Where to drink?
In the ancient Kiev chronicles it is recorded that when faced with the task of choosing a monotheistic religion for his people, Prince Volodymyr the Great rejected Islam with the immortal words: ‘Drinking is the joy of the Rus and we cannot live without it.’ Fewer rulers have ever been so frank about the human weaknesses of their subjects, and this historically recorded taste for alcohol remains very much on show in today’s Ukraine.
However, while this has created a society where rampant alcoholism is a major menace to both health and safety, in its more moderate forms the local drinking culture also underpins one of the friendliest and sociable bar scenes in modern Europe.
Dotted with clubs and pubs
There is no particular bar strip or area to head for in Kiev but visitors will find that the city centre is dotted with pubs and clubs which do not feature cover charges. Just jump on the metro to Maidan, Khreschatyk or Tolstova stations and see what takes your fancy. Alternatively, you could take a stroll along Sagaidachnovo Street (Poshtova Ploshchad metro station) in Kiev’s picturesque riverside Podil region, where many of the city’s hipper bars and coffee shops are to be found. Beer and most alcoholic beverages are cheap in Kiev and prices will be just under EU averages in most venues.
The most celebrated pub in Kiev remains the Bierstube (20a Chernovoarmiyska Street. Tel.: 044-2359472). This seemingly innocuous basement pub was once the flagship venue of legendary Kiev nightlife figure Eric Aigner, a German entrepreneur who served as the face for a range of bars, clubs and discos in the Ukrainian capital throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. It is a traditional pub with a distinctly Germanic menu which first opened in spring 1998 and remains popular with arts and culture sector professionals, media workers and long-term expats, many of whom regard it as their home-from-home local pub. Opposition journalist Georgi Gongadze, whose disappearance and murder in 2000 provoked the first round of protests from an opposition movement which would eventually build up into the crescendo of the 2004 Orange Revolution, was reportedly seen here at around the time of his disappearance, although regulars have argued that this was just government disinformation based on the venue’s popularity with pro-democracy activists and media types.
Budget beers at Docker Pub
Budget travelers looking to combine a beery pub atmosphere with a bit of dance floor flirtation should head to Docker Pub ABC (15/4 Khreschatyk Street. Tel.: 044-278-1717) which has a well-earned reputation for being one of the Ukrainian capital’s premier pick-up and pass-out locations. Formerly known as the Cowboy Bar, this lively spot retains much of its Wild East atmospherics and is unlikely to appeal to a PC audience but it can provide for unrivalled roguery and plenty of laughs at very competitive rates. You can expect to be joined by plenty of like-minded expats and Ukrainian students.