Impressions from Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine

Dnipropetrovsk.  Or is it Dnepropetrovsk?  The locals spell it the latter.  But in light of recent events, I feel ever-so-compelled to spell it with an ‘i’ and not an ‘e’.  Having to give actual thought to something so seemingly petty really spotlights what has occurred in eastern Ukraine (okay, all of Ukraine) over the past few years.

(FYI:  Since writing this, the city’s name has officially been changed to “Dnipro”… just after it took me years to learn how to say Dnipropetrovsk.  Hm.)

Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine promenade sign

<Looks like we are on the same page with spelling.  Whew.>

Truth is, I’ve had a desire to go to Dnipropetrovsk for years.  Well over a decade, I do know that.  Kyiv, Lviv, Odessa, Kharkiv, Donetsk.  I wanted to visit them all, but nothing quite stood out on a map to me the way Dnipropetrovsk did.

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Dnipropetrovsk:  Closed by the KGB in 1959 and only reopened for visitors in the 1990s.  Ukraine’s third largest city was famed as being one of the Soviet’s closed cities as it safeguarded the city’s renowned industry- its missile factory, Yuzhmash.  Yuzhmash creates missiles, rockets, satellites, and even agricultural equipment these days.  But its notoriety came from those missiles and rockets designed during Soviet times… missiles and rockets often manufactured with the possibility of hitting one of two destinations.  The first destination being space and the second destination being my home country, the United States.  Fortunately, the Cold War dissolved and now the United States is one of Yuzhmash’s customers.  And the city of Dnipropetrovsk has opened itself to visitors.

Rocket Park in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine

<Rocket Park>

Abandoned Hotel Parus and Poplavok Restaurant in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine

<Abandoned Hotel Parus and Poplavok Restaurant on the promenade>

But just because a closed city opens to visitors doesn’t mean that it receives them.

Dnipropetrovsk is one of the most undiscovered cities I have ever stepped foot in.  I went with very little expectations but for once, I did my research.  What little research existed.  If you don’t believe me, try researching the city and you’ll come up with information about their football team, FC Dnipro (which is relatively known across Europe as they have previously played in the Champions League), or you’ll find horrendously disturbing summarizations regarding the Dnipropetrovsk Maniacs.  Ultimately, what I have realized is that so many travelers forego cities like Dnipropetrovsk.  In this part of Europe, with Russia to the east, travelers tend to go ‘west’ when they travel to Eastern Europe.  I know this makes no sense, but the pattern is there.  Lviv is a prime example.  Brest or Grodno in Belarus are other examples.  Riga, Latvia is another.  Some of my coolest travel experiences have been to Dnipropetrovsk, Vitebsk (Belarus), and Daugavpils (Latvia), all of which sit slightly closer to the Russian border than the border with other parts of Europe.  These cities are often cooler than thought, but more importantly, they offer a new perspective.  They are aberrant and very little information is out there, giving the traveler the opportunity to spread the word and create an opinion all his or her own.  Countries in Eastern Europe have so many layers to them that it is imperative to visit different regions and parts of each to uncover those layers.  You don’t get to see all layers by only traveling in the west.  You also don’t get to see all layers by solely traveling in the east.  Don’t tell my you ‘did’ Ukraine but you’ve only seen Lviv and Kyiv.  To understand a country is to visit the parts that interest you and the parts that don’t.  Please don’t tell me you understand the United States if you’ve never been to Detroit, Cleveland, or Pittsburgh.  Ukrainians will tell you the same about their vast land.

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Nevertheless, Dnipropetrovsk was an utter surprise of a city.

The city is actually the fastest-shrinking city in the world by population and its population is decreasing at an astonishing -17%.  The amount of abandoned buildings in this city is unparalleled to nearly any place I’ve ever visited (aside from Abkhazia).  There is even a VKontakte group in Dnipropetrovsk dedicated to visiting the many abandoned and derelict buildings of the city.  And even more shocking is that the group has nearly 2,000 members and urban exploration enthusiasts.

Urban exploration in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine
Urban exploration at an abandoned hospital in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine

<L: maybe the Ukrainian Michael Myers?  R:  The abandoned Red Cross Hospital in Dnipro.>

But to recap this city- WOW.  Just wow.

I’ve never been anywhere like Dnipropetrovsk.  And I mean that.  The city is filled with life, a burgeoning sense of creativity, and hope on the horizon.  Locals may not be keen to stick around for economic reasons at the moment, but there is no reason that this city doesn’t receive its fair share of travelers.

Impressions from Dnipro, Ukraine #travel #europe #lp Click To Tweet

I spent a portion of my time in Dnipro touring abandoned buildings.  I spent another part of my time at craft beer pubs and specialty coffee shops.  I chilled on the promenade (which is Europe’s largest) with a beer in hand and watching locals frolic in the sun and unusually warm temperatures.  I also chilled in parks and watched dogs swimming in the ponds while I devoured the massive cotton candy I purchased from a vendor on Women’s Day.

Promenade street art in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine

Beer bank in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine- best craft beer shop in city

<officially the best craft beer shop I’ve ever been into: Beer Bank>

Dog in the park in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine

<when I say I’m ‘people watching’, I am usually actually ‘dog watching’>

Across the Dneipr in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine

Flat white at Tri Bobra in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine
Tri Bobra coffee in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine

<Best coffee in Dnipro is definitely found at Tri Bobra>

Lada in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine

The old circus building in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine

<The old and abandoned circus building in Dnipropetrovsk>

The new and still in use circus building in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine

<The new and not abandoned circus building in Dnipropetrovsk>

Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine

Promenade sights in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine
Promenade sights in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine

Soviet architecture in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine

<Beauties like this are what happened when the Soviets got their hands on construction projects>

Black and white Soviet architecture in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine

<In close proximity to the new circus>

Early mornings on the promenade in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine

I say this often and don’t follow through, but I will have a lot to say on here about Dnipropetrovsk in the future and I fully intend to write about it, unlike some other places.  And I can’t wait to share stories and photos from my time there.  I highly encourage anyone visiting Ukraine to make a stop to the city.  Daily flights leave Kyiv for as low as $34 one way.  Trains are even cheaper.  But I can assure you that the perspective you will gain from visiting a city that remained closed for so long is invaluable and will leave you with some pretty remarkable memories.

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My impressions from Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine justify that it is necessary to explore a country's east alongside its west. Such a cool city!!

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Megan is a digital marketing strategist and world traveler based in Frankfurt, Germany but hailing from Richmond, Virginia. She has traveled to over 85 countries and 45 US states and has a special love for the Nordics and Eastern Europe. Her passions are animals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ohio State football, craft beer, coffee, and copious amounts of concrete. She is also an advocate for removing dill from all dishes globally.
46 Comments
  • Nick
    Posted at 17:24h, 12 April Reply

    I was so excited to read what you had to say about Dnipro, and this didn’t disappoint. Cities like it are becoming few and far between – I myself am guilty of traveling the more “Western” path in the Baltics/Former Soviet States and sticking to the better trodden places (like Riga and Tallinn, for example).

    A very interesting read by a man traversing the EU border from north to south is “The Fault Line” – by an Italian author (Paulo Rumiz), written before things erupted in the Ukraine. I think you’d love it – especially as you write about the more “eastern” parts of Eastern Europe.

    • Megan
      Posted at 08:09h, 13 April Reply

      cities like dnipro definitely can be a surprise! i think they exist ubiquitously in the post-USSR but not in many other places. im keen to get to russia and check out more than just moscow (which is the only city i have been in there!) they have so many sizable cities like dnipro worth checking out. when i am planning a trip east i tend to visit the main cities and then pick one obscure one that i cant find much on. i always find that this cities surprises me in some way. dnipro was no exception!

      i will have to check out that book!!! ive always had an interest in the eastern part of these countries (or the russian border area) because they are so damn different than the west. and in some ways, it reminds me of the diversity of the US. where im from in VA is so different than where youre from in WA :) and it is really cool i think.

  • Stephanie
    Posted at 18:38h, 12 April Reply

    This was a great read! My husband wants to visit Chernobyl… Maybe I’ll agree if we can hit Dnipro too. I. Hope you share details about lodging and more importantly food!

    • Megan
      Posted at 08:10h, 13 April Reply

      i definitely will in the future!

      i visited chernobyl whilst in ukraine, too. i probably wont write about it ever, but if you have any questions when the time comes, feel free to shoot me a message :)

  • Jordan
    Posted at 18:39h, 12 April Reply

    This is so incredibly cool! Thanks for writing this post…now I’m super interested in this city :)

    • Megan
      Posted at 08:11h, 13 April Reply

      if youre spending any amount of time in ukraine, i definitely recommend it at as a unique place to visit. it is not really like anywhere else ive ever been. i love traveling to places like this for a new perspective :)

  • Katherine
    Posted at 19:22h, 12 April Reply

    Cool post, Megan! I regret not visiting Dnipropetrovsk. It always seemed so far away by train, but I think we were just being lazy ;) Hope to get there someday. I’ll settle for reading your impressions of the city in the meantime!

    • Megan
      Posted at 08:12h, 13 April Reply

      thanks katherine! i def recommend it to you if you make it back out to that area. maybe one day we can meet up and exchange stories (because im dying to know everything about yakutsk and kharkiv!)

  • Phoebe Escott-Kenny
    Posted at 20:00h, 12 April Reply

    Megan I had no idea that the Ukraine had such creative cities like this. I loved the photos with street art, craft beer and that cafe looks quite good too! I am thinking of visiting Lviv in June but perhaps I need to give this place a go first?

    • Megan
      Posted at 08:16h, 13 April Reply

      thanks phoebe! there are so many places worth visiting in ukraine- dnipro is just one of them! i havent been to lviv, strangely, but have been keen to get there in recent times due to an exploding cafe and craft beer scene. there is an american who opened a craft brewery there in the last year or so and it has opened doors for others to do the same with confidence. it is awesome- had some of their beers in kyiv. anyways, i think lviv is a good starting point for ukraine and if you can get to kyiv, it is cool too! the country is massive so visiting more than one or two cities in varying regions on a trip is really difficult. my friend, kami, has explored the west well and has written about cities in the region here: http://www.mywanderlust.pl/category/ukraine/ worth checking out if you are going to lviv and looking for another place to visit closeby :)

  • Mark Bennetts
    Posted at 09:50h, 13 April Reply

    Look like a very interesting place to visit. I’m guilty of so far only having been to Kiev and Lviv in Ukraine but enjoyed both a great deal and are intending to return this summer. I like the look of Dnipropetrovsk. It also looks like nearby Zaporizhzhya is also worth a visit? One point however, is this region of Ukraine considered safe to travel through? Thanks for putting the city on my radar.

    • Megan
      Posted at 10:13h, 13 April Reply

      hey mark! yes, dnipro is definitely safe to visit! obviously i wouldn’t head more east towards donetsk from here but the entire oblast of dnipropetrovsk seemed very safe to me. while im sure there is a divide amongst generations in dnipro regarding being pro-ukraine or not, it seemed to me that most people were seeking a better life in the city and they wanted to do that as a ukrainian in the country of ukraine, not russia. it was really insightful to visit the place!

      i still have yet to hit lviv but hopefully later this year i can get over there. i constantly find cheap tickets there from frankfurt, but just never hit that ‘purchase’ button!

      as for Zaporizhia- im definitely keen to visit the city! it looked so close on a map from dnipro but you know how ukraine is… haha! it wasnt as feasible for a day trip as i had hoped and i had to be in chisinau for a flight out days later. i think they just tore down their lenin statue last month.

      i hope you get to head out this way sometime! i cant wait to get back there!

      • Mark Bennetts
        Posted at 20:51h, 13 April Reply

        Thanks Megan. Sounds good on the safety front. We apply for our Belarus visa in London tomorrow morning so assuming that goes well we will start planning our Ukraine itinerary and take it from there.

        • Megan
          Posted at 22:52h, 13 April Reply

          super exciting! if you need any belarus tips- please let me know! ive been twice and it may be one of my favorite countries in europe. the people are surprisingly so hospitable and open to chatting (despite limited english skills much of the time) and i made loads of friends both times there. i think you’ll like the place! do you know where exactly you’re looking to go?

          • Mark Bennetts
            Posted at 20:35h, 14 April

            It all went well today, the staff at the embassy in London were very pleasant and we pick up our visas next Thursday! We had to book all of our accommodation and sort our route to get the visa. We are crossing from Druskininkai in Lithuania (we want to see Grutas Park) to Hrodna, then up to Minsk in time for the Victory Day parade on 9th May and then down to Brest and away to Poland. We are waiting to see how long we get on the visa, if we get longer than the 10 days I reckon we will be given then we will also head up to Vitsebsk as well.

            I have read your posts about Belarus plus thanks for the offer of advice. I’ll get more into my research now and if I have any I will certainly be in touch.

          • Megan
            Posted at 09:29h, 19 April

            ok so freaking cool. i can not wait to read everything you have to say about the place. im so envious!!!! have a blast!

  • ed
    Posted at 10:54h, 13 April Reply

    Great post! pronouncing the city is harder than spelling it! would love to go their and watch a football match at some point too.

    • Megan
      Posted at 10:57h, 13 April Reply

      agreed!!! maybe next time :P

  • Céline
    Posted at 16:29h, 13 April Reply

    Amazing travel tipps and post as always. I always wonder how you come up with going to such diverse places and do you plan ahead of time what to do there? There aren’t many guides to this place (can’t spell or pronounce it lol).

    • Megan
      Posted at 17:51h, 13 April Reply

      lots and lots and lots of attempts at research! surprisingly, my research on this trip was pretty good as i usually don’t do any at all! it also required a lot of emailing random people in dnipro and asking questions haha! :):)

  • Laura
    Posted at 22:50h, 13 April Reply

    Thanks for sharing. Dnipro looks fascinating and I’m glad you found some good craft beer! I’d love to visit more former Soviet countries – I’ve only been to Russia (St Petersburg) so far.

    • Megan
      Posted at 22:53h, 13 April Reply

      well you have been to once place im vying to get to soon!!! im just tired of visas at this point or id fly there tomorrow (visas= my life is a visa living abroad haha). i definitely think dnipro is quite the surprise and highly recommend if you get a chance to check it out :) thanks for your comment!

      • Laura
        Posted at 09:47h, 14 April Reply

        It’s definitely worth the visa hassle to visit St Petersburg, but it is a hassle. It might be easier from Germany (read: more organised), but I had to get mine from the embassy in Brussels when I lived there, and it involved two trips, writing our name on two confusing lists of paper pinned to a door, dealing with queue jumping Belgians, and waiting in the rain for a couple of hours. Totally worth it though, such an interesting city.

        • Megan
          Posted at 09:30h, 19 April Reply

          i just cant wait to check out the ornate and extravagant architecture of St. P. i just need to do it soon and get it over with! ughhh.

  • Shing
    Posted at 18:33h, 21 April Reply

    I love that you fly the flag for lesser known cities in Eastern Europe! The architecture of this city is, for want of a better word, WOW. I find brutalist architecture fascinating so I’ve had my eye on Belgrade for a while but I think Dnipropetrovsk has taken top spot now!

    Also, I couldn’t agree more with this statement: “To understand a country is to visit the parts that interest you and the parts that don’t”.

    • Megan
      Posted at 13:52h, 15 June Reply

      girl this architecture is so obscure and haunting that it needs to be visited before it no longer exists. the people are absolutely great too :)

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  • Mike G
    Posted at 03:37h, 27 September Reply

    Enjoyed your article Megan and reading subsequent replies. I just had a spell in Krakow/.Poland and then on to Lviv/Ukraine via Przemsyil …..Lviv is definitely worth a visit……A truly wonderful place and very lively in summer months with many street performers around Rynok Square. .Visit the wonderful churches. Good cheap beer and good food. Enjoy day trips to small towns like Zhovkva (bus 151 from behind Opera House) and check out the street markets for old telephones/cameras/military stuff etc………… In 2017 I intend to visit Kiev/Dinipro and hopefully Odessa. ……Good Luck to all travellers. Ukraine has retained its culture and the people are proud of their history. A great country to visit. Mike G. Ipswich.UK.

    • Megan
      Posted at 15:44h, 18 October Reply

      Thanks so much for your message and sorry for such a delayed reply (I’ve been traveling through Ukraine and then finally moved to Kazakhstan!) So cool to hear about Lviv. I really have only heard great things about the city! I just got back from Dnipro (second time), Kiev, Zaporizhia, Chernihiv, Slavutych, and Kharkiv so expect a lot more about these cities on here soon :) Have a great week!!!

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  • John Dillani
    Posted at 13:41h, 30 November Reply

    Megan, thanks so much for the fascinating info regarding Dnipro travel. By any chance can you recommend any decent hotel there?

    • Megan
      Posted at 13:50h, 30 November Reply

      Hi John! Oh so you’re going to Dnipro!? How cool! I stayed one time there at Dvoryanskiy Hotel near the circus (little out of the way, but decent if you want to be close to the river) and the second time at Astoria on the main street of the city. I think they were around the same price. Both are super Soviet and no frills, but I felt very comfortable in them. If you want to be near sights and the main part of the city, definitely opt for Astoria. I think rooms are around $30 a night for both. Please let me know if you have any other questions :)

  • Frank
    Posted at 10:59h, 04 December Reply

    I’ve never heard of this place but we’re planning our first trip to the Ukraine this year (Lviv for a month – we’re full time slow travellers) and was curious. I don’t know if that architecture is horrendous or kind of interesting just because its so ugly…

    Nice coming across your blog, we always enjoy our time in Eastern Europe and intend on spending the first 6 months of the year in the region.

    Frank (bbqboy)

    • Megan
      Posted at 11:13h, 13 January Reply

      The architecture in Dnipro is a mixture of so ugly it is beautiful and modern. Strange, strange place, but worthy of a visit if you’re exploring Ukraine deeply!!

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  • kevin
    Posted at 02:15h, 18 January Reply

    Wonderful writing! I am an American that bought a home in Dnipro. Amazing place where there are many friendly and intelligent people. You can live good for 500 bucks a month and like a king for a grand. Many good restaurants and cafes. I am just learning about my new city. Wonderful writing Megan!

    • Megan
      Posted at 11:58h, 10 February Reply

      How freaking cool you bought a home there! I am so glad you’re enjoying the city! I went back there after this initial trip and enjoyed the city even more. Such a great place that deserves more tourism and attention than it receives. Enjoy your time there!

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  • Mark
    Posted at 16:02h, 12 March Reply

    Thanks for highlighting my adopted city! My fiance is from Dnipro and I’ve been there 3 times. You’re correct, it’s a mix of old and new and unfortunately, so many young people are leaving for Poland for better jobs. I hope someday it will become a top tourist destination in Ukraine. I love the people, the food and the architecture. Thanks again!

    • Megan Starr
      Posted at 18:16h, 27 April Reply

      That is so cool that your fiance is from there! I really hope to see more people taking the time to visit Dnipro- I have been twice now (I went back after writing this) and I just really like the place!!!

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  • REinhard Lauterbach
    Posted at 19:55h, 14 August Reply

    Beauties like this are what happened when the Soviets got their hands on construction projects

    If that was meant ironically, just check out an image of the Berlin “Kongresshalle” (surnamed “pregnant oyster” by the locals) just to find surprising architectonical similarities. And that buildung was offered West Berlin by the USA at the occasion of some exposition in the late 1950-ies.

    • Megan Starr
      Posted at 20:07h, 14 August Reply

      Haha oh I love some Soviet architecture, I just know it’s not most people’s thing (click around on my site and you’ll see what I mean!!) Thanks for sending me those buildings! I live in Germany and will definitely check them out sometime! My dad visited Berlin a lot back in the 80s and may have seen them :) Danke :)

  • Made in USSR
    Posted at 06:18h, 15 August Reply

    Found this page by accident, but could not skip it and read entirely, including the comments.
    First of all, I was born in this city and lived there until 25 years of age, Made in USSR you can say.
    I now live in the USA, for almost 17 years, but i am Soviet to the core, this just can’t be undone, well – at least in my case :)
    Second, you are doing justice to the city, thank you for that!! There is not a lot of info given in the article, but all what’s given is pretty accurate and those some pictures you snapped are good enough to get others interested in the city.
    Speaking about the city itself, this is a miniaturized copy of the whole Ukraine: brains are leaving, infrastructure is crumbling, obvious blight and stagnation.
    Yes, there are still a few places that might interest foreigners, although, merely just by the sights of it.
    But there is almost no “spirit” left in there, that was present during the city’s hour of prime – approx. between 1970 and 1990.
    The point of no return has been already passed, somewhere at the end of 90s, and it is only worsening now.
    The city was just too advanced and developed to keep afloat after suddenly collapsed empire. It was simply not needed as it is in the current 3rd world-type Ukrainian reality.
    At the height of its prime, there were 3 major Universities, 10+ lesser caliber Universities, countless colleges, gigantic plants, factories, heavy-industry facilities (i mean there were really BIG ones, employing tens of thousands of people), Scientific Institutions, modern and highly developed infrastructure,
    2 million inhabitants in the city’s agglomeration.
    Yuzhnoe design office alone (where both my parents worked back then) employed 10.000+ people with higher education diplomas. That fact alone would be enough to make a city proud.
    As I said, this is now time already past, but still interesting for exploring enthusiasts.

  • Jacob Grekhovetsky
    Posted at 17:28h, 16 August Reply

    Great article. I love the pictures. I found you web site when I googled Dnipro because of the recent articles about the YUZHMASH factory connection with North Korea. I have to admit I have only visited Kyiv, Lviv, Volynia and the Carpathians in Ukraine. Never been east of Kyiv but after reading your web site articles I would love to spend a mere $34 for a plane ticket to Dnipro.

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