Where to live in Ukraine?
My clients who plan to move to Ukraine for at least 3 months per year, continuously ask me: “Conor, which city or cities in Ukraine should I live in?”
Here below are the 5 main options: Kyiv, Odesa, Lviv, Kharkiv and Dnipro, and some main points to consider in making your decisions.
Kyiv is the nation’s pulsating capital and its economic and administrative center.
It’s a massive city (probably more than 4 million inhabitants) that attracts the most ambitious Ukrainians who come to seek their fortunes here.
Kyiv offers pretty much everything in terms of a modern European capital, except the seaside. The city is busy with a myriad of cosmopolitan options all year round. There is no ‘slow season’ in Kyiv.
So even in winter, Kyiv has a lot to offer a Westerner looking to relocate to the wild East of Europe.
Moreover, the city is the country’s transport hub with 2 international airports and the central node for trains across the country, including the more modern high speed trains to the other cities in this article (Kharkiv, Lviv, Dnipro and Odesa). With the number of international flights gradually increasing in and out of its airports, you’ll be able to whisk in and out to most parts of the world without too much hassle.
The city is now also consider to be the ‘new Berlin’ in terms of its alternative nightlife and its laissez faire attitude to rules (pretty much like the ‘old Berlin’) makes it super attractive for those looking balance work and play.
To top it off, Kyiv is positioning itself as an IT hub for Eastern Europe and looking to get ahead of the curve with respect to accommodating cryptocurrency investors and associated infrastructure.
Odesa is Ukraine’s summer capital and is pumping in June, July and August with visitors from other parts of Ukraine, as well as, hordes of foreign guys seeking love on the shores of the Black Sea.
Many a foreign Lothario has left empty handed but there are still plenty of reasons to consider living in Odesa outside of your romantic interests. In fact, I never recommend Odesa to my clients whose main priority is meeting women.
Odesa is the only major Ukrainian city on the Black Sea with a seaside vibe. In summer, the daylife and nightlife both move to the long stretches of beach running from north to south along the coast.
However, most foreign residents prefer living in the historic center of the city, which was built mainly during the reign of Empress Catherine the Great of Russia. Odesa was built as a European city (similar to Saint Petersburg) and the city rulers and early denizens where from all over Europe, with the French, Austrians and Italians playing a massive role in its initial development.
However, it’s important to note some of the limitations of Odesa Mama. The city is dramatically different in winter when it empties out. It becomes more of a sleepy village than a hedonistic hamlet in the colder months.
Also Odesa’s history as a criminal port city has morphed into it’s present reputation for being ‘scam central’ so definitely be careful, especially if you happen to meet a beautiful lady who seems a little too interested in ‘inviting’ you to sit in a restaurant with her.
Lovely Lviv is the cultural capital of Ukraine. It’s where the Ukrainian traditions are the best preserved and the biggest city where the Ukrainian language dominates.
This city also looks markedly different to the other in this article on the architectural front as well. Lviv has spent time in both the Austro-Hungarian Empire and in Poland and these influences are clear to see in the style of its buildings.
For me, it’s definitively the most romantic of the big Ukrainian cities to spend some quality time with a lovely local lass.
Lviv will also feel the most familiar to other Europeans as it looks and vibes more like a Central European city than an Eastern European one. The level of languages like English, German and Polish tends to be higher here than in the rest of the country, demonstrating the city’s more Western outlook.
In spite of most of Lviv’s inhabitants speaking Ukrainian, you can in fact speak Russian freely in the city center. Lviv is a major touristic center for Ukrainians from other regions where Russian is more widely spoken. That said, if you are planning to move to Lviv, it would make more sense to learn Ukrainian instead of Russian first.
Lviv is another major IT hub in Ukraine (again reflecting the city’s openness) so plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs wanting to make it their base. It also boasts an international airport and a high quality of life with the stunning Carpathian Mountains just a few hours away.
Kharkiv is Ukraine’s university capital and the city is teeming with students.
This is definitely the Ukrainian city with the most youthful feel to it. While it’s way too big to be described as a ‘college town’ in the American sense, it does has a preponderance of youthful energy pumping through its veins.
The fact that there are way fewer foreigners in Kharkiv compared to cities like Kyiv, Lviv and Odesa, means that you may still pique the interest of the city’s hottest and will face less competition for their affections. So far no hordes of horny foreigners invading the city like you will see on their annual pilgrimage to Odesa.
Kharkiv has beautiful parks, especially during the summer, although the winters are a bit more extreme than the rest of the country with temperatures dropping as low as -35C (in my personal experience) so definitely not a place in winter for though not prepared for such a climate. Personally I’ve always found that a few shots of the local vodka help one ‘warm up’ on the inside.
“Dodgy” Dnipro is sometimes how I’ve described Dnipro, which lies in the center of Ukraine along the banks of the Dnipro River. While the city is not really the Ukrainian capital of anything, it’s still has a lot to offer to the type of Western guy who fits into the more ‘rough around the edges’ city in the ex-USSR.
The city center has been transformed in the last decade and now offers a great selection of cafes, restaurants, bars and clubs. However this is to be contrasted with the dilapidated core of the former industrial center of Ukraine.
Here you will definitely stand out more as a foreigner and not always for the better as it tends to be the least safe of the major Ukrainian cities. However, if you are looking for a city combining the relics of the Soviet Union with the amenities of the post-Revolution Ukraine then Dnipro is definitely the best city in Ukraine for that.
Whatever personality type you are and what kind of location you’re looking for then Ukraine definitely has a variety of solid options to consider. Exploring options in Kyiv, Odesa, Lviv, Kharkiv and Dnipro is only the beginning. The country has a litany of smaller towns that provide that slower pace of life at an even more affordable price.
Here’s an example of one such city, Izmail, located in the region of Budjak close to the port city of Odesa.