Odesa City Center

Prymorskyi Boulevard (Приморський бульвар)

The Most famous boulevard on the Black Sea

Among the sights of Odesa, Prymorskyi Boulevard has long been deservedly popular. At any time of the year on its alleys, you can meet the inhabitants of the city, numerous sightseers, and tourists. It may be hot in the city, but on the boulevard with its sprawling Oriental plane trees and a mass of flowers, it is always cool. The proximity of the sea's light breezes also contributes to this...

Prymorskyi Boulevard (Приморський бульвар)

Prymorskyi Boulevard is a shady seaside promenade with many historic landmarks and interesting monuments. Here Odesites sit on shady benches, enjoy the sea breeze, and gaze at the panorama of the bay. The architectural ensemble of Prymorskyi Boulevard attests to the high standards of Odesa architects. Designed as the compositional pivot of the city, the Boulevard runs along the sea line.

The middle section of the Boulevard is occupied by the semi-circular square with the Monument to Duc de Richelieu in the center, although due to the war, he is currently clad in a cape of sandbags for protection.

Photo by Miguel A Lopes/EPA (Shutterstock)Photo by Miguel A Lopes/EPA (Shutterstock)

The buildings of the former stock exchange and the Vorontsov Palace terminate the Boulevard on each end to form an integral balanced whole. The architectural rhythm of Prymorskyi Boulevard, enhanced by horizontal terraces, is interrupted by the vertical line of the grandiose stairs terraces which were given the name of Potemkin, not in honor of the man, but the sailors that revolted in the ship named after the man.

History

The Boulevard is half a kilometer (500 meters) and follows the contours of the steep cliff that it is built upon. At each end is a square, on the northwestern end is the Vorontsov Palace, and on the southeastern end is the Odesa City Council. Four rows of Linden, maples, limes and horse chestnut trees (also known as Buckeye trees) line the boulevard. In the late spring, Horse chestnut trees bloom in beautiful candle-like white cones. In the autumn pedestrians collect the shiny chestnuts.

At the end of the 15th century, on the site of Prymorskyi Boulevard, a Turkish fortress, Yeni-Dunya Castle (in Turkish "New World"), stood, part of the Hadzhibej fortress won over from Turks by de Ribas. After the expulsion of the Turks, the castle was destroyed.

Officially, Odesa was founded in 1794, but just on the site of today's Prymorskyi Boulevard there were found the ruins of an ancient Greek city, you can see it under glass as you walk along, and on the site of the Vorontsovsky palace there was a fortress built by the Italians (Genoans) and then reconstructed by the Turks, so the area is full of historic sights from various periods.

Green Odesa

Odesa is an incredibly green city. There are tens of thousands of trees. One old Odesa guide from 1976 said there were 15 square meters (18 square yards) of greenery per person (whatever this might mean). But in late June and July, particularly on Rishelevskaya (Рішельєвська) the pollen from trees is so bad, even those that have never had problems with pollen before may have difficulties with breathing and eyesight.

Did you know that each street in Odesa is lined with its own species of trees?

  • Katerynynsʹka is lined with Catalpa trees and chestnuts.
  • Prymorskyi Boulevard with linden, maples, limes, and horse chestnut trees
  • Deribasovskaya Street is shaded by linden trees.
  • Shevchenko Avenue is lined with Sycamore and Japanese pagoda trees, with wild grapevines on many of the buildings.
  • Pushkinskaya is lined with hundreds of Sycamore trees, making it one of the most beautiful and shaded streets in Odesa.

(Photo by Oleksandr Brovko)(Photo by Oleksandr Brovko)

Construction

Architect F. Challe designed the boulevard in 1819, while most of the buildings were built in the early 19th century. Prymorskyi Boulevard's construction started in 1821, and work began with landscaping and the planting of trees through 1823. Since the square offered an excellent view of Odesa Bay and the waterways, gradually this territory began to be built up and improved.

Prymorskyi Boulevard is relatively small. However, in this small area, architectural ensembles of unique beauty are brought together. There are buildings, monuments, and the world-famous staircase here, which are original in their design. From the boulevard, you can see the port of Odesa and a harbor with dozens of ships under different flags.

Lighthouse and ship in Soviet timesLighthouse and ship in Soviet times

One of the best streets in the city — Vulytsia Pushkinska — somehow imperceptibly merges into the wide Dumskaya Square, which then turns into a boulevard. On the right side is the Odesa Archaeological Museum, founded in 1825. The spacious building, built by the architect Felix Gonsiorowski, contains the most valuable collections of antiquities, the richest monuments of the Northern Black Sea region. The museum has the largest numismatic collection in the country, which has more than 50,000 coins.

Odesa Navy MuseumOdesa Navy Museum

A few steps from the museum is the former building of the "English Club", built in 1842 under the supervision of George Toricelli. During the Soviet-era, there were exhibits, but nowadays the beautiful building of the Odesa Navy Museum sits idle awaiting its future life.

Where once the entire glorious history of naval navigation of our country passed before its visitors in model form — from small sailboats to ocean liners, huge tankers, and dry cargo ships, ruin came in the spring of 2005, when a fire broke out and almost all the museum's exhibits were destroyed.

(Photo by Dima Pima)(Photo by Dima Pima)

At the very entrance to the boulevard is the building of the Odesa City Council. Once the merchant exchange was located here, and then the city council. The building was built in 1829-1834 by the architect Boffo according to the project of the outstanding Italian architect Giacomo Quarenghi.

The building was built in the style of the Italian Renaissance, architectural proportions are successfully observed in it, and the main facade with many columns is colorful. The niches contain sculptural figures of the god of trade Mercury and the goddess of agriculture Ceres.

Above, next to the clock, two figures are visible, symbolizing day and night. From here, the melodic call signs of the Odesa chimes are heard hourly. On January 14, 1918, a meeting of the Deputies of the Bolshevik uprising took place in this building, at which point their power was proclaimed over Odesa.

A monument to the great poet Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin was erected right against the facade. Here, to the South, he was exiled by the tsar for free thinking. Here, in Odesa, Pushkin created chapters from Eugene Onegin and other immortal creations. In memory of the stay of the great poet in the seaside city, the Slavic Society in 1888 built a monument to him with donations from the townspeople.

The image of the poet is expressively conveyed by the sculptor Olga Polonskaya. The bust of A. S. Pushkin is mounted on a pedestal, the basis for which is a fountain depicting marvelous sea animals.

Between the city council building and the monument to A. S. Pushkin there is an old cast-iron cannon. Mounted on a wooden carriage, it is surrounded by a rectangle of natural flowers. Its story is remarkable.

(Photo by Constantine Kulikovsky - Creative Commons)(Photo by Constantine Kulikovsky - Creative Commons)

During the Crimean War, Odesa in April 1854 was subjected to a fierce bombardment by ships of the combined Anglo-French squadron, numbering twenty-eight enemy ships.

The hardest trial had to be endured by the Sixth Battery, located at the tip of the Reydovyy Mole (the strip of land leading to the Odesa Lighthouse), which was commanded by the young ensign from Nikolaev, Aleksandr Petrovich Shchegolev (Александр Петрович Щёголев). Four guns fought against 350 enemy ship guns! The battlefield was shrouded in smoke, and the groans of the wounded rushed from everywhere.

One gun went out of action, then a second one. But the daredevils continued to fight back. And not only to fight back but also to attack; three enemy ships were put out of action by well-aimed fire. Only when the entire battery was destroyed did its commander, along with the few surviving gunners, leave the combat position.

The heroism and courage of the Odesan soldiers literally shook the command of the enemy squadron, and it did not dare to attack the positions of the Odesan defenders again. A few days later, on April 14, the Anglo-French fleet left Odesa, although its ships continued to cruise along its coast.

One of the squadron's frigates, the Tiger, ran aground on April 30, 1854, near present-day Arcadia. From damage taken by the Sixth Battery's artillery, the ship sank, its crew was taken prisoner, and the gun was installed on the boulevard as a symbol of the invincibility of Odesan courage and a formidable warning to all enemies.

Public Toilet

If you need to go, on the North lower side of the City Council building is a pay toilet (facing the sea). This is reached by walking past the Crimean War Cannon and down the path to the right. The path on the left of it will take you down into the Greek Park section, a nice walk in itself.

The boulevard as depicted in that weird Soviet style (1965)The boulevard as depicted in that weird Soviet style (1965)

Starting from the monument to A. S. Pushkin, along the boulevard stretched several paths-alleys lined with Oriental plane trees, in the summer months, their lush foliage forms a shaded corridor through which the rays of the hot southern sun can hardly penetrate.

Along the way, during times of peace, there are several bars and cafes to enjoy a break or a night on the town, from the Karaoke Hall, and in summer seasons at the Dvor 12 City Cafe (12 is the address) is one of the brightest courtyards in Odesa. With red walls, orange chairs decorating the walls, a piano, a pink "halved" unicorn, Dvor 12 is an art space where creative moods are born, and after a delicious meal, all kinds of ideas will come to mind about how to make your own life more colorful.

There are several beautiful buildings on the left side of the boulevard. One of them was once the best hotel in the city Hotel Londonskaya, which was also the first hotel in Odesa, built in 1827. This hospitable city shares its most beautiful halls, comfortable rooms, and a wonderful restaurant with summer and winter halls with tourists from all over the world. If you're not up for a stay, you can for sure stop in for a meal.

Next to the hotel is the Odesa Seamen's Palace (Palace of Seafarers Naryshkin, as it was often called, during Soviet times it was called the Palace of Culture of Sailors named after A. M. Gorky). Located in the former Countess Naryshkina's palace which was built by the renowned architect Francesco Carlo Boffo in 1830, on the initiative of the landowner Shydlovsky. "Franz" Boffo was a Neoclassical architect who, between 1818 and 1861, designed more than 30 buildings in the city, including the famous Potemkin Stairs. Construction of the two-story house with basement rooms took several years.

Foreign seafarers find a comfortable stay here, in this, one of the best areas of the city. Like many other buildings on the boulevard, it belonged to the ruling elite until the Great October Revolution — the highest military officials of the district sat in it. The main feature of the building was the restrained luxury of the palace, a style that has gone out of fashion for many centuries. The ageless beauty of the space became legendary but suffered under Soviet mismanagement.

In the December days of 1917, the workers, sailors, and soldiers led by the Bolsheviks took over. At the second congress of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets of the Romanian Front, the Black Sea Fleet, and the Odesa Military District ("Rumcherod"), the envoy of Lenin, the Bolshevik Vladimir Volodarsky (real name Moisei Markovich Goldstein), spoke. Then a resolution was adopted on the transfer of all power to the Soviets. They declared the hammer and sickle would fly forever over Odesa, but wrong they were.

In December 1917, Rumcherod was located in this building, and after the establishment of Soviet power in Odesa — in January 1918 — the regional Odesa Council of People's Commissars. This event was commemorated by an inscription on a memorial plaque.

(Photo by Nadiia Ganzhyi)(Photo by Nadiia Ganzhyi)

A semi-oval building adjoins the Palace of Sailors, which before the building of the port facilities once housed the marine passenger ticket office. Previously, a hotel was located here, where many prominent figures of culture and science stayed, including Vissarion Grigoryevich Belinsky. This building and the opposite building of the same type in height and facade form a semicircular square. They were built in 1826-1831 according to the design of the architect Avraam Melnikov.

In one of them, there was a military district court, which in October 1916 sentenced the underground revolutionary Grigory Ivanovich Kotovsky to death, a sentence which was later replaced by a sentence of indefinite hard labor.

The country was going through turbulent days. Armed citizens took to the streets. The revolution freed political prisoners. Kotovsky (who now has a raion in Odesa named after him) was released and immediately joined the revolutionary struggle. In February of 1920, the Kotov cavalrymen, together with other units of the Red Army, with the support of the insurgent workers, finally liberated the city from Anton Denikin's forces and the international alliance in an orgy of violence.

(Photo by Maksym Pozniak Haraburda)(Photo by Maksym Pozniak Haraburda)

On the square, in front of the descent to the sea, in 1826 a monument was erected to one of the first mayors of Odesa — the Duke of Richelieu. It was built by the talented Ukrainian sculptor Ivan Petrovich Martos in the classical style. Locals recommend having a look at the monument from one of the nearest manholes. They even have a regular phrase for that: "Don't look at Duke from the second Luke" ('luke' люк is the Ukrainian translation of manhole). From this manhole perspective, it seems like Duke is demonstrating his penis (it's actually just the scroll in his left hand).

There is even a famous song with this lyric by the rock group Bastion (Бастион) "Прогулка по Одессе" (Walk in Odesa):

The square offers a magnificent view of the sea and the port with the Potemkin Stairs or Potemkin Steps laid out before you. You can go up or down by cable car — the funicular. Fitter people are more willing to use the wide stairs. It was built in 1837-1841, as mentioned before, by the architect Franz Boffo.

As part of the de-colonization process, the steps are now called the Prymorskyi Stairs. 192 steps are located in ten marches and are separated by wide platforms. Clever use of the size of the steps and parapets allowed the architect to achieve such a visual effect that the staircase seems to be of the same width from top to bottom, although in reality, its lower parts are almost twice as wide as the upper ones.

(Photo by Konstantin Brizhnichenko)(Photo by Konstantin Brizhnichenko)

The staircase is known not only for its successful engineering solution but also for its monumentality. Here, in 1905, tragic events took place, connected with the arrival of the insurgent revolutionary Battleship Potemkin in Odesa. In order to prevent the workers of the city from connecting with the rebellious sailors, the local authorities and the police committed a monstrous provocation — on the night of June 15-16, the port was set on fire, and then they began to shoot innocent people. The stones of the pavement and the steps of the stairs were stained with blood... as shown in the famous 1925 silent film The Battleship Potemkin which was directed by the film director Sergei Eisenstein. 

In memory of those days, the staircase was named Potemkinskaya by the people. The Potemkin events are immortalized in Odesa with a monument to the leader of the uprising, Grigory Nikntovich Vakulenchuk, a Ukrainian sailor in the Imperial Russian Navy, on Mytna Square.

Near the stairs, on Kateryna Square (which the Soviets renamed after Karl Marx) on June 27, 1965, on the day of the 60th anniversary of the uprising on the battleship, a monument to the heroic sailors was revealed, with the words "Descendants of the Potemkins" carved on the granite base. And next to it are the words of Vladimir Lenin: "The Battleship Potemkin remained an undefeated territory of the revolution." In the mid-2000s, this statue was removed to Mytna Square, and the controversial and soon to be removed statue to Catherine the Great took its place. Who knows now what will replace it?

It's nice to admire the seascape from the height of the Potemkin Stairs, especially in the evening. In the sea lanes and at the berths of the port there are dozens of ships, illuminated by a myriad of lights. In the distance, the outlines of Peresyp can be made out — the largest industrial region of Odesa, and the fishing villages of Dofinovka and Kryzhanivka.

At the bottom of the steps lies the complex of the reconstructed marine passenger station with its big hotel. Civil engineers and architects created this original project over many years, allowing those arriving in our city by the sea to bypass going up the streets adjacent to the port, instead going up the funicular to Prymorskyi Boulevard.

To the right and left are the Greek and Instanbul Parks, which after much time and work have been completed. All sections of this territory are now covered with lush vegetation and walking paths, plus children's playgrounds, and now the main entrance to the city has become even more beautiful, and even more attractive.

Prymorskyi Boulevard ends with the majestic building of the Vorontsovsky palace, which during Soviet times was the "Palace of Pioneers and Schoolchildren named after Yasha Gordienko". Nataly has many fond memories of going there for music and art classes, and even these days, it draws many youthful events…

The place of the Vorontsovsky palace may be considered the most advantageous point to protect the bay, so as far back as the 13 century there was built the Genoese fortress on the site. By the 15th century, it fell into decay but was restored by the Turks. So, by the 16th century, there was located the strong Turkish fortress, which was destroyed by the Russians in the 18th century.

In the years 1826-1828, the architect Franz Boffo erected a beautiful mansion in the style of Russian classicism on this deserted place. Now there remained no traces of either the Genoese or Turkish fortresses, and on the edge of а high bank, on the site of the former fortress walls, there was erected a portico with columns. In the evening hours, it is always crowded here — a beautiful view opens from the portico, of the panorama of the port and Odesa bay.

Initially, the governor-general Vorontsov lived in the palace. And in 1917, the first Council of Workers' Deputies of Odesa moved in. In 1936, a decision was made by the government that the palace would be transferred to the children of workers.

For Odesans of a certain age, most have had fond memories of wandering the numerous apartments of the former count's mansion, building models of ships and aircraft, studying the science of beauty in painting, choreography, music circles, and learning to be useful citizens of this wonderful city. Off to one side past the lion statues is a memorial wall dedicated to the leader of the Skryabin band Andrii Kuzmenko.

Near it is located the most interesting district of the Old Town of Odesa. In Vorontsovskaya Street are the oldest houses of the 18th-19th centuries with characteristic small yards of Odesa.

(Photo by Alan Rostovtev)(Photo by Alan Rostovtev)

It is there that the "One-Wall Building" is located, an interesting optical illusion occurs depending on where you look at it from. Over the Teshchin (mother-in-law) bridge you can cross a wide ravine, which is called the Military Descent, and come to the Shah`s palace. Unfortunately, the palace is not a museum, so it is closed to tourists. On the bridge, there is a giant heart, where you can lock your love in place…

Prymorskyi Boulevard is a favorite resting place for citizens and visitors, on its alleys, in Greek Park with its sculptures like the head-shaped fountain and children's playground, and in Istanbul park (Stambulʹsʹkyy Park) that opened in May of 2017, (a lovely gift from the municipality of the Turkish capital that cost $1.5 million to complete), hundreds of people wander the paths, rest on the grass and take photos at the picturesque grottoes.

The boulevard is especially lively during the days of festivities and national celebrations, during the winter holidays the trees are ablaze with Christmas lights and vendors sell goods and mulled wine from wooden booths.

During the summer, the sky is lit up with multi-colored fireworks in honor of significant events, and the Odesa International Film Festival shows movies with the famous steps as the seating area. Every evening, along the shady paths of the boulevard, gray-haired pensioners, mothers with children, city workers, and, of course, young people slowly walk. Joyful laughter and the occasional musician can be heard everywhere, people's faces aglow with smiles and happiness.

(Photo by Alexander)(Photo by Alexander)

Come, friends, to Prymorskyi Boulevard! Here you will be met by gentle coolness and clean sea air. Here you will have a good rest, you will be able to get acquainted with one of the most picturesque corners of the hero city of Odesa.

And as an added bonus, if you have the time, check out the old Soviet movie Приморский бульвар (Primorskiy Bulvar from 1988) to see Odesa as it was right before the fall of the USSR!

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