Our hearts go out to all Ukrainians and those affected by the war. Please note that this article was written in 2019, before Putin’s full invasion of Ukraine. It’s not safe to visit Kyiv at this time. You can check the U.S. Department of State’s website for the most up-to-date travel recommendations.
Ukraine isn’t on the average tourist’s radar. There are many unknowns for anyone visiting Kyiv, let alone if you’re a wheelchair user.
We’re here to show you the amazing accessible things you can do in Ukraine’s capital, give you tips for getting around, and showcase accessible hotels.
Am I visiting Kyiv or Kiev?
Before we get to accessibility, we wanted to share a quick note on the spelling of Ukraine’s capital. Kiev and Kyiv are the same place. However, you’ll see “Kiev” used more often in English writing than “Kyiv”.
So then, why do we use “Kyiv” in this post?
It’s simple. Kyiv is the Ukrainian spelling and Kiev is the Russian spelling. Since we’re talking about Ukraine, it makes sense to honor the Ukrainian spelling.
Overview of Wheelchair Accessibility in Kyiv
Heading to Kyiv, our expectations were low for how accessible it would be. No doubt, there are plenty of areas for improvement. However, we found it to be far more accessible than other destinations we’ve covered, such as Dubrovnik.
Kyiv shines in two areas where most other European destinations fail- wide sidewalks and (almost) no cobblestone.
By wide sidewalks, we’re talking sidewalks that are large enough for a car to drive on. Parks are also spacious with plenty of space between you and passersby.
Admittedly, wide sidewalks aren’t unique to Kyiv. You’ll find this in any former Soviet country, as the USSR wanted plenty of space for the many regime-themed parades they had.
Underpasses in Kyiv
Kyiv is full of underpasses. Some of them are incredibly impressive, complete with malls, food courts (vegan food underground, anyone?) and bridal shops.
The underpasses are equipped with ramps, but they’re steep and rather intimidating-looking to the westerner’s eye. Some also have a narrow width for certain power wheelchairs. Therefore, you’ll need to use your best judgment on whether or not you’re comfortable using them.
Travel Tip: We never encountered an underpass without a ramp. However, on a corner street with two underpasses, sometimes only one of the underpasses had a ramp.
Wheelchair accessible things to do in Kyiv
In this section, we’ll highlight some of the best accessible things to do in Kyiv.
1. St. Sophia Cathedral
St. Sophia is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most popular sites in Kyiv. The cathedral is located on one side of Sofiyivska Square. You’ll be able to soak in pretty views of the cathedral from the square. Make sure to head to the farthest end to capture the cathedral and immense bell tower in a single photo.
Although St. Sophia is pretty from Sofiyivska Square, it’s incomparable to going inside the cathedral complex. For a fee, you can enter the grounds, which are accessible. The paths are a mix of brick and tightly packed gravel. The gravel is at the backmost part of the complex.
Nowadays, the cathedral is a museum. Accessibility at the museum was halfheartedly done and we hope that they change this.
For now, in order to enter, you’ll need to go over about a 1″ ledge. From there, head down the hallway to your right and you’ll find a ramp leading to the main part of the cathedral.
You’ll be able to explore the center-most part of the cathedral after going down the ramp. This is, no doubt, the most striking part of the building.
Nonetheless, there are stairs that lead to other quarters without ramps. It’s baffling as to why they chose to place a single ramp at the museum, especially when ramps could easily be placed throughout the first floor, but we digress.
2. St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery
Churches are a huge part of Ukrainian culture. Naturally then, they’re an important part of places to see in Kyiv. We highly recommend putting St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery on your list, along with the St. Sophia Cathedral.
Unlike the St. Sophia Cathedral, St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery is free to enter. The church is also active, so you can attend service if you’re interested (Note: Women need to wear a headscarf). There’s a ramp leading to the church in front of the building, to the left side.
The grounds of the monastery are wide and brick, making it easy to get around.
Travel Tip: The funicular behind St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery isn’t accessible. Therefore, you’ll need to travel between the upper and lower part of the city by sidewalk or vehicle.
3. St. Andrew’s Church
To finish off our church theme, let’s talk about St. Andrew’s Church. This masterpiece sits on a hill and is easy to mistake as a castle.
Unfortunately, going up massive sets of stairs is the only way to arrive at the top of St. Andrew’s Church. However, there are two accessible areas where you can admire the church from below.
The first viewpoint is when heading uphill on Andriyivskyy Descent Street. We’ll talk about this street shortly. The second viewpoint is from the path leading around Volodymyrska Hill. This path starts at the base of the church and leads into a forested park area. It’s less crowded than Andriyivskyy Descent Street and offers views of the church from a different angle.
As a bonus, you can see the topmost part of St. Andrew’s Church from the grounds of the National Museum of the History of Ukraine, which is also accessible.
4. Volodymyrska Hill
Volodymyrska Hill deserves a spot all on its own in this list of wheelchair-friendly things to do in Kyiv.
From this hill, you’ll get to enjoy strolling along beautiful wooden and paved sidewalks through a park. At various points along the way, lookout areas will offer incredible views over the district of Podil, the river, and typically lesser-seen parts of Kyiv.
Don’t let its name fool you- the path through Volodymyrska Hill is cut into the side of the hill. Therefore, the path is mostly flat.
You can easily spend an hour or longer exploring Volodymyrska Hill. It’s a great option for nature lovers and/or if you’re looking to get away from crowds (relatively speaking, of course- you’re not in Rome!).
5. Andriyivskyy Descent Street
Remember how we said that Kyiv is almost entirely cobblestone-free?
Andriyivskyy Descent Street is the (partial) exception.
This is one of the oldest streets in Kyiv and is famous for its winding, uphill cobblestone path leading from Podil, the oldest district in Kyiv, to the hill on which St. Andrew’s Church sits.
It’s a must-see place in Kyiv and, thankfully, someone got on the ball and built a sidewalk on both sides of the cobblestone street.
Therefore, you’ll get to enjoy the pretty views of cobblestone from the comfort of a smooth sidewalk….except at intersections. You’ll still have to deal with cobblestone in areas where streets intersect with Andriyivskyy Descent Street. The photo above is a great example of this.
Travel Tip: There’s an accessible restroom on the left side of Andriyivskyy Descent Street as you near the top, before arriving to St. Andrew’s Church.
While we’re on the subject of Andriyivskyy Descent Street, let’s talk about Podil. Podil is the oldest community in Kyiv and offers a more raw version of Kyiv, with many buildings being more unkempt from those in the center. It gives Podil charm and is worth the visit.
You can get to Podil by sidewalk, if you’re coming from Andriyivskyy Decent Street. or by vehicle, if you’re coming from further away.
As expected from Kyiv, Podil has wide sidewalks and squares, making getting around by wheelchair fairly easy. Just keep an eye out for bumps and uneven patches along the way, as parts aren’t as well maintained as in the upper town.
You may also stumble upon crosswalks that require passing over cobblestone and/or doing some kitty-corner crossing to find a curb ramp.
7. Independence Square
Independence Square is an iconic area of Kyiv. Named in celebration of Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union in the early 1990’s, Independence Square is a location of both happy social gatherings and political rallies.
The square is large and accessible. There are also restaurants and tourist stands around.
8. People’s Friendship Arch & Bridge
Visiting the People’s Friendship Arch and the bridge leading from it is something that should undoubtedly be on your list of things to do in Kyiv.
Although originally built in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the USSR, nowadays the arch and bridge is a great place to take selfies and enjoy views over the river. The place gets packed on weekends, so aim to visit on a weekday, if you’re able.
Fun fact: Most recently, the Friendship Arch was temporarily converted into the colors of the rainbow for the Kyiv Pride Parade. Take that, Soviet Union.
9. Landscape Alley Park
If you’re looking to connect with your inner child, Landscape Alley Park is the place to do so.
In order to visit this park, we recommend first connecting with your adult self by wandering around the grounds of the National Museum of the History of Ukraine. You’ll get some unique views of Kyiv, plus see the top of St. Andrew’s Church.
From the grounds of the National Museum of the History of Ukraine, look for this figure:
This marks the start of Landscape Alley Park, which is a path that winds through fun, colorful creatures. A portion of the park is located up a set of stairs, but you’ll be able to get good views from the main sidewalk.
The walk through Landscape Alley won’t take too long, about 15 – 20 minutes. It also offers some nice views of a park, if nature is more your thing.
10. Bessarabsky Market
Locals stick up their noses to the Bessarabsky Market, for understandable reasons. The Bessarabsky Market is expensive, by market standards, and geared towards tourists. Nonetheless, if you’re a market-lover, it’s a fun experience, especially since it has a Middle Eastern flare.
The front of the Bessarabsky Market looks intimidating for a wheelchair user since it’s surrounded by stairs. However, head in either direction around the market and you’ll find a variety of accessible entrances.
The market is located on one floor. The paths between stands are quite wide and, since it isn’t a market where many locals go, it usually isn’t too crowded.
A disadvantage of the Bessarabsky Market is that the restaurants inside the market have a single, approximately 6″ ledge to reach them. There are restaurants around the outside of the market that offer better accessibility.
11. Golden Gate
The Golden Gate is an iconic landmark in Kyiv. It was built and destroyed on various occasions, with varying opinions on how the original gate really looked. Most recently, it was rebuilt by the Soviets in 1982.
The plaza around the front of the Golden Gate is accessible. From there, you can enjoy views of the gate, musicians, and a variety of coffee shops and restaurants.
Wheelchair Accessible Hotels in Kyiv
We know that finding accessible hotels is a time-consuming process. So, we’ve put together a list of some hotels in Kyiv with wheelchair accessible rooms. We hope this helps save you some time as you work on planning your trip.
The 4-star Radisson Blu Hotel offers accessible rooms. They specifically highlight on their website that they have roll-in showers and easy-to-reach amenities.
As expected from the 5-star Hilton, they offer accessible rooms. The Hilton in Kyiv is conveniently located between the train station and downtown.
We hope that this post has inspired you to explore Kyiv by wheelchair. If you have questions about accessibility in Kyiv, send them our way and we’ll be happy to help. Or, if you’ve been to Kyiv, please leave a message in the comments about your experience and your favorite accessible places there.