Odessa, the pearl of the Black Sea, can be found in the East of Ukraine a city that is popular with both local and foreign tourists, and after visiting it we knew why. Filled with cobblestone streets, beautiful architecture and the most spectacular views, how could you not fall in love with this city? On our way to Moldova we stopped for the weekend in Odessa to explore this city, from the Potemkin Steps to the beach, there is truly something to do for everyone in Odessa. I wished we would have had more time, but thus the more reason to come back in the near future! If you are wondering if Odessa is worth the visit, keep on reading to find out what the 12 unforgettable things to Odessa are, and you decide yourself is this city is worth a spot on your Ukraine itinerary.
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How to get to Odessa
Lucky for all of us getting around Ukraine is incredible easy and affordable, plus tickets can easily be booked online making it a hassle free process. One of our favourite ways of getting around the country is by using the train, which has been our main transport mode in Ukraine for getting city to city. There are train connections to Odessa from Lviv, Kiev and Kharkiv, two of the most popular travel destinations in Ukraine and the third one is actually the second largest city of Ukraine. However, as Odessa is located quite far away from all of these sights you will be in the train for a while, as such it is easiest to take a night train so you will save yourself some time and money.
You can find all ticket options, including prices and train schedules on Omio.com. Omio, formerly known as GoEuro, is a great and easy way to book trains, buses or flights throughout Europe. We used Omio for almost all our train bookings in Ukraine, and simply got our tickets delivered straight into our email inbox within a matter of minutes. The only downside to using Omio is not having the option of picking your seats, something you can do on the Ukrainian booking website which you can find here. However, in the end we ended up booking with Omio most of the times as our credit card did not always work with the local website.
Things to do in Odessa
1. The Odessa National Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet
This beautiful theatre was built during the 19th century and is one of the absolute must sees when visiting Odessa. Awe at the stunning architecture, something that actually can be found on every street corner of Odessa, or perhaps even pop in and watch a show. Attending a show at the theatre is one of the most popular things to do in Odessa, however, as we were a bit short on time we had to leave this of our itinerary. Should an opera or ballet performance be of any interest to you check out the website here to find info on which shows are playing and how to buy tickets for those shows!
2. The Potemkin Stairs
The Potemkin Stairs are just one of those things you can’t leave of your Odessa itinerary, as it one of the most well known sights of the city. The Potemkin Stairs, which have been built in the 19th century, are a true piece of art and while there are only 192 steps to the top it actually creates the illusion that the stairs are much longer. The other interesting part is the optical illusion that has been created when looking at the stairs: if you are looking from the bottom of the stairs you will only be able to see the steps of the stairs, however, if you stand on top of the stairs you will only be able to see the landings of the stairs. We personally recommend walking the steps from top to bottom, which is a lot easier then hiking up all those steps! But don’t worry about getting up the hill again, we got a solution for that…
3. Take the Funicular
So instead of making your way back up the 192 steps, instead take the funicular which you can find right next to the stairs. The funicular costs only 5 UAH (0.20$) per person and will take you up in a matter of minutes, just simply buy a ticket and wait to the funicular fills up. Meanwhile simply enjoy the view over the steps and the harbour while enjoying the ride. Not only is the funicular a convenient way to save yourself some energy, it is just a fun and affordable activity to do on its own!
4. Admire the View over the Port of Odessa
From the top of the Potemkin Stairs you can have an amazing view over the Port of Odessa. The Port of Odessa is actually one of the largest in the Black Sea and you will see everything arriving here, from cargo ships to cruise ships, this port has it all. It’s an interesting and magnificent place to see on its own, and the best views can be found from either the top of the Potemkin Stairs or all along the water on your way to the beach!
5. Monument to Catherine II
Now, before you head to the beach be sure to stop by the Monument to Catherine II, which you can find not too far from the Potemkin Stairs. This monument was built in the year 1900 and is also know as the monument to the founders of Odessa. However, the monument only stood there for 20 years before it was dismantled and replaced and a process in which the statue of Catherine II got partially damaged. In 1965 another monument was actually built in its place. It wasn’t until 2007 that the monument was restored so now we can all admire the statue of Catherine II and her companions: Prince Grigory Potemkin, Admiral José de Ribas, Engineer François Sainte de Wollant and Count Platon Zubov.
6. Relax at Langeron Beach
From the city centre make your way to the beach, Langeron Beach to be precise. Take a lovely walk along through the park to have view over the port of Odessa or cross through the streets filled with the stunning architecture of Odessa, either will be a beautiful route. But if you are visiting during high season you might want to show up a bit earlier in the morning to secure yourself a spot, as this beach is guaranteed to fill up with locals looking for a refreshing getaway from the warm days in the city. From concrete to sand, fishermen to swimmers, playgrounds and restaurants, this beach just has it all! From here you can make your way further down along the beach to different beaches that are situated along the “Health Route”.
7. Go for a walk at Deribasovskaya Street
Deribasovskaya Street is not only Odessa’s main street, it is also one of the most popular sights of Odessa. The street is closed off for cars and is lined with the most beautiful trees, shops and restaurants. This is the place to go for a relaxing walk to admire the beautiful architecture, or simply to get some food or a drink and relax a bit more, simply watch as the world goes by. Besides the early mornings it will be hard to find this street empty, especially during the summer high season and while you are there, be sure to stop by the City Garden…
8. The City Garden & The Monument to the 12th Chair
This small but beautiful garden can’t be left of your Odessa itinerary, especially if you are in the area. Now while Odessa is filled with beautiful parks and green, there is a reason that this park specific deserves a spot on the list: the monument to the 12th chair. The monument to the 12th chair is a monument that has been dedicated to the author of the book “the 12 chairs” a popular novel by Ilf and Petrov. You can read a bit more about the book and the plot here, now, the monument is a popular spot for locals and tourists to take a photo of them sitting on the chair. We literally found people lining up to take a photo, an interesting and unique sight should you be in the area!
9. The City Food Market
The City Food Market must be one of our favourite places in Odessa, a place that took us completely by surprise. While the entrance to the market is rather small, behold for what is beyond those doors, a market hall filled with the most modern and stunning interior, and a large diversity in food to ensure there is something for everyone’s liking. From pizza to vegan food, burgers to quesadillas and oysters to pastry, this is a place you won’t go hungry. This City Food Market is perfect for those who are looking for a lunch or perhaps some dinner, we sure know that we will be back when we return to Odessa!
10. The Privoz Market
However, if you were looking for a more local kind of vibe head over to the Privoz Market instead. You won’t find any fancy burger joints or Mexican food here, but instead you will find fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, fish, flowers and so much more. From the info that we found on the internet it seems like this might actually be the largest market of Ukraine, a market that has been around since the early years of the 19th century. We only saw a glimpse of the massive market when we were trying to find the bus station, but we knew that when we come back to Odessa we will have to explore the rest of this market for sure!
11. Odessa Passage
Back to the city centre, you will find the beautiful, but slightly hidden Odessa Passage. Built in the 19th century this building was once home to the best hotel in Odessa, which could be found on the third floor. There is actually still a hotel located on the third floor, however, from the photos we found online it doesn’t look as fancy or as prestigious as it must have been back in the day. On the first floor you could find the most prestigious shops of Odessa, nowadays, a collection of boutiques and shops and a small souvenir stall, in the end this is still one of the most famous touristic sights of Odessa.
12. The Spaso-Preobrazhensky Cathedral
And now last, but definitely not least, the Spaso-Preobrazhensky Cathedral which you can find right next to the Odessa Passage. A beautiful Cathedral from both inside and out, a place that deserves a spot on your Odessa itinerary. While most people don’t come to Odessa for the churches and cathedrals, it is a worthwhile stop should you be in the area, at least in our opinion. An interesting fact might be that this church was built in the 18th century, and was actually the first church in Odessa, but sadly it got largely demolished by the Soviets, and the rebuilt of this church did not happen until 1999. We are not sure what parts seen of the church are rebuilt, and what is original (if any), so if you know please let us know in the comment section down below!
Where to Stay in Odessa
There is only one thing you need to consider when looking for a place to stay in Odessa: are you coming for the city or the beach? The beach stretches all along the side of Odessa, and you will find a combination of sand and concrete beaches, so if you are coming for the beach make sure to do your research so you end up at your dream destination! If you are coming for a weekend getaway and want to explore the city as well it might be easier to find a place in the old town of Odessa, this is what we did. From here you can explore the sights above, all within walking distance, and even stop by the beach, that is perhaps a bit less spectacular then the ones further along the coastline.
We stayed at the Royal Street Hotel which we mainly picked for the central location. We booked very last minute during the high season, which meant there wasn’t much available anymore, but I honestly think there are better accommodation options out there. The Royal Street Hotel, in our opinion, was one of our least favourite places we stayed at in Ukraine. Check out the map below to check accommodation options in both the centre or near the beach to find something that works for you!
Where to go after Odessa
While Odessa is located quite far from the other cities in Ukraine, it is quite well connected by train connections, and a simple night train away will bring you to the beautiful cities of, for example, Kiev and Kharkiv! Another option of course is to cross into Moldova instead, in the end it is located that close to the border, might as well add another amazing country to your itinerary. Looking for some travel inspiration on Ukraine or perhaps Moldova, check out our other articles:
- 3 Days in Kiev – An Unforgettable Itinerary
- The Tunnel of Love – An Enchanting Day Trip from Rivne
- 8 Best Things To Do in Rivne
- 18 Amazing Things To Do in Kharkiv
And there you have it, 12 unforgettable things to do in Odessa, a city that we can’t wait to go back to! Have you been to Odessa before? Anything that we can’t miss next time? Be sure to tell us in the comment section down below.