I was lucky to spend two absolutely blissful weeks in Ukraine this June. I returned to Kyiv after ten years and it was a beautiful reunion. We’ve reconnected immediately. But after a few days I was itchy to go on a day trip, preferably to a place I haven’t heard of before. I was considering Pereyaslav Khmelnitsky and Chernihiv. I chose the latter and it has quite unexpectedly become one of the highlights of my Ukrainian journey.
I didn’t know what to expect. The town’s name just popped up in some travel forums. I knew nothing about it, but Google image search looked convincing. Also, a quick search told me this is where I can see the oldest church in Ukraine. I don’t need much to get excited about travel. I was all for the trip.
Chernihiv, also known as Chernigov, is a rather tiny, sleepy town north of Kyiv located on the Desna river, ideal for someone who loves walking and wants to have a day off from the hustle and bustle of a big city (Kyiv, I look at you here).
It’s also one of the oldest cities in Ukraine. It used to be a very important urban centre of the Kievian Rus (11th century) and during the rule of Cossacks Hetmanate (17th century), which partly explains the number of extraordinary examples of sacred architecture. They might be the finest I’ve seen in the whole country. They are also the reason why the city’s historic center was placed on the tentative list to become an UNESCO listed heritage site.
The monastery density is quite impressive, if you ask me. Of course, the town is more than just grand churches bathed in gold. The historic center is very walkable, with pleasant wide boulevards and lovely parks. I was truly surprised by how green it was. I was also quite amazed to find so many examples of old wooden houses that make it very special when you come from a bigger city. Look out for lovely blue window shutters!
What to do in Chernihiv? Just wander. Turn on the slow mode. Make sure to walk around the lovely Kotsyubinsky Park and Chernihiv Val (earthwork) where you will also see the remnants of historical fortifications. Visit the oldest Orthodox shrine in Ukraine, the Spaso-Preobrazhensky Cathedral (The Saviour’s Transfiguration Cathedral). The temple has been renovated quite a few times since the 10th century, but it’s still beautiful. Nearby St. Boris Cathedral and Pyatnytska Church are also worth a look.
Take a walk through the town’s smaller streets of wooden houses (like, for example, Tolstoy Street) and head to Troitsko-Illinsky (St. Trinity-St. Elijah) Monastery with St. Anthony Caves down in the park. The 17th century Yelets-Dormition Women’s Monastery is worth stopping at as well. A random fact, but there were cows all around the Bell Tower when I visited. Not sure why and what for, but one of the nuns seemed very unimpressed when I tried to photograph them.
I visited Chernihiv in June, but the weather was really moody on that day, which is why my pictures might look like I visited the place several times in different seasons, which, unfortunately, isn’t true.
I think that’s enough for an introduction, now let’s go for a photowalk.
Chernihiv is situated 140 km north of Kyiv. You will need 1,5 to 2 hours to get there with public transport. You can choose a bus of marshrutka (a minibus). Minibuses are much faster, more frequent, and have fewer stops on the way so I’d recommend this option. Marshrutkas to Chernihiv depart from several places in Kyiv such as Darnytsa Bus Station, Central Railway Station, and Lisova metro station (terminus of the red line). They run frequently between 7 AM and 10 PM. The ticket can be purchased from the driver. I paid 80 UAH per person. The best places to get off in is next to Hotel Ukraina. The stop is located just a short walk away from the most important sights. You might also want to try ridesharing – on the way to the town we used Blabla Car and it worked out really well. We were in the historic center in just 75 minutes. There were many drivers on this route, so it might be a good solution for comfortable travel.
Let me know if you have any questions about traveling to Chernihiv!