Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, but a city that not many travellers seem to have on their itinerary, which is a shame as this city has so much to offer in our opinion. Kharkiv is located in the East of Ukraine, near the border of Russia and is one of our favourite destinations in Ukraine. A city that is filled with stunning architecture, beautiful parks and some other interesting sights, but we will talk more about those later. The ones that do make it here mainly come to admire the Soviet architecture, but that is not all there is to see here. Keep on reading to find out if Kharkiv is worth a visit, and if it is, how you could spend your days in this city. So without further ado, here are 18 amazing things to do in Kharkiv.
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How to get to Kharkiv
Kharkiv can be reached from Kiev by simply taking the train, a modern seater train leaves daily to Kharkiv, taking roughly 5 hours to get there. Kharkiv can also be reached from Odessa but this will take you at least 12 hours by train, a train that you might prefer to take overnight to save both money and time during your travels. We booked our tickets to Kharkiv through Omio.com, formerly known as GoEuro, and received the tickets for our train straight into our email inbox, a hassle free process. The only downside to booking with Omio is not having the option of picking your own seats, if this is important to you check out booking through the UZ booking website instead. In the end both websites have worked great for booking our train tickets in Ukraine!
Things to do in Kharkiv
While researching Kharkiv we realised that most travellers will come here to admire the Soviet architecture, however, this is not all there is to see in Kharkiv. To make it a bit easier for you we have created a map below and divided the sights into different categories, so you can pick and choose based upon your interests, or of course just see them all! Be sure to download this map to your phone so you will have it at hand when exploring Kharkiv, it will make it a lot easier to visit the sights this way as not all sights can easily be found in Google.
Soviet Architecture in Kharkiv
The city of Kharkiv, just like many other cities in Ukraine, is filled with Soviet Architecture, just trying to find all the Soviet architecture could simply take you days. The Soviet architecture is spread around the city, so it easiest if you combine them with other sights in the areas. To easily find them and pinpoint them we have given them a yellow pin on the map. Check out our favourite Soviet architecture in Kharkiv below.
1. The Kharkiv Circus
The Kharkiv Circus is a must see if you are a Soviet architecture lover. The circus is a bit located out of the city centre it is well worth the walk and your time in our opinion. It is actually one of the oldest circuses in Ukraine with live shows still being performed to this day. While we would not promote to see the show, as this circus show includes animals and we do not agree with the animal treatment of circuses, the Soviet architecture of this building was enough to earn a spot on our Kharkiv itinerary. On the right hand side of the Kharkiv Circus you can see a small section of a massive concrete building, sadly we could not find more info on what the building is home to, but it sure caught our eye.
2. The State Opera & Ballet Theatre
The State Opera & Ballet Theatre is a building that is hard to miss when discovering Kharkiv. Located in the city centre near some of the other major sights below this is an absolute must see when visiting Kharkiv. The grandiosity of this theatre is hard to capture in a photo, and while at first glance the building doesn’t seem like anything special be sure to have a look from up close. The State Opera & Ballet Theatre seemed to be the meeting place for many people, and during the summer we found people selling honey, drinking coffee, skateboarding or simply relaxing around the square in front of the building.
3. The Ukraine Cinema in Shevchenko Park
Right next to the State Opera you will find Shevchenko Park, one of the most beautiful parks of Kharkiv in our opinion, but also home to another Soviet architecture gem. While we are not sure what was happening it seemed like they were either working on the building, or planning on taking as part of the structure (above the mosaic) seemed to be missing, we hope it is the former as this was personally one of our favourite Soviet architecture sights in Kharkiv, perhaps mainly because of the surroundings of the cinema. So perhaps when you are in the area go check it out, and be sure to let us know in the comment section down below if the Ukraine Cinema is still there.
Derzhprom, also known as the Palace of Industry is a building so gigantic that I had no idea how to capture it on camera. Derzhprom is a prime example of constructivist architecture, and while the building doesn’t seem impressive at first sight it is the history of Derzhprom that makes this building earn a spot on this list. Derzhprom was built in in a period of only three years, and upon its completion in the 1920 it was actually the tallest building in the USSR, and the second tallest building in Europe. Derzhprom is an absolute must see when visiting Kharkiv.
5. The Post Office
The Post Office is one of those buildings you can quickly drop by should you be in the area, as it is located very close to the train station. The building is hard to miss as it is absolutely massive, and is another prime example of constructivist architecture in Kharkiv. We are not sure if it still a post office to this date, but nonetheless it is another stunning piece of architecture that deserved a spot on this list. While you are there drop by the train station as well, especially the entry hall of the train station, while this has nothing to do with Soviet architecture it is one of the most beautiful train stations we have seen in Eastern Europe!
6. The Express Hotel
While you are in the area of the train station make sure to walk a bit further so you can have a look at the Express Hotel. This building is hard to miss at it towers over the train station, a concrete 16 storey high building that still serves as a hotel today. The hotel is home to a total of 54 rooms and while we never visited the inside, the outside sure is worth a second of your time should you be in the area!
7. The Swimming Pool
Between Derzhprom and the lower end of the cable cars in Gorky Park you can find the Soviet style swimming pool, a swimming pool that seems to still be active today. We stopped by as it was on our way but to be honest this might be one of our least favourite Soviet buildings in Kharkiv, but worth the visit if you are in the area. The swimming pool is quite hard to find, but we have pinpointed it on the map above to make it a bit easier. Nearby you will find a modern market hall selling loads of foods and snacks if you are hungry!
8. The Mir Hotel
While slightly out of the city centre, this sight is worth the visit if you are planning on visiting Kharkiv’s beautiful metro stations as Hotel Mir is located right next to the metro station of Botanichnyi Sad but more on that below. While we have loved to explore the hotel from up close it was just a scorching hot day and we decided to go and find the shade instead. The hotel is still a hotel to this day, and you can actually stay here! Although you would be pretty far from all the other sights in Kharkiv.
9. The Metro Stations of Kharkiv
While we personally love walking around the city, there are sometimes also hidden gems to be found underneath the surface, in Kharkiv that is the metro system. The metro system in Kharkiv consists of three lines and has some of the most unique and beautiful metro stations you will find, however, with a total of 30 metro stations it might take you a while to see them all. We tried to include as many as we could in our itinerary, but we have to admit that Botanichnyi Sad was our favourite, but we know we will have to explore many more stations on our next visit to Kharkiv! Riding the metro in Kharkiv is only 8 UAH but be sure to have some small bills (10 and lower) with you to buy the tickets.
The Beautiful Churches & Cathedrals of Kharkiv
While admiring the Soviet architecture in Kharkiv alone can keep you busy for days, the churches and cathedrals of Kharkiv deserve a bit of your attention as well, as they are simply stunning. You will find the most beautiful churches and cathedrals near the city centre of Kharkiv, making it easy to combine them with other sights on this itinerary. These are our four favourite churches and cathedrals in Kharkiv:
10. The Dormition Cathedral
The Dormition Cathedral will be hard to miss when visiting Kharkiv as its tower stand tall above all the surrounding buildings. While we didn’t enter the cathedral we have to admit we are big fans of the Orthodox cathedrals and the beautiful golden domes, so any cathedral that has these will make it onto our list. This cathedral has a rich history and was once the tallest building in Ukraine until the 21st century. During the Soviet Reign the domes of cathedral were torn down and the cathedral was damaged even more during a tornado later that century, but lucky for all of us the cathedral was restored to all its glory.
11. The Holy Annunciation Cathedral
The Holy Annunciation Cathedral must be our favourite cathedral, and building, in Kharkiv. This beautiful white and red striped cathedral can be found on the station side of the river, and is an absolute must see when visiting Kharkiv. The church was completed in 1901 and has a capacity of roughly 3500 people and while the church had been closed for over a decade by Soviet authorities it reopened in 1943 and has remained open to this day. We did not visit the inside of the cathedral but we can imagine it can only be as equally or perhaps even more beautiful as the outside of this colourful and unique cathedral.
12. The Pokrovskyi Cathedral
While the Holy Annunciation Cathedral might be one of the uniquest cathedrals we have seen in Ukraine, there is one other colourful cathedral that is worth a visit when you are in Kharkiv. The beautiful blue Pokrovskyi Cathedral is located in the centre of Kharkiv, near the Dormition Cathedral, but is slightly more hidden as it is surrounded by large green trees and a wall that surrounds the cathedral complex. But the beautiful blue cathedral is worth the time and effort. We did not enter the cathedral but from the looks of it if you are planning on visiting as a women you will be required to cover your hair with a scarf (as with many cathedrals in Ukraine) and to wear a skirt over your clothing, even if you are wearing pants. Both can be borrowed at the cathedral complex, they were hanging on a rack right next to the entrance.
13. The Mironositskaya Church – The Church of the Holy Myrrh Bearers
We call this the church of many names, mainly because I could not find a clear cut answer of what the name of this church was. We came across at least four different versions of the name of this church:
- Church of the Holy Myrrh-Bearers
- Temple of The Myrrh-Bearers
- Mironositskaya Church
- And if we tried to translate the name that we found on Google Maps “Храм Святих Жон-Мироносиць” then it reads as Temple of Saint John the Myrrh-bearer.
So should you know what the true name of this church is be sure to tell us in the comment section down below as we would love to know. Name aside, you can find this church right behind the Mirror Stream, one of Kharkiv’s most popular sights, and as such it is easy to quickly drop by and admire the beautiful architecture of the church.
Parks & Squares in Kharkiv
Don’t worry, architecture is not all there is to see and to do in Kharkiv, the parks and squares of Kharkiv are absolutely beautiful, some of the most stunning parks we have seen in Ukraine. You will find many parks around the city centre filled with flowers and comfortable benches in case you need a break from all the sightseeing. Here are some of the absolute must see parks and squares in Kharkiv.
14. Shevchenko Park
You will find Shevchenko Park right next to the State Opera, and this might be our favourite park in Kharkiv. When we visited the park in the summer it was just filled with the most beautiful flowers, green grass and people enjoying the amazing weather. This is also where you will find the Ukraine Cinema, but if you are not too interested in Soviet architecture then this park is still a great place for a relaxing break, or perhaps even a small picnic.
15. Mirror Stream Fountain
You will find the Mirror Stream Fountain across from the opera, and right in front of the Mironositskaya Church making it a perfect and quick stop on the list of things to do in Kharkiv. The mirror stream fountain is one of the most popular sights in Kharkiv, and it is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It seems to be a place where many people like to get there photos taken, both professional or a simple selfie. Quickly stop by or perhaps even take a selfie at the mirror stream fountain yourself!
16. Freedom Square
Sadly no photo of this square as the Freedom Square was currently completely closed of and under construction, however, the immensity of this square made me still want to add it to this list as I am quite sure it will be an impressive square if it is open! You will find the freedom square in front of the before mentioned Derzhprom and it is actually the 8th largest square in Europe! If you stop by be sure to let us know if it is as impressive as we would imagine it to be!
17. Gorky Park
While located slightly away from all the other sights, Gorky Park is just one of those must sees in Kharkiv, a place that truly surprised us. Gorky Park is not just a park, it is also an amusement park for kids! You will find small rollercoasters, a ferris wheel, rides, playgrounds, delicious snacks and so much more! There was no entry fee to the park, you can just walk around, people just simply pay for the rides they want to go on. While walking around Gorky Park make sure to make your way to the last stop of the day, but read more on that below!
18. The Kharkiv Cable Cars
The Kharkiv Cable Cars were one of the highlights of our trip to Kharkiv, and it is something we would happily do again if we make it back to Kharkiv one day. The cable cars were installed during Soviet times and provided a way for workers to get an easier and quicker access from the Pavlovo Pole Region to the factory, and now, almost fifty years later the cable car is still being used, but not for the workers, for entertainment purposed instead. With a length of over 1300m it will take you roughly 18 min to get from one side to the other, so just sit down and enjoy the ride. Two people fit in a cable car, and the ride costs 30 UAH per person. As there is an lower and upper station we have added both to the map so you can pick the one that works best in your itinerary!
Where to stay in Kharkiv
There are plenty of hostels to pick from in Kharkiv, but we decided to stay at the Station Hostel as we had a late night train to Odessa a couple of days later, making this an easy and convenient place to be. We had a private room and absolutely loved our stay here, the staff was friendly and the hostel was clean. From the train station you can easily take the metro to the city centre or other locations, however, as the weather was quite good during the summer we enjoyed the walk. You can check out Station Hostel here or check out the map below to find a place that suits you!
Where to go after Kharkiv
We loved exploring Kharkiv for a couple of days, but do know that we will be back in the future to explore it a bit more! It quickly became one of our favourite destinations in Ukraine, and we hope that it might be the same for you. We arrived from Kiev which was only a 4.5 hour train ride, but from Kharkiv we decided to take a night train to Odessa, both are great destinations in our opinion. If you are planning on visiting Ukraine be sure to check out our other articles to create you ultimate Ukraine itinerary:
- 3 Days in Kiev – an unforgettable itinerary
- 8 Best things to do in Rivne
- The tunnel of love in Ukraine – an enchanting day trip from Rivne
And there you have it, everything you need to know for your visit to Kharkiv! Have you been to Kharkiv before? Anything that deserves a spot on this list, be sure to tell us in the comments down below.