Visit Kiev – Home of the Eurovision Song Contest 2017
Kiev Hosts Eurovision Contest 2017
Whether you love it or loathe it the Eurovision Song Contest is a calendar fixture which takes place somewhere in Europe every Spring. Over the past few years we’ve seen the contest take place in Sweden, Austria, Denmark and Germany but this year it’s the turn of Kiev in the Ukraine.
Traditionally, the host country each year is the one whose song won the previous year, and as last year the winning singer was Jamala from the Ukraine the contest is taking place from 9th – 13th May 2017 in Kiev.
Kiev in the Spring
We made a quick trip the other day to peek behind the scenes at the Eurovision where Kiev will be hosting for the very first time and to find out a little more about what there is to see and do in the Ukraine’s capital city.
Resplendent in Spring Colours
Having never been to the country before we had been anticipating lots of post Soviet concrete and grey – but how wrong could we be?
The city was bursting with colour from the cherry and magnolia blossoms, the Spring days were full of sunshine and blue skies, and in the run up to Easter the place was brimming with brightly painted Easter eggs.
Pysanky Festival in Sophia Square
In Sophia Square there was even and outdoor Easter Egg exhibition called the Pysanky Festival featuring every conceiveable painted egg you could imagine. As well as the more usual small eggs, there were also giant eggs displayed for all to get close to and admire.
The giant eggs attracted the attention of old and young alike as people looked at the hundreds of colourful designs. To accompany the exhibition there were loud speakers installed playing a variety of music, which made for quite a moving scene.
Glistening Spires and Colourful Churches
The city is awash with beautiful churches and not only do many of them have golden roofs and spires, but they’re often brightly painted too.
Inside there is an abundance of deep gold, in the decoration, on the walls, altars and everywhere.
Most churches were aglow with lots of candles too and in the run up to Easter the faithful were flocking inside to pay their respects and pray at this very important time in the Orthodox Christian calendar.
The Lavra, below, was one of the highlights of our visit with plenty to see from the views from the tower to the tour of the catacombs below. Tip – if you want to visit the churches make sure you take a long a scarf if you are female, as women are required to cover their heads and for both sexes no shorts are allowed. However, many of the churches have scarves and cover-ups available at the entrance.
Markets – Andrew’s Descent
We wandered around the markets along Andrew’s Descent (Andriivskyi Uzviz) which is one of the oldest streets in Kiev. Connecting Kiev’s an upmarket residential area with the commercial Podiland district, it’s a great place to stroll with lots of market stalls selling handmade crafts and souvenirs. Apparently it’s popularly known as Kiev’s “Montmartre”.
I always like to buy souvenirs from the places I visit but do make sure to change your money to local currency as the stall holders can’t always change other currencies.
Food and Drink
Food and drink is very affordable and a cappuccino or flat white costing less than a euro was the norm. You could find great takeaways for a few euros and there are a variety of restaurants at all price points, but all extremely good value and way cheaper than back home.
I was prepared for lots of dumplings and heavy food but although there are some very filling items on most menus we also discovered some wonderful really nice restaurants like this one here called Smorodina (Pamyatnik “Lestnitsa”, Rusanivs’ka Naberezhna St, 7, Kyiv, Ukraine, 02000), which served the most delicious fare. In fact most of the food we had was extremely healthy with lots of salads and vegetables and plenty of soup.
Other specialities we particularly enjoyed included the delicious pancakes – which they even served for breakfast!
The local cake shops looked very enticing too!
The Eurovision Song Contest Stadium is coming along nicely and the stage is a striking almost space ship like construction. We donned hard hats and took a look behind the scenes at the brightly coloured platform. The “chandelier” below is enormous and very impressive.
We talked to the Head of Production Ola Meltzig, and Contest Producer Christer Björkman (pictured) who are involved in making sure everything goes to plan with the installation.
They were all excited to be involved in the process and with only a few weeks to go they told us that they were pretty much on schedule, with a few items ahead and a few behind schedule – but they were confident it would all be ready in time.
The set was already in place and they explained where the cameras would be positioned so that all angles could be covered as the program was broadcast around the world. Here is a short video with Ola and Christer explaining the progress which has since our visit progressed much further:
Security was reassuringly tight to get into the arena and the venue will accommodate approximately 9,000 spectators.
The Eurovision Club and Fan Lounge
We visited the Club and Fan Lounge building which is a brand new purpose built building, striking in its modernity with lots of glass and steel and amazing views over the city from the large terrace.
The Mayor Vitali Klitschko
Whilst we were there we also got to meet the Mayor of Kiev, Vitali Klitschko, who also holds the post of head of the Kiev City State Administration. An ex world champion heavy weight boxer (one of the two Klitschko brothers) and standing just over 2 metres tall, Vitali cuts a striking figure. In fact on 29th April 2017 his brother Wladimir Klitschko is fighting Britain’s leading heavy weight boxer, Anthony Joshua at Wembley Stadium in London.
He was very friendly and open and in fluent English (he also speaks German), he told us of his enthusiasm for the Eurovision project and how Kiev was looking forward to welcoming visitors from all over the world.
He told us that music was one of those things that unite people whatever their culture or background and that Kiev as excited to be hosting the event and was working hard on a number of projects to get everything ready for the influx of Eurovision fans in early to mid May.
Almost without exception, everyone we met in Kiev was courteous, helpful and friendly. Although many of the older people didn’t speak very much English – it certainly didn’t stop them trying to help and whether we were asking for directions or for more help with a menu, we were met with smiles and warmth.
We really enjoyed our visit to Kiev and will definitely be back. If you fancy visiting Ukraine’s capital city there are direct flights from most European cities and for more information on what there is to see and do please visit the Kiev Tourism website here.
No visa is required for most European visitors staying for less than 3 months but your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. Also note that you should carry your passport with you for identification purposes at all times.
Currency and Money
The official currency of Ukraine is the Hryvnia and the easiest currency to exchange in Ukraine are either US dollars or Euros. There are plenty of ATMs in Kiev and credit cards are widely used – just make sure you inform your bank before you travel.
The Eurovision Dates: 9th – 13th May 2017
The contest will begin on 9th May 2017 and by 13th May we will all know who the winner is for 2017.
- Semi-final 1: Tuesday 9th May 2017
- Semi-final 2: Thursday 11th May 2017
- Grand Final: Saturday 13th May 2017
Tickets to the Event
If you fancy visiting Kiev to see it live (the Eurovision tickets are very affordable and start at just 8 euros for the rehearsals and go up to 550 euros for some of the VIP tickets).
How to Get to the Eurovision Stadium
The event will take place at the International Exhibition Centre which is situated on 15 Brovarskiy Avenue, a 5 minute walk from the Livoberezhna Metro Station (Red Line M1 Sviatoshynsko-Brovarska). It is approximately 30km from Boryspil airport, 17 km from Kyiv (Zhulyany) airport and 12km from the main railway station. It takes about 30 minutes to reach from the centre of town depending on traffic and time of day.
You can take the Metro to reach it and there is a flat fare is 4 UAH regardless of your destination. You can either use a contactless card to get on the metro or you can buy a token from the information desk.
For more information on the Eurovision contest see here.
For more information on Kiev please visit the Kiev Tourism website here.
You can see the winning Ukranian song from 2016 being performed by Jamala here:
More information to follow on the key places to visit whilst in Kiev
All photos by Christina Fryer