The capital of Ukraine is Kyiv, which is also spelled Kiev.
Kyiv lies along the large Dnieper River in the north-central region of Ukraine. As of 2021, the city had 2.9 million residents, making Kyiv the seventh largest city by population in Europe. It is also one of the oldest Eastern European cities, having been founded in 482 AD – though there is still some debate over the exact year.
Read on to learn more about this incredible city, its unique history, and how it became the capital of Ukraine.
Where is the Capital of Ukraine Located?
Kyiv, Ukraine is located on the banks of the Dnieper River in the north-central region of the country.
Brief History of Kyiv
Archaeologists have discovered the remains of the first people to live in the area now known as Kyiv, which dates back to the late paleolithic era – also known as the Stone Age. Roman artifacts unearthed in the region also suggest that the early Slavic people traded with the Romans.
The city was founded in the year 482, according to the city’s officials. However, many scholars disagree on the year. Some evidence suggests that Kyiv became a city one or two hundred years later, in the sixth or seventh centuries.
Legend of Kyi, Shchek, and Khoryv
According to legend, there were four original founders of Kyiv: three brothers Kyi, Shchek, and Khoryv along with their sister, Lybed. The four siblings had fled enemies from the East, who’d killed their parents, and were trying to find a new place to live where they wouldn’t be killed by foreign attackers.
When they arrived at the banks of the Dnieper River, Kyi spotted rolling green hills covered with beautiful trees and flowers down the river. He saw that it would be the perfect place for his and his siblings to live in peace. So, he built a boat, and he, Shchek, Khoryv, and Lybed sailed to the new land.
Kyi’s siblings decided to name the city in honor of their brave eldest brother, who’d found the place and decided to call it home. So, they named the city Kyiv. The city’s official founding date is May of 482 AD.
In the centuries that followed, Kyiv became a center of industry and trade between the Middle East, Greece, and other northern and western European nations.
The city was pillaged by invaders from the east on several occasions, most notably in 1169 by Grand Prince Andrey Bogolyubsky of what is now modern-day Russia, who destroyed much of the city’s historic architecture and stole many prominent religious artworks.
In order to gain protection against the constant attacks by foreign enemies, Kyiv signed the Treaty of Pereyaslav in 1654 and became part of the Russian Tsardom. During this time, Kyiv became a center of Christianity, attracting pilgrims and many important religious figures.
Industrial Revolution, Post WWI and WWII, and the Modern Day
Kyiv rocketed to prominence during the industrial revolution, becoming the third most industrious city in all of Europe and the most important city to the Russian Empire. Its location along the Dnieper River was an important component in shipping goods for trade, especially grain – its chief export.
After WWI, Kyiv and Ukraine became part of the Soviet Union and would remain so until 1991 after the end of the Cold War.
On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine – a major escalation of the tensions that had been brewing between the two nations since 2014. The war is ongoing as of December 2022 with no sign of stopping, with millions displaced from their homes, tens of thousands dead, and endless destruction of civilian homes, businesses, and centers of industry.
When did Kyiv Become the Capital of Ukraine?
While the official founding date for Kyiv is late May of 482 AD, there is some debate surrounding the date. Some evidence suggests that the city was actually founded in the sixth or seventh centuries, but trying to pinpoint a precise date is near impossible.
Kyiv is believed to have been founded by four siblings – brothers Kyi, Shchek, and Khoryv and their sister Lybed – after attackers destroyed their home and they fled for a better place to live.
Why is Kyiv the Capital of Ukraine?
Kyiv’s location on the bank of the Dnieper River has helped it grow into a vital part of a trade route and center of industry. It has become a major transportation and trade hub in the past few centuries, thanks mostly in part to its location along this major river.
Best Places to Visit in Kyiv
Important note: due to the current war waged by Russia against Ukraine, tourists aren’t allowed inside the country or within the surrounding war zones. The following tourist destinations listed below are not currently available to visit but have – until recently – been popular places for Kyiv locals and tourists alike.
Well known for its art, culture, and scientific achievements, Kyiv has no shortage of interesting places to visit. The entries below are just some of the most popular tourist destinations this city has to offer.
- St. Sophia’s Cathedral – this eye-catching cathedral with its bright green and gold domed roofs was constructed in 1037 and is designated as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. Inside, you’ll find mosaics and frescoes dating back centuries.
- St. Andrew’s Cathedral – this white and turquoise church looks just like something out of a Russian fairytale, dating back to the time of Catherine the Great. It was erected in honor of St. Andrew, the city’s patron saint.
- National Opera and Ballet of Ukraine – this cultural center was built in 1867 and is a great place to catch a show of a classic opera or ballet.
- Mariyinsky Palace – constructed in the Baroque style, this building is the house for the Ukrainian president – much like how the White House is for the United States.
- The Golden Gates – this solid structure is a reconstruction of the original Golden Gates, which were destroyed during the Middle Ages.