In the period of Kievan Rus Andriivsky Descent was the shortest route to get from the Upper City to the Lower city. The street acquired its name in honor of St. Andrew the First-Called. Rising on a steep descent merchants lost the goods, which fell from the wagons, and since then the saying had appeared: “There is no use crying over spilt milk”. People also call the descent the capital’s street of red lanterns. The most significant development of the Andriivsky Descent was conducted at the turn of the XIX–XX century. The well-known personalities – scientists, artists, writers, sculptors, composers began to settle on the street. This descent is one of the favorite places for the guests of the capital and the Kievans.
The Landscape Avenue was founded at the beginning of 1980s. The avenue lies along the line of defense constructions of the Х–ХІІІ centuries of historical Upper city. According to the project, the Landscape Avenue was supposed to be a part of the historical reserve “Ancient Kyiv”, including the archaeological, historical and urban museums. The nearby mountains (Castle, Starokyivska, Detynets and Vozdyhalnytsia) were also planned to be improved. This was to be the most ambitious project in the whole USSR. Unfortunately, the project did not come true. Since 2009 Konstantin Skretutskyi, the sculptor, began to decorate the Landscape Avenue with fantastic mosaic characters: the centipede cats, Alice in Wonderland, etc. The park is built with the help of the money of patrons and people from the neighboring houses. The area is 1.48 hectares.
50, Volodymyrska Str. – the opera house, located at the intersection of Volodymyrska and B. Khmelnytskyi Streets. In 1856, due to the project of I. Shtrom, the second room of the City Theater was built, but later burnt out in 1896. And on February 25, 1897 the jury announced the results of the competition for the project of the Kiev Opera and approved the project of V. Schroter the architect. On September 16, 1901 in Kiev a new theater was opened. At first, critics called the building awkward and compared to a turtle. At that time, it was a theater with the largest opera stage in tsarist Russia (width is 34.3 m, depth is 17.2 m, height is 22.7 m). The legendary Fedor Shalyapin sang here, and in 1911 Peter Stolypin the Prime Minister of Russia was fatally wounded. The theater was equipped with the latest technology. It was so strong that the reconstruction was in necessity only 80 years later.
Kiev Detynets is usually called “the City of Volodymyr” by historians named after Volodymyr the Great the Prince, who built it during his reign (970–988). Despite the archaeological excavations demonstrating the first settlements on the territory of Kiev that were founded in the 6th century, Kyiv became the capital of the ancient state from the 8th-9th centuries. During Volodymyr the Great reign, the settlement acquired the appearance of a fortified city surrounded by an earthen rampart and a moat with wooden fastenings, with entrance stone gates and occupied an area of 10–12 hectares. The Tithe Church, built in the period of Volodymyr Sviatoslavych reign in 989-996, was the compositional center of the city. In the following centuries the fortifications of the Detynets were renewed in the period of Yaroslav the Wise reign (the protected area of the city was expanded to 70 hectares, the Golden Gate was built), then in the 17th century in the period of Bohdan Khmelnytskyi reign and in the 18th century in the period of H.Minich, the Russian General-Field Marshal. The subsequent rapid development of the construction of Kiev erased from the face of the earth the remains of ancient trees and the very Detynets. The Tithe Church, the main stone structure, was destroyed as early as 1240 by the hordes of Khan Batu. Its investigations have been conducted since the time of Hetman Petro Sahaidachnyi by Petro Mohyla, the Metropolitan, and they have been conducted to the present day. The Tithe Church was restored in 1842 and it looked pompously. It was destroyed in 1930 by the Soviet power. The ruins of the Tithe Church are included in the complex of ancient buildings of the National Museum of the History of Ukraine.
The Golden Gate is a symbol of Kiev, the oldest defence structure of Kievan Rus that survived until now. It is the main gate of ancient Kiev. It was built by the decree of Yaroslav the Wise in 1037. The height of the defensive fortifications of the city of Yaroslav with fences reached a total of 16 m, a width is 20 m, and at the bottom with slopes – up to 27 m. According to estimates, to build a 3.5 km strip of fortifications it was necessary about 50 thousand m3 of oak wood, it is about 630 thousand m3 of land; more than 1,000 people had been working continuously for four years. The timing of these works could be more concise, taking into account the fact that after the rout and probably capture of the Pechenegs, Yaroslav could have at his disposal a lot of cheap labour. It is reported in the chronicle that Blagoveshchenskaya Gate Church was built above the Golden Gate, protected from the sides of the gate with battlegrounds with stone loopholes. Until now, the fragments of the rugs made in the masonry technique of the 11th century have been preserved. These are traces of fortification structures that appeared after the deformation of the walls and arches after attempts of storm.
The Shevchenko Park – it was founded in the 1860’s on the vacant lot in front of the university building and it was named a University park. The work was conducted by Karl Christiani, the Kyiv city architect and gardener. In 1869 there was erected a monument to Nicholas I in the center of the park, and the park itself was renamed to Nicholaevskyi. In 1939, there was a monument to Taras Shevchenko on the site of the monument to Nicholas I in the center of the park. The park began to bear the name of T. Shevchenko. In 1972, an environmental status was given to the park. Street musicians perform here, and in the summer there are dances held. There is a restaurant on the territory of the park. Although the park is small, but it is a favorite place for Kievans and guests of the capital.
Starokyivska Mountain is one of the central Kiev hills, located in the Upper City area. According to legend, Kiev’s life bagan in these places. Kyi the Prince founded his city, a memorable sign, a stone with the inscribed words “From here there is a Rus land”, reminds about it. Presumably, there was a “castle of Kyi” in 5th-9thc. in the north-western part of the modern Starokyivska Mountain. The parts of the walls of the prince’s Detynets and the foundation of the first stone church in Russia, laid down by Volodymyr the Prince – the Tithe Church (989–996), were partially preserved on the Starokyivska Mountain. There is a landscape alley, which served as an observation platform built in the 1980s on the Starokyivska Mountain today. A four-hundred-year-old linden tree was also planted by Petro Mohyla, the Metropolitan. In addition, the base of the Palace of Olga the Princess (10th century) was found here. In 1937–1939 the National Museum of the History of Ukraine was built on the mountain.
The St. Sophia’s Cathedral is the greatest architectural structure, built by Yaroslav the Wise the Grand Prince in 1037. It preserved until now not only the richness of ancient architecture, but also the picturesque decoration of the 11th century, mainly mosaics and frescoes. Religious and state ideas of that time were embodied in the artistic image of Sophia of Kiev. The ensemble of mosaics is decorated with the main altar of the St. Sofia’s Temple. Entering the Cathedral, the glance is captured by the majestic figure of the praying Virgin of Oranta (Divine Wisdom), located in the vault of the altar. Frescoes of St. Sophia’s Cathedral are an interesting source of information about the life of the prince’s court and that way of life. They are the only preserved collection of paintings from the period of Kievan Rus. There are graffiti, i.e. ancient Russian inscriptions, which are the most important document of the dating of murals, on the walls of the cathedral. Apparently, the central part of the building works was performed in the 40’s, and in the galleries – in the 60s of the 11th century. Along with the famous ensembles of Ravenna, Venice, Montreal, Daphne, Palermo, ancient Constantinople, they occupy a prominent place in the treasury of world culture. St. Sophia Cathedral is included in the UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
St. Michael’s Golden-domed Cathedral is the oldest and greatest Orthodox shrine of Kiev, founded by the grandson of Yaroslav the Wise, Sviatopolk Iziaslavovych the Prince on the territory of the Dmitriivskyi Monastery according to the chronicle in 1108 and it is dedicated to Michael the Archangel the heavenly patron. The name “Zlatoverkhyi” was granted due to the fact that it was the first cathedral with gilded domes made of solid gold leaf. After the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra St. Michael’s Golden-domed Cathedral becomes the second place in Kiev for pilgrimage. It contained the remains of several generations of Kiev princes. The most famous shrine of the monastery was the relics of St. Barbara the Great Martyr brought by the wife of Sviatopolk the Prince. In 1240 the monastery was looted by the horde of Khan Batu. In 1713 a refectory church was built, in 1716-1720 the stone bell tower was built. Also, there was a real hotel complex that served the pilgrims on the territory of the Mykhailovskyi Monastery in the 19th century. With the advent of Soviet authorities in 1937, St. Michael’s Golden-domed Cathedral was blown up. In 2000, it was restored
The monument to Volodymyr the Great is one of the most famous Kiev monuments, it was erected in 1853. Bulgakov described in the “White Guard” how the cross shone in the hands of Volodymyr every night. It was like a beacon for boats sailing along the Dnieper. Now the illumination is carried out with the help of modern searchlights. The bronze statue of the Baptist of Russia, more than 4 m high, with a large cross in his right hand and a grand prince’s hat in his left, rises on the 16 m pedestal. The total height of the monument is 20.4 m. A bas-relief “The Baptism of the Russian People” has been established on one of the eight faces of the pedestal. There is a woman with a baby is smiling in the bottom row on the right, grandfather was led to be baptized by a son and grandson is represented on the left, scenes of blessing and chrismation are from above. The decoration of the pedestal is complemented by images of stars and crosses, they are symbols of baptism by fire and sword. There is not a single place around the monument, from which without special equipment one could see his face.
OTHER INTERESTING PLACES IN UPPER CITY
Individual excursions around Kyiv usually start from the Upper City. This part of the city has an ancient past and rich history. After acquainting yourself with the history of Kyiv on this route, you will be able to decide for yourself what else further you should see. Due to the many objects and its importance, it is not always possible to adjust to the taste of each guest, if you order a group excursion.
Let us dwell on the most significant objects on this individual excursion in Kyiv:
Detynets (the foundation of ancient Kyiv) is a key object. The story of origin dates back to the distant past. The first mentions date back to the VI century. Volodymyr the Great founded the city here in the 10th century, as evidenced by the numerous foundations that have survived to the present day. Fans of the history of Kyivan Rus have much to see and hear at this site.
The Golden Gate also has a rich history. They were the main entrance gates to ancient Kyiv. They were built in 1037 by the decree of Prince Yaroslav the Wise. These are the only gates that have survived to the present days in the best possible way. Reconstruction allows you to judge about the size of the gates and earthen ramparts around Kyiv. Fans of fortifications here will be interested to hear the subtleties of military affairs of those times and examine this object themselves. There is a museum on the territory of the Golden Gate.
St. Sophia’s Cathedral was also built by Yaroslav the Wise in 1037. Until now, preserved in its original form along with the Vydubytsky Monastery on Pechersk. Graffiti, mosaics and frescos of those times have survived. For those who wish, you can book an individual excursion through the territory of the cathedral.
St. Michael’s Cathedral was founded in 1108 by the grandson of Yaroslav the Wise – Prince Svyatopolk Izyaslavovych. It was the second pilgrimage place in Kyiv after the Pechersk Lavra. It was blown up with the advent of Soviet power and restored in 2000. There is a museum on the territory.
Andriivsky Descent was in the times of Kyivan Rus the road, connecting the Upper and Lower City (Podil). The buildings of those times were not preserved, but the buildings of the XIX – XX centuries give this place a special atmosphere.
Special attention deserves the Opera House, opened in 1901. At one time, Fyodor Shalyapin himself performed here. The theatre is famous for its opera singers and ballet troupe, which are invited to perform in many countries. Our guide will be able to make you a company for any performance.
Fans of the park zone will be interested in a walk through the Shevchenko park, and dreamers of admiring fabulous characters on the Landscape Avenue and look at Kyiv from the heights. For connoisseurs of architecture, we propose to walk along the Yaroslav’s Val Street and adjacent to it.
All individual excursions around Kyiv will be accompanied by a guide with knowledge in the area that you are interested in.
Map of the Old city