Kyiv Historic Area – Podil
Podil is a historic area of Kyiv. The name “Podil” means something that is situated downwards. This area is located by the Dnipro River and used to be the trading and crafting center of Kyiv.
Nearly 200 years ago in Kyiv there were three main districts. It was the Old Town, Pechersk (Upper Town), and Podil (Lower Town). The Old town, on the hill, was inhabited mostly by officials and commoners, while Podil, which is located by the Dnipro river – by merchants and craftsmen. Pechersk, with the Lavra Monastery and the Old fortress was a housing for monks and military.
After obtaining its Magdeburg rights in the 15th century, in Kyiv in the main square of Podil was built a rathaus, which later became Kyiv magistrate. On the same square in the 17th century was established the famous Kyiv-Mohyla Academy – the first higher educational institution of the East Slavic peoples. Kyiv-Mohyla Academy played a huge role in the spiritual life not only of Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, but also the whole Orthodox world – Greece, Bulgaria, Moldova and other countries.
The first attempts to unite the districts were taken in 1808-1809. Kyiv architect developed a city project, that offered united the disparate areas by roads. But incidentally the Old Podil was changed not due to the architects’ plans, but due to the big fire in July 1811. During the three days, the fire destroyed the entire district and the smoke, according to the witnesses reached Kozelets (a town 76 km from Kyiv) and Nizhyn (150 km from Kyiv).
Podil was restored after the approved project of Williams Geste in 1812. The curved and narrow streets of the burnt district were replaced by the wide and straight streets, which were laid parallel to the Dnipro river.
For a long time there was a concept of reducing the role of Podil and its architectural heritage in the city’s history. In 1930s, with the Soviet occupation of Kyiv a lot of the Old Rus monuments and landmarks were demolished. Podil was considered as a suburb area, dirty and uncomfortable for living, the area that didn’t deserve any attention.
Podil retains the civil and ecclesiastical architecture of 17-19 centuries. Here co-exist ensembles of different epochs and styles – amazingly picturesque Ukrainian Baroque, Russian classicism, eclecticism, and modernism.
Andriyivsky Descent – Soul of Kyiv
Andriyivskyy Descent is a historic street connecting Kyiv’s Upper Town neighborhood and the commercial Podil area. The street, often called by tour guides as the “Montmartre of Kyiv”, is a major tourist attraction of the city. The length of descent is 720 metres and it is all constructed of laid cobblestones.
There are several historic landmarks on Andriyivsky Descent. One of them is a symbol of the street a stunninng St. Andrew’s Church. A truly wonderful legacy of world architecture and a masterpiece of Ukrainian baroque art. It was built in the 18th century on the drawings of the Italian architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli.
Nowadays, Andriyivskyy Descent is a place of museums, galleries, art workshops, antique and gift shops. The descent is one of the favorite places for recreation and walking both among the citizens of Kyiv and guests of the capital. This is where tourists can always buy Ukrainian souvenirs – figurines, pottery, embroidery, wooden caskets, and other thing made by Ukrainian artisans and craftsmen.
In recent years, Podil has become home to Kyiv bohemians, intellectuals, artists with its romantic aura of the beautiful architecture, museums, theaters and bars.
As a local and passionate tour guide in Kiev I would definitely recommend you a walk in Podil area. Typically, on a One Day Kiev Tour I include a short walk in the main square of Podil – Kontraktova Square and the area of Kiev River Port. It is impossibble to omit the Lower Town of Kyiv while showing the city to my guests.