Soaking up the European Sun in Odesa, Ukraine

Odesa is a walking marvel – a dynamic, decadent town. It’s famous Potemkin Steps sweep down to the Black Sea and Ukraine’s most prominent commercial port. A cosmopolitan cast of personas makes merry among neoclassical pastel buildings lining a geometric grid of green streets behind them.

Settlers from all over Europe were asked to make their destiny here when Odesa was established in the late 18th century by Russia’s Catherine the Great. These new residents, mainly Jews, gave Russia’s southern window on the world a singular, rebellious nature.

Having overcome recent political turmoils, Odesa is booming again – it now substitutes for Crimea as the leading domestic holiday destination.

Things to know before you fly to Odesa:

  1. Odesa is a warm water port usually regarded as a calming tourist destination for summer trips. Militarily it has limited value. Turkey’s control of the Bosphorus and Dardanelles has allowed NATO to control water traffic between the Mediterranean Sea and Odesa.
  2. Most locals know Ukrainian: Ukrainian is the nation’s only official language. However, the indigenous language of most of Odesa is Russian. Almost every city’s numerous colleges and universities have a” Russian as foreign language” teaching department.
  3. Young people know English, although not many can speak it fluently. Most bars and cafes have an English menu, so don’t worry. 

Travel Guide to Odesa

The most exciting thing to see in Odesa is the old township itself. The city was once the hub for trade for the Russian Empire and an artistic and intellectual center before the revolution. Much of the city’s grandeur dates from the period before the Soviet invasion, and subsequently, Odesa shows its age.

The old town is exceptionally clean and feels very safe, making for a good two days worth of random, unguided wandering, particularly with the wide tree-lined avenues and open parks.

In the much smaller and better-kept part of the old town, there is a large and magnificent Opera house and some very charming parks. There is also one main street leading through the center that is active with people selling street goods to tourists.

Here are things to do in Odesa:

  1. Walk along Derybasivska street, particularly in autumn, summer in the early evening.
  2. Yeketerynenska Street: Walk on it a few blocks from its very beginning. The first couple of blocks are full of greenery, elegant houses. After two blocks, it intersects with Deribasovskaya street.
  3. Walk along Prymorskyi Boulevard: You will find a monument dedicated to Duke Richelieu, one of Odesa’s founders in the middle.
  4. From Prymorskyi Boulevard, instead of walking down the Potemkin Steps, it’s possible to use the funicular.
  5. If you turn 180 degrees from the top of Potemkin Steps, you will see Catherine Square. This square highlights a recently erected a monument to Catherine the Great, who is also one of the founders of Odesa.
  6. Opera House: Go to the opera house for $20 or less. You can get outstanding tickets for only 100 UAH (€10) *don’t buy the cheaper ones because of limited visibility). Odesa opera was called “the best opera in the world” by Ferdinand Fellner, and it’s a must-see in Odesa.
  7. Odesa Philharmonic, Bunin street: Go for a concert to the magnificent historical building of National Philharmonic Theatre.

Beaches in Odesa:

Most of the city harbor, except the port territory, make a beach zone. All of the beaches are situated on the eastern end of Odesa. The most famous beaches are the following: 

  1. Lanzheron – is situated closest to the city center, just underneath Shevchenko Park. Reachable by tram #28 and trolleybuses #2 or #3, then a short walk is needed. The dolphinarium is stationed nearby.
  2. Vidrada – is slightly farther from the city center than Lanzheron. It is the closest to the center among the beaches situated under the French Parkway (boulevard). Vidrada is easily accessible by tram #5, three stops from the railway station, and five stops from the intersection with Preobrazhenska Street, the city center’s primary transportation artery.
  3. Chkalovskyi:  two nudist beaches located between Arcadia and Dolphin, near the Chkalovskyi sanatorium. The smaller first one is wildest with foreign bathers and lots of stones. The second, 500m further on, is more significant and frequented by many families with a more pleasant atmosphere. Less sand, many pebbles.
  4. Arcadia:  is the most popular beach and tourist place with many bars, restaurants, night clubs, discos, and other entertainment. It’s home of the rich nightlife in summer. Even though it is farther then Otrada and Dolphin, it is easily reachable from the center. Arcadia is the last stop of tram #5 and trolleybuses #5 and #13. Both tram and trolleybus #5 go towards the city center, passing the railway station. Trolleybus #5 goes into the heart of Odesa.

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