The Foreigner’s Guide to Kharkiv, Ukraine
Kharkiv is the second largest city in Ukraine, yet for some reason, it is overlooked by travelers. Odessa and Kiev are great, true, but why the discrimination?
Kharkiv is a beautiful place, it is big enough to keep you busy, yet still somewhat off the grid. What more is there to ask for? Oh, the girls…
Why Kharkiv Is The Best Place To Meet Ukrainian Girls
If you have been following us for a while, you know we are huge fans of Ukrainian women. We have done dating site reviews, tips on avoiding scams, and all sorts of other useful stuff. But for some reason, we have not talked about Kharkiv, not even in the recent 5 Off-The-Grid Cities To Meet Beautiful Ukrainian Women.
Well, for starters, the city is not completely off-the-grid.
Any Ukrainians reading would be furious if we put it in the ‘cities nobody has even heard of’ list. We had enough of these about the five places we did include. And, if anything, I would like to apologize to these people. No, I don’t mean you live in some God-forgotten place. I mean that most Westerners looking to meet Ukrainian girls have only heard of Kiev and Odessa—and they really need to broaden their horizons.
Anyway, Kharkiv genuinely does not fall in the off-the-grid list—but it is the perfect place to meet your Ukrainian sweetheart. Unlike the classic ‘bride hunting’ destinations, girls don’t flock here looking for a rich husband and neither do potential future rich husbands. Compared to other cities of the same size, the place is much more authentic:
Fewer foreigners and even more Ukrainian girls.
At the same time, it is by no stretch of the imagination a small town where everyone gossips. Guys sometimes go to these towns to meet a girl they chatted up online only to find that she is embarrassed to go out with them (online dating can equal desperation in the minds of some babushkas).
That is the better scenario, too, believe it or not. The other option is for the girl to not even be real and hey, you are halfway across the world to meet a Natasha that really is a Boris.Meet Ukrainian Girls in Kharkiv
There Is Plenty To Do In Kharkiv
To quote Lonely Planet:
Kharkiv (Kharkov in Russian) is one of those ex-Soviet cities that has much to say about itself but fairly little to show.
Wrong! You could not be further away from the truth.
Spoken like a true Soviet aficionado? No, believe me, I have no fondness for moustached dictators, oppression, and starving people to death (something that actually happened in Ukraine during Stalin’s rule). But it’s a shame to say that Kharkiv has little to offer. Enter our comprehensive guide on things to see, eat, do (and don’t).
Day 1 Is For Sightseeing
Before I tell you all about the clubs, let me take you on a quick sightseeing tour. It’s ridiculous how many foreigners never actually do that in Ukraine. I get it, you are here to meet the girl of your dreams, but would it hurt you to explore the culture a bit?
Start At Plosha Svobody (Independence Square)
This ginormous (eight largest in Europe, to be exact) square lies at the heart of the city centre. When the Soviets took over in 1926 they named it Dzerzhinsky Square after the founder of the Soviet secret police (yes, the infamous KGB).
The Ukrainians were not huge fans of that name, especially considering that the secret police was known for mass summary executions and sending people to labour camps (or killing them without a fair trial). After the country gained it’s independence, the square was renamed Independence (or Freedom) Square.
In 2014, protesters tore down the monumental statue of Lenin erected in the 60’s.
But the Independence Square would never be completely free of the Soviet past. The most notable landmark is the constructivist monster Derzhprom (State Industry Building or Palace of Industry). It was designed as a showoff structure and erected in just three years.
At the time, it was the tallest building in Europe and strong enough to survive the war virtually untouched.
Time For Cathedrals
There are two cathedrals you absolutely must see in Kharkiv. One is the Dormition Cathedral on the University Hill by the river. Originally built as a part of the fortress, it was rebuilt in Late Baroque and Rococo style. After Napoleon’s expulsion from Russia a separate bell tower (the Alexander Bell Tower) was erected “to express the people’s gratitude to Alexander I”.
In come the Soviet with their militant atheism, and the cathedral suffered some unfortunate damage. Not only was it vandalized but they even tore down the domes. Further damage was made during World War II, and then a tornado hit it in 1975. It was probably around this time that the Soviet realized that atheist or not, they should not leave a historical monument to ruin and they restored it. You have to admit they did a pretty good job (considering it was them who nearly destroyed it in the first place) and today the cathedral guards much of it’s original Baroque splendour.
The Annunciation Cathedral
This is is the main Orthodox church of Kharkiv, Ukraine. It’s also the largest cathedral in Eastern Europe. With a tower of over 80 meters, it is also one of the tallest Orthodox churches in the world. Unlike the Dormition Cathedral, this one did not suffer too much at the hands of the Soviet. Granted, it was closed down during the war but at most, it might have been used as a warehouse.
Since 1946 it has been the seat of the Kharkiv and Bohodukhiv eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate). The Moscow Patriarchate did have a lot of connections with Soviet officials. That is probably what protected the cathedral.
Museums (Or Bars)
Now that you have at least covered the basics, you can:
- Head over to the Historical Museum to learn more about Kharkiv’s turbulent past.
- Grab a bite and a beer.
I personally enjoy museums but this one is not too foreigner-friendly. The admission fee is low enough, though, so what does it matter if not all signs make sense (hey, Ukrainians are not famous for their English skills).
Eating In Kharkiv
Ukrainian food is amazing and you can’t go to Kharkiv and not try it. Here are our top picks:
- Fortuna for cheap and traditional Ukrainian cuisine. They get extra points for authenticity – the whole place has a Soviet factory canteen vibe (and not because some hipster interior designer came up with a concept space). Just don’t bring a date here.
- Paris on Petrovskogo street for finer dining (and a French movie projection or a performance every night). Make reservations ahead of time, the restaurant is very popular. This one is a place to bring your date. Fancy enough but local enough, too.
- Imbirnyj Pryanik for a fancy tea break. Yes, you should have tea instead of coffee, they have an amazing selection and they prepare it in an authentic samovar. Make sure you also try the desserts. You need a little something to give you energy for all that sightseeing.
- IT café on Prospect Pravdy if you need to get work done. Their Internet is fast, the coffee is delicious, and they have some cool and authentic snacks to go with it.
Nightlife In Kharkiv
As in many other Eastern European destinations, nightlife is decidedly about showing off.
Put on a nice outfit and start with drinks and food at NEBO. This bar and dinner place is your perfect pre-game destination. Their drinks are great and the food is excellent. Plus, you get to knock ‘ate Ukrainian specialities’ off your bucket list. They serve most of the classics and they prepare them just right (even the grumpiest babushka would approve).
Then, for an upscale club with some gorgeous ladies (that does sound like I am talking about a strip club but it’s not the case), head over to Bolero. It is spacious, with a very decent entry fee, and the drinks are top notch. The only downside is it’s a bit out of the centre, so you would have to get a cab. Considering how cheap Ukraine is, though, I doubt that will be a problem.
Keep an eye out for Uber to come in the future, too. As of now, I know it’s only in Kiev, but that’ll undoubtedly change over the years.
Safety (A.K.A. Common Sense Tips)
Most people worry about visiting Kharkiv because it’s nearer to the war front than other Ukrainian cities.
It’s worth mentioning that things are a lot calmer in recent years and there haven’t been any major protests or terror attacks.
That is not a guarantee that the place is 100% safe, but then again neither are most large European cities. For the moment being Kharkiv is not considered dangerous and visitors are mostly advised to watch their belongings,and to be a bit more cautious at night. Which as a fancy way of saying, don’t get blackout drunk in a foreign country and mind your bag/pockets because there are some pickpockets at work.
Do that, and you should have a safe fun trip to Kharkiv.
PS: To meet the local girls in Kharkiv, click the button below:Meet Ukrainian Girls in Kharkiv