Famous UNESCO world heritage list includes man-made masterpieces, the most valuable cultural and historical objects, as well as natural wonders.
Ukraine is proud to have seven of them:
St.Sophia Cathedral - capped with green and gold onion-shaped domes, St. Sophia was built in 1037 and is Kyiv’s oldest standing church. It was built by Prince Yaroslav the Wise, and his tomb is inside the church, although the original mosaics and frescos are the most striking feature inside the cathedral. The church is through a 76-metre-tall bell tower, which was a late-17th-century addition. The bell tower’s baby blue baroque-style exterior is more ornate than that of the cathedral and is well worth climbing up the internal stairs for a birds-eye view of the cathedral and across Kyiv.
Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra has several spelling variants, and is also known as the Monastery of the Caves – lavra is the name given to important monasteries and pechersk translates to ‘of the caves’. The historic Orthodox monastery was founded in 1051 by St Antony when a series of catacombs and cave dwellings were dug out for monastic life. The mummified bodies of St Antony and his close followers lay in the cave tombs and are one of the holiest parts of the lavra complex. Above ground, the lavra comprises several buildings, the most impressive of which is the Dormition Cathedral built a couple of decades after the caves. Given its importance as a lavra, the complex attracts pilgrims and religious tourists as well as regular ones. It is a large site consisting of the Upper Lavra and the Lower Lavra, and you should set aside around three hours for your visit.
Lviv historic centre ensemble. Lviv is awash with landmarks and buildings included in the UNESCO listing and the city’s historical landmarks number over 2,000, of which 214 are listed as national landmarks. The UNESCO listing highlights three separate areas each representing different stages in the city’s development:
Vysokyi Zamok (High Castle) and Pidzamche (the area around the castle). This is the original city centre and the oldest part of the town, dating back to the 5th century. There are several historic churches in this part of town.
Seredmistia (Middletown) developed as the city centre in the 14th century and has many well-preserved Eastern European buildings. This area is considered the Old Town and includes Market Square, the Armenian Church, the Church of Assumption, St. Andrew’s Church (Bernardine Monastery), Dominican Church, and the city’s fortifications including the Arsenal, the Turners’, and Ropemakers’ Towers. The Ensemble of St. Yuri including St. George’s Cathedral. Located on a plateau just to the southwest of the medieval city, many of the buildings in this part of the city are Baroque in style.
The Struve Geodetic Arc is a UNESCO listing shared with nine other countries. It is a chain of survey triangulations stretching from Hammerfest in Norway to the Black Sea, west of Odesa in Ukraine. The triangulation points are the result of a survey headed by astronomer Friedrich Georg Wilhelm Struve between 1816 and 1855. The results led to the first accurate measurement of a long segment of a meridian. This helped to establish the exact size and shape of the planet and marked an important step in the development of earth sciences and topographic mapping. The original arc consisted of 258 principal triangles with 265 main station points. The UNESCO listing includes 34 of the original station points. Four of these positions are in Ukraine: three of them are relatively close to one another in Khmelnytsky Oblast, and the fourth is in the Danube Delta, close to the border with Romania.
Virgin beech forests of the Carpathians. Ukraine’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site listing in the Natural category is a forest. Or more accurately, swathes of ancient beech forest that have expanded across Europe over hundreds of years. The listing encompasses 78 locations in 12 European countries, fourteen of which are in Ukraine, most of them in the south-westerly Carpathian region of Ukraine.
The Beech Forests of the Carpathians earned themselves a place on the World Heritage list because of the endurance and longevity of a species of flora. The European Beech has been spreading across Europe since the end of the Ice Age, starting from isolated regions of the Alps, Carpathians, Dinarides, Mediterranean and Pyrenees. UNESCO recognizes the beech forests because their “successful expansion across a whole continent is related to the tree’s adaptability and tolerance of different climatic, geographical and physical conditions”.
Residence of Bukovinian and Dalmatian Metropolitans, built as a residential palace for a former bishop of the Eastern Orthodox church, was awarded UNESCO status due to it being an “outstanding example of 19th-century historicist architecture”. UNESCO believes the buildings display a “masterful synergy of architectural styles” with influences from the Byzantine period onward and reflecting the Austro-Hungarian Empire policy of religious tolerance.
A university was founded on the site in 1875 and today much of the complex is occupied by Chernivtsi National University. The grand red-brick building is resplendent with turrets and towers and is Ukraine’s very own Hogwarts. It is also one of the city’s main tourist attractions. Chernivtsi could be considered one of Ukraine’s hidden gems and is worth including on an off-the-beaten-track itinerary.
Wooden churches of the Carpathian region. The collection of ancient wooden churches of the Carpathians is the third UNESCO site shared with other countries. There are eight inscribed tserkvas (churches) in Ukraine (and eight in Poland). The churches were built using horizontal wooden logs by Orthodox and Greek Catholic communities between the 16th and 19th centuries and have survived in excellent condition to this day.
The tserkvas bear testimony to a distinct building tradition rooted in Orthodox ecclesiastic design interwoven with elements of local tradition, and symbolic references to their communities’ cosmogony. The tserkvas are built on a tri-partite plan surmounted by open quadrilateral or octagonal domes and cupolas. Integral to tserkvas are iconostasis screens, interior polychrome decorations, and other historic furnishings. Important elements of some tserkvas include wooden bell towers, churchyards, gatehouses and graveyards.