Odessa is a large city full of some pretty amazing and unusual aspects.
There is literally something for everyone's tastes, and you can best find the soul of the city by just getting out there and exploring. Of course, if time is short, do a little internet research beforehand, or peruse the following information to get you started and inspired.
During fair weather, Deribasovskaya is THE place for the best people watching, especially if you stop at one of the numerous cafes and restaurants with outdoor seating; but after September, the wise go indoors. The City Park (Gorsad, image above) boasts dozens of craftsmen, strollers and musicians, you'll find something new every week eventwise.
Built in 1837 and site of the famous baby carriage scene in Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin, the Potemkin Steps are the best place in the city to view the bay and busy harbours. Walk along Primorskjj Boulevard and note monuments to Aleksander I, Soviet generals and a British frigate which grounded off shore during the Crimean War.
At the bottom of the steps is the city's dated 90s passenger ship terminal and convention centre, a nice place to wander around at night. At the Primorskij Boulevard's west end note the (pre-revolutionary) governor's palace, which incidentally was heavily damaged in 1854 when the British and French bombarded it. Count Vorontsov built a Grecian colonnade for his wife which overlooks the harbour and also provides a fine view of the bay, its a very popular place for lovers to catch the sunset.
Next to the palace is the Tyoschin Most, a foot bridge built over a gorge by a Communist functionary in the 1950s either so his mother-in-law could visit him more easily or so she would not have an excuse to stay overnight, depending on which version of the story you choose to believe. The bridge is a traditional sight where newlyweds have their pictures taken, and on the other side is a large heart sculpture where you can clip on a padlock with you and your beloved's name on it, if you can find a space that is!
Once home to Odessa's wealthy merchants, Frantsuskij Boulevard now is home to numerous sanatoria and fine dining establishments, but the cobblestones and acacia trees are most reminiscent of Old Odessa. The No. 5 tram runs along it, and just down the hill towards the sea is an excellent walking/cycling path that runs along the sea past various beach bars and clubs from Arcadia to Langeron.
The Catacomb Trip
More than 400 km of catacombs lie beneath Odessa. Both partisans and smugglers have used them over the years, and the part of the catacombs which resistance fighters used in 1941, are open to the public. Located some 35 km outside of town, the partisan catacomb bus leaves (as of this writing) daily from the bus kiosk across Volzhynskij street from the train station at 10 a.m., except weekends. An easier way to find the bus is to ask at the information window in the train station. The trip takes half a day and is not air-conditioned.
Privoz Farmers' Market The Odessa Privoz is one of the biggest farmers' markets in the world and rivals those in Istanbul and Mexico City. I'm there on a weekly basis, and as the saying goes, you can find anything up to and including nuclear devices at Privoz, but a better description is everything that is edible and in season in the region and from around the world, plus a whole lot more. Although lanes are devoted to construction materials, clothing and consumer goods, the Privoz is best shopped for food. Do beware of pickpockets here targeting tourists. Haggling is expected, but a lower-stress approach is to comparison shop, as most vendors post their prices with their produce. Here is a longish video (in Russian) but will give you a real feel for what's in store in this exciting marketplace;
The Beach Odessa's beach, which actually is made up of several beaches running some 20 kilometres or more, possesses a sea wall and many, many, eating and drinking establishments. During the summer, particularly the Langeron, Otrada and Delfin beaches are wall-to-wall people, but solitude seekers can find quiet by walking farther afield. The cable car ride at the Otrada beach is fun and costs 70 UAH, gliding you past the tree canopy. I recommend using it for going up, instead of down, as there's less climbing that way.
Besides sunbathing and swimming, you can rent paddle boats or rowboats, usually for by the hour. Arkadia beach is the largest and most developed beach property, having recently (in 2014) been completely made over into a modern entertainment complex, complete with an aqua park and a nightly fountain light show.
Check out the yacht club - open to the public - at the south end of Langeron beach where you can charter a boat with crew by the hour. The best technique is to approach a likely looking vessel and ask the young men how much they charge for their time. The steep hill dividing the beaches from the city is a green zone and usually closed to vehicle traffic. It is a favourite sight for picnics and cycling.
After heavy storms, due to the run off of raw sewage, the seawater is not very safe for swimming. This does not hinder thousands from diving in, of course, but avoiding the water is a wise bet, especially the children and elderly. Also, in the summer, dozens of people drown on the many beaches, most typically from being intoxicated or medically unfit, so if you are either of these, its best to swim close to shore and with a buddy, as first aid responders are few and ill equipped.
Even though it is quickly getting better thanks to EU investment, a general lack of funding combined with uneven concrete and cobblestones, can make Odessa a tough place on shoes and suspensions (actually, as in any other Ukrainian city). Bring a pair of sturdy walking shoes and fix your suspension as appropriate. Although the locals do it, walking more than 50 metres in high heels on Odessa's side walks risks a sprained ankle.
Street and sidewalk drainage is poor and pedestrians are likely to get either muddy or dusty, so watch for passing cars. The winter average temperature hovers around freezing, and minus 10 Celsius is considered a cold day. In the summer daytime temperatures can get up to 35 Celsius, and either way humidity is high. Air conditioning is rare still in many apartments and during severe winters heating may not be adequate. Like lots of the former Russian sphere, women are not equal citizens.
A woman walking alone at night in general will not be bothered. If she is, assailants are usually intoxicated, numerous and prone to violence. During late night try not to be outside alone, you hear many reports of even couples being robbed, although it is not an especially common report. Lighting can be bad, especially in apartment corridors and stairwells, which can be ink-black at midday. Use the flashlight on your mobile device - it'll also help when you pay taxi fare when the driver's dome light doesn't work.
Cannot recommend highly enough, to get Uber or the Russian owned Yandex taxi apps. You can order yourself and the rates are greate. If you don't want to do that, private cars and taxis swarm the city streets. To hail a car, stand near the road and put your hand out and a car will stop. Private cars, meaning locals who have cars and sometimes act as taxi drivers, cost significantly less than taxis. Be wary of getting in a private car with more than one person already in it. Although this is the most common way besides public transport of getting a ride, be careful and use common sense. Most drivers do not follow many traffic laws and usually do not speak English. Set the price before getting in. Sixty UAHs is the standard rate for a 5 to 10 minute trip within the inner city. For a 15 to 20 minute trip out to the suburbs ninety UAHs should be sufficient.
A bus, trolley bus and tram system exists. These tend to be crammed tight with people at peak hours, but are a cheap way to travel around Odessa. Service is slow and waits for vehicles can be long, but many buses run on an every 10-minute basis. Prices range from free (if you get off the crowded bus via the back door without paying, to 7 UAHs - the highest minibus fee in Ukraine). You pay the driver on the way out of the vehicle.
Odessa is connected to European and Asian cities via an extensive network of railways. To see the train (and other modes of transport's) timetables, visit http://www.tic.in.ua). Train travel is the least expensive way to reach just about anywhere. Trains run every day to Moscow, Budapest, Kiev, Lviv and Minsk. There are three comfort classes for long distance train travel: luxury-soft with two pullout beds for more space, coupe-soft with four beds and platskart with six beds per compartment. However, electric commuter trains, called electropotyahy or elektrychky, are usually outfitted only with hard wooden benches and no amenities. T
hey are generally very crowded, especially on weekends and in the summertime when people travel to their summer houses. For further comfort and privacy, it is recommended that you buy all the tickets for a compartment. This is an especially good idea for women traveling alone. It is always a good idea to bring your own toilet paper, soap and a supply of food and drinks. Also, to secure baggage, a simple bike lock can insure against theft and a bungee cord can be used to keep the door closed. You may want to bring a travel belt to keep valuables and money on your person.
Driving in Odessa can be a hazardous experience, but understanding the rules of the road will be helpful to visitors who are both driving and riding. If you plan to consume any alcohol, use public transport or designate a driver. Ukraine is a zero-tolerance country and punishment will be quickly levied on offenders on the off chance that you are stopped.
Do not expect the luxury of a breathalyser test. Traffic police will make the decision to charge you based only on the smell of your breath. The traffic police, are easily recognisable. They wear modern American-style police uniforms and will pull you over while driving mid-sized electric hybrid cars with flashing blue lights. The days of the police just standing on the roadside, stopping cars and collecting penalties, is over, but if you do see one, to avoid complications, it is recommended that you do stop and deal with them.
If you are stopped for a minor violation and fined a minimal amount, it is easiest to pay on the spot, but be sure to ask for a receipt. Most international driving rules apply in Odessa. However, beware that most locals fail to follow any driving laws. Officially, speed limits are set at 60 kph/37 mph in cities, 90 kph/56 mph in unpopulated areas, and 120 kph/72 mph on highways. At intersections, the vehicle on the right has the right of way. You cannot turn right on red lights.
Observe lane designations carefully, it may be necessary to turn right and make a U-turn in order to turn left. It is important to be on the lookout for tram tracks and unmarked construction, particularly at night. Be forewarned that street names are often hard to find from a car window. They are posted on buildings and spelled in Cyrillic, so it may be helpful to translate a map into Ukrainian before getting out on the road. Parking in Odessa is as difficult as in any other European city. To insure the safety of your car, park in designated areas. State-owned parking lots are located all over the city and have varying price depending on the location of the lot.
You can mail packages and letters around the world in this beautifully designed building, and pay for your utility bills, as well as change money at the currency exchange points. Russian and Ukrainian spoken. Sadovaya, 10. Tel: (+380) 48 726 65 40, Website: www.ukrposhta.com/en, Open: 09:00 - 19:00, Sun 10:00 - 15:00. Phones Long gone are the days when you'd have to buy a phone token at a newspaper kiosks to make a $4 per minute phone call with Western Europe or the states.
Nowadays, thanks to cellular technology, you can simply buy a new SIM chip from the local provides, like Life, Kyiv Star or Vodafone and call affordably and conveniently. You can get SIMs from vendors on many central street corners, or in the grocery store Tavria-V, or in electronic shops like Citrus. Public pay phones are located around the city, however finding a working one may prove a bit difficult, and you will need a prepaid phone card, of the type found in most newspaper kiosks.
Opera and Ballet Theatre
Musical Comedy Theatre
Rock concerts, comedians and touring shows appear here. Quality varies. Call ahead to find out what's playing. - Panteleymonovskaya Street 3, Odessa, Ukraine, 65012, +38 048 725 0924, +38 048 705 1111, +38 048 722 3217 — automated voice. You can also download an app of their schedule http://muzkomediya.com/en.
Russian Dramatic Theatre
Russian language, as you can imagine. Good to excellent dramas and comedies, performers and stage personnel at times perform miracles on shoestring budgets. Beware, some plays are more avante-garde than entertaining. - Grecheskaya Street 48, Odessa, Ukraine, Tel: +38 048 722 7250, +38 048 722 4504 http://www.rusteatr.odessa.ua.
Ukrainian Music and Drama Theatre
Ukrainian language. State-sponsored cultural productions. The puppet theatre is located here as well. - Pastera Street 15, Odessa, Ukraine, Tel: +38 048 723 5566, +38 048 723 8977, http://teatr.od.ua.
Philharmonic Orchestra The Philharmonic Hall, a historic monument in Odessa, was opened in 1899 and was designed by the famous Odessa architect of Italian origin Mario Bernardazzi. The hall is a fine example of turn of the century architectural character of Odessa and of the Venetian Gothic style. Conducted by American Hobart Earle, currently in his nineteenth season as Music Director and Principal Conductor.
The Odessa Philharmonic Orchestra is comparable to all but the very best European orchestras, and Earle is much more entertaining. A must-see if the orchestra is not touring abroad, so call ahead. - Bunina Street 15, Odessa, Ukraine, 65026, http://www.odessaphilharmonic.org, Tel: +38 048 724 2204 Circus Don't go unless you're taking the kids and like to watch trained animals perform, otherwise, avoid animal-based circuses altogether. - Koblevskaya (Podbelskogo) 25 Odessa, Ukraine, Tel: Ticketing +38 048 726 9090, http://circus.od.ua.
Odessa Regional History Museum
The best thing they have is Suvorov's sword. Some interesting pre-revolutionary exhibits. In this museum you learn about region, Architecture and an accomplishment of Old Odessa, the Political life of city, a cultural life of city dwellers and many other things about city. - Gavannaya St., 4, Odessa 65026, Tel: +38 048 722 8490, www.history.odessa.ua.
Odessa Museum of the Navy Ship models, and yet more ship models. The building is more interesting that what's in it (unless you love ship models, of course). - Lanzheronivs'ka St. 6, Odessa, 65000.
Odessa Art Museum
Pre-revolutionary portraiture. Some fairly impressive works, mostly by Serov. The museum is located in Pototsky's ancient palace. Here you can get acquainted with a magnificent collection of the most interesting products of painting, schedules, sculptures. Will see old Russian icons, works of great Russian portraitists, and also the Gold fund's picture gallery featuring Ayvazovsky's pictures, Costandi, Kuindgy, Vereschagin. - Sofievskaya Street 5а , Open: Mon, Wed-Fri 10:30 - 17:30, Booking phone: +38 048 723 7287 http://ofam.od.ua.
Odessa Museum of Western and Eastern Art
This is where they keep whatever was dug up before the revolution. It's not the British museum, but if you get the staff to open the secure room downstairs you can get much closer to Trojan War era artefacts than you ever thought possible. Here you will see cloths of Italian masters: Michelangelo da Karavadjo, Alessander Maniasko, Franchesko Gvardi, Bernardo Bellotto, and also expositions of Flemish and Dutch painting and many other magnificent cloths worldwide known artists.
The museum has a large collection, not all of which is on show, including works by Caravaggio, Gerard David, Jan van Scorel, Rubens, Abraham Bloemaert, Frans Hals, and others. Its storerooms became known when two works by the painter Frans Hals were discovered languishing there in 1958 by Irina Linnik, who recognised them as the lost paintings by Hals of the evangelists Luke and Matthew. These two were once part of a foursome described in 18th-century auction documents.
Odessa Archaeological Museum
The Odessa Archaeological Museum, one of the oldest in Ukraine, was founded in 1825; the current museum building was completed in 1883. Its development was promoted by the Odessa Society of antiquity and history, which had the right to carry out excavations in the Northern Black Sea Region. There are more than 160 000 exhibits: archeological finds from the northern Black Sea region, the largest collection in Ukraine of Ancient Egyptian sarcophagi, stone slabs with hieroglyphics and fragments of papyrus, Ancient Greek and Ancient Roman exhibits. The museum is also famous for its collection of coins and medals. There are over 50,000 coins in the museum treasury from Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, the Byzantine Empire, Ancient Kievan Rus and coins of the Russian Empire from the Romanov's dynasty. A few years ago the Leventis Foundation of Cyprus funded the new Greek and Cypriote gallery at the museum; because of the large number of Greeks in Odessa in the 19th century, the museum has rich collections of material from both areas. - Lanzheronovskaya Street 4, 65026, Odessa, Ukraine, http://www.archaeology.odessa.ua.
Odessa Pushkin Museum
Odessa State Literature Museum
The collections located in 24 halls of the museum utilise real historical objects to trace the history of literary Odessa. More than three hundred writers are represented to the public here. Rare editions, manuscripts, photos, albums and related objects are on view here. The exhibition is divided into six collections. - Lanzheronovskaya Street 2, Tel: +38 048 722 3370, www.museum-literature.odessa.ua, Open: 10 a.m. till 5 p.m. daily (except Mondays).
Odessa Museum of Numismatics
The Odessa Museum of Numismatics is the first Ukrainian historical whose tasks is the studying of the history of coinage and money circulation of the Ukrainian state, as well as the preservation and demonstration of major historical relics belonging to the ancient history and culture of the Northern Black Sea Region and Rus-Ukraine. - Grecheskaya Street 33, Odessa, Ukraine, www.museum.com.ua.
The Jewish Museum
The Museum of the Filiki Etairia
Museum of Partisan Glory
More then 400 km of natural sandstone catacombs are buried beneath Odessa. The part of these catacombs used by the resistance fighters in 1941 (World War II) is open to public. Down in the catacombs, the first thing that strikes you is an absolute darkness, intense humidity and profound silence. So, definitely it is not for the claustrophobic. - Odessa region, Nerubaiskoe village (35 km from Odessa), Tel: +38 048 725 2874, +38 048 725 2000, Open: 9.00-16.00, closed on Mondays.
Museum of Heroic Defence of Odessa (411th Battery)
The memorial museum on an area 16 hectares in size is an original open-air museum reflecting on the period of the "Great Patriotic War" of 1941-1945 with the developed exposition of samples of military technology and arms of the basic sorts and kinds of armed forces of the period. Entrance to Memorial features the crowning sculptural forms of concrete stelae "Katyusha" and along the alley , stretching for 500 meters, in metal structures there are installed emblems depicting the hero-cities and the hero fortress of Brest. - Dacha Kovalevskogo Street, 150, Tel: +38 048 240 1833, www.batarea411.narod.ru.
U Baby Uti Wax Museum
When approaching the astonishing Odessa Opera House, one should glance at the historical building on the left and enter to meet Catherine The Great; the founding fathers of Odessa - Josef de Ribas, Duke de Richelieu, Count Aleksandr Lanzheron; Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin and his spouse, famous natives of the city as well as its not less famous guests. The Wax Museum was established in 1998 through the efforts of A. I. Pavlovskyy, Odessite businessman and patron, and it is "inhabited" by 26 animated exhibits. Due to the skill of Saint-Petersburg's expert museum employees, the wax doubles are made to closely resemble their living alter-egos: Former city governors appear as if discussing today's city affairs; literary men Zhukovskyy, Pushkin and Gogol are having a mute dialogue about art... Musical background creates a mysterious atmosphere and a voice not only informs "who is who", but adds suitable sound-tracks to the exhibits: a printing machine is tapping - attention - Yevgeniy Petrov and Ilya Ilf are working on their famous books, 12 Chairs and The Golden Calf novels, while nearby the hoarse voice of Vladimir Vysotskyy, the poet and actor, is singing. - Richelevskaya Street 4, Odessa, Ukraine, Tel: +38 048 722 3436, www.baba-utya.com, Open: 9:00 till 21:00 daily
Holocaust Museum - Memory of Victims of Fascism
According to statistics, during the occupation from 1941 through 1944 the Nazis exterminated 272,622 Jews in Odessa and the outlying area, including 23,000 children. At the end of the war, there were just a couple hundred survivors left. This museum is dedicated to these events in Odessa. The admission is free. Being founded in 2009, it is one of the newest Odessa museums, but it seems less than grand. It is located in a courtyard of an apartment and office building in a former apartment. There are many genuine exhibits there. The most depressing one is a rope that was used to hang a very young girl. The rope was given to the museum by a man who was a lad then. He was in love with this girl… - Mala Arnautska vul. 111, Odessa, Ukraine, 65007, Tel: +38 048 722 6097
The days of state-owned stores in Odessa are long gone, having been replaced or taken over by free marketeers and international brand chains. In Odessa, you can find most anything you are looking for at the many grocery stores, department stores and supermarkets which offer a variety of domestic and imported products. When purchasing grocery products at the stores, get into the Ukrainian habit of checking their expiration dates to ensure the freshness quality of the products.
Some major malls worth visiting include City Centre, Europa mall on Deribasovskaya 19, Riviera Shopping City and Victory Gardens (if you're looking for an upscale shopping experience) and the new Gagarin Plaza mall next to the tram circle at Arkadia.
Unlike Paris and many western restaurants where you must have a reservation, lots of places in Odessa do not require reservations, except for the most in-demand hours, when it is advisable to reserve your preferred seat in advance. There are many restaurants with innovative cuisine of all stripes available, in almost every corner of the city, but keep in mind, that standards are not uniform and service depends largely on the mood of your server and cook.
There are far too many top choices now to list them all here, so please check out our restaurant category for the latest reviews. But just to mention a few joints we like, I'd recommend GluKoza, Sova Fusion Restaurant, the Steak House on Deribasovskaya Street, Cooper Burgers, The Roastery by Odessa in Arkadia, any of the Top Sandwich chain outlets for a bargain meal, Zucchini for pizza (better than Olio in terms of quality), Dacha for a unique dining experience, California Republic in Jarmarka on Deribasovskaya for the only real shot bar in town and any Sushi Wok branch for cheap sushi to eat in or take away.
Currently all the casinos in the country are out of business in the post-Maidan period, even though there is talk of bringing them back. In their place has mushroomed hundreds of "Lotto" bars, which are a suckers bet, and judging by the number of them and their patrons, lots of locals must be real suckers!
Opening a bank account in Ukraine can be a real hassle and Odessa is no exception. Be prepared to do a fine paperwork dance for a long time, especially if you hail from the good ol' US of A. But if you are persistent, and have assistance of a local language friend, you might be able to open an account. But just because you don't have your own account, doesn't mean you can't do banking. There are many local and several western banks who open their doors to foreigners.
Do note that all the Russian banks are selling off their operations and closing shop, so I'd not recommend using them. The more foreigner friendly banks would be Raiffeisen Bank and Unicredit Bank. As for local banks, most of them seem rather dodgy and I experienced a 35 EUR ATM withdrawal charge from one in 2015, so I'd avoid them if I were you, with one exception; Privatbank, Ukraine's largest bank. How large?
According to a recent news article, they are the bank of over 60% of the country. They run an honest Foreign Currency Exchange and many of their clerks speak English. I've even heard from fellow expats that you can open an account and cash your Visa travellers checks here. For the best exchange rates however, Vostok Bank has the best deals.
Crime is low in Odessa compared to Western rates, but not unheard of. Reading the news, you hear a lot of horrific and senseless crimes, but on the whole, Oddesites don't want any trouble, even if they are oftentimes troubled. Still, beware of walking alone late at night and of flashing a lot of money around like a stupid tourist, you're just asking for trouble.
I'll admit I drink from the tap, and find the water quality not bad at all. The locals though will recommend that you boil tap water for 10 minutes before drinking it, as it sometimes contains bacteria. They prefer drinking bottled water, which is easy to find in supermarkets and shops with many variations, gas, no gas, magnesium laden monstrosities and lots of flavoured varieties. Be forewarned that the water supply, especially hot, can be irregular in many private apartments, and that you can order large water delivered to your house for about 40 UAH for 30 litres.
We're a long ways in time and space from Chernobyl, so radiation levels in Odessa and most of Ukraine are considered safe and normal by the U.S. Embassy and other official bodies.
The standard electric voltage in Ukraine is 220 volts. If you bring electric appliances, make sure to take a plug adapter. For expensive equipment like computers, it is a good idea to bring a surge protector as power surges sometimes occur.
Emergency and Information Numbers
Municipal First Aid / Ambulance 103 Emergency Service (for mobile phones) 112
Rapid Emergency Response Service 1577, 077
Gas emergency 104
Free Information Service (phone directory) 109
Exact Time 121
Weather Forecast 122
Tourist Hotline 123
Regional Emergency Medical Centre +38 048 715-52-27
Emergency Surgical Dental Care +38 048 722-35-72
City Emergency Administration +38 048 748-02-29
Traffic Police +38 048 733-14-24
Tourist Information Centre +38 048 725-17-17