Hi guys! For my first post, I want to take you on a trip to my hometown. Chernivtsi is a cozy little town in west Ukraine with about 260,000 residents, and is often noted as a place with cultural, artistic, and architectural wonders (which you’ll get to see in just a moment!).
On previous trips we would usually arrive in Kiev Boryspil airport (KBP), and then take a minibus over to Chernivtsi. This usually takes quite a while, about 8 to 10 hours, so we decided to try flying into Lviv (about a 4-5 hour drive). Unfortunately we didn’t have time to explore Lviv, but hopefully next time– I hear their chocolate is really good!
How you know that you’re in Chernivtsi– you see this sign!
In fact, these road signs are pretty popular across Eastern European countries to mark various territories
What to See
As mentioned above, Chernivtsi has a lot to see, and part of this has to do with the rich history of the city. It was considered to be cosmopolitan back in the day because of its status as a cultural hub, with people coming from different regions. If you lived here in the 19th century, you probably spoke over 5 languages, which might include Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, Hungarian, Romanian, or German.
There’s even a popular story that you could visit a neighbor and speak Ukrainian, go over to your parents and speak Polish, and then finally meet a friend in the street and speak German!
Due to this, architecture in Chernivtsi varies widely. There is a museum on Jewish history that was built by Jewish Europeans; a theater modeled from a building in Vienna (in fact, it was the same architect!); and the Turkish Square, where Turkish residents lived in the 17th century. This mix of different cultures brought some of the most gorgeous and interesting buildings/places. Lets check them out!
It’s hard to miss this bright blue building while walking around the Central Plaza, and rightly so– this is where the mayor and city council work. In the photo above, you can also see the clock tower. It’s about 50 feet high, and every day at noon, a man dressed in national clothes comes out to play the song “Marichka” on his trembita instrument. You can also see the Chernivtsi coat of arms above the letters :)
Комплекс Центральної площі
This is the view as you sit on a bench in front of City Hall. The plaza is situated on top of a small hill, so you can see great views of the city! This is a popular meeting place because it’s near many attractions, such as Kobylyanska Street, the Art Museum, and boutiques/cafes.
ул. Ольги Кобылянской
If you happen to travel through Chernivtsi, you should definitely take a walk on Kobilyanska street at least once! This street spans a little under 1 km, and is completely closed to car traffic. Because it’s such a highly-regarded street, cleaners in the 19th century would use special water to clean the cobblestones and use roses as brooms to sweep away dust. If you look closely, you can find a statue of a rose stem.
During evenings and weekends, residents dress up in their most glamorous clothes and take a stroll down this famous street. There’s even a word that locals use to describe this stroll/walk, derived from Yiddish: shpatzir. Likewise, you’ll often see ladies dressed in traditional clothes selling flowers and chocolates.
This is one of my favorite buildings in Chernivtsi– doesn’t it look like a real ship?
There’s a legend that two brothers, both captains of a ship, became wealthy during their journeys on the sea and decided to settle down. They chose Chernivtsi and built this house sometime during the 18th century (and it’s still inhabited today).
Chernivtsi National University
Чернівецький національний університет
Another famous landmark in Chernivtsi is the National University. It was so great that UNESCO gave it the title of a world heritage site.
This building was originally intended for Austrian royalty, but now it has over 19,000 students. There is is a daily tour that costs about $4, and takes you inside the university, through the garden, and ends at the church.
I recommend taking the time to explore, because there are so many interesting details to CNU. While walking through the halls, it reminded me something straight out of a Harry Potter movie.
Комплекс площі Турецька Криниця
While strolling around the city, we came across a long, winding set of stairs (above). This whole complex is called Turkish Square because early settlers of the area came from Turkey.
There used to be a bath house (called banya) but unfortunately it was destroyed. However, you can still see a small remnant– in the photo above, the circular white rotunda has an ornate well inside.At the bottom of the square there is a cheerful sundial made out of flowers, a mini-collosium, and a huge statue of a bike.
Here’s our group, with the sundial in the background:
Where to Eat
Walking around the cobblestone streets of the city burns some serious calories, but thankfully there are plenty of cafes and restaurants that offer delicious food!
Fast food options are similar to those from the USA, such as pizza, burgers, hot dogs, and takeout. One place that I really wanted to check out was a chain called Ozzy, because they have “undercover” (AKA knockoff) Starbucks
What we had (L-R): Smoothies, mojito, chocolate/kiwi/caramel ice cream
Chernivtsi also has a cafe culture, which you can see in the dozens of little cafes scattered around the city. If you’re ever in the mood for kava (the Ukrainian word for coffee), stroll into one of these cute shops!
I had the chance to visit an Austrian-themed cafe, which had retro-style decor: candelabras, brick walls, Victorian chairs, and even portraits of Austrian royalty. Near one of the fireplaces
I also tried out the tiramisu, which was a little too sweet but still very delicious
On the left are coffee drinks- a frappuchino costs $1.20 and a cup of coffee is 80 cents
On the right are various types of tea that are available
If you’re in the mood for something less caffeinated, I would also recommend the Lviv Chocolate Factory…
They use real chocolate in their Hot Chocolate, and they have amazing flavors and different chocolate sculptures that you can buy
Where to Shop
One of my favorite shops in Chernivtsi is the Artist’s Salon (Художественный салон). If you’re into art, I can guarantee that you’ll spend at least a few hours looking at all the amazing artwork. Artists from around the city can put their artwork in the shop and get a percent if it sells. You can see woodwork, hand-painted bells, and вишиванки (embroidery clothes)
If you’d like a delicious souvenir to surprise your friends back home, stop by one of the many candy stores in Chernivtsi. There’s usually a huge selection and you can’t go wrong!
Where to Stay
We stayed at the Hotel Andinna, which is a cozy and colorful hotel not too far from the center. Our Luxe room costed about 500 Hryvna per night ($22) and included access to the sauna and pool. They also have a lovely garden out back with exotic birds. The owner was really nice, and even lived in Fresno, CA for a while! More info here.
Our trip was from June 12 to 19, 2015
Currency exchange was about $1 USD to 22 Hryvna
Language barrier is moderate. The predominant languages in Chernivtsi include Ukrainian and Russian. However, a lot of young adults and students have mandatory English classes, so they’ll be able to hep out :)
If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend you check out Chernivtsi! You’ll love it here