- By Katja Lindblom
- Nov. 19 2012 00:00
Main industries: Gas, electricity, water supply
Mayor: Oleksandr Popov
Founded in the late ninth century. No one knows the precise year, but sources claiming that the city was founded in 482 are wrong.
Interesting fact: Kiev was one of the first capitals of Russia.
Sister cities: About 40, including Brussels, Chicago, Toronto and Stockholm
Helpful contacts: Anna Derevyanko, executive director, European Business Association (1a Andriyivsky Uzviz; +380 44 496 06 01; eba.com.ua); City Hall spokeswoman Galina Gerega (36 Ul. Khreshatik; 380 44-226-31-86; kmr.gov.ua).
Kiev welcomes its visitors with open arms. According to legend, the city was founded by three brothers and a sister who had fled from eastern invaders and a battle in which their parents were killed. The siblings built a boat and sailed down the Dnieper until they found the place of their new home. The very name Kiev is said to have been derived from the eldest of the three brothers, whose name was Kie.
The capital of Ukraine spreads out on both sides of the Dnieper, and the two divisions of the city are connected by five main bridges. Framed by strict and gloomy concrete buildings, the lively and colorful city center is full of old sumptuous churches and cobblestone streets where tall business buildings stand side by side with crumbling Soviet-era buildings.
Naftogaz (6 Ul. Khmelnytsky; +380-44-586-35-37; naftogaz.com) is the state-owned energy company responsible for refining and transporting 90 percent of the oil and natural gas used in the country.
Energorynok (27 Ul. Petliura; +380-44-594-86-00; er.gov.ua) is the leading, state-owned provider, reseller and trader of electricity, and it supplies electric power to neighboring countries such as Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Poland.
Ukrzaliznytsia (5 Ul. Tverska; +380-44-465-14-65; uz.gov.ua) is the rail monopoly. It oversees 22,000 kilometers of track, making it the 14th-largest railroad system in the world.
GSC Games/Vostok Games (PR manager Oleg Yavorsky: firstname.lastname@example.org; vostokgames.com) is the company behind the immensely popular S.T.A.L.K.E.R computer-game series, which has sold millions of copies all over the world.
PAREXEL (9 Moskovsky Prospekt, +380-44-490-74-54; parexel.com) is a global biopharmaceutical research organization that expanded into Ukraine in 2011. It provides services for companies in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical-device industries.
Kiev is a city of many contrasts, but it’s up and coming. In 2005, Ukraine opened up the borders for U.S. and EU citizens, who freely travel to Ukraine without needing a visa. A window to Europe has opened, potentially leading to a bigger throughput of entrepreneurship.
In the run-up to this year’s European Football Championships, Kiev underwent a top-to-bottom overhaul for the herds of tourists and football fans who invaded the city. All of a sudden the gray minivans at Boryspil Airport were replaced by larger, Western-style airport buses, and Terminal F opened in May 2011 to accommodate an increased number of international flights. English joined Ukrainian on road and metro signs, and cafes, pubs and restaurants placed a premium on English-speaking staff. The city took a major step toward establishing a new international identity, and many of those changes remain in place today.
Although Kiev is often called “the mother of Slavonic cities,” it is not a Moscow-style metropolis. Its population of 2.8 million is a fraction of Moscow’s estimated 15 million, but it still is a big city with typical big-city life, meaning that it never sleeps. The metro and its three lines close at 12:30 a.m., and the marshrutka minivans and trams stop running even earlier. But that doesn’t stop Kiev residents from engaging in various nighttime activities. If you walk along the Khreshchatyk — the main street and the place where Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Yushchenko led protests during the Orange Revolution in 2004 — you will hear musicians playing even after midnight to interested audiences and see many clubs, pubs and restaurants still open. This holds true especially in the summer, when the entire length of the Khreshchatyk turns into a large open-air festival after sunset. On weekends, the Khreshchatyk is closed to all traffic and reclaimed by pedestrians, who take the opportunity to avoid the metro and calmly walk in the areas around the Khreshchatyk and the main Independence Square.
Q: What is the most successful business to operate in Kiev?
A: One of the most profitable sectors is construction and related business activities.
Q: Why should a foreign entrepreneur invest in Kiev?
A: Ukraine has not been spared from the effects of global financial crises. However, unlike many other countries, we have managed to maintain economic stability and even improve our international rankings. Ukraine increased its competitive ranking by nine positions over the past year and now is on par with European countries such as Slovakia and Montenegro in a World Economic Forum report released in September 2012. The attraction to invest in our country, particularly in the capital, has also increased because of the complex measures taken by the federal government and the city of Kiev to simplify licensing procedures and otherwise improve the investment climate.
Q: What makes Kiev stand out from other cities?
A: Kiev is a city with more than 1,000 years of history and offers its own unique style and culture. It is the home of wonderful people. All visitors whom I have met have spoken very warmly of Kiev. If we talk about the economy, our uniqueness is that of an erudite industry, in particular in aerospace, pharmaceuticals and IT. I believe this is due to the quality of our higher education and city development strategies that we adopted last year. We have relied primarily on the development of these clusters of the high-tech economy. In particular, in the near future, and possibly even before the end of this year, we will begin to implement our Bionic Hill, a technology park for businesses involved in energy efficiency and conservation, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.
Yes, Ukrainian universities have not yet made it into the world rankings. But I think this is because of the economic factors included in university evaluations. As for the teaching, our education has traditionally been and still remains among the best.
— Katja Lindblom
What to see if you have two hours
The Khreshchatyk is a must. It’s in the very heart of the city and, should you be gifted with only a very short time here, the Khreshchatyk is a good starting point for pedestrian excursions and swift transfers through the metro system. Start at Independence Square, where you can pose for pictures by the monuments and fountains, before taking in the many designer shops and the underground shopping galleria on the Khreshchatyk. Then you can easily jump on the metro from the Khreshchatyk or Maidan Nezalezhnosti station and travel a few stations to get to interesting attractions. The metro is actually recommended if you don’t want to spend too much time searching the map for the right locations or asking the locals for directions, because the streets are poorly marked even in the city center.
Traveling one station north on the blue line from Maidan Nezalezhnosti takes you straight to Poshtova Ploshcha. Take a walk by the beautiful riverside, or take the funicular up the steep hills of the Dnieper. The funicular trip lasts about three minutes. When the funicular stops at a height of 238 meters, you can exit and take a look at the Old Town or just stay put and admire the view.
If the rain is pouring down, you will be better off going westward on the red line to Zoloty Vorota, or the Golden Gate. Exiting the metro, you will end up right at the well-known Kievan fortress built by Yaroslav the Wise in the early 11th century. At the time, Kiev was a walled city and the Golden Gate was the main one of three gates leading into it. Nowadays it’s a museum (401 Vladimirskaya Ul.; +380 44-228-69-19) offering important insight into history and ancient Kievan Rus architecture.
What to do if you have two days
Visit the Motherland monument. The giant statue looking out over the Dnieper points out the spot of the Museum of the Great Patriotic War (24 Lavrskaya Ul.; +380-44-285-94-52; warmuseum.kiev.ua) — in fact, she is standing right on top of it. The Motherland memorial is truly impressive, a looming lady measuring 102 meters high and weighing about 560 tons. Her sword alone reaches 16 meters into the sky and weighs 9 tons. The war museum itself is Ukraine’s biggest museum, with 16 halls and more than 15,000 objects on display.
Weather permitting, swing by Venetsiansky Ostrov (Venice Island) and its Gidropark, located two stops from the Arsenalna station, where the war museum is located. The site is easy to find because it lies in the middle of the river, and the red metro line will take you straight to the Gidropark station. Gidropark was built as an entertainment and recreational complex in 1965, 22 years after its predecessor, the Predmostnaya district, was destroyed during the Nazi occupation of Kiev. More than 75,000 visitors at a time can be found crammed on this island on hot summer days. Gidropark offers many opportunities for boating and sunbathing, and the island even has an outdoor gym. In addition to a standard amusement park with rides and attractions for both children and grown-ups, there are multiple pubs, restaurants and fast-food stands. Since opening in 2010, the island’s Bora Bora Beach Club (+380-67-230-67-55; borabora.com.ua) has become a popular resort not only for locals but also for tourists from all over the world. Rent a bungalow for a day, or party away at night. If you prefer peace and quiet, the south part of the island is almost entirely clad in greenery and perfect for long, slow walks.
Another place worth visiting is Andreyevsky Spusk, a 15-minute walk from the Poshtova Ploshcha metro station, which winds 720 meters down toward the flatter Podil part of the city. The cobblestoned street resembles a 1-kilometer-long marketplace, providing everything from kitschy art works and souvenirs to genuine, unique handicrafts. Here you will find plenty of restaurants and the home of Ukrainian-born writer Mikhail Bulgakov, perhaps best known for “The Master and Margarita.” The Mikhail Bulgakov museum (13 Andreyevsky Spusk; +38-44-425-31-88; bulgakov.org.ua) opened in 1989 and features many of Bulgakov’s personal belongings. Here you can learn the story of the writer’s life in Kiev in the proper atmosphere.
Q: What’s it like for a foreign entrepreneur to set up a business in Kiev?
A: Since Kiev, or Ukraine, is still a rather underdeveloped market in terms of services and goods, you do not need to bring any groundbreaking business ideas here. I would say that if you can offer a service or good that works well in the West, it will most likely work here. Ukrainian consumers are generally open and curious toward new services and goods.
Q: What is your biggest challenge?
A: Here are five:
• Language. You really need to speak either Russian or Ukrainian to be successful here. The vast majority of Ukrainians do not speak or read English.
• The bureaucracy. This is not only prevalent with the state authorities on matters such as taxes and pensions but also within the private banking sector. Documents are required in absurdum, which creates big losses of time.
• Office services are underdeveloped. These include companies that supply basic infrastructural services such as IT support, cleaning, security, real estate, recruitment, legal services and maintenance. So it takes time to get a company started and running.
• Corruption among the state authorities.
• A deficit of proactive and experienced staff who speak English.
Q: What’s hot on the Kiev market?
A: I would say that everything that is new and works well in the West is popular. Trends follow close behind Europe and the U.S., and the urban young people in the big cities are eager adapters.
Q: What advice would you offer a foreigner who wants to establish a business in Kiev?
A: Hire a good chief accountant early, and you will stay out of a lot of trouble with the authorities that way. Grow your own staff, and give your company one to two years to get established.
Q: What attracts foreign investors to Kiev?
A: Kiev has a large population, and young, early adapters are growing both in number and income. This is a place where you can try out an idea at a less expensive price tag than in Moscow. If it works, you can then move to the Russian market. The local labor is unspoiled and really appreciates working for a foreign employer.
— Katja Lindblom
Chernobyl is, of course, not part of Kiev, but it lies within the Kiev region about 130 kilometers north of the city. Nowadays, there are various companies offering guided bus tours to the site of the world’s biggest nuclear disaster in 1986. A typical trip will include lunch at the nuclear power plant, which employs 2,500 people, and a chance to explore Pripyat, a ghost town from which 50,000 people were abruptly evacuated in late April 1986. Since there are many individual agencies dealing with Chernobyl tours, make sure that you choose a serious one like Tour 2 Chernobyl (tour2chernobyl.com), which charges about $175 per person for an eight-hour tour. Visiting the Chernobyl zone requires special permission, so it’s recommended to make all preparations well in advance. It is not dangerous to travel to Chernobyl as long as you follow the rules, including putting on special clothes and not wandering off into the forest, which is highly radioactive. Radiation levels within the 30-kilometer exclusion zone are higher than normal but not hazardous for short visits.
If Chernobyl interests you but you lack the time or desire to enter the exclusion zone, check out the Chernobyl Museum (1 Pereulok Khorevoi; +380-44-417-54-22; chornobylmuseum.kiev.ua) in Kiev. It’s situated near the Kontraktova Ploshcha metro station and is easily spotted by the cleaning and sanitation vehicles used at the time of the disaster that are parked out front.
Dante Park (16 Ul. Parkovaya; +380-44-221-4433; dante-park.com) is a place for those who would like to combine a light dinner with a full all-nighter, including an extensive drink list, without having to change locations. It’s one of Kiev’s hottest nightclubs for sports stars as well as actors and fashion designers.
Art Club 44 (44b Khreshchatyk; +380-44-279-41-37; club44.com.ua) may at first be tricky to find. The entrance is located in an alleyway far up on the Khreshchatyk. When you find it, don’t be afraid of the road barrier and policemen guarding the alley — they’re only there to stop drivers from parking their cars there. Art Club 44 is perfect for a relatively relaxed night out.
Kiev has a number of theaters and operas, but the most famous is the National Opera of Ukraine (50 Vladimirskaya Ul.; +380-44-279-11-69; opera.com.ua). Other favorites are the National Theater of Russian Drama (5 Ul. Bogdana Khmelnitskogo; +380-44-234-42-23) and the Ivan Franko National Academic Drama Theater (3 Ploshcha Ivana Franka; +380-44-279-59-21). Call or check their playbills for the current repertoire.
The Ukrainian National Circus (2 Ploshcha Peremogi; reception: +380-44-236-39-39, ticket office: +380-44-486-39-27; circus.kiev.ua) is worth a visit even if you don’t have children with you. The skilled acrobats, jugglers and horseback artists present an unforgettable show.
Where to eat
Ikra (67 Ul. Olesya Gonchara; +380-67-300-88-11; ikra.restoran.ua) has the reputation of being the first and best seafood restaurant in Kiev. The menu is dominated by fish and seafood dishes, but there is also a wide selection of Mediterranean foods, soups, meat and poultry at reasonable prices. Main dishes cost 200-600 hryvnia ($25-$75). Ikra, the Russian word for “caviar,” is one of Kiev’s hot spots for politicians, businesspeople and various celebrities, which is why it is also nicknamed the “restaurant for successful people.”
The Terracotta Restaurant (5-7/29 Bulvar T. Shevchenka, Pushkinska, +380-44-244-1212; premier-palace.com/en/restaurants-and-bars/terracotta-restaurant) is one of the most sophisticated restaurants in Kiev and frequently visited by the city elite. With that in mind, the dress code is strict. Leave the casual walking-wear in your hotel room, and you will be greeted with courtesy. Despite the luxury, you don’t have to be afraid of emptying your wallet. With main courses ranging from 100-400 hryvnia ($13-$50), you can indulge in the delights of Mediterranean cuisine.
Q: In a world of online music, why do you release vinyl records?
A: Enough people still remain who prefer to have a real copy, to own a piece of art, rather than just download files. Yes, the world has changed a lot, but not completely. In my mind, it’s a mistake for labels to quit releasing physical media and completely embrace digital downloads, and vice versa, to stick only with CDs, vinyl or even cassette tapes. We have to work with both audiences, those who prefer to receive music quickly and don’t care about covers and design, and those who like to experience something more than just music. We should respect both choices and let people choose their preferred format.
Labels should remember that their main aim is to promote music, not some chemical production elements like plastic, magnet tapes or polyvinyl chloride. The slogan “Save vinyl” sounds really stupid to me, just like “Save the iPod.”
Q: What made you want to start a record label?
A: I started Kvitnu when I realized that I wanted to get involved in art and music as an artist, publisher and promoter.
Q: Do you think it’s easier to run a record label in Ukraine than anywhere else in Europe?
A: I don’t know. Sometimes I think that if Kvitnu were based somewhere in Germany or Britain, we would develop faster, but I can’t be sure. The country where you work matters, of course, but it is not the main factor.
— Katja Lindblom
Domashnyaya Kukhnya (16-22 Ul. Bogdana Khmelnitskogo; 31 Prospekt Pobedy; 8-14 Ul. Turgenevskaya), is one of the many Ukrainian fast-food restaurants that have sprung up over the last decade. But don’t be intimidated by the words “fast food.” The name, Domashnyaya Kukhnya, means “home cooking” and the three locations, spread throughout the city, offer more than 70 traditional and healthy Ukrainian dishes at affordable prices. If you are in the middle of a day excursion, this is the right place to stop and recharge.
Where to stay
InterContinental Hotel Kiev (2a Ul. Velyka Zhitomyrska; +380-44-219-1919; intercontinental-kiev.com) is a five-star hotel located in the center of the old town, comfortably close to everything and offering a view of St. Michael’s Cathedral and downtown Kiev. Prices start at $300 per night, but it’s well worth it. Guests who have stayed here will immediately remember the exquisite breakfast buffet and how the staff happily saw to their needs. This hotel has accommodated politicians and international celebrities like Dmitry Medvedev, Hillary Clinton, Pamela Anderson and Sting.
Hyatt Regency Kiev (5 Ul. Alla Tarasova; +380-44-581-1234; kiev.regency.hyatt.com) is another five-star hotel positioned in the heart of Kiev and offers 234 rooms, including 25 suites. Guests especially tend to appreciate the spa area and swimming facilities. Prices start at $300 per night. Previous guests include George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Paul McCartney.
Bakkara Art-Hotel (1 Venetsiansky Ostrov; +380-44-369-32-32; bakkara-hotel.com.ua) has comfortable rooms for those who are not interested in paying a lot. Prices start at $99. The hotel isn’t situated on the island itself but actually stands in the Dnieper, shaped like a large boat tied to the island, with a bridge leading to the entrance. It faces the left bank of Kiev and offers a beautiful view of the city and the enormous Motherland monument.
A safe bet is always history. Kiev residents are refreshingly aware of their history and that of the city, and even young children can tell you all that you want to know about a building or monument that you’re looking at. When hanging out at a bar or pub and feeling like blending in with the locals, another good icebreaker is business. However strange that might sound, the hard-working Kievans love talking about business in general as well as their own.
How to get there
Regular flights are offered from all three of Moscow’s airports to Boryspil Airport (+380-44-393-43-71; kbp.aero) or Zhulyany Kiev International Airport (+380-44-339-29-33; airport.kiev.ua). The flight takes 90 minutes and round-trip tickets start at $150. Many hotels offer shuttle service from the airport, but there are also taxis, airport buses (at Boryspil), and marshrutki and trolleybuses (at Zhulyany). The transfer time to and from the city is normally 30-40 minutes. The prices for public transportation are negligible, less than $1.
The 756-kilometer trip by train from Moscow to the Kiev Railway Station (ukrainetraintickets.com) takes about 13 1/2 hours. First-class tickets cost about $320 and second-class tickets cost $100 round-trip.