Kiev on a Budget
Although Kiev is well endowed in venues catered to people in search of a luxurious experience and willing to pay prices comparable to those in Paris or London, which most visitors tend to find overpriced, you can very well enjoy a stay in the Ukrainian capital without having to shell out much. Here are a few suggestions of sights to see for a minimal cost if not for free, and places where you can eat a good meal without paying too much.
You'll find several restaurant that offer a fine eating experience to the growing Ukrainian middle class and the international community. If you feel like eating something you can get states side, you'll feel right at home in places like TGI Friday’s on Besarabska Square or Arizona BBQ. If you're in the mood for a mean that's a bit more traditional you'll find that an increasing number of inexpensive cafeterias have popped up around Kiev. Places like Puzata Hata offer a simple concept that has proven successful: a large variety of typical Ukrainian dishes served on a self-service buffet for small money. Several local restaurant chains such as Pizza Celentano offer excellent pizzas and good selections of side orders and salads. You might also enjoy the local version of a sausage cooked in batter for which Kyivites queue up at the kiosks harboring the streets of the capital.
Cultural visits can also be kept on a low budget. The Saint Sophia's Cathedral, one of the most famous monuments of Ukraine, and the first Ukrainian site inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, was designed to rival the St. Sophia Cathedral in Constantinople as a symbol of the "new Constantinople." The spiritual and intellectual influence of the cathedral and the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra contributed to the spread of the Christian Orthodox faith and thought in the Russian world during the 7th, 8th and 9th centuries. It costs only 3 UAH or $0.37 to get into the general area, and an additional 10 UAH or $1.2 to climb up the bell tower.
The Saint Andrew's Church, is a baroque architectural perl of Kiev that sits on a hilltop offering a spectacular view of the historic Podil neighborhood. Admission to one of the most popular buildings of the capital is free. It is the only church where the Slavic Orthodox and the Italian Baroque architectural styles were so harmoniously merged. Nowadays, in addition to its ecclesial function, the church has become a venue for chamber music concerts. Once you're finished with the tour, you can head down Andrew's Descent — one of the oldest streets connecting the Saint Andrew's Church and the upper town to the lower town. It is one of the major touristic attractions of the capital, famous for being the place where past writers, scholars and artists have lived and worked. It is also an open air market where you'll find paintings, Soviet memorabilia and various hand made products at low prices. Be aware that vendors tend to inflate their prices when dealing with foreigners so be careful not to display too much eagerness for an item, and don't be afraid to bargain.
If you're fond of contemporary art you'll enjoy a free visit at the PinchukArtCentre — one of the most astonishing exhibition centers of Kiev. The ambitious program of exhibitions features international artists such as Damien Hirst and Hiroshi Suguimoto as well as Ukrainian artists like Oleg Kulik and Boris Mikhailov. Past exhibitions include An Instictive Eye (a selection of contemporary photographs, selected by Elton John and his partner, David Furnish), and REFLECTION (a showcase of the 2007 centre's acquisitions created by the best 21st century artists from Mexico, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, Poland, USA and Ukraine.) Future exhibitions will present the works of Anish Kapoor. All for free.