Discovering the Pearl of the Black Sea – Odessa, Ukraine
Ukraine is the largest country in Europe. With so much land, there are plenty of amazing places to discover. Odessa is one of those, located on the shores of the Black Sea and full of a potpourri of attractions, architectural styles, international cuisines and endless statues.
There are plenty of tours and hop-on-hop-off buses you can jump on, but exploring the city on your own is perhaps a better choice. Most of the attractions are located within walking distance of each other. If you do need to jump on local transport, a single ticket costs $0.15-$0.25!
Start your exploration of Odessa on Derybasivska Street, the cobblestone walking street in the heart of the city center. Cafes, street food vendors and art galleries line the street, while Ukrainian girls ride painted horses up and down. In the park on the west side of the street, you’ll find the Monument to the 12th Chair statue. You won’t be able to miss the line of people waiting for a photo. If you’re looking for a good pizza, give Venezia at the east end of the street a try.
From the east end of Derybasivska Street, walk one street north and one more street east. There, you’ll find the Odessa Opera House. The structure couldn’t be called anything but gorgeous. To the right of the building is a large fountain, perfect for taking selfies at. A few more steps to the east, and you’ll find several museums, city hall and a statue of Alexander Pushkin, the famous Russian writer.
Head north from Pushkin’s statue into the park. During the day, you can see a small remnant of a Greek settlement under a glass enclosure. However, it’s at night that you want to explore this street. Lights are strung between the trees, and several street musicians come out to serenade the passers-by.
At the north end are the Potemkin Stairs, the original gateway from the waters of the Black Sea into the Odessa city center. The stairs were popularized in the 1925 movie Battleship Potemkin, and today are a key tourist attraction in the city. The 200 stairs are constructed in an interesting optical illusion; from the top, only the landings are visible, while only the stairs are visible from the bottom.
The final, main attraction of Odessa is the Black Sea itself. Grab your swimming suit and either head straight east from the city center to the beaches, or take the No. 5 cable car down to Arcadia Beach where you’ll find a Citywalk-style street lined with cafes, carnival games and amusement park rides. Enjoy the Hawaii Water Park, or lounge in any of the many seaside clubs. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen.
As an Anglophone traveler, you could run into problems with the language. Not many places in the city have English translations, and the Russian alphabet is a little hard to decipher. Locals are not required to learn English, and few speak it outside tourist establishments.
Perhaps the greatest aspect of Odessa is the cost of things. It’s not just the public transportation that’s cheap. Attractions, accommodations and food are all budget-friendly. A pizza will cost you around $6, while two servings of sushi, a plate of pasta carbonara and a drink were only $14 at the Mafia restaurant.
All manner of hostels, hotels and B&Bs are available. Personally I stayed at the Nebo Hotel, which is somewhere between a mini-hotel and serviced apartments. The location was perfect, the service was great and the view was beautiful.
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