Dear Odessa,

Just found out Katie from Katie Going Global is going to visit you for a few days and I am insanely jealous. I miss you like you wouldn’t believe. Anyway, she asked if I had any recommendations on what to see or do while she is there which inspired me to compile a list of some of my favorite things about you.

So here it is: a list of the things I love about the best city in Ukraine…

Architecture/Courtyards

One of the most charming things about Odessa is without a doubt the architecture. Just walking along the streets of the city center is a tourist attraction in itself. There’s something so elegant yet cozy about the place. Odessa started thriving as a port city in 18th and 19th Century which is when most of the buildings in the center date back to. I’d pay big money to go back in time and hang out with the rich merchants responsible for such extravagence. Too bad a lot is in disrepair…but so it goes.

And always remember to look up when you’re walking around Odessa. In winter it may be less of a problem but in spring and summer the leafy trees that line its boulevards can kind of get out of control. The trees are beautiful and they provide much needed shade when it is hot, but they often cover up some really beautiful facades.

Another unique thing about Odessa is its abundance of amazing courtyards. Одесский двор, they are famous. I had the privilege, yeah I guess you could call it that, of living in a building with one of these courtyards. It was like the Pirates of the Caribbean ride incarnate. Fabulously strange dogs and stranger people were always hanging around, it was awesome. Unfortunately the cockroach problem that plagued the place was not so I only lasted there about a month. Here’s a link to a cool article that names some of the best, most “Odessan” courtyards in the city (it’s in Russian).

Last point of interest in terms of architecture that isn’t directly in the center or mentioned much in guide books is the Moldavanka district. I lived here for a little bit, too. It was considered “outside” of Odessa and a real gangster’s paradise back in the day. Moldavanka started off as a Moldovan colony towards the end of the 18th Century. Once it turned into an official part of Odessa oblast it became known as the low-income area where factory workers and criminals lived. It’s still kind of a rough neighborhood and only people who find beauty in decrepit old houses might find it interesting, but I love it.

Deribasovskaya

Deribasovskaya is the most popular street in Odessa. It starts at Preobrazhenska, not far from Sobor which is also worth checking out.

Walking down there is a beautiful park/garden with some pretty sweet pieces of artwork floating around. This one was made by Michael Reva, a super talented and well-known artist from Odessa. Inspired by The Twelve Chairs.

There’s lots of restaurants and shops in and around this street, one of my favorite being Kompot. It’s not the cheapest café but I think it is the cutest. If you want cheap go a little further down to Puzata Hata on the top floor of the Europa shopping center.

Privoz

Privoz is Odessa’s main market and a real prime people watching spot. It’s just your average Eastern European market but an institution in Odessa. Babel even mentions it in The Odessa Tales.

I will probably get jumped for recommending you do this but you gotta check out the gopniks there. There’s usually so many hanging around Privoz. They are tough guys though, so don’t stare too long. Or take photos like an idiot.

A stroll around Premors’kyi Boulevard

I usually start on Gogol Street (House of Telamons is here) and then make my way over to Tyoshchyn Most, or Mother-in-Law Bridge. It’s one of those bridges where couples put up locks to prove how solid their relationships are. I’m curious as to what it means when a particular lock can no longer be found. A sign from God, I’d say…

On the other side of the bridge is Vorontsovs’kyi Palace.

Keep walking and you will reach (or maybe you are already on?) Premors’kyi Boulevard. I heard there is wifi along this strip but never tested it. There are great views of the port from here and about halfway down you’re going to come to Katerinskaya Street. To the left you have the infamous Potemkin Stairs and view of the Sea Terminal with creepy baby sculpture; to the right Katerinskaya Square (I might be making that name up but it’s square-ish with a huge statue of Catherine the Great in the center).

I forget what this building is but it’s at the end of the street and it’s cool.

Grand finale is the Opera House.

Chilling at the Black Sea

Finally and by far one of my favorite things about Odessa is its beaches. Summertime is primetime but if you don’t mind the cold, it’s still really nice to take a walk along the Black Sea during fall or winter. Tram 5 towards Arkadia is the only mode of public transportation that takes you down Fransus’kyi Boulevard which is the street that is parallel to the beaches. You can get off anywhere you want but for a first timer I recommend doing it at Kanatnaya Doroga. I don’t know if they are open year round but it’s there where the sketchiest cable cars you have ever seen will take you down to the beach for a few bucks. I’ve ridden them and survived but if you are worried there are also steps you can use.

There is so much more I could mention (like catacombs, probably some museums I never went to, St. Panteleimon Orthodox Church, Fransus’kyi Boulevard champagne distillery, Dacha, Arkadia, secret beaches, secret dachas, the nightlife), but I am going to leave it at this. A huge creepy baby.