Odessa is the third largest city in Ukraine. It is a warm water, port city, set on terraced hills. It was named by Catherine the Great of Russia in 1794 who believed it was the site of the ancient Greek port of Odessos. During the 19th century it was the fourth largest city in Imperial Russia. It attracted a cosmopolitan population. Pushkin wrote that “the air is filled with all Europe”. The architecture is more French and Italian than Russian. The city has a troubled history and was bombed during the Crimean War and again during World War II. It is now a popular tourist destination.
1.Odessa Opera and Ballet Theatre
© Pavel Parmenov/stock.adobe.com
fter the first opera house burnt down, the current theatre was built in 1887, in Italian Baroque style, surrounded by beautiful gardens and fountains. The maroon, gold and white interior of the auditorium was done in a late French Rococo style. The acoustics in the horseshoe-shaped hall allows a whisper from the stage to reach all of the 1636 seats. There are 24 exits to prevent a tragedy in the event of another fire. Groundwater caused severe structural problems in the 1950s. Restoration was finally completed in 2007 and the opera house was reopened. Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Caruso and Anna Pavlova are among the greats who have performed there.
Lane Tchaikovsky 1, Ukraine, 65026, Odessa, Phone: +38-04-87-80-15-09
The Odessa catacomb system is the largest in the world. There are approximately 2500 km of labyrinthine tunnels, carved into the limestone beneath the city. Sections date back to the 1600s but the network was expanded significantly in the 1800s. Later the tunnels were widened. They have provided refuge for rebel fighters, smugglers, criminals and eccentrics. In 1961, they were mapped and documented. Informal groups and clubs regularly explore the catacombs and organize search and rescue parties when necessary. Exploring the caves without a knowledgeable guide is ill advised. A section near the Museum of Partisan Glory is open to the public.
This is the main street of Odessa. It is a short, wide, cobble-stoned, pedestrian mall lined with old buildings, restaurants, cafés and shops. The street was named after the military and civil administrator, José de Ribas who built much of the old city and had a house on the street. His brother, who was co-founder of Odessa, donated land for its first park which leads off the street. There are several statues, a bandstand and a singing fountain on the grounds. Historically, the mall served as a favorite meeting place for the elite in society. On April Fools' Day the Humorina parade is held here.
This guiding company was started in 2011 by Olga, a citizen of Odessa, who studied a business degree abroad. All guides are residents of the city and have insight into Odessa's stories, secrets and legends. Themed group tours take about two hours and cover such topics as the Historic Quarter, the Catacombs, Jewish history and Famous Musicians and Writers. There are also museum tours, food tasting and pub crawls. Summer and winter schedules differ. Tours can be customized for private groups and visits to local homes can be arranged.
5.Museum of Odessa Modern Art
© Museum of Odessa Modern Art
The MoOMA was established in 2008, by businessman and patron of the arts, Vadim Morokhovsky. It is housed in the stately manor home of an Imperial doctor. The first significant collection was Mikhail Knobel's works from the second wave of Ukraine's avant-garde artists. A number of sculptures and paintings from artists of the 21st century were then added. A special place has been set aside for non-conformists and those who could not be displayed in the USSR, including the "Fence exhibition" by Valentine Khrushchev and Stanislav Sychev. Likewise the revolutionary art of the 1980s and 1990s is well represented.
Belinskogo Street, 5, Phone:+38-04-87-59-10-18
© Sergii Figurnyi/stock.adobe.com
The Potemkin Stairs were built in 1842 as the formal entrance into Odessa from the sea. Originally there were 200 steps but eight were lost when the port was expanded. They were unofficially named after the 1925 film, 'Battleship Potemkin' by Sergei Eisenstein, which made them famous. A plaque lists them as a 'treasure of European film culture'. They are used as seating for open air music concerts and film screenings. The record for the run up is 22.8 seconds. Sergei Utochkin was the first to ride his bicycle, motor bike and motor car down the steps. Snow permitting, they have been used as a skiing and snowboarding slope.
7.Odessa Nightlife Party Clubs
Odessa's position on the Black Sea makes it the entertainment capital of southern Ukraine. Kiev nightlife reigns in winter but Odessa nightclubs excel in summer. The Palladium, close to the central station, has several levels with multicolored walls and a large dance floor. It regularly hosts music concerts. The Morgan Club in the center of town has two levels and a dance floor. However dancing on the tables is encouraged. The Western Club is at the Arcadia beach. Admission is free but there is a strict dress code. The Central Bar is a jazz club with an in-house barber shop and Euro-Asian cuisine.
8.Odessa Beaches -Lanzheron
Lanzheron is the closest beach to the old town. It is a 2.5 km walk through the Shevschenko Park, with beautiful views of the harbor. The entrance is flanked by two giant white orbs and leads to a promenade with fountains. Opposite the entrance, are two five star hotels, the M1 Club and the Nemo. Attached to the Nemo Hotel is a dolphinarium. Restaurants and bars line the beachfront. Admission to the beach is free and it is very popular with locals and tourists who want to dip their feet in the Black Sea.
This Italianate complex was built on a seaside cliff in old town Odessa, in the early 19th century, for Prince Mikhail Vorontsov, the governor general of the region. Francesco Boffo was the architect of the project which comprised a palace, colonnade, stables and two lions guarding the entrance. The work so impressed the prince that he commissioned Boffo to design the Potemkin Stairs. Prior to the Russian revolution, much of the furniture and fittings were moved to other palaces. Only part of the original structure remains but restoration is ongoing. The palace is used as a creative center for children and youth.
2D, Vorontsovsky lane
10.Sophie Cafe Restaurant
© Sophie Café Restaurant
Sophie Café is located within the award-winning Frederic Koklen Boutique Hotel. The listed building is in the center of historic old town. The restaurant received the 2018 Hospitality International Award for Best Restaurant in a Hotel. The cuisine is European, with an emphasis on traditional food from the Ukraine, and Odessa, in particular. Menu items change with the seasons, according to the availability of fresh ingredients. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and evening cocktails and is open daily from 07:30 to 22:00. There is live piano music on Friday and Saturday evenings.
7 Nekrasova lane, Odessa, 65082, Ukraine, Phone +38-04-87-52-86
© Kumanets Restaurant
Kumanets has all the trappings of a tourist attraction. The vintage, rural décor is designed to feel like a homely Ukrainian farmhouse of yesteryear. The atmosphere is festive, the waitresses wear traditional costumes and the music is jovial. It is the place for family feasts and other happy occasions. The generous proportions of authentic local food will stick to your ribs. There are homemade sausages, potato pancakes and black pudding. The dumplings could come with cheese, meat, cabbage or fruit stuffings. All this can be washed down with full glasses of the local brew.
7 Gavannaya Street, Odessa, Phone: +38-04-82-37-69-46
© Aleksandrovsky Hotel
This four star business hotel is set in the historic Odessa city center, within walking distance of many of the major tourist attractions. The fully equipped conference center can host 80 people in two venues. There are 85 guest rooms ranging from standard accommodation to suites, a jacuzzi bathroom and terrace suites with views of the old city. The Cellini Restaurant is named after the sculptor of the same name and is decorated with this art form. The cuisine is national Ukrainian and general European. It is open from 11 am to 11 pm.
Ukraine, Odessa, 12 Aleksandrovskiy avenue, Phone: +38-04-87-25-61-61
© Bernardazzi restaurant
This restaurant is named after the architect of the 1899 building in which it is housed. It was built for a stockbrokers' firm, and during the Soviet era was home to the Odessa Philharmonic Orchestra. The plaque at the entrance reads' “Architectural Monument of the 19th Century'. The live music tradition continues in the inner courtyard at Bernardazzi and the décor and food are reminiscent of western Europe of that era. Since 2012, the wine list has received the Award for Excellence from the Wine Spectator magazine. There are regular Food and Wine Pairing evenings and blindfolded tastings.
Bunina Str., 15 (building "Philharmonic"), Odessa, Phone: +38-06-70-00-25-11
The Tavernetta Italian restaurant is in a quiet area, a 20 minute stroll away from the tourist hot spots. It is a popular, spacious establishment and is often full. The Siberian Pine floor-to-ceiling windows and doors fill the space with light, through to the kitchen which is on view to diners. There is outdoor seating available. Unusual for an Italian restaurant, it does not serve pizzas. Since receiving a dry cleaning bill from a guest, all diners have been issued with aprons. Tradition dictates that all waiters wear their aprons smeared with flour. There are options to purchase takeout or to have meals delivered.
Katerynyns'ka, 45, 65011 Odessa, Phone: +38-09-62-34-46-21
15.Columbus Fish Club
© Columbus Fish Club
The Columbus Fish Club is situated at the yacht club. It is a large restaurant, with seating for 400 in various dining areas. The main venue is in the form of two ancient boats and gives diners the sense of being on board a ship. Dining on the pier is ideal for romantic outings. The terrace on the second floor affords diners panoramic views of the sea and the stars. The banquet hall can be augmented by covered dining outdoors for the large festive events the restaurant is renowned for. It is the place to be seen in Odessa.
Novoberegovaya st., 90, Odessa 65016, Phone: +38-07-28-00-06
16.Ukrainian Cuisine Restaurants in Odesa
Ukraine is known as the breadbasket of Europe. Ukrainian cooking has many components and usually more than one process. Favorites dishes include Borsch, a beetroot-based soup; Varenyky, filled dumplings; Hohibtsi, stuffed cabbage leaves, and Chicken Kiev. The Ukrainian drink Uzvar is made from dried fruit. Four of Odessa's restaurants excel at Ukrainian cuisine. Dacha, surrounded by beautiful landscaped gardens, has a playground for children. Assol, in the middle of Arcadia Beach, is shaped like a three-mast frigate. Kumanets is in the center of town. It has a vintage rural atmosphere and live music on weekends. Kartoplyaniki is named after another national favorite dish made from potato pancakes.
17.Grand Prix Restaurant
© Grand Prix Restaurant
Grand Prix is a French restaurant in the center of old town Odessa, set in an elegant, historic building from the early 19th century. They serve seasonal dishes with meat, cheese and wine sourced from France and Italy. Fresh produce is sourced in local markets and bread and rolls are baked in-house daily. There are several vegan options on the menu. Veal medallions with a Dorblu sauce is the restaurant's signature dish and their profiteroles are legendary. Champagne is part of an impressive wine list and is served by the glass. Breakfast can be ordered until midday and includes omelets, croissants and smoothies.
Bunina 24, Odessa, Phone: +38-04-87-85-07-01
18.Terrace Sea View
© Terrace Sea View
The Terrace Sea View Restaurant is situated on the new promenade at the Lanzheron beach, between two five star hotels. It is a trendy new destination, attracting local and national celebrities, and is an interesting place for crowd watching. The entire structure is decorated in shades of white. The large windows roll back to create an open air space with uninterrupted views of the Black Sea. Seafood is the specialty, with sushi on the menu. Desserts and cappuccino are popular orders. The restaurant is open 7 days a week from 10 am until the last guest leaves.
Langeron Beach, 1B, 65000 Odessa, Phone: +38-09-37-77-88-86
© Savva Libkin
Savva Libkin is a restaurateur with almost three decades of experience in the industry. He is a columnist and an author who owns 8 restaurants and cafés in Odessa and Kiev. He was born and raised in Odessa and despite extensive travel always returns to his home town. One of his beliefs is that successful restaurateurs have the 'culinary experience of past generations embedded in their genes'. His ventures include an authentic Ukrainian restaurant, an Italian taverna, steakhouses, fish eateries and cafés. He has an online shop which sells his book, sauces, souvenirs and preserves.
19 Best Things to Do in Odessa, Ukraine
- Odessa Opera and Ballet Theatre, Photo: Pavel Parmenov/stock.adobe.com
- Odessa Catacombs, Photo: s1rus/stock.adobe.com
- Deribasovkaya Street, Photo: efesenko/stock.adobe.com
- Odessa Walks, Photo: maryviolet/stock.adobe.com
- Museum of Odessa Modern Art, Photo: Museum of Odessa Modern Art
- Potemkin Stairs, Photo: Sergii Figurnyi/stock.adobe.com
- Odessa Nightlife Party Clubs, Photo: MCStock/stock.adobe.com
- Odessa Beaches -Lanzheron, Photo: yriy47/stock.adobe.com
- Vorontsov Palace, Photo: Gelia/stock.adobe.com
- Sophie Cafe Restaurant, Photo: Sophie Café Restaurant
- Kumanets Restaurant, Photo: Kumanets Restaurant
- Aleksandrovsky Hotel, Photo: Aleksandrovsky Hotel
- Bernardazzi restaurant, Photo: Bernardazzi restaurant
- Tavernetta, Photo: Tavernetta
- Columbus Fish Club, Photo: Columbus Fish Club
- Ukrainian Cuisine Restaurants in Odesa, Photo: vikakurylo81/stock.adobe.com
- Grand Prix Restaurant, Photo: Grand Prix Restaurant
- Terrace Sea View, Photo: Terrace Sea View
- Savva Libkin, Photo: Savva Libkin
- Cover Photo: vladuzn/stock.adobe.com