A Thousand Golden Domes: The Churches of Kiev

churches of kiev
First glimpse of the women's monastery

After wasting my first two days in Kiev wandering around in the complete opposite direction with my map upside down, I knew I had to come up with a strategic plan so that I could see everything I’d originally wanted to but in half the time.

Despite having a thoroughly awful time whilst getting lost, some good did come out of it as I managed to accidentally walk right into a women’s monastery. The building was so obscure that I haven’t even been able to find out its name. Due to it being so far away from the centre of town I had the entire area to myself so spent quite some time wandering past the nuns (who were looking at me in confusion) and taking photos.

It had to be one of the prettiest buildings I’d ever seen in my life.

I loved the golden domes and use of vibrant colours. After having lived in London my whole life I’m used to grey architecture so I always get excited when I see pretty and colourful buildings on my travels.

churches of kiev
churches of kiev
Outside the monastery
churches of kiev
churches of kiev

I spent the whole day hunting down the glints of gold in the distance.

The first stop for me was the famous St Sophia Cathedral –  a UNESCO World Heritage Site which once served as a burial place for Ukrainian princes.

You had to pay to go inside and as I didn’t have my money with me I wasn’t able to see the interior. I wish I’d had the opportunity to as the inside is filled with 6 foot high mosaics as well as over 300 pieces of art depicting events of political significance in Ukraine. For another fee you can also climb to the top of the belltower to look out over the surrounding area.

churches in kiev
churches of kiev
churches of kiev

My other favourite church in Kiev has to be St Michael’s. Situated only 100 metres or so away from St Sophia’s, St Michael’s is one of the oldest functioning monasteries in Kiev, and was the first ever monastery to feature the golden domes that I love so much.

As I was walking around awkwardly trying to take photos of me outside the monastery the most adorable old man came running up to me and offered to take the photo for me. He then proceeded to spend the next 20 minutes positioning me in various different spots and taking my photo for me. He told me about how he had spent the last 40 years coming to St Michael’s and that as a young boy he used to play football in the building which has since become a small church known as the Church of St John the Divine.

Churches in kiev
Churches of kiev
churches of kiev

Due to my own stupidity I was unable to find any more churches in the time that I had left in Kiev which is a shame as I’d really had loved to have been able to visit even more.

My sole reason for visiting Kiev was to take a tour of Chernobyl and I didn’t have much interest in seeing the city itself. I was extremely surprised to find myself leaving completely infatuated the churches and architecture of Kiev. Have you ever visited a place with low expectations only to find that it becomes one of your favourite places?

Related Articles on Ukraine

🇺🇦 23 Fantastic Things to Do in Kyiv, Ukraine (2022)
☢️ What it’s Like to Take a Tour of Chernobyl


  1. Mike
    September 27, 2011

    Good post sweetie, churches look amazing

    • September 28, 2011

      Thanks! They were so beautiful!

  2. Sheryll
    September 27, 2011

    How absolutely gorgeous! I love all of the vibrant colors. AND I feel like I got a super cool history lesson at the same time!

    • September 28, 2011

      Glad you liked them Sheryll! :)

  3. Shey
    September 27, 2011

    Lovely architecture!

    • September 28, 2011

      :) I loved it too!

  4. Erik
    September 28, 2011

    Those onion domes are what I think of when I think of Russia and the former USSR!

    • September 28, 2011

      Me too! I wasn’t expecting to see them in Kiev!

  5. Leah
    September 28, 2011

    St. Sophia’s belltower is my favorite. I don’t know, it’s something about the white and turquoise. Of course all are beautiful. I guess I’ll be adding Kiev to my bucket list.

    • October 12, 2011

      Me too, I loved the colours! Definitely visit Kiev, it’s such an underrated destination!

  6. Amy (Gloriously Dismal)
    September 28, 2011

    Wow so blue! I think I need to add Kiev to my list after seeing this post..

    • October 12, 2011

      You definitely should!

  7. Angie Orth
    September 29, 2011

    So whimsical! Love the photos.

    • October 12, 2011

      Thanks Angie! :)

  8. Phil
    September 29, 2011

    Lauren, these are such wonderful photos!! I’m sold on Kiev!!

    • October 12, 2011

      Thanks Phil! Kiev was such a great city.

  9. Christy @ Ordinary Traveler
    September 29, 2011

    Great photos. I have definitely had a few experiences where I found beauty in a place unexpectedly.

    • October 12, 2011

      It’s such a great feeling when that happens :)

  10. Amanda
    September 30, 2011

    So pretty!! I never knew Kiev was so gorgeous.

    • October 12, 2011

      I didn’t either! It was such a pleasant surprise.

  11. Aussie on the Road
    October 1, 2011

    Stunning photos!

    • October 12, 2011

      Thanks so much!

  12. Sarah
    October 1, 2011

    Great stuff, lady!

    I don’t know if this is a good thing or not (I’m willing to bet that it’s not-so-positive) but I tend to have low expectations of every place I visit. That way, I’m (almost) always pleasantly surprised when I get there.

    No expectations, no disappointments right??

    (Unfortunately, this doesn’t really transcend well to other facets of life…like pancakes.)

    • October 12, 2011

      I think actually that is a great thing to do, its much better to be pleasantly surprised rather than disappointed! :)

  13. NLM
    November 1, 2011

    Due to last year’s earthquake, a long-planned visit to Christchurch had to be cancelled, and we spent a couple of days in “windy Wellington” instead. I don’t know how I might have felt about Christchurch, but I absolutely LOVED Wellington, and cannot wait to return.

  14. Megan
    December 12, 2011

    be lucky you didnt waste money at st. sophia’s…total waste in my opinion! i was disappointing that st. andrews was under construction when i was there so i couldnt see it :( i never saw this womans monastery though….looks fantastic!

  15. Reuben
    January 30, 2012

    Beautiful buildings! Thanks for sharing :)

  16. Kerri
    March 12, 2012

    Wow, that is a truly beautiful building and captured really well!

  17. Green Global Travel
    April 18, 2012

    Kiev looks absolutely beautiful! Loving these photos!

  18. Alice
    September 26, 2013

    Kiev is my hometown! )))

    And I’m so pleased to see such comments from you! Kiev is a beautiful city, and there are so many good people, interesting cafes and fantastic museums. It is a pity that very few know about it = (
    Most people even think that Kiev is a Russian city.
    Sure, we have something to strive for, not everything is perfect. But we are trying ;)))

    Thank you for your post – You’ve made my day!

    • October 3, 2013

      I’m glad you liked my post, Alice! :-) Kiev really was a beautiful city and I’m keen to return within the next few years.

  19. Tim Swope
    October 4, 2013

    I was the same as you, Kiev was fascinating. I was only there to go to Chernobyl, like you. It was an interesting city, more so than Moscow because so much was unexpected. Went to many of the same places around Kiev and I had only 2 days, 1 on each side of my overnight at Chernobyl. Just came across your blog, cheers.

    • October 7, 2013

      I also preferred Kiev to Moscow. Glad you had a good time! :-)

  20. October 14, 2015

    Lauren Lauren I’m so proud of my city and I’m happy to hear kind words about it from you.
    Come back to Ukraine again and discover others our cities

    • October 22, 2015

      I’d love to return to Ukraine, Olga! :-)

  21. Vincent
    March 28, 2019

    Hello Lauren,

    Your posts, and how you overcome your fears, are inspiring! I travel a lot for work but usually going to the same places.

    After seeing your Chernobyl tour I’m starting to plan a trip there now! I am wondering what is your recommendation on how long I should spend in Kiev ideally?


    • March 28, 2019

      I’d recommend spending four days in Kiev. It’s a really nice city!