Ukraine’s third most populated city, Odessa is a favorite seaside destination for locals and its neighboring countries. Often called the “pearl of the Black Sea”, there are many interesting things to do in Odessa. Rich in history and culture, every traveler can find something of their taste.
Before Odessa was established as a city, it used to be an ancient Greek settlement. And its name comes from a Greek city of Odessos, which was wrongly thought to have been placed here. Russian Empire’s queen, Catherine the Great declared to set the city of Odessa in 1794.
After Moscow, Warsaw, and Saint Petersburg, Odessa used to be the fourth largest city of the Russian Empire during the 19th century. Surprisingly, the architecture of the city is not Russian. It’s the Mediterranean, influenced by Italian and French styles; while some of its buildings are constructed with the blend of various styles, including Renaissance, Art Nouveau, and Classicist.
How to get to Odessa
The city of Odessa is easily accessible by different means of transport. During our trip to Ukraine, Odessa was our third stop after Lviv. Therefore, the easiest way to get there for us was to take a night train. However, trains run during the day too.
Odessa airport, located only 7.5 km away from the city center, serves various airline companies and flies to and from many western European, CIS, Asian, and African countries, including Istanbul, Warsaw, Kiev, Vienna, Sharm El Sheikh, Tbilisi, Vilnius, Batumi, and Dubai to name just a few.
Why should you visit Odessa Ukraine?
Reasons to visit Odessa can be plenty. After Lviv, Odessa was the second most beautiful city in Ukraine we have visited. The architecture of the city is absolutely beautiful. It does look like a European city and completely erases the thought that you are in a post-Soviet country.
Much like Tbilisi, Odessa hides beautiful courtyards in its backstreets. When wandering through its streets, enter some of the gates and take a peek at the residential life of the locals.
If you are looking for less known and budget-friendly summer destination where you can soak up the sun and still do some sightseeing, Odessa is a place to be. With its beautiful sandy beaches, attractions, and bustling nightlife, you’ll definitely have a great vacation here. and enjoy the beach, sea, and some fun activities, Odessa should be on your bucket list.
Interested in other cities of Ukraine? Check out Megan Starr’s post on 18 Awesome Places to Visit in Ukraine
Things to do in Odessa
I like exploring cities on foot. I rarely take public transportation to get to the destination. And luckily all the Odessa attractions are within a walking distance from each other.
Get the local vibe
Walk on the pedestrian street Deribasivska situated at the very center of the city. Stretching almost 1 km, the street is full of cafes, various shops, and locals enjoying a nice day.
One of the cool things to do in Odessa is to explore those beautiful buildings. As I already mentioned Odessa does look like a European city with gorgeous architecture. During its existence, lots of artists used to live here getting inspiration from the city’s unique and vibrant culture. Lots of streets are named after these famous people who contributed to the city’s development of any kind.
During our stay here, I found that the Opera House and the Passage hotel and shopping center were the most stunning of them all.
Odessa’s Opera House is the second biggest venue in the world after Milan’s La Scala. However, it should be noted that it is not the first Opera house of the city. Constructed in neo-baroque style, the theater opened in 1887. Its audience hall is decorated in French rococo style. The acoustics of the venue are so well engineered, that even a whisper on the stage is heard in any part of the hall.
Odessa Passage, located at Deribasivska Street, combines a hotel and boutique shops. Built in the 19th century, several sculptures adorn both the interior and exterior of the building, making it one of the most picturesque areas of the city.
Walk down the Potemkin Steps
Potemkin Steps is another architectural masterpiece of the city. Its 192 steps lead to the Odessa port. The reason why its considered an architectural masterpiece is that its design gives an optical illusion – when looked from the top, the stairs are not visible, but when you look from the bottom, all you see are the stairs.
If walking down 192 stairs scare you, there’s a small funicular you can ride both down and up.
Relax in parks
The city does have dozens of various parks and recreational areas for you to relax and enjoy your stay here. City Garden is the oldest park in Odessa boult in 1803. Located at the Deribasivska Street it is frequently visited by many locals and tourists.
Here, you can see the summer theater of Odessa Orchestra, various sculptures, monuments, and pavilion.
Sit on the 12th Chair Monument
Dedicated to the authors of the famous novel Twelve Chairs, the monument is located in the City Garden park. Opened in 1999, it’s one of the most popular spots to take pictures at.
Find different statues and monuments
While wandering through the streets of Odessa, you’ll notice some normal and some unusual statues scattered across the city. Thus, one of the fun things to do in Odessa is to hunt down those monuments and learn more about their history.
One of them is the monument to Orange. Yes, you read it right. The fruit that apparently saved the city. Situated at Zhvanestskii boulevard, the story behind the monument is as follows: at the end of the 18th century when the Russian Emperor Paul I cut off the funding for the completion of the seaport, locals started to send him tropical fruits to St. Petersburg in winter, which obviously did change his mind in the end.
Declare your love
If you are traveling to Odessa with your loved one, there’s a place where you can put locks to commemorate your eternal love. The Mother-in-Law bridge is a narrow pedestrian construction that connects two roads in the city. The origin of the name is debatable, but it has nothing to do with declaring your love to the mother-in-law as you might think.
One of the theories of the name is connected to the fact that the bridge is not a secure piece of architecture and sways vigorously during the strong winds or if several people jump on it. Therefore, many identify this shaking to the mother-in-law’s tongue.
As the bridge is poorly built, the government continually removes the locks that weigh down the bridge and built a large, metal heart at one of its ends.
However, if you are traveling to Odessa to find love, make sure you read about Ukrainian brides to avoid various scams.
Sunbath at one of the beaches
This goes without saying that if you happen to be in Odessa during late spring and summer, take advantage and spend at least a day at one of its beaches.
Prepare for the trip
To ease your travel planning, check out all the posts about Ukraine travel. Additionally, here are some of the websites and services I use when preparing for my next adventure anywhere in the world.
– Book affordable flights on Kiwi.com, a platform that shows the best routes and flight deals to your destination. There’s a money-back guarantee if you miss the flight!
– Check iVisa to see if you need a tourist visa to visit Ukraine, how to apply online if applicable, or where’s the nearest embassy or consulate
– Find budget-friendly deals on all sorts of accommodation types on Booking and Agoda, or find a cool apartment on Airbnb and get $34 off on your first stay (my invite expires in 30 days after you sign up!
– Buy the most flexible and budget-friendly travel insurance, SafetyWing, to cover all sorts of health problems on the road
– Pack your copy of Lonely Planet’s Ukraine travel guide.
– Book in advance some of the best city walks, cultural experiences, and day tours to maximize your stay and experience here