The Champions League Final will take place in Kiev on 26 May. It is the first time it will be held in the Ukraine and the second time it is hosted by an Eastern European country, after the 2008 final in Moscow.
Ukraine is not a touristy country and not many people know it well, so this event will give us the chance to learn a bit more about its history and discover the sights in the capital (there are quite a few!). We would like to propose a weekend break in Kiev, a city full of monuments, markets, churches, and, of course, football!
Let's go back, while we kick our ball around, to 1942, in the middle of World War II. You may have heard of “The Death Match”, a football match between German soldiers and a group of Ukrainian prisoners. Legend has it that the Ukrainians won the match, even after being threatened several times during the match and being told that they had to lose. Later on most of these Ukrainian footballers died in concentration camps because they disobeyed, according to the official version. Whether it's actually true or not (nowadays some people question the authenticity of this epic story), this match inspired the film Escape to Victory. It is a symbol of resistance in Ukraine and it even has its own monument in the city, close to the old Zenit Stadium.
Let's see what the city has to offer tourists. In the centre of Kiev, on the left bank of Dnieper River, we find the monumental area. Here you can go round visiting these Byzantine churches: Monastery of the Caves, St Andrew's Church, St Sophia's Cathedral and St Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery. Out of all these, we love St Sophia's Cathedral, a true symbol of the city. Its name comes from the aim of turning Kiev into the "New Constantinople", as it was called ten centuries ago.
The most important square is Independence Square ("Maidan" in Ukrainian). It is an important place and a symbol of Ukrainian history. The 2004 Orange Revolution and 2013 EU demonstrations, the latest ones in the country, took place here. This square leads to Khreshchatyk, Kiev's popular avenue, which you should not miss if you want to do some shopping, eat in well-known restaurants and basically just go for walk around the city's shopping area.
If you love food and you prefer to explore a bit more, be sure to visit the Besarabsky Rynok Market, which is not far from Khreshchatyk. It is said that the Ukrainians are like the Italians of Eastern Europe in terms of food, and at this bustling market you'll be able to see that it is true. Tickle your taste buds with cheeses, borscht (a deep red vegetable soup), caviar and vodka, of course.
Close to the Cathedral we find the curious People's Friendship Arch. It is a large, brightly-coloured arch that symbolises union between the peoples. This kitsch arch is situated on top of a hill and is one of the landmarks that is easy to recognise in the Kiev skyline. This spot also affords a beautiful view of the city.
And to the southwest we can see the venue where the final will take place – Kiev Olympic Stadium. It was refurbished for the 2012 European Championship and is one of the city's historic sites because it has changed its name and been refurbished several times over the past century. This amazing stadium will close the 2017-18 football season a few weeks before the World Cup starts in the neighbouring country, Russia.