Welcome to the Most Amazing City in Ukraine

Odesa, Ukraine has always shown more color, spunk, and irreverence than other cities in the former Soviet Union.

There's an excitement, an anything-is-possible feeling in the streets. The city has a reputation for its irreverent humor that is flaunted each April 1st with Odesa's most famous holiday, "Humorina" (Humor Day).

Odesa is referred to as the "Pearl of the Black Sea" and is the 5th largest city in Ukraine, (the largest city along the Black Sea), and the most important city of Ukraine for trade and tourism. Odesa's mild climate, warm waters, and sunlit beaches attract hundreds of thousands of people year-round. Its shady lanes, beautiful light pastel buildings, and cozy squares impart to the city a certain air of intimacy.

And the city, sunny and free,
Stands with its front to the winds,
And even wars, not to mention waves,
Have no great power to shake it.

— Ivan Riadchenko

Photo by Szymon StasikPhoto by Szymon StasikOdesa Ukraine, A kaleidoscope of colors.

Odesa is simply enchanting with its marvelous architecture. Odesa's history as a thriving enterprise has left the city with some splendid architecture from the 18th and 19th centuries and a multifaceted, irrepressible spirit. Some buildings display a carious mixture of different styles, such as distinct French architecture with a distinctly Moscovian flavor, and some are built in the Art Nouveau Style which was in vogue at the turn of the century. Its stately 19th-century classical architecture is set on orderly planned streets that are surrounded by green space, giving the city an air of elegance.

Strikingly ornate buildings of the late 19th and early 20th century are reminiscent of Right Bank Paris. Most buildings in Odesa were built with white stone consisting of calcareous materials embedded with seashells, which appear to be saturated with hot sunshine.

This gives many of the city's buildings a whitewashed appearance. The extracted limestone resulted in the formation of an entire labyrinth of underground galleries.

The first of the few planned cities in Ukraine, Odesa's central core is laid out in a grid. The first city plan designed by the engineer F. Devollan in the late 18th century was executed by the generations of Odesa architects that followed.

As early as the first half of the 19th century, the numerous landowners who had moved to Odesa attracted by the profitable grain trade started constructing their private residences. As a rule, they would build palace compounds: two-storied mansions with forecourts, wrought iron grilles, and porticos indicating the entrance. Even today, the formal halls of these palaces are strikingly opulent. The mansions of wealthy merchants and factory owners built to the designs of the best Odesa architects were concealed in the verdure of Frantsuz'ky Boulevard.

Alexander Kuprin, the prominent author, wrote of Odesa in his Autumnal Flowers:

Flashing on the left and on the right are enchanting glimpses
of Odesa millionaires' villas with extravagant openwork grilles,
decorated with dragons and coats-of-arms;
brightly lit terraces in the depth of the gardens adorned with Chinese lanterns,
a kaleidoscope of colors in the fore gardens and on the flowerbeds;
rare plants with intoxicating aromas...

Detail of Puskin statue by Sam LitvinDetail of Puskin statue by Sam LitvinCosmopolitan Odesa

Over 100 nationalities reside here, and non-Ukrainian inhabitants make up more than 45% of the regional population. The city is rife with opportunism; corruption is said to permeate official circles, and bribery is an art form.

There everything reminds of Europe:
The colors gay, The air's like syrup;
Italian heard Throughout the streets,
Where a proud Slav
Can a Spaniard meet;
Moldovian, French,
Albanians, Greeks,
Forget not sons of the Land Egypt

— "Eugene Onegin" Pushkin

"Never I say in any country so many nationalities almost opposite of manners, languages, clothes, religions, and customs on such a little territory" — Duke Richelieu wrote in a letter to Emperor Alexander the First

A Second Home

"I had not felt so much at home for a long time as I did when I "raised the hill" and stood in Odesa for the first time. It looked just like an American city….

-Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad (more on Twain's experience, click here)

Welcome to Odesa Ukraine, an enchanting and unique city. We hope that by reading this guide you learn to love Odesa as much as we have, and as you leave, you feel as Pushkin did, over 150 years ago:

I'm sad to say farewell to the sea.
Your hum at night will long be with me;
Wherever I am; in woods or steppes
I close my eyes to see your grace:
Your sparking waves,

— "To the Sea" Pushkin


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