I’ve never thought I’ll say it but yes, after visiting Odessa I had to go back and reconsider whether or not Lviv should top the list of my favorite cities in Ukraine. The competition is suddenly picking up rather quickly, with Ukraine appearing on a tourism map of Europe. After the annexation of Crimea, Odessa suddenly and unexpectedly even to itself became the first go-to place for Ukrainians on vacation. It has a perfect location south of the country on a fine coastal line of the Black sea.

Why You Should Visit Odessa?

The city had to adjust to the sudden flow of tourists on the go but what I cannot get out of my head is why has it not been on a map before? It has everything needed for tremendous cultural experience – great seafood, long sand beaches right in the city, cultural places at every turn, lots of greenery and spaces for relaxation, beautiful wide roads, and sidewalks allowing your thoughts to fly. I discovered that this ‘pearl by the sea,’ as indeed being such.

So, why should you visit Odessa?

1. Get some unique local vibes strolling the Deribasivska street

Deribasivka is a pedestrian street that lies in the very heart of the city and stretches for nearly 1 km. It is named after the founder and first mayor of the city Jose de Ribas, who used to live on this street.VISIT ODESSA - deribasivska As any central pedestrian street, this is the place where life is buzzing non-stop, be it day or night, due its numerous cafes, shopping possibilities and street performances. Deribasivska is the most iconic place in Odessa and tales of it have traveled far beyond the borders of the region.

2. Relax, tan, and party on sandy Odessa beaches

VISIT ODESSA - odessa-beaches

Who knew that gorgeous sandy beaches stretch for nearly 15 km right near the city center of Odessa? Well, I certainly didn’t and shame on me!

The number of city beaches offers a great variety of places to chill, tan and swim allowing you to choose your very own favored place of rest based on whether you are a party person, chill-out person or a family with kids.

Right there, on the Otrada beach, you can choose any of the modern booths to hide from a burning Ukrainian summer sun and get a drink.VISIT ODESSA - otrada VISIT ODESSA- bright-on-beach

3. See numerous cultural artifacts and historical buildings

Odessa is like Paris of Eastern Europe. So many old style buildings with famous names on them. At a certain point in time, a lot of artists, dreamers, and eccentric people lived in Odessa getting inspiration from its vibrant and unique culture. A lot of streets are named after these people showing Odessa’s appreciation for their contribution to the city’s development, such famous names as Duc de Richelieu of France, the greatest Russian poet A. Pushkin and a famous Ukrainian/Russian writer N. Gogol are among the many others on the list.  VISIT ODESSA - odessa-buildings

All those old buildings where these people lived are still there. That definitely adds some charm, just be sure not to walk under the ones that look too old! Many of them really need some reconstruction and that is definitely the issue that city faces today.

4. See Odessa’s magnificent opera theater

Odessa Opera and Ballet theater is among the most popular sights in the city and it totally deserves to be that. It has that neo-baroccan exterior and a luxurious interior that attract visitors to explore it from both inside and outside.VISIT ODESSA - odessa-opera-and-ballet-theater

5. Get some fresh seafood on local market “Privoz”

This is Odessa at its purest. Being the port city it serves as the first entry point to many goods arriving in Ukraine, both fresh and not. Privoz market, situated right next to the central station offers a great variety of those products at a very competitive price that is usually blown up by the middlemen afterwords.VISIT ODESSA- privoz-market-odessa-fish

VISIT ODESSA - privoz-market-odessa-shrimp

You can get fresh shrimp here for next to nothing

6. Take a walk up and down the Potemkin stairs

The stairs themselves are not breathtaking at all, however, they are rather symbolic, serving as the main entrance to the city from the seaport. Going up and down these stairs will make you short of breath, so for the lazy ones, there is a funicular right next to them that can take you to the top.VISIT ODESSA - potiomkin-stairs-odessa_Atop the Potemkin stairs you get an awesome view over the port of Odessa.

VISIT ODESSA - odessa-port

View from top of Potemkin stairs

7. Take advantage of low Ukrainian prices in one of the numerous cozy cafes and bars

Odessa is not short of entertainment spots. Numerous restaurants with local specialties and rich variety of Ukrainian food mixed with low Ukrainian prices make for a great budget destination for adventure seekers.VISIT ODESSA - odessa-cafes VISIT ODESSA - lvivski-pliatsku-odessa

8. Chill in one of the many green new parks of the city

Odessa is serious about keeping the city green! Chill in any of the 10+ parks or green zones of Odessa.

VISIT ODESSA - odessa-zelenuy-teatr

People chilling in T. Shevchenko park in Odessa

9. Enjoy romantic night views over the docs and the sea

Right next to the Vorontsov Palace many young people come to enjoy the night view over the highlighted docs from the top of the hill, which opens a beautiful view over the sea. There’s something romantic about it. Just make sure to come here in a stable state of mind, the hill is quite high and we don’t want anyone to fall over, do we?VISIT ODESSA - odessa-docs

10. Walk the wide and spacious green streets

One of the things I loved about Odessa was its beautiful stone-paved wide streets. So untypical of big cities where everything is packed with buildings and information, Odessa is a pleasant contrast, allowing your thoughts to fly and your lungs to breath.VISIT ODESSA - odessa-streets

How to get to Odessa?

Odessa is easily reachable by trains from many cities (prepare for long distance rides though). And ride in a Ukrainian regional train is an experience in itself that deserves its own article (I hope I’ll get to it some day).

A new highway that leads here from Kyiv, the city with biggest airport in Ukraine, will take you around 5 hours of driving.

Odessa also has its own airport – Odessa International Airport, but unfortunately, it doesn’t serve that many flights. The only connections they have at the moment are domestic flights and a couple of routes to Warsaw, Vienna, Minsk and Dubai. Therefore, your best chance is a layover flight from Kyiv or Lviv.

Where to Stay in Odessa?

I think AirBnb is your best option as there are many rental places in the city that are both affordable and pretty gorgeous looking. Remember, Ukrainians value the appearance, so many places could be decorated to look like a palace or something ridiculous like that.

VISIT ODESSA- odessa-apartments-to-rent

This is the apartment we rented through AirBnb for something like 30$ per night


Wrap Up

Honestly speaking, Odessa swept me off my feet. Maybe that’s because my expectations were low, but I left Odessa after a short September weekend with a thought that it’s a place to come back to.

I can tell that locals take pride in living here. The city is known as a humor hub of Ukraine, where many humor-based competitions commence. On top of that, it has that uniqueness of being home to many great people that makes it, in my view, the Paris of the Eastern Europe. Even better cause it has the sea 😉

Yes, Odessa does have its own rather unique vibe, which makes it neither Ukrainian nor European. What can I say, Odessa is Odessa.VISIT ODESSA - odessa-philarmony

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If you were to visit Ukraine, which places would be on your bucket list? Would Odessa make it there? Share your thoughts in comments below.

5 comments… add one
  • Kristen Kellogg 17 Dec 2016, 6:46 pm

    Odessa looks darling! I especially love the foo scenes you highlighted.I visited Little Odessa in Brighton Beach, NY and had a blast. Would be lovely to visit the real one first hand. Thanks for sharing!

  • Mia 20 Apr 2017, 11:41 pm

    Dear author,
    I stumbled upon your article while looking to see how the city has changed, and I am thrilled to notice that you loved everything about it that I always did. Odessa is my home town and this fall, I will be taking my husband there for the first time. I hope he sees all the ways Odessa is amazing, just how you saw it. Thank you for speaking so warmly of my home.

    • Lena 21 Apr 2017, 7:34 pm

      Thank you Mia! It was easy to fall in love with Odessa. How long has it been since you’ve last visited? And where are you now?

      • Mia 21 Apr 2017, 8:19 pm

        Hi Lena!
        That really warms my heart 🙂 The last time I visited home was 4 years ago, but I left to US a looking 13 years ago . Feels like eternity through. I know a lot of things changed and I’m scared my husband won’t find it as wonderful as I tell him on my stories. Well, I’ll find out soon enough

        • Lena 21 Apr 2017, 8:59 pm

          I understand your fears. For any westerner visiting Ukraine can be a refreshing experience, that is for sure, but it will definitely be unforgettable. As long as you feed him some nice local food, he should be fine:) I hope you enjoy your time there!

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