When I first moved to Kiev (Kyiv), I chose a nice affordable apartment in what I thought was close to the center. I was wrong. While, the apartment was nice, I was living in a rather subpar neighborhood far from the center where the action was.
Ever since then, I’ve rented apartments in Kiev in many different neighborhoods. Some were in the center, others were slightly outside the center. I’ve also made friends in different parts of Kiev. All of that gave a firm understanding of the city, especially where to live in order to enjoy everything the city has to offer.
Where to stay
In many cities around the world, the center isn’t necessarily the best or even the most desirable place to stay. For instance, take New York City. NYC’s center is technically the lower part of Manhattan, where you have Wall Street and other similar institutions. So, while you can live there, there are probably much better areas to choose as your home base such as The Village or even Brooklyn’s trendy neighborhoods like Prospect Heights or Brooklyn Heights.
That’s how it is in most cities around the world.
In Kiev, however, the center is actually where you want to be. For two main reasons: first, the center is where all the activities take place. That’s where you’ll find the best restaurants, the best bars. It’s also where most people work. Kiev’s center is the hub of all economic activity, both for making money as well as entertainment.
The second reason you want to choose the center is that when you venture outside the center, you get into the so-called “micro-neighborhoods” (or микрорайоны). These are your typical Soviet Union-era neighborhoods with decaying and rusting buildings, depressing architecture and people that look and act very differently from the ones you find in the center. Of course, your rent and overall cost of living will be much cheaper, but I’m not sure if the sacrifice in quality of life will be worth it.
Unlike most cities with a defined downtown or center, Kiev doesn’t have a specifically defined center. There’s more of a “center area” that encompasses a big chunk of the inner city. Thus, when people refer to living in the center, that’s what they’re usually talking about.
The center area usually encompasses such landmarks such as “Independence Square” or “Maidan” as it’s called. Stretching out from this, we have neighborhoods such as “Zolotie Vorota,” “Lvo Tolstova” and Lipki. These neighborhoods compromise the true center of the city.
A much better way to describe them would be by referring to them by the metro stations they’re near. These would be “Maidan Nezhalezhnosti,” “Zolotie Vorota” and “Lev Tolstova Square.” In this case, the metro stations’ names are exactly the same as the neighborhoods.
While I probably wouldn’t stay near Maidan Nezhazhnosti, the latter two neighborhoods are super ideal. There are tons of parks, beautiful streets, restaurants and bars.
Another highly sought neighborhood is Podol, located in the northern part of the city. Podol is not considered center, but it’s usually lumped in together with neighborhoods that are desirable to live in. It’s a rather large neighborhood with two metro stations (Pochtovaya Square and Kontraktovaya Square).
Another neighborhood that doesn’t get talked about too often is Lipky. This a beautiful and elite neighborhood located to the right of Kreshyatik, the main boulevard that runs up and down in the center of Kiev. This is where a lot of local musicians and celebrities buy their apartments and live. It’s also the location of the Presidential Palace.
While I enjoy eating and walking around there, I probably wouldn’t choose to live there simply because it’s a bit of a “serious” neighborhood. Unlike the smaller and more aesthetically 3-4-story buildings in some of the other neighborhoods mentioned above, in Lipky, you mostly find big “aristocratic” buildings. From walking around there, the demographic of the people living there is decidedly older than in some of the other neighborhoods where mostly 20- and 30-something hang out.
Other neighborhoods that would possibly make for a good home is Obolon and Pecherskaya. Obolon is Kiev’s northernmost neighborhood and is so remote, it’s almost like a city within a city. I stayed there for a few months several years ago and definitely found it a bit too remote for my taste.
Pecherski is another neighborhood located in the southern part of the city. This is a relatively cool neighborhood where you will find plenty of families as well as some single people as well. While I wouldn’t consider it as “center,” it’s only a couple of metro stops away from the heart of the city. I have a couple of friends that live there who all love it.
So, there you have it. Kiev is an amazing city replete with various neighborhoods, each with its unique style and signature. Pick the one that matches with your personality.