Kyiv is one of the biggest cities I’ve visited in Europe. It seems like every time you pop up from a metro station, you’re in a huge and completely unique neighborhood that is kind of endearing in its own way. This makes visiting Kyiv pretty interesting, but how would these neighborhoods feel if I were to live here?
Kyiv’s Soviet influence is very apparent. It can be seen in the totally over-the-top metro stations, which have arched tunnels lined with chandeliers but with worn metal train cars that are still from that era. Above ground, Kyiv is full of life and color. It has one of the best cocktail bar scenes in Europe. Cocktail bars, and especially speakeasies, are really popular. High-end cafes and eateries for budget prices are also everywhere, which is a nice thing to have. I could definitely see myself strolling through a neighborhood like Podil to grab some coffee nearby. Even though I’m visiting in the winter, the amount of parks and trees that fill the city is really comforting. I imagine that Kyiv is probably gorgeous in late spring when you can walk around the parks and on the hills of the city without freezing your ass off.
One of my biggest issues with Kyiv is the people. I actually prefer quite a bit of social distance, but Kyiv people are extra frosty and I’m not a fan. More than half of the people we interacted with ranged from disturbingly apathetic at best to somewhat hostile at worst. Some of these servers treat you like you could be on fire and they wouldn’t give a single fuck. As much as I don’t enjoy being chummy with strangers, I also want to live in a society where I feel like people are fundamentally kind or would be helpful if I was in need. But I don’t always get that vibe here.
It also seems like there’s a lot of young people drinking out in the streets and acting like complete jackasses which is also off-putting. It’s like every teenager is a Billie Eilish wannabe throwing beer bottles on the floor before they graduate to being a total disinterested cunt to strangers when they’re working at Ukraine Airlines.
Given Kyiv’s size, getting around can be kind of a hassle. Though most neighborhoods are really nice to walk through, if you’re going very far, you could end up walking for up to an hour to get somewhere else. The hilly terrain also means some of your walks would be steep and exhausting. I can’t imagine that’s very fun in the middle of the summer. The alternative is taking public transportation. While the public transportation is extremely efficient and reliable, it’s also really annoying to use because the automatic machines for the metro are sometimes broken, there’s lines for the ticket counter, and it’s always packed. The metro is also so deep underground that you have to spend 5 minutes on an escalator to get to the platform. The grandeur of the stations are sort of lost on me when I’m being shuffled around by pushy people.
The food in Kyiv is incredible. That’s one thing I really have nothing bad to say about. I love traditional Ukrainian food. I love the international cuisine available in Kyiv, particularly Georgian which is plentiful in the city. I love that I could get a flavored latte and a delicious pastry at a cafe on a weeknight. I even love the Ukrainian stuff you can get at the grocery store. It’s one of those places where you can really relish eating at home or eating out because the food is so interesting and delicious. As far as the drinks go, Kyiv is an exceptional place to live if you appreciate a well-made cocktail. Sure, you can get six shots of vodka for $6, but you can also find plenty of places to get a craft cocktail for half that.
The cost is a major upside to Kyiv. It’s cheap to live here, it’s cheap to eat and drink really well. It’s even cheap to enjoy some nice art and culture. With free museums and tickets for the opera for as little as $5, it’s a good place to enjoy yourself in your free time. Kyiv is an excellent place to live if you’re budget conscious, though it’s because salaries are quite low, so it’s not an ideal place to find work.
Total Livability Score 4/10
Kyiv has many great qualities that I’ve enjoyed while visiting, but it is kind of a mixed bag. I could certainly eat here every day for the rest of my life and be pretty happy about it, but the people ruin it for me. If I wanted to live in a place where everyone is miserable all the time, I would still live in Miami.