I know that most of us are not doing very much travelling right now, but hopefully one day in the not-too-distant future we will be able to again. In the meantime I’m hoping to use a bit of the quarantine time to catch up on some a few blog posts for when we can eventually hit the road again!
Kamianets-Podilskyi is just a small city in Ukraine but it has quite a big reputation as one of Ukraine’s most picturesque cities, in particular thanks to its fairytale-style castle. If you search for the city on Instagram you are sure to see dozens of very aesthetic posts of the castle, looking like something out of a Disney movie. So, in short, despite being smaller than other cities in Western Ukraine such as Lviv, it’s still a fairly big tourist magnet thanks to its Instagrammable old town.
So, if you’re considering making a visit to Kamianets-Podilskyi, is it worth it and what is there to do?
Of course if you know enough about Ukraine to have heard of this little town then you definitely know about its famous castle. The castle dates back to the early 14th century and sits atop the city’s high point in the historic old town. It constitutes one of the few well-preserved Medieval sites in Ukraine and is therefore very much worth a visit.
The castle is located on the opposite side of a high bridge which gives you an incredible view, so it’s worth parking or stopping on the opposite side and walking over to get the full view and the best possible outlook on the castle itself. Unlike many European countries, Ukraine doesn’t have a lot of impressive or well-preserved castles, which makes this site very unique. It’s also considered one of the so-called ‘Seven Wonders of Ukraine’. Definitely set aside a couple of hours to fully explore the castle inside and out if possible.
On the other side of the bridge you can see the ‘Russian gate’ and some of the city’s old fortifications.
The Turkish Minaret / St Peter and Paul’s Cathedral
Within the old town you can find a particularly interesting and unique site with a bit of a story behind it. During the 17th century the town was briefly occupied by the Ottoman empire. During this period they used the baroque St Peter and Paul’s Cathedral as a mosque and, rather than entirely rebuilding or redesigning it, simply built a minaret in front of it. After the Turkish invaders were expelled, the Christians left the minaret as it was and just added a statue of the Virgin Mary to the top in order to reclaim the church as their own. The result is a very unique building with a mix of European and Turkish styles, one right on top of the other.
The church also has a beautiful garden outside it.
Stroll around the Old Town
The Stare Misto, or Old Town, is one of the best-known and most interesting and attractive areas of Kamianets-Podilskyi. It has the vibe of a typical old town from an Eastern/Central European country such as Poland or Czechia, which is mainly only found in the Western side of Ukraine. The old town is basically located right on the other side of the bridge from the castle.
Inside the old town you can visit the church with minaret as mentioned above, and also see a number of other very attractive old buildings such as the town hall (pictured below) as well as coffee kiosks, shops, restaurants, squares and small parks.
Visit the Cross on the hill
There is a large cross monument on the hill opposite the castle which you can’t help but notice when visiting the castle and bridge. The cross in itself isn’t super interesting and obviously you can see it from various points around the city. However, in decent weather, you can have a very nice hike through the valley and up the hill where the cross is situated, and from there you can have a fantastic view of the entire city.
This is an absolutely free activity and a really nice way to spend an afternoon or evening if you want to climb up and watch the sunset from the best possible viewpoint.
As you might notice, the city is set among some really beautiful countryside and even within the city there’s a lot of green space and nature, so it’s a perfect place to visit for a break from big city life and plenty of fantastic places to walk.
The Church of the Exultation of the Cross
As you walk up the valley under the hill to reach the cross you might notice this beautiful old wooden church. This is another quite unique sight, and I haven’t seen any other churches in this style so far in Ukraine. It’s situated right next to the river in a really picturesque area. I definitely recommend a walk this way to see the church, the river and the view from the hill as mentioned above.
On the way to visit the church and hill you can also cross this crazy, wobbly suspended bridge over the river. It’s just made from a series of wooden planks with a thin rope handle on each side. I’m not sure if the picture makes it clear but trust me it’s really bouncy and wobbly and a lot of fun to cross! You can also get an idea of how lovely this little area just outside the city centre is to walk around.
Here’s a gratuitous nature photo just to give you the idea of how nice it is here.
This isn’t a fully comprehensive guide to everything you can possibly see in Kamianets-Podilskyi. I actually have loads more photos and saw a few more areas of the city, but I didn’t want the post to become an endless run-through of my photo album! Suffice it to say that you should put Kamianets-Podilskyi pretty high on your Ukraine to-do list if you can possibly fit it into your itinerary.
Although the city is small it really is very interesting and there’s plenty to see over the course of an intensive day trip or a more relaxed weekend or long weekend break. I recommend starting with the castle, bridge and fortifications, then exploring the old town, followed by the newer city centre with its various churches. Finally I would set aside a few hours at least for a nice walk down to the river, the wooden church and the hill. Enjoy!
Have you been to Kamianets-Podilskyi or would you like to visit? Let me know in the comments! I’d also love to know what’s your favourite city or place in Ukraine, or if you have any tips for where else to visit.
PS I have a series of posts on what to do in lots of smaller Ukrainian cities beyond Kyiv, Lviv and Odessa. Check the Ukraine tag to find out more!