Last Updated on February 10th, 2020
Odds are you haven’t heard much about Chernihiv, Ukraine. And you are not the only one, really. I was born and raised in Ukraine, traveled all over my home country but still didn’t manage to explore Chernihiv until the last month. During my visit there, I felt totally elated and happy. Now I am asking myself why didn’t I come to this hidden gem city before?
That’s exactly what my Mark told me: Chernihiv in Ukraine is a hidden gem city. It’s not the obvious destination, although it’s right there on the map.
From our thorough explorations, we can tell that Chernihiv is very interesting, charming and appealing. Once you find yourself in the center, right away you get this feeling of comfort and curiosity.
By the way, in case you are wondering why Chernihiv and not Chernigov. Both of them are the right names, the first one is in the Ukrainian language while the second one is in Russian. It’s that simple. I personally use only Ukrainian form.
Alright, allow me to introduce you to one of the most adorable and at the same time under-the-radar cities in Ukraine.
To make it easier for you, jump to the section that interests you the most.
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Chernihiv, Ukraine – A City Of Legends And Folk Tales
Everyone who comes from Chernihiv will tell you that it is one of the most mystical cities in Ukraine which is full of legends, myths, and epic. Just one name ‘Chernihiv’ hides several mysterious stories.
The northernmost city of Ukraine has its own flag, coat of arms and anthem. Since 2010 it also has a tourist logo. Based on the motto – “Chernihiv – the city of legends” – all past events have an effect until this present day and all folk tales have meaning.
There are legends about the rulers and princes, about monks-ghosts and about the ghost wandering the corridors of famous city caves. Other legends are about the ship-house, monuments, and cannons which are located in the city center. And, there are many more other legends that spark interest and make you wonder.
With the historical heritage, unique architecture (like churches and houses), rivers (the city stands on three rivers – Desna, Strizhne, and Belous) and parks, Chernihiv can surprise even the most demanding tourists. And, it rightfully deserves the title as one of the most beautiful cities in Ukraine.
First Impression of Chernihiv
We entered Chernihiv from the northern side when traveling from Belarus by bus. Going through a few busy soviet looking neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city, passing by a busy market and observing a bit hectic life made us think that Chernihiv was a heavy, dusty and not interesting place.
However, after getting in downtown, being greeted by the friendly and knowledgeable staff from the Information Tourist Center, walking all over the city and going on a tour, we changed our opinion completely.
Chernihiv is not an ordinary city. It is very rich in history, has an incredibly high number of churches and parks. In fact, it comes second after Kyiv in the number of churches and monasteries. The oldest temple the Transfiguration Cathedral was built in 1037.
A few centuries ago, it was one of the largest and most important cities in Kyivan Rus’ and the capital of the Chernihiv-Seversky principality. Today, Chernihiv is the northernmost regional center of Ukraine which has a lot to offer.
For many years, Ukrainians (not to mention foreigners) have not been giving Chernihiv a lot of attention simply not knowing how much beauty and charm is there. Lately, it started to change slowly because more and more people keep discovering for themselves this Ukrainian provincial city.
This is what Mark and I thought after spending a few days there. Chernihiv is still a less-visited destination but one day will become a hub for digital nomads and everyone who loves to visit historically rich cities with beautiful nature around.
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What to Do in Chernihiv, Ukraine
A trip to Chernihiv provides a great opportunity to travel in time. Since the city dates back to 907, there are a lot of fascinating historical places that will ignite your wanderlust. Chernihiv has a calm and cozy atmosphere and differs a lot from any other city in Ukraine.
A visit there will appeal to different types of travelers – to those who love cultural programs, those who enjoy being in nature, and those who are gourmets who travel only for food and drink. Backpackers also will be happy – prices in Chernihiv are the lowest, especially comparing to the nearby most expensive city in Ukraine Kyiv.
The first thing I want to recommend, when you arrive in downtown, go to the Information Center, located at 9 Shevchenko Street. It is open every day from April to September from 9.00 to 19.00 and from October to March from 9.00 to 17.00. Get in touch with them in advance or when you are already in Chernihiv. You can find all contact info and more details on their website here.
I really want to sing praise to the team who works at this center. All members are dedicated to their job and work so hard to promote their home city.
The Center is new and modern. If you need water, the Internet or bathroom, feel free to stop by. There are also a few tables inside the center where visitors can sit down and relax. Also, this is the right place to go to not only when you need directions or questions but also if you want to hire a guide. We had a guide with us who gave us a tour which was arranged by the Information Center team. He was such an interesting person who knew how to introduce Chernihiv to the guests.
Even if you are not willing to tour the city with a guide, I still advise you to stop at the Information Center. Your trip will be more complete with the advice from the guys who work there.
And here is the list of things you can do in Chernihiv.
Walk Myru Avenu
Myru avenue is the Main Street in Chernihiv. It has neatly trimmed lawns, lots of flowers, quirky cafes, cute forged benches, pretty fountain and lots of pigeons.
From this street, you can easily get to all the main sights of Chernihiv. If walking from the north to the south, you’ll end up on the shore of Desna River.
If you get hungry, stop for lunch at ‘Buffet’ cafe (Myru Ave, 12). This place has a wide range of traditional Ukrainians dishes, beautiful Ukraine-style setting, and low prices.
Another authentic eatery is ‘Dzhentlmeni Udachi’ on Myru Ave, 50. It’s a good place to eat pel’meni, home-style potatoes and cheburek with beer.
‘Peperoni Pizza’ on Myru Ave, 47 is a wonderful place where you can find not only delish pizza but salads, soups, main dishes, fresh juices, and smoothies. Try their cream-soup with mushrooms or soup with salmon and mussels, Cesar salad and pizza with four kinds of cheese.
Walk Around Krasna Square
Krasna Square is small but centrally located. There is not much to do but interesting to take a look since this place is historical too. First of all, this is one of the last squares that was made with the brick before the revolution of 1917. So make sure you are wearing comfortable shoes.
Second, it is an administrative ‘heart’ of the city and favorite place for walks and relaxation for locals. Usually, all concerts and important events take part here.
In and around the square you can find a light and music fountain, a drama theater, the regional administration, Pyatnitskaya Church and also the ‘Senator‘ cafe which offers stakes, cheeseburgers and a few Ukrainian dishes.
If you go from the square towards Ancient Chernihiv National Architectural and Historical Reserve, then on the left side of Mira Avenue there are a number of cafes and restaurants that you can visit.
‘Varenychna Baluvana Halya’ is famous for some of the best vareniki (or pierogi). There is such a variety to choose from. The spinach with chicken and white mushroom with potato are especially delicious and pretty rare to find. Give them a try too! ‘Abazhur’ is a cute small coffee shop with good coffee and yummy cakes. By the way, if you are coming from Kyiv by marshrutka, the driver can stop in front of this cafe.
Krasna Square is a great starting point for city walks. All the historical places are near and everything is very close. No matter which part of the city you are coming from, you may walk into this square.
Go to Chernihiv Dytynets Park And Historic Cannon Val
Dytynets Park is one of the biggest parks in Chernihiv. It is located in the oldest part of the city and is more than a thousand years old.
In the past, it used to be a fortified town with its own fortress and guards. For many centuries it was the most important center of the city. Today, Dytynets Park or as locals also call it Val is a historical area where you can see monuments, cathedrals, and buildings of different eras. The most memorable of them are 12 cast-iron bastion cannons that date back in the XVIII century.
Probably everyone from Chernihiv has a whole collection of photographs next to cannons with the city in the background. And many postcards of Chernihiv have an iconic image of Val with cannons and greenery that surrounds them.
For a better understanding and a bit of history, I suggest going on a sightseeing tour. We went on one which was arranged by the guys from the Information Center (I mentioned it earlier) and it was a highlight of our trip.
If you are walking on your own, be sure to take a walk through Detinets, see the monument of Taras Shevchenko (a famous Ukrainian writer) sitting on a huge bench and visit one of the oldest stone cathedrals in Ukraine the Transfiguration Cathedral. By the way, it is even older than St. Sophia cathedral in Kyiv and depicted on a bottle of Chernihiv beer.
Another important building in Detynets Park is the Collegium, the first higher educational institution of Left-Bank Ukraine. It has been open since the beginning of the 18th century. During World War II, the building was destroyed but then completely restored in 1954-1959.
Visit Park Boldyna Hora
Park Boldyna Hora is one mystical place in Chernihiv which won’t leave you indifferent.
It is basically a green area with mounds since Kievan Rus’ times. Those mounds are grave hills from ancient times. Our guide, who also happened to be an archaeologist and who took part in excavations, have told us that in a few of the mounds his team found remains of officers and one of the princes.
On the same grounds, there is also an ancient church, a small cemetery, caves with underground churches with cells of hermit monks and relics of saints. You can visit the caves, paying the price around 20 hryvnias (less than $1) per person. An excursion with bikes costs 50 hryvnias ($2).
On the eastern side of the park, there is a memorial of fame from where you get to see a beautiful panorama of the city and Desna River.
See St. Anthony Underground Caves And Illinska Church
St. Anthony underground cave is simply a must-see religious architecture in Chernihiv.
The cave system was founded in 1069 by the Monk Anthony Pecherskiy and by Prince Svyatoslav. Originally, the caves were considered a monastery but with years an actual monastery was built nearby.
The present time monastery has two levels. An upper level offers some walking and an opportunity to see the monastic building inside. The lower level has the cave area with bones of hermit monks, relics of saints, murals and icons.
Some parts of the caves are very narrow and a bit dark. For someone with claustrophobia, it may be challenging to walk from one cave to another. However, overall, the caves have good lighting and markings. I suffer from claustrophobia, still, I was able to visit every part without feeling stressed.
As our guide told us, this place is mystical and has some type of energy which is difficult to describe. He was saying that some people who get into caves heal from various illnesses or just feel light and energized. While others, start feeling down and want to get out. Also, he mentioned that workers and visitors have spotted a ghost a few times in the past.
We personally didn’t feel anything supernatural but it was definitely fascinating to walk through the caves and listen to stories of ancient times.
I do recommend that you have a guide to show you around and tell all the details. It gives a totally different perspective on this place.
Entrance fee is 30 UAH ($1.2) for adults, excursion service 50-100 UAH depending on the number of people, taking photos is 15 UAH.
What we noticed though, this site was absolutely quiet and empty. It is not affected by mass tourism yet, that’s why it is so unique and special. You feel and understand it once you see this wonder with your own eyes.
TIP: The temperature inside the caves is always low. Even in the warm season, it may be cold, so have a shawl with you.
Pay a Visit to Trinity Monastery
Located on the Chernihiv hills, the Trinity Cathedral is a prominent representation of Ukrainian Baroque. It is considered to be the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra of Chernihiv and is a very interesting place to visit. The temple was built mainly at the expense and with the assistance of Hetman Mazepa.
Over its history, the Cathedral was destroyed and rebuilt many times. But during the last restoration, it was restored to its original form. Near the Cathedral there is a bell tower with a wonderful view of both the monastery, the city and Desna River.
To appreciate all its beauty, climb the bell tower. The entrance fee to the bell tower is around 5 UAH ($0.20). From the top, you get to see how green Chernihiv is and that the city is basically built among the parks.
Relax on Gold Bank City Beach
No matter during which season you are visiting Chernihiv, walk to Gold Bank City Beach and get closer to nature while not leaving the city.
If you are visiting in summer, make sure to grab a towel or beach blanket (if you have any) and feel free to swim and relax on the beach. The beach is situated on the banks of Desna River which is clean and safe to swim in. The city janitors keep the entire beach area clean and tidy, so it is a pleasure to be there. Also, there are a few cafes nearby, bike rental, and playground for kids. Lifeguards and nurses are on duty too.
Mark and I were pleasantly surprised to see how beautiful this city beach was. It looked like somewhere else in Europe but not in Ukraine. Why I am saying this is because I am used to seeing old, shabby, at times neglected public areas in different parts of Ukraine. In Chernihiv on the contrary, I could tell that the local government is taking good care of the city and local people support that initiative.
Getting there is easy. You can walk from Dytynets Park in less than 20 minutes or take a marshrutka #33. I do encourage you to walk though since the city is small and everything is so close.
Visit Dozens of Other Unique Churches of Chernihiv
A lot of Ukrainians always associate Chernihiv with churches. Because there are really a lot of them. And each church is beautiful and unique in its own way.
The most prominent ones, besides the Trinity Monastery, Transfiguration Cathedral, and Illinska Church, are Piatnytska Church (right by the Krasna Square), St. Catherine’s Cathedral, Yeletskyi Dormition Monastery, Chernihiv Collegium, Borys and Glen Cathedral, and many more.
The founder of Chernihiv Collegium, for example, was a church figure that’s why the building looks just like a church or cathedral.
Yeletskyi Dormition monastery was one of the first such buildings in Kievan Rus, and one of the richest. The way we see it today is its original form. The prototype for the 25-meter Assumption Cathedral on the territory of the Yeletskyi Monastery became the eponymous cathedral of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra. The monastery stands on a mountain and has numerous underground catacombs.
Restaurants and Cafes in Chernihiv
Ukraine is that country where you are supposed to eat. Seriously. The food is delicious and cheap. Chernihiv is one of the cheapest cities in Ukraine which has lots of cool cafes and restaurants. And some of the best deruny and pierogi.
Besides those cafes and restaurants that I mentioned above, I also recommend a few other cool places where to eat in Chernihiv. Check them out.
Cafe ‘Sharlotka’ (Myru Ave, 44) – a cozy cafe with excellent coffee, courteous staff, and tasty desserts. They open at 8.00 and offer a few options for breakfast and lunch.
Cafe ‘Fotel’’ (Serezhnikova, 1) – nice little coffee house with pretty interior. The menu includes sweets and sandwiches for 15-25 UAH (around $1 each).
‘Pasta Basta’ (Myru Ave, 21) – delicious pizzas and a good selection of pasta in a pleasant environment. The perfect dining option. Although, To my taste, the best pizza in Chernihiv was in ‘Peperoni’ restaurant on Myru Ave, 47.
Restaurant-Bar ‘Hryak’ (12, Kyivska St.) – the most popular and famous place of beer and meat in Chernihiv. It looks super fancy and the vibe is great. Try their pigs’ ears and craft beer.
‘Rusty Amber Pub’ (Myru Ave, 19) – as owners of this place say, they offer a traditional “pub” cuisine. There is a stage where from time to time some bands perform. All snacks are delicious and drinks come at reasonable prices. Burgers with meat start from 43 UAH ($1.7) while main dishes from 34 hryvnias ($1.3).
Orange Bar (50 P’yatnyts’ka St.) – a place with various cocktails, parties, and after-parties. Here, you can smoke a hookah, order pizza and various snacks.
Come And Stay in Chernihiv to See More of Chernihiv Region
Chernihiv is a city that is a great option for a day trip from Kyiv. The distance between these two cities is only 140 km and, if leaving early and returning late, you can really come and spend just one day.
However, this beautiful city can be a gateway to the entire Northern region of Ukraine which is famous for nature reserves, lakes, pine forests with the freshest air, sanatoriums and historic towns. If you are willing to take it slow and see a lesser-visited part of Ukraine, I recommend coming for at least 3 days (4-5 would be optimal). This amount of time is enough to cover Chernihiv city and get to a few landmarks in the region.
Below are just a few suggestions.
Baturin is a destination for all history and architecture lovers. This historic town and cultural reserve bring together invaluable monuments of history, architecture, culture, archeology, and nature.
There you’ll find the palace and park of Kirill Razumovsky, the house of Judge General Vasyl Kochubey, the Museum of Archeology of Baturyn, the Church of Hetman Razumovsky, Kochubeyevsky Park, Mykola-Krupitsky Monastery, and Citadel of Baturyn Fortress.
And since the town of Baturin is located on the banks of the Seym River, in the warm season travelers can also enjoy nature.
Visit Blue Lakes – Unique Natural Landmark
You can find the Blue Lakes in the very Northern part of Ukraine, near the border with Belarus. If going by car, it takes less than one hour to get there.
The Blue Lakes area is a unique spot not only with clean water where you can swim. This area has healing power because of pine trees and the water itself. Lake’s water contains minerals with beneficial effects on the musculoskeletal system and skin.
There are four magnificent lakes in Blue Lake system. The area of the largest lake is 25 hectares and a depth of 20 meters. But even with this size it still gets pretty crowded in the summertime. A lot of tourists from Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, and Poland come to visit and enjoy a vacation near crystal clear water.
On the largest Lake, there is the Blue Lakes complex with two beach areas with vacation homes, camping site, a playground for the little ones, water slides, bike rental, restaurants, grill bar, gazebos, wood-fired sauna, and parking.
Summer is not the only season for this destination. In fact, summers get busy. Any time of the year is perfect for a trip to the Blue Lakes. Visiting in winter, besides magical landscapes, provides opportunities for hunting, fishing and outdoor activities such as cross country skiing, skating, tubing, and sledding. In addition, the Blue Lakes recreation area is a famous venue for international festivals and various cultural events.
Relax at SPA Hotel “ShyshkINN” in Picturesque Pine Forest
The ShishkiNN Country Hotel & SPA is another unique spot in Northern Ukraine, not far from Chernihiv. Situated in the middle of a centenary pine forest, on the banks of the River, the hotel is surrounded by many lakes.
The unique architecture, delicious dishes made with organic products and amazing views from the windows of comfortable rooms will be on your mind for a long time.
Legends about the healing properties of these places have been around since the time of the Chernihiv princes.
Until this day people come here to relax, have eco vacation and soak in pools of the nearby Snov River which are rich with iodine. Actually, the levels of iodine are so high that you can replenish this mineral in your body just from spending some time in the water.
You really don’t need (if you don’t want) to stay hear overnight. You are welcome just to visit for a few hours, walk around, get a meal and relax by the river.
Where to Stay in Chernihiv
In general, you can see Chernihiv in one day without spending a night there, if you plan your time accordingly. However, if possible, I still recommend giving it two days.
When we were in Chernihiv, we lived in the hotel “Ukraine”, located in the very center on Myru Avenue. The service and hotel were basic but our room was newly remodeled and bright. It was facing a courtyard, so while living in the heart of the city, being close to Main Street and all sights, it was still very quiet. Breakfast was big and delicious. Overall, I give a five-star rating to this hotel. We were very happy to stay there.
If you are looking for a more luxurious place (which in Ukraine doesn’t cost a lot), I can highly speak of the RiverSide Hotel. It is probably the best hotel in Chernihiv. The level of service is outstanding and it feels very special. The hotel is located on the banks of the Desna River, and away from the center but its focus is on unity with nature.
Even though being on the outskirts, it takes less than 10 minutes to get to Krasna Square by taxi (and costs aground 50 UAH) or 10 minutes by marshrutka #15 (costs 6 UAH). An advantage of this resort-like hotel is an impeccable restaurant and a swimming pool.
Another option, if you prefer private apartments, is, of course, an Airbnb flat. There are not a lot of choices though but most of them are pretty nice. Take a look, for example, at this cute and modern home.
Is It Worth Visiting Chernihiv, Ukraine?
If I have to answer shortly, I will tell you that yes, absolutely and definitely you should visit Chernihiv!
First of all, because this city is really awesome. Second, Chernihiv is a true hidden gem in Ukraine (I am telling you this as Ukrainian).
This is one of those cities which has a lot to offer but still doesn’t see a lot of tourists. You may be the only foreigner on your visit and it will feel very authentic. If you decide to wander here, you should know that you are going off the beaten path in Ukraine.
How to Get From Kyiv to Chernihiv
If you plan to go to Chernihiv by car, then I am sure you know how to do it without any tips. By the way, the road from Kyiv to Chernihiv is in excellent condition, so don’t worry about driving. There are lots of deals for car rental in Boryspil airport.
If you are planning to be just in the city, it will be easier and cheaper to go by public transportation. But, if planning to explore the region, I advise renting a car. It will help you get to most of the places quicker and in comfort.
Getting from Kyiv to Chernihiv by bus/marshrutka is easy. The only challenge is the local language since all signs are in Ukrainian. But let me guide you through this.
Getting From Kyiv to Chernihiv by Local Bus/Marshrutka
So, to get to Chernihiv you need to go to the Lisova metro station – this will be your starting point. Also, minibusses to Chernihiv depart from the railway station at the metro station Chernihivska, but I advise you to go to Lisova station only.
Let’s assume you are coming by metro (which is the quickest way). Once you get there and exit the train, turn to the left. Then, go up the stairs, through the metro door and turn right. After the turn, in a few steps, you’ll see the exit outside to the street. Go that way. There should be also an arrow pointing out to “Brovarsky Ave” but I can’t remember if the sign is in English or just in Ukrainian. But honestly, you don’t really need that sign. You can easily figure out where to go once you are on spot.
When you find yourself outside on the street, you’ll see a lot of marshrutka buses. Don’t go anywhere and don’t be confused. All marshrutka buses to Chernihiv stop right near the subway exit (they are in front of all other buses). Just in case, don’t be afraid to ask a driver or one of the locals (better ask a younger person, the chance he/she speaks English is higher) if this is the bus to Chernihiv.
Once you see (know) that’s the bus to Chernihiv, go inside and take any seat you want. The driver may be already in the bus and may collect money near the entrance or later when the bus is full.
Schedule for buses from Kyiv to Chernihiv From Lisova Metro Station
Honestly, there is no schedule. Buses/marshrutka taxis leave when the bus is full. By the way, I forgot to mention that different types of transport go on the Kyiv-Chernihiv route. There are minibusses (marshrutkas) and large buses. Large ones even have AC (and it works, yay).
If you are worried that you’ll need to wait for a long time for the bus to get full, I want to assure you that it won’t take long. There are always a lot of people and buses come and leave often. On average the wait time is between 15-20 minutes.
The ticket price is 130 UAH ($5.5).
How to Find a Bus Back to Kyiv From Chernihiv
There are several points of departure from Chernihiv – the Ukraine Hotel, McDonald’s, Railway Station and Megacenter store.
To make it easier for you, I advise you to go to the Information Center (which I mention a few times in this post) where the staff members can point you in the right direction and help you understand where to wait on a bus back to Kyiv.