Set along the banks of the Dnipro River, this Ukrainian city is a place of big statements with glittering golden church spires and gargantuan Soviet-era tower blocks.

Kiev is a place of big statements – a city of glittering golden church spires and gargantuan Soviet-era tower blocks, set along the banks of the Dnipro River. Now the city is on the eve of hosting Euro 2012, its post-communist swagger shows no signs of abating.

Kiev’s most popular meeting place, the fountain-filled square of Maydan Nezalezhnosti found fame as the epicentre of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution back in 2004. Take a stroll here on a weekend, when the streets around it are closed to traffic.

Set amid grassy hills above the Dnipro river, Kiev-Pechersk Lavra (Monastery of the Caves) is Ukraine’s holiest site. Dating back to the 11th century, the monastery includes a cluster of gold-domed churches and a subterranean complex that is home to mummified monks (vul Lavrs’ka; admission £2).

The Pyrohovo Museum of Folk Architecture is a popular open-air museum. Wooden churches, cottages and windmills are divided into seven villages, each representing different corners of Ukraine – musicians often play at weekends (vul Chervonopraporna; admission £1).

Pinchuk Art Centre is a world-class gallery featuring contemporary art and design from Ukraine and beyond. You can download the exhibitions onto your smartphone when stood outside (vul Baseyna 2a; closed Mon; admission free).

The Chernobyl Museum is more of a memorial to the people who died as a result of the explosion 70 miles away at the nuclear power plant in 1986. Videos and photos recount the aftermath of the disaster (prov Khoryva 1; closed Sun, last Mon of month; admission £1).

Eat and drink
Perhaps Kiev’s single greatest fast food experience, Kyivska Perepichka is little more than a window where two women hand out pieces of fried dough enclosing a mouthwatering sausage (vul Bohdana Khmelnytskoho 3; pastries 40p).

With wooden floors, dressers filled with china knick-knacks and, bizarrely enough, a live piglet in a basket near the door, Varenichnaya No.1  mimics the homely interiors of early 20th-century Kiev. There are nearly 25 varieties of dumpling on the menu (00 380 44 287 1539; vul Esplanadna 28; dumplings from £3).

Meaning ‘pumpkin’, Garbuzyk is a good introduction to Ukranian food. Squash features extensively – from mammlyha (a polenta-like dish) to fresh pumpkin juice (00 380 44 425 3586; vul Khoryva 2b; mains from £3).

At Spotykach, food takes its cue from Kremlin banquets, with lots of borshch, dumplings and chicken Kievs that would make even the hardest dissident feel nostalgic. The Soviet-era themed restaurant gets its name from Spotykach, a vodka-based liquor, which takes its name from the Russian for ‘to stumble’ (00 380 44 586 4095; vul Volodymyrska 16; mains from £6).

 Enjoying good views from its eighth-floor vantage point, Concord, one of Kiev’s most upmarket eateries, mixes and matches Asian and European gastronomy amid white linen-clad tables and wrought-iron furniture. Salads come highly recommended (vul Pushkinska 42–44; mains from £18).

Built in 1901, the St Petersburg Hotel is a grand old hotel with an ornate yellow façade. It’s fallen slightly by the wayside in the years since, but nonetheless is centrally located and its most basic rooms are a bargain (vul Taras Shevchenko 4; from £55).

Incredibly salubrious both inside and out, the Sherborne Guest House has 12 apartments of various sizes, all of which have self-catering facilities. The guesthouse operates a dozen or so other apartments in the city centre (9 Sichnevy Provulok; apartments from £60).

Housed in a bizarre edifice that has affectionately been dubbed ‘The Grenade’ by locals, the Hotel Salute is a classic Soviet Futurist high-rise hotel built in 1984. Inside you’ll encounter plenty of period 1970s furniture, and a handful of rooms with exceptional views of the Dnipro river (vul Ivana Mazepy 11b; from £90).

Sunflower B&B Hotel is more of a b&b than a hotel, set a block away from Maydan Nezalezhnosti square. Its guestrooms are spacious without being too elaborate, and there are excellent continental breakfasts, replete with hot pastries, delivered to your door (vul Kostelnaya 9–41; from £90).

One of the favoured haunts of the country’s oligarchs, the Opera Hotel is among the grandest addresses in the city, set inside an imposing old building in a tranquil neighbourhood. Its posh rooms are dressed up in a muted brown and ochre colour scheme (vul Bogdana Khmelnitskogo 53; from £290).

Getting around
Kiev has a reliable Metro system, although station signs may only be written in Cyrillic. Tokens are sold by cashiers and dispensers at stations (15p). Buses, trolleybuses and trams serve most routes – tickets can be bought from street kiosks or from the driver (10p).

When to go
Kiev has hot summers and bitterly cold winters. Kiev Day is a colourful spring festival held on the last weekend of May, ending with a fireworks display over the Dnipro River, while the Kraina Mriy Festival in late June and early July sees traditional music performances next to Kiev-Pechersk Lavra.

How to go
From Boryspil International airport, Aerosvit flies from Gatwick (from £210) while BA flies from Heathrow (from £270). Polit and Atass buses from Boryspil to downtown take 45–60 minutes (from £2).

The article 'Mini guide to Kiev, Ukraine' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.