In November, the Ukrainian website Focus published a survey ranking the top 20 Ukrainian cities. The survey was compiled from over 33,000 questionnaires completed by Ukrainians from across the country (except, for obvious reasons, the occupied regions of the Donbas and Crimea).
And the prize for the highest rated city in Ukraine goes to…
Well, that is no surprise to me. When I visited in September I was blown-away by this gorgeous city, I’m happy to rank it among my favourite three favourite cities in Europe without any hesitation.
As it goes, the top ten places (red markers in the map) are dominated by cities from the west of Ukraine. The war in the east contributes to this but also the growing connections to western Europe must make cities like Lviv an attractive option for young people, families, job seekers and businesses.
The biggest shock for me is seeing Odessa languishing in 14th place! But more on that later.
Below I’ll list the top 20 with my own thoughts plus the comments of a couple of non-Ukrainians on twitter who’ve had some experience of the cities.
1st – Lviv
Lviv, I’m in love with this town. The week I spent there was near perfect. Everything from the architecture and museums, to the coffee, beer and food was a treat. The climate was sunny and warm (though I’m assured it also rains a lot), the people friendly and welcoming, and very few western tourists, hurrah!
The only thing Lviv lacks is a river, all great cities should have a river but on the other hand, the Carpathian mountains are only an hour or so away which more than makes up for it.
2nd – Kyiv
The capital of any country will always be at the top of the list and Kyiv is certainly on mine. The Focus report attributes Kyiv’s high ranking to higher wages and better career opportunities compared to other cities. Kind of obvious I guess.
3rd – Khmelnytskyi
Who? What? Where? A completely new city for me (and maybe to everyone else in Ukraine). According to Focus, living is relatively cheap in Khmelnytskyi.
There must be more to it that that but I couldn’t face translating any more of the Russian into English to find out (yes, the article was in Russian, this happens in Ukraine).
Maybe I’ll visit one day, maybe not, whatever the case, I’m sure Khmelnytskyi is a fine city.
4th – Vinnytsia
I was pleased to see Vinnytsia in the top rankings. The city came to my attention as a possible stop-off point on a train journey I might take from Kyiv to Odessa.
During the Soviet period, according to Wikipedia, a small US town was mocked-up in the city to train KGB agents how to live in the USA! This included ‘American-style stores, a movie theatre, houses, restaurants, vehicles, and a small college campus’.
However, as far as I know, this is not the reason for Vinnytsia’s 4th place,
5th – Lutsk
I know nothing about Lutsk other than it exists. This historic city boasts a castle and a street where no house lacks a cat, or something. A fine city to while away a weekend in the Spring.
6th – Ivano-Frankivsk
Ah, Ivano, nestled at the foot of the Carpathians and named after the great Ukrainian writer Ivan Franko. We had planned to visit the city while in Lviv, and went as far as booking a room for the night. Alas, we we’re so enamoured with Lviv that we cancelled the room and stayed where we were. I will visit one day!
I’m not at all surprised to see Ivano-Frankivsk in 6th place.
7th – Ternopil
For the low down on Ternopil I went to my twitter friend Clark Gillies who knows a bit about the city, here’s what he said:
A lovely compact city centre with many nice bars and restaurants. It has a nice young and lively vibe to it. I’d recommend Kovcheg, a restaurant that does great Armenian/Georgian food and its own beer on site. MY favourite bar is Bunkermuz, a mixture of bar, night club and art gallery.
Sounds good to me!
Some of Frederick Forsyth’s thriller, The Devil’s Alternative, was set in and around Ternopil (I read for just that reason).
8th – Uzhhorod
The best thing about Uzhhorod must be its proximity to the Carpathian mountains, the next best thing is the name, how on earth it is pronounced? Probably not that hard at all, Ukrainian words often look harder than they actually are (and vice versa).
From the picture below, it certainly does look like a pretty place. One more for the ever-growing ‘places to visit in Ukraine’ list.
9th – Kharkiv
At last! A city from the east. Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second biggest city. Only 40km from the Russian border and 300km north of Luhansk, Kharkiv was a target for the Russian-backed separatists but thankfully pulled back from the edge.
Here’s what Focus has to say:
the people tend to praise the city’s services. However, the city is also not cheap, but the crime rate there is quite high.
I went to my twitter friend Herb Randall for some comments, he likes Kharkiv.
It’s a young and forward-looking city and the many students bring a vitality and cosmopolitanism to the city, There are always different festivals or street markets, and the city boasts a fine opera theater and a new symphony hall
10th – Rivne
I know nothing about Rivne but the colourful cathedral below looks pretty ace.
And the rest
11th – Zhytomyr: See Khmelnytskyi
12th – Chernivtsi : Not far from Romania. I tend to confuse with Cherkasy
13th – Kropyvnytskyi : See Zhytomyr
14th – Odessa : What’s going on here? It’s not that close to the ATO. Here’s what Focus has to say:
“Odessa is the second most expensive city in Ukraine after Kiev. The average wage level is lower than, for example, Dnipro or Zaporizhia…In addition, residents of the city gave an extremely low ranking for the level it of municipal services.
Yes, but, the sea, the sea, the sea! The mystery and romance! Frederick Forsyth (again)!
15th – Cherkasy : On the Dnieper river, south of Kyiv. I tend to confuse with Chernivtsi
16th – Poltava : I know nothing about Poltava
17th – Dnipro : On the banks of the Dnieper, home to the Dnipro Brewery!
18th – Zaporizhia : Cossacks!
19th – Mykolaiv : Some confusion surrounds the name of the place, also known as Nikolaev or Nikolayev. Might account for 19th place.
20th – Kherson : Deep south, lots of water. Cossacks!
What’s missing? Zalishchyky is missing! Maybe next time.
And there we have it, a light-hearted review of the top rated cities in Ukraine.
Have you been to any of these cities? Do you have any strongly held opinions to share? Please add a comment below!