Kryvyi Rih isn’t among the first destinations that most tourists think of visiting. And in fact, despite living in Ukraine for 3 years and visiting many times before that, I hadn’t yet got round to visiting this small city. However I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised by how much interesting stuff there is to do and see in Kryvyi Rih. In fact it’s Ukraine’s 8th largest city, with around 625,000 residents, and an interesting history. If you’re into super picturesque cities with pretty architecture and a very walkable historical centre then you probably won’t be that into Kryvyi Rih… However, if you’re interested in off-the-beaten-track travel and having a look at something a bit different, then you might want to make this a stop on your next trip to Ukraine.
First, a little bit of background information about the city. The city’s name Kryvyi Rih, or in Russian, Krivoy Rog, means ‘crooked horn’, and is supposedly named after the one-eyed, one-armed cossack who founded the city in the 18th century. It was first founded as a stop on a postal route between cities, but later developed into a very significant industrial city, due to the rich iron ore deposits located there.
I spent two nights here and definitely didn’t run out of interesting things to do. Read on for some of the best things to do in the city:
Ride the Metro-Tram
There are only three true Metro systems in Ukraine: located in Dnipro, Kharkiv and Kyiv. However, back in the 1970s development began on a fourth metro system in Kryvyi Rih. During the Soviet era, budget was reserved to build a metro system in any city that reached a certain population level, and as such they began to build one in Kryvyi Rih. However, the project hit snags due to difficulties digging in the boggy land, and eventually the budget ran out and they lacked the funding to finish the project as a full metro system. Instead, today it’s a kind of hybrid metro and tram system, partially underground, partially overground.
It’s kind of a unique place in Ukraine, so if you’re curious to see it, why not take a ride across the city? At the time of writing, it costs 2.5 uah to ride one-way, literally a few pennies, so you can ride around to your heart’s content for almost nothing. It’s now possible to pay with a contactless card, so just beep in as you would in almost any metro system.
Right now, due to the ongoing quarantine regulations, you can’t ride standing, so you need to queue and wait for a train to arrive, then they will announce the number of passengers who can enter. However, the trams are regular so you shouldn’t find yourself waiting much more than 5 minutes before you get on and get a seat.
The Heroes of Chernobyl park
If you get off the tram a few stops from the centre at Vechirniy Bulvar, you can visit this small park which commemorates the Kryvyi Rih locals who risked their lives as liquidators during the Chernobyl disaster.
Explore some abandoned buildings
If you like to go off the beaten path from time to time, maybe you’d be interested in exploring some of the abandoned buildings that can be found here and there around the city. We found this one near to the Metalurg Stadium tram stop and couldn’t resist going in for a little look around.
If you’ve ever wanted to look around the abandoned buildings of Pripyat, I’ll let you in on a small secret. Pripyat was built in 1970 as a worker’s town, and the buildings there are all very standard Soviet buildings of the time. As such, you can find very similar towns and buildings all over Ukraine, and if you want to, you can have a look around.
Of course, such buildings are not completely safe, so I advise you to be very careful if you do take a look, and not to take any risks such as walking up stairs which may be unstable. If in doubt just have a look from outside.
Check out the flower clock
Apparently Kryvyi Rih has Europe’s largest flower clock. Underneath it there’s also a museum, although I didn’t enter so I can’t comment on whether or not that’s interesting. I suppose it depends on how interested you are in flowers. In any case the clock is within the centre so even if you don’t have a car you can easily check it out just by walking around the city centre.
Discover Kryvyi Rih’s industrial history
The biggest point of interest about Kryvyi Rih compared to most other medium-sized cities in Ukraine is its very clear past and present status as an industrial/mining town. The vast majority of locals are employed in one of the large metallurgy plants, mines or factories that characterise the city, and you won’t be able to miss the many signs of this very important industry.
If you like such things, there are a number of both disused and functioning factories around the outskirts of the city that you can take a look at (generally you cannot visit inside unless part of an organised tour of 15 or more people). Of course abandoned factories are not always the most aesthetic destination, but they are very characteristic of Kryvyi Rih.
If you want to see these kinds of abandoned (and working) industrial places, you’ll either need to drive around by car to visit them, or join a tour.
See the collapsed mine
One of the particularly unique things you can see here is the site of a major mining disaster which occurred in 2013 when one of the city’s mines collapsed into the ground. Luckily only one person was killed in this accident. The huge canyon left in the landscape is now a pretty impressive memento which you can go and view from the top (although don’t go too close to the edge as I’m sure it’s not particularly safe).
If you’re wondering if the whole city is just about ugly factories and mines, you wouldn’t be completely correct. In fact, there is a more aesthetically pleasing and enjoyable side to the city. One very nice place you can visit and enjoy in the summer is one of the artificial lakes formed from an old quarry which has now filled with water. It’s possible to swim in here and the water is supposedly very clean, or you can just relax and enjoy the view.
If you want to see the above sights and more (mines, quarries, factories, railway bridges, etc), I suggest taking a tour with a professional guide (as we did). The interesting places are very spread out over the city and its surroundings and you’d need a car and a bit of local knowledge to see everything.
Our guide was called Volodymyr Murashkin and you can find him on either Facebook or TripAdvisor. He spoke English very well and gave us a very extensive tour of some off-the-beaten-track areas.
Where to eat/drink/hang out
Priroda is the restaurant attached to the hotel we stayed at – Park House (recommended!). The restaurant is also nice, with a large outside territory where you can eat, drink, relax and maybe smoke a shisha outside on beanbags or at tables however you prefer. In summer I definitely recommend this as a place to hang out for a while, and the I think the hotel is also among the best in Kryvyi Rih.
Gastro Cafe 15
Gastro Cafe is rated number 1 on Trip Advisor for Kryvyi Rih at the time of writing, so most likely you might end up here anyway, especially as it has a good location in the centre.
I do recommend it though for low prices and tasty food. Unfortunately the selection of beers no longer includes anything local at all which is a shame. But I’d still suggest this as a nice place to eat, albeit with rather limited vegetarian options.
Garden Resto Bar
The other place that we ate at and really liked was Garden, which is an indoor restaurant with a large glass terrace and, as the name suggests, quite a lot of plants.
The pasta I had here was surprisingly tasty and also at a low price, plus a very nice iced matcha.
Overall it seems that for its size, Kryvyi Rih has a surprising number of nice, European-style restaurants and cafes at very good prices. I was very pleasantly surprised by everywhere I ate and drank while here.
I had a very good 2-night stay in Kryvyi Rih and crammed a lot into that short time. I very much recommend a visit here, as it was one of the most interesting places I stayed during my 10-day summer road trip around Ukraine. I haven’t even included everything I did and saw as otherwise the post would have become very long, so that should give you the idea that it’s quite an interesting spot.
If you have any questions or additions to my suggestions, please leave them in the comments!
Also, if you’re putting together a Ukraine itinerary or looking for some cool places to see in Ukraine, why not check out my selection of posts here.