranate juice, and more.
12 p.m.—Local’s lunch
In Kiev, it’s quite common for locals to visit each other at home—to call and say, “Are you at home? Great! I’m coming in ten minutes. What would you like me to bring over?” But if my friends and I prefer to go out, we’ll head to SHO for first-rate Ukrainian cuisine in an amiable atmosphere. I adore their cherries vareniki (pierogis).
We might also head to an Israeli restaurant called Adelle. They offer fantastic shawarma, challah (the queen of all breads), falafel and hummus, and cauliflower fried in breadcrumbs—as well as Israeli wine, which I love. If we feel like having Asian food, we’ll go to Kytaysʹkyy Pryvit, where the decor is beautiful, the food is delicious, and you can always meet friends. My favorite dishes there are their wood mushrooms, rice, and beef, as well as their “fried milk” dessert.
1 p.m.—A saintly adventure
If my friend is ready for an adventure, I would take them to the caves in the Kiev Pechersk Lavra. There is quite remarkable architecture similar to a confectionery. Moreover, the remains of Ilya Muromets—a superhero from ancient Slavic tales who is regarded as a saint—can also be found there. It’s a distinctive experience and the impressions are unforgettable.
2:30 p.m.—Take your pick: art museums and picnics
On the second floor of the National Art Museum of Ukraine, the fantastic works of Ukrainian avant-garde artists are exhibited—Bogomazov, Exter, and Burlyuk, among others. I also like the Mykhailo Bulgakov Museum-Memorial. Bulgakov was a Kiev-born writer. His house is located on the most beautiful street in the city, Andriyivskyy Descent. Walking there will be much more noteworthy if you’ve read his novel, “White Guard,” beforehand, since the history of the house is intertwined with the novel.
If weather permits, enjoy a trip to the National Museum of Folk Architecture and Settlements in Ukraine (also known as Pirogovo), an open-air history museum where houses of different eras and regions of Ukraine are exhibited on 370 acres of land. Before you go, stop by Good Wine and buy everything you need for a picnic. With their great selection of wine and syrniki (cottage cheese pancakes), you are all set to go to Pirogovo for exploration and a meal, as well.
4:00 p.m—Evening snack break
I absolutely love Khlibnyy. It’s a great place for snacks: salads, sandwiches, superb coffee and the best donuts that remind me of those from my childhood (my favorite is the one with coconut cream and chocolate!). Right across the street from Pinchuk Art Centre, where you can find unconventional and thought-provoking contemporary art, there’s also Bessarabsky Market. There, you can find various places to eat—for example, V’yetnamsʹkyy Pryvit, vegan cafes, and dumpling houses. In a nutshell, it’s a great place for foodies of any type.
6:00 p.m—Ukrainian fine dining, secret dinner parties…
Kanapa is a restaurant with exquisite Ukrainian cuisine. The view of Podil and the Dnieper is magnificent. Everything is delicious there but tasting their borsch, serve it in a cabbage head, is a must. Shoti is my favorite restaurant for Georgian cuisine. Fried sulguni (a salty Georgian cheese) that makes your mouth water, delish khinkali (Georgian dumplings), and the best khachapuri (a sweet cake in the shape of a boat filled with cheese, yolk, and butter) in Kiev–a meal that could impress anybody. If you prefer a quiet meal, head to Mimoza Pizza or Fish & Pussycat Sushi Bar in the next building. Fun fact: the first female Prime Minister of Israel, Golda Meyer, was born here!
Foodies, a creative food agency and gastro-bistro, host secret theme dinners in amazing places around town. They select special wines and create dream up a menu based on the theme. When you sign up, you do not know what to expect or what has been prepared until the last moment. Many foreigners usually gather around the table, so you’ll definitely find someone to chat with.
8:00 p.m—Cocktails and haircuts
For exquisite cocktails go to a speakeasy called Loggerhead or to Barman Dictat—but keep in mind that you’ll need to make reservations for both. Also, try the interesting S34 Haircuts & Cocktails, a barbershop and bar at the same time. If you prefer wine to cocktails, don’t hesitate to head to Win Bar.
10:00 p.m.—Doc-worthy dancing
Head to the roof of Bursa Hotel Kiev and their bar, Bar “1818”. Another choice is Bezdelniky, where a fun party is always going on. CLOSER is considered the best techno club in Ukraine. Last but not least, there’s Cxema. i-D Magazine made a documentary about it, and I understand why–it is truly impressive.
12:00 a.m.—Late night fuel
Read before you go:
Three books released by Osnovy Publishing House: The first, “Soviet Modernism. Brutalism. Post-Modernism. Buildings.” a two-year-long creative project and coffee table book by Alex Bykov and Ievgenia Gubkina on architecture in Kiev. The second, ”Balcony Chic”, describes Kiev’s astounding and ridiculous balconies. If you familiarize yourself with this exclusively Kiev phenomenon, strolling around my city will be much more fun—balconies are the new face of the city and often so disgusting that you’ll begin to like them. Finally, “AWESOME Kiev” will help you better understand Kiev and its idiosyncrasies.
Know before you go:
The first mistake tourists commonly make is heading to Khreschatyk. Try to avoid touristy areas for at least the first two days and give yourself a chance to fall in love with the city in more authentic areas. Keep in mind that normal tips are 10% of the bill, and travel using the train—central metro stations are beautiful (I’d recommend visiting Zoloti Vorota station).