Slavic cool: a shopper’s guide to Kyiv

Kyiv is a city full of talented designers, bustling markets, excellent food and rising fashion stars. Having emerged as an exciting, alternative travel destination in recent years, these days it also offers an eclectic shopping experience for visitors eager to escape the all-too-familiar international brands. For urban cool with a Slavic twist, here’s our shopping guide to the Ukrainian capital.

The peach and white art-nouveau facade of the Bessarabsky Rynok market in Kyiv on a sunny day with clear blue skiesBessarabsky Rynok is one of the oldest and best-known market halls in Kyiv © Pavlo Fedykovych / Lonely Planet

City markets

The biggest and most renowned of the city’s markets is Bessarabsky Rynok. Set in a striking art-nouveau building which dates back to the beginning of the 20th century, it’s the go-to place for grocery shopping in central Kyiv. Under its impressive vaulted roof, you’ll find a vast range of fruits, vegetables, meat and fish. Although it may be a little bit overpriced and somewhat inelegant in appearance, this market hall is one of the few remaining strongholds of old Kyiv. Also, Bessarabsky Rynok (or simply Bessarabka, as the locals call it) is home to the trendiest street-food spots in the city including Green 13, Vyetnamskiy Privet and Prosciutteria Wine and Deli.

For a much more local and unfiltered experience, head to the Volodymyrsky Market which is situated outside the city centre near Palats Ukraina metro station. There’s absolutely no chance you’ll find anyone who speaks English, but the prices here are moderate and it’s the Kyiv market at its truest – without the makeup or the hassle.

Close up of a row of colorful bottles on a straw-lined shelf, each full of a homemade ratafia or balm.Kanapa restaurant has a great selection of homemade ratafias and balms © Maria Banko / Kanapa

Food and drink

Kyiv is a paradise for those with a sweet tooth. For starters, there’s a network of the confectionery brand Roshen (owned by the Ukrainian president) all around the city. To try the alluring range of sugary treats, visit the Khreschatyk branch. Further down the chocolate trail, make sure you buy some sweets at Lviv Handmade Chocolate. Every local claims that this famous Lviv confectionery chain does the best hot chocolate in the world, so give it a try too. Another great place to shop for tasty souvenirs, especially with kids in tow, is Caramel Manufactorywhich produces homemade caramel.

While vodka (called horilka in Ukrainian) may be the stereotypical drink associated with Kyiv, it’s actually easy to find a wide variety of locally produced alcoholic beverages. Kanapa restaurant, located on historic Andriyivsky Uzviz street, has an impressive collection of Ukrainian wines as well as homemade ratafias and balms. Another drinking hotspot is the Kyiv branch of Lviv’s famous watering hole Pyana Vyshnia, where the traditional cherry liqueur is poured and sold as a souvenir.

A colourful selection of Ukrainian embroidered shirts hang against a striped wall in Etnodim boutique © Pavlo Fedykovych / Lonely PlanetA colourful selection of Ukrainian embroidered shirts in Etnodim boutique © Pavlo Fedykovych / Lonely Planet

Ukrainian fashion

Admittedly, Ukrainian fashion hasn’t yet conquered the world, but it has all the right elements to do it sooner or later. The hottest place for Ukrainian-designed clothes is the centrally located Vsi. Svoi megastore. It’s the biggest retail outlet in the country that sells only Ukrainian brands, so if you want to get introduced to the world of local fashion, buy a pretty summer dress or just shop for an original T-shirt, this is the place to start.

Ukraine is famous for its beautiful embroidered shirts, called vyshyvankas. More recently, the traditional motifs featured on these shirts have been incorporated into the modern Ukrainian fashion movement. The best stores to find these lovely items are the central Ruta for high-end fashion and Etnodim for more affordable options.

Interior shot of a home store in Ukraine, with shelves full of candles, goblets and carved wooden items such as candlesticks.Vsi. Svoi Home & Decor offers contemporary homewares made in Ukraine © Viktoria Kroplis / Vsi. Svoi

Souvenirs and crafts

Following the example of international retail giants, Vsi. Svoi has recently unveiled a new space called Vsi. Svoi Home & Decor, which has an impressive assortment of homewares made in Ukraine. It’s the perfect place to find original and contemporary Ukrainian souvenirs, choosing from more than 150 different brands. For more traditional things to take home from Kyiv, head to the cheerful Mriyi Mariyi store set around the corner from Andriyivsky Uzviz. This charming shop has plenty of authentic items to pick from including embroidery, toys, ceramics and handmade jewellery. Opt for buying your Kyiv souvenirs here instead of overpaying for the low-quality touristy stuff sold along Andriyivsky Uzviz.

If you’d like to combine shopping with a good cause, Laska is a cool and worthwhile option. Following the Western charity-shop model, items for sale at this store are donated and the income goes towards supporting various social initiatives. Come here for clothes, handmade items and accessories.

Laska charity shop sells secondhand items and new clothing by Ukrainian designers © Pavlo Fedykovych / Lonely PlanetLaska charity shop sells secondhand items and new clothing by Ukrainian designers © Pavlo Fedykovych / Lonely Planet

Urban fairs

The latest Kyiv shopping trend is monthly fairs devoted to various themes. The star of this movement is Kurazh Bazar, an outstanding weekend flea market that takes place every month and draws hundreds of people. Every event they do feels like a mini-festival with street food, live music, thought-provoking lectures and fashion shows. Apart from being one of the coolest Kyiv events, Kurazh Bazar also donates income to charity.

Another active organizer of urban fairs is, again, Vsi. Svoi. Their monthly shopping events range from book fairs and themed fashion markets to ceramics and alcohol sales. Check the store’s Facebook page so you don’t miss out on the latest happenings when you’re in the Ukrainian capital.

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