Maybe you’re looking for a day or weekend trip from Kiev, or you’re travelling around Ukraine for a bit and stopping off in a few cities. In either case, you might decide to drop by Zhytomyr for a day or two. Zhytomyr is a small city with about 200,000 residents, around 1.5 hours’ drive from Kiev. Whilst it isn’t as exciting as bigger cities like Lviv and Odessa, there are still a few things to do and see in this smaller city during a day or weekend.
This medium-sized park has a couple of interesting spots. The first of which is the bridge crossing the river Teteriv – one of the highest bridges in all of Ukraine. It’s worth crossing for the view.
The other is an old aeroplane which for some reason has been left in the park, and now attracts anyone who wants to take a quirky Instagram shot. You can’t go inside it, but you can pose on the stairs if you like.
Just a heads-up. If you don’t like looking at Orthodox-style churches and cathedrals, this is not the place for you. Most of the interesting things to see here are typical golden-domed churches, which I personally can never get enough of looking at. On a nice day, the Saviour-Transfiguration Cathedral is absolutely beautiful to look at, and you can also go inside if you’d like to see the typically ornate golden interior. It’s very central so you can’t miss it.
Slightly less central, but only an 8 minute walk or so, this church offers plenty of those typical golden domes that you probably know from Russian churches, but are also huge in Ukraine too. In front is also a small park with a large stone commemorating the foundation of Zhytomyr in 884. This is a nice little area for a quick stroll if it’s sunny.
This central, pedestrianised street was my favourite bit of the city to stroll around. At one end is the attractive St. Michael’s Cathedral with its large, blue dome. At the other is a small square with a few memorials and statues. The street itself is short but fairly picturesque with a few restaurants and cafes.
I particularly recommend to stop at the cafe called ‘Густо’ (Gusto), where they do really nice cakes at very good prices, have a cup of coffee and do some people-watching. In summer there are plenty of chairs and tables out on the street too.
Sergiy Korolyov Astronautics Museum
If you’re at all interested in space or the history of space travel, this little museum is really worth a visit. A ticket is just 20 uah, less than one euro. It’s really peanuts to spend an hour or so looking around these interesting exhibits, including several full size replicas of Soviet spacecraft.
It’s fairly small (all contained within one room), but high-quality and interesting. Some exhibits have English labels on them, others don’t, but mostly you can get the idea by yourself just by looking at the amazing bits of technology on show, including the real Soyuz 27 re-entry module. It’s mostly not stuff that you could see elsewhere, so it’s really worth a look.
Where to eat?
There are a handful of restaurants around Zhytomyr to choose from, and you can check TripAdvisor or similar to see what’s on offer.
We personally ate once in Varenichna Zhitomirski Stravi, which is a chain with 2-3 outlets around the city. It’s a good choice if you want to try Ukraine’s most traditional dish, varenyky (a kind of dumpling similar to ravioli, usually served with sour cream).
I really recommend the restaurant Familiya, though. It’s a reasonably upmarket Jewish restaurant with a mix of Jewish and Ukrainian dishes. Again, you can eat varenyky here too if you want. You should definitely try the special flavoured vodka at the end of the meal. They serve it with loads of smoke under a glass dome.
Interested in visiting Zhytomyr, or have you been? Let me know!