Call it the Beauty-Beast paradox if you like, but nightlife in most East European cities is usually only vibrant and exciting for a limited time – in that brief transition period between Commie-bred suspicion, and Euro-snobbery. In that short half-life between the two worlds, when natives are still unsure of themselves and their place in the world, and still open to individuals, and not just those that are celebrities or hangers-on to somebodys, the nigthlife rocks. The girls are friendly and sexed up, the men raw and masculine and untainted by the political correctnes of the West.
As the latest entrant to the New Europe, Kiev has all the signs of Moscow in the late 90s, with slick lounge bars and lavish restaurants opening monthly. Green and spacious, it’s also going through a cultural boom, with galleries, underground clubs, rock bands, festivals, novelists, fashion designers and others coming alive in the years since the Orange Revolution.
Although more jaded and bit less friendly than it was three years ago, Kiev, a cross between Prague and Moscow, still has enormous charm and appeal.
Kiev’s hottest club of the moment is housed in an intimate, loungey space that goes glamorama on weekends with smacky, superhot babes making their stand among the couches while cool French DJs and the best from Kiev spin tech house and electro. English mates from Estonia were blown away, calling it ‘the best club they’ve ever been to.’ They might just be right.
Nyets. Too many models. Where are all the normal people? Nazi face control.
Baseynaya 4. Open Wed-Sun
This decadent Romanesque space under a hilltop castle in the center of Kiev is also the city’s club of the moment. Lavish and spacious, with giant blinking lamps instead of strobe lights, Russian icons, black leather couches—and a DJ booth surrounded by flared metal bugles—the club makes no pretense to modesty. Its rich, trendy clientele of models, mediaheads and biznismen define Kiev’s aspirations towards Moscow’s Oligarchic flash.
Nyets. Too Moscow-like. Can be quite snobbish.
1v Grushevskogo. Open from 10 p.m. till late.
Bright-lit, four-storey nightclub/casino/brewery in the city center that’s part owned by the Klitschko boxing brothers. House club on top floor and bar area downstairs are packed with the city’s glamour crowd, the stylish girls in revealing clubwear and the men in mid-90s Jazz Kafe Moscow get-up of Hugo Boss jackets and black open-collared shirts.
2a Basseina Ulica.
Carnivalesque with dangling banners and decorations, yet upscale, this is one of our favorite Kiev hotspots. Its hip-hop nights on Thursday bring out the tattooed cats, the alt students, the baggy-jean, ganj-smoking hipsters, and eye candy enough to rival the best of London clubland.
Nyets. Crowd tends to be a bit too young. Less friendly than when it first opened.
10 Muzeyny Lane. Open Wed-Sun
Opium Dance Club
Trendy and decadent, this is where the druggie crowd goes after Arena or Tchaikovsky for some deep Darren Emerson-like acid house, loungey vibes, videodroming VJs and flourescent toilets. Hosts big name European DJs from the Ibiza circuit, and established acts from Moscow clubland. The popular Flying Dutchman party presents Dutch DJs and producers.
1 g Saksagantskogo St. Open daily.
Upscale-looking lounge bar/restaurant with white leather couches, cube seats and red squares that add an extra flair to its 90s aesthetic. The backroom restaurant/café hums with happy, flirty energy on the weekends. Prices are reasonable despite its aura of elitism, and the barmaids are cool. The ‘boys’ quickly claimed this pre-party haunt as their favorite ‘date’ place while in Kiev, and came here one time too often,
Nyets. The interior doesn’t seem as glamorous on a Sunday afternoon. The tacky decorations and the garbage chute outside the pane-glass windows stand out more!
Ul. Shota Rostavelli 39-41.
Decorated in lavish Goa-trance style, this intimate after-hours club is dominated by, well, a large statue of the Indian God, Ganesh. E-ed out clubbers can be found kissing the Godhead for good luck! Others lounge back in the cosy sofas, while taking a break from the pulsating dance floor, and the deep, hynotic trance music that it’s famous for. With most clubbers hidden behind dark glasses, and smoke from the water pipes hanging low, this place can be quite disorienting. Unless you’re a seasoned Beast, like us 😉 Babe factor is mindblowing though! The best after-hours club in Eastern Europe.
11 Artema St. Open daily from 10 pm till morning
Fashion Café rip-off that’s big with the city’s plastic people and high-rent expats looking to blow their dollars. Built inside a ship, its dance floor is high on a plexiglass deck so you can look up the girls’ skirts. Claims to have the longest bar in Europe, but don’t believe the hype! (They are actually two parallel bars.) Non-stop fashion shows keep the prols smiling.
Nab Kreschatyska St. Pier No. 6. Open Thurs-Sun
112 Cocktail Bar
Not as cool as Kiev’s clubby spaces, this Wednesday night hangout is where we had the most fun though, fondling girls on the moving bar stools (they slide up and down) and boogeying to Robbie Williams and cheesy Russian pop. Kiev girls definitely go crazy: Whether it’s the vodka or the post-revolutionary euphoria is hard to say! My Norweigan mate picked up a bisexual Chinese jacuzzi saleswoman and her lover here.
Chervonoarmiyska 5, in the Arena complex
This is a nightclub for the local Oligarchs, complete with lavish 18th century interior, XXL chandeliors, lush VIP rooms, valet parking, and pricey drinks that’ll super-shrink your wallet. Beware of the avaricious hookers and provincial babes desperate for rich sponsors. Unless, that is, you’re one of them. Or are a rich businessman who’d rather splash cash than use your charm. Heaving from Thurs-Sat.
Shota Rustavelli 16
We’re quite partial to Belgian foods and beers: Duvel, rabbit, mussels with frites, beef stew with beer, and dark, heavy chocolates to finish off the meal. Belgium, after Finland, is our favorite country in the West! Luckily, most East European capitals boast at least one cosy, welcoming Belgian restaurant: a welcome reprieve from the Sports Bars and the ubiquitous Irish pubs. Kiev’s Belle Vue is an oasis of dark woods, polished mirrors, 1930s gramophones and Old World charm in a city that tends to treasure the brash and the new. Excellent breakfasts, a wide selection of beers, great french fries, and charming service make this a B EAST favorite.
Decorated as a mini Ukrainian village, this rustic restaurant decorated with wooden beams, frescoes of Cossack soldiers, floral tablecloths, lanterns, traditional musical instruments and other knick-knacks serves up tasty traditional fare. Its borshch, salos, varenyky, holubsti, and chilled vodka are as authentic as it gets. The waiters in traditional peasant costume are jolly and attentive, and the traditional singing that accompanies the meal creates the perfect vibe for an evening out in Kyiv.
Sichnevoho Povsstannia 42/1.
Georgian food is another of our favorite regional cuisines, and Kiev has enough of them to satisfy our cravings. The walls of this warm, cosy restaurant are painted with scenes from the popular Soviet-era comedic film, Prisoner of the Caucasus. Live Georgian bands croon on stage some nights, and occasionally the patrons burst into traditional dancing—the men waving their arms while trying to pick up a shotglass of vodka with their teeth. Water pipes and fresh grilled meats enhance the dining experience.
Kreschatyk 12. Downtown Kiev.
For electronic scenesters, this is Kiev’s best club, its most progressive—and is naturally the haunt of the city’s bohemian crowd. Our very own Khan of Finland has yelled his guts out here, and so has Sweden’s Jay-Jay Johanson. Since Kievans have only been twigging to the electronic beats for the last four years, the audience’s a lot more enthusiastic and a lot less jaded than their counterparts elsewhere. And promotor Andrei is cool, and so is the VIP room in back.
Nyets. Industrial, unwelcoming interior. Drinks too pricey.
Frunze Ul. 12.
This wide, leafy street lined with fashion boutiques, chic restaurants, Communist-era department stores is a great place to spend an afternoon promenading up and down and immersing oneself in the bustle and excitement of the city.
When the weather improves, marketers and event organisers block off sections of the streets, and its neighboring squares, for rock concerts, promotions, and all sorts of other activities. Meanwhile, men hunting for Kiev’s famous ‘girls’ walk restlessly back and forth in the hopes of picking someone up. With a leafy pedestrian area with outdoor cafes, restaurants, on one side of the street, Kreschatyk can be enjoyed at a leisurely pace. Just sit yourself down somewhere and watch the city’s inhabitants flow past. The center of the demonstrations during 2005’s Orange Revolution, it still has an air of freedom about it.
Kiev was the home of Russian Orthodoxy, and the sprawling Pecherska Lavra complex, with its tens of churches, towers, and sprawling underground caves is an awe-inspiring testament to the religious intensity of this cradle of Slavic civilization. If you’re brave enough, take a candlelit tour through the eerie, labrynthine caves, whose humid interior contains perfectly-preserved remains of Orthodox monks from centuries ago. The walls are also painted with religious icons, breathtaking in the ethereal glow of the candle flames!
The former Merchant’s quarter, this charming neighborhood of cobblestoned streets, ochre and lime-green buildings, cosy cafes, and outdoor markets, is a nice respite from the Communist-era monumentalism of the rest of the city. European in flavor, with echoes of Central European cities like Prague and Krakow, Podoli is a perfect Sunday afternoon outing; a place to chill and read a newspaper, or visit the many art galleries and little museums that dot its quaint alleyways.
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