Odessa, the third-largest city in Ukraine, is warm water, port city, set on terraced hills. Nowadays Odessa is Ukraine’s favorite holiday escape for its culture, mild climate, and beaches. Here is a list of the great things to do in Odessa that you should experience during your trip.
1. Listen to classical music at the Odessa Opera House
Locals appreciate the culture of going out and consider a visit to such a venue to be an important cultural event. Ukrainians are more than familiar with Russian musicians like Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky, so Ukraine is the perfect place to get acquainted with their masterpieces for an extremely affordable price, starting from 50 UAH (US$2). A magical atmosphere reigns inside and outside the theatre. The 19th-century building of the Odessa National Opera and Ballet Theatre is influenced by French and Italian Baroque styles.
2. Run up the Potemkin Stairs
This grand staircase is a very ceremonious way to enter Odessa from the port. Paved with granite, the stairway was ordered by Prince Vorontsov as a gift to his wife and built at the turn of the 1840s. There are 192 steps in total, over a length of 142 meters, and a difference in elevation of 27 meters.
The stairway has a few intriguing quirks: One is that it is much broader at the bottom (21.7 meters) than at the top (12.5 meters). That is intentional and was done to create a false perspective and make the stairway seem larger when you’re viewing it from below.
It is interesting that when you’re standing at the top you can see only the landings while from the bottom you can see only steps.
3. Get down to the Odessa Catacombs
The Odessa catacomb system is the largest in the world. There is approximately 2500 km of labyrinthine tunnels, carved into the limestone beneath the city. Sections date back to the 1600s but the network was expanded significantly in the 1800s. Later the tunnels were widened. They have provided refuge for rebel fighters, smugglers, criminals, and eccentrics. In 1961, they were mapped and documented. Informal groups and clubs explore the catacombs and organize search and rescue parties when necessary. It is ill-advised to explore the caves without a knowledgeable guide. A section near the Museum of Partisan Glory is open to the public.
4. Explore the cafés along Derybasivska Street
Derybasivska Street is a pedestrian street in the city center of Odessa. A busy thoroughfare, surrounded by ancient landmarks and shops, numerous bars, restaurants, and cafés. You can go there in the morning for a cup of coffee and a tasty breakfast or brunch. At midday, cafés and restaurants serve business lunches, while in the evening, Derybasivska is a perfect place for fine dining or just to take a walk and get a real feel for the city’s vibe.
This is one of the great things to do in Odessa for tourists.
5. Visit the City Garden
Odessa’s oldest park was landscaped by the brother of José de Ribas in 1803 and was initially a private property. It opens onto Deribasivska Street in a web of paved paths, iron lanterns, and flowerbeds with little iron fences. These all center on a beautiful pavilion, fountain, and the summer theatre for the Odessa Philharmonic. There are recitals most days in the summer to add even more sophistication to the place.
The City Garden is also the site of some monuments honoring Odessa’s cultural figures: The Twelve Chairs monument is a nod to the famous Russian satirical novel of the same name by the brothers Ilf and Petrov.
6. Go to the Museum of Odessa Modern Art
The MoOMA was established in 2008, by businessman and patron of the arts, Vadim Morokhovsky. It is housed in the stately manor home of an Imperial doctor. The first significant collection was Mikhail Knobel’s works from the second wave of Ukraine’s avant-garde artists. A number of sculptures and paintings from artists of the 21st century were then added. A special place has been set aside for non-conformists and those who could not be displayed in the USSR, including the “Fence exhibition” by Valentine Khrushchev and Stanislav Sychev. Likewise, the revolutionary art of the 1980s and 1990s is well represented.
7. Explore the Odessa Passage
Just off Deribasivska Street, there’s a sumptuous late-19th-century shopping passage covered with a metal and glass canopy.
The Odessa Passage is part of a sizeable development that includes a hotel on its upper three floors.
It’s all in a lavish Academic style: You’ll be met at the entrances by statues of Mercury and Fortuna, and on the first floor there are stucco moldings and rows of exuberant sculptures. It’s all a testament to the extravagance of the last years of Tsarist Russia.
The passage has boutiques, souvenir shops, and cafes to potter around, and a plaque commemorates the site of Carl Fabergé’s Odessa branch.