There is no better place for introduction to the ancient Kyiv than Podol. It is one of the city's oldest districts, its historical heart. Each street and each building here breathes history, uncovering the veil over Ukraine's capital's legendary past. The huge number of unique historical and architectural monuments that survived on Podol's territory and the small narrow streets that dispose to leisurely strolls make it very attractive for tourists.
Podol got such name because of its location: it stretches at the foot of the famous Kyiv hills. And much earlier, at the Kyivan Rus time, it was called Lower Town. In those times, trade and handicraft quarters, along with harbor, where foreign trade ships and travelers willing to see the marvelous city on the Dnieper bank used to arrive, were located here. Podol's rapid development began in the 17th century, and a hundred years later, annual fairs attracting crowds of people started to take place here. Soon it turned into the most densely populated area in Kyiv.
Podol's appearance significantly changed in the first half of the 19th century. In 1811, conflagration burned down all wooden buildings and the area was restored anew with new layout. New streets were laid, some important buildings, which are now monuments of architecture, were erected. At the same time, several descents to Podol were created, including the famous Andriyivsky Descent that remained the main street connecting the Lower Town to the Upper Town for a long time.
The Andriyivsky Descent with its legendary buildings, inimitable color and truly Kyivan atmosphere still remains the key sight of Podol. The adjoined Vozdvizhenskaya Street is of not inferior interest. In the first place, it is notable for being the place where the prominent writer Mikhail Bulgakov was born in the House №28. The Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, where he was baptized, stands nearby. Today, the street is adorned with a chain of motley buildings stylized as 19th century's architecture. They look especially fabulous from the top of the Zamkova Mount.
Nevertheless, it is Kontraktova Square that, the same as several centuries ago, remains Podol's center. It got its name in the late 18th century, when it became the place, where regular contract fairs took place. At such fairs the so called contracts - prototypes of the current stock-exchange deals - were concluded. The Contract House, whose strict building in classicism style is now reckoned among the most beautiful constructions on Podol, was built on the square specially for this purpose.
However, almost every building on the Kontraktova Square or near it has particular architectural and historical value. They include the Gostiny Dvor (shopping arcades), the exact copy of the ancient Virgin Pyrogoshcha Church in the Byzantine style, and the located on the opposite side of the street Kyiv Mogyla Academy. The monument to the prominent Ukrainian philosopher Grigory Skovoroda stands near it. Another notable building on the Square is the white rotunda, under the arches of which the wooden sculpture "Samson tearing the lion's mouth" is situated. A hundred years ago, there was a fountain on this place and it was said that the one who drinks from it will stay in Kyiv forever. Another interesting capital sight, located not far from the Kontraktova Square, is the Florovsky Nunnery that is considered to be the oldest one in Kyiv.
Podol's most famous thoroughfare is Sagaidachnogo Street, both sides of which are occupied by two- and three-story buildings with interesting architecture. They were built here at the turn of the 20th century instead of the ones burned down in 1811. On weekends, when it is closed for traffic, the street turns into the favourite strolling place for Kyiv's locals and guests.
Sagaidachnogo Street leads to another famous square of Podol - Poshtova Square. Its main sights are the lower station of Kyiv's funicular and the recently erected Church of the Nativity, which is popularly known as Shevchenko Church, because, in 1861, Kyiv residents parted with ashes of the great Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko in its walls.
Right behind the Poshtova Square, Riverside station is located. In the warm season, you can go on a motor ship tour along the Dnieper River from here. There is also a promenade, strolling along which you can see the Magdeburg Law pillar, built in the early 19th century to commemorate returning of self-government rights to Kyiv, and the amazing St. Nicholas Church, which stands on the concrete foundation right in the water. It is the first and the only temple in Ukraine standing in the water area.
Podol has many more sights that are very exciting to discover, walking through its ancient twisting streets.