The Guide to Cherkasy, Ukraine
Cherkasy is a beautiful if sometimes overlooked city in Central Ukraine. Over seven centuries after it was first established, it’s still a vibrant place with a youthful vibe. Read on to learn about:
- How Cherkasy came to be
- Choosing the best accommodation
- Cherkasy’s must-visit attraction
- Where the party is at
- Local delicacies that you must try
Located on the right bank of Dnieper River, Cherkasy is a city of oblast significance in central Ukraine. This means that does not belong to the raion – it’s a separate entity. It is, however, also the capital of Cherkasy Oblast (province) and the centre of the raion.
If the raion and oblast system confuses you, remember that:
Oblast > Raion
My mnemonic for this is that o comes before r in the alphabet.
As of 2017, the population of Cherkasy is 281,549 people. This is pretty average, compared to other similar cities in Ukraine. Cherkasy is definitely big enough for you to have fun at. At the same time, it has a small town vibe and people here are much more humble and friendly than the capital (even though Ukraine as a whole is a hospitable place).
Why Cherkasy Is More Important Than Most
Cherkasy is now 732 years old. That is pretty old, even by European standards. Historically, this city has been very important.
Early Cherkasy history is not yet well explored. The most common theory is that it was established in 1286 on Kievan Rus territory. There are not a lot of documents from those early years. Consistent proof and documentation of city life exist from the 14th century onward.
In the 14th century, the city became a part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
After the Union of Lublin, in late 16th century, Cherkasy passed on to Poland. The Cherkasy Regiment was created in 1625.
But locals, the so-called Cossacks, weren’t thrilled about either of those foreign countries ruling their city. Cherkasy was the centre of two separate rebellions against the respective governing country. The Khmelnychchyna and Koliyivschyna uprisings are key events in Ukraine history and they are something Ukrainians are proud of to this day.
That is why the city is somewhat of a national symbol. It’s a place Ukrainian kids talk about at school and where families bring their sons and daughters to teach them about the past.
That’s why, no matter what your travel style usually is, you should take some time to explore the town and the area around it. All the culture that accumulated throughout the centuries plus the history of the city will make it worth your while.
What To See
The Hill of Fame should be your first point of interest.
Something I failed to mention, but that is very important in Ukrainian history, is that it suffered great damage during World War II. The city was occupied by Germans after a two-month siege and remained under Nazi control for two years (between 1941 and 1943).
The Hill of Fame is a monument to those who gave their lives to halt Nazi efforts. The hilltop figure is not that impressive on its own but the place commands respect. The hill is not too far away from the centre and it’s a beautiful place to walk around and seep in the history.
Another big perk: the panorama is incredible. There is no better place to enjoy the Cherkasy skyline!
The Shherbiny House is easily the city’s most recognizable landmark. This gorgeous architectural masterpiece was built as a pre-Soviet era merchant’s private residence. It’s on all the postcards from the city and a great example of Western baroque elements entering Eastern Europe.
After the Soviets took over, the house was turned into a civil registration bureau. This is where people come to get married, too. You will see quite a few weddings around the area. In Eastern Europe, it is considered good luck to come across a wedding, which makes the Shherbiny House a perfect place to get some extra good fortune.
The Music and Light Fountain is a nice place to start your evening in the city. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a fountain that also plays music and has a sort of light show. It’s not very large but it is right in the centre and so a great starting point for the rest of your night out in Cherkasy.
The City By Night
There are plenty of cool bars and clubs for you to hit.
Шашлична М’ясо, which literally translates to “Barbecued meat” is one of our favourite bar & grill locations in Cherkasy. This is the place to go if you want to sample delicious Cossack specialities. As you might have guessed, Cossacks ate a lot of meat and Шашлична М’ясо only serves the best and most fresh cuts you can find.
The other huge perk of this restaurant is the value. You can get an enormous portion of meat for under 6$. This is cheap even by Ukrainian standards and that’s why locals flock here on Fridays and Saturdays. If you want to have dinner during the rush hour, it’s best to make a reservation beforehand.
The KIM BAR is a favourite among locals, serving double duty as an eatery and a cocktail hotspot. You will find listed as a steakhouse on Google but don’t expect your typical steak place. The KIM BAR also serves amazing salads and fries, some artisanal delicacies like the black burgers, and, of course, the cocktails.
On weekends, there is a DJ here so you could also come to dance. The KIM BAR is among the most versatile place of the city, morphing from a hip lunch spot, to a dinner highlight (kid-friendly and all), then a bar, and finally a club.
Finally, for a full-on, all-out party place, you can’t miss Manhattan. Like the KIM BAR, Manhattan is a restaurant by day but the reviews on their food are very conflicting. At night, it’s the city’s favourite place to drink and dance. Locals dress to the nines for this place and they stay up all night.
Lesson learned: wear your best outfit and load up on the caffeine before you come.
Accommodation In Cherkasy
As is the case with other Ukrainian towns, quality accommodation isn’t always easy to find. These are a few hotels at different price points that we can vouch for. If you have another suggestion, please leave it in the comments below!
The Dnepr Hotel is the city’s main hotel with a beautiful view over the Dnepr river. Ask for a room on a higher floor to enjoy the panorama. It’s slightly Soviet-looking (well, very Soviet-looking in fact) but you will love their food and you’d also love their prices.
As far as Cherkasy accommodation goes, the Dnepr hotel is actually mid-range but it fits tighter budgets because Ukraine as a whole is quite cheap.
The Hotel and Entertainment Complex Vlada is a slightly higher-end spot. They offer various amenities and the place is in a calmer location where you’re still close to city life but away from all the noise. Once again, and quite surprisingly, their food is really nice and the hotel restaurant is, in fact, a great date location as well.
Finally, the Pershyy Hostel u Cherkasah is your very, very budget-friendly option. It’s super cheap, it is clean, and the location is great. The other big perk is that the Wi-Fi is quite fast, which always comes in handy. If you are a long-term traveller looking to do some work while you’re in Cherkasy, this is the accommodation for you.
Ukrainian food as a whole is pretty delicious. In Cherkasy, you will find some local specialities that you can’t miss.
The meats and shashliks are an obvious first choice here. They are usually served on wooden boards with very little salad. I hope you like charred meat because that’s how Ukrainians like it. Don’t be afraid to try the beef. Yes, it is quite well done but somehow it’s never dry.
The other big one is Cherkasy’s own twist on pelmeni. You can find them in all diffrent shapes and sizes, plus with sweet filling, too. My personal favourite is the classic meaty one but you’d have to try them all to tell.
Finally, if you get invited to a Ukrainian home, prepare for the best cakes you’ve ever sampled. Cherkasy girls are pros in the kitchen and you can never quite get their homemade cooking right (even if they give you the recipe). Enjoy and try not to die of the food coma!
Final Words On Cherkasy
Even though it isn’t as big as Kiev, or as famous as Odessa, Cherkasy still has plenty to offer. Between historical signs, exceptional cuisine, and epic parties, you are sure to love this Southern Ukrainian town.
Which brings me to my last point:
After your trip, make sure you come back and tell us all about it. Things are constantly changing and we wouldn’t want to miss the new cool spot in town.
PS: If you plan to date in Ukraine, make sure you “pipeline” some girls before you leave. The best site to meet them is this one…