Travel Guide Europe Ukraine Odessa



Odessa, a port city on the Black Sea is Ukraine's fourth largest city with a population of about one million inhabitants. Built by order of Catherine the Great with the vision of creating a St Petersburg of the south, its architecture owes much to French influence. The old centre of the city is about 215 years old, built to a grid plan. It includes many tree-lined, cobbled boulevards, ornate facades and fountains. Recent restoration is returning the centre to the grandeur it once possessed, but much of the city continues to crumble away or is being demolished to make way for concrete and glass office blocks. The outskirts consist mostly of Soviet-era apartment blocks.

Washed by the waters of the Black Sea from three sides and located in the sunny south of Ukraine, Odessa is its largest seaport. The city stretches for more than 50 kilometers along the Black Sea coast. Administratively, the city is divided into eight districts. The city area is 240 square kilometres and the population is over 1,200,000. There are about 1,400 streets, alleys, lanes and boulevards with the total length of about 900 kilometres in Odessa. As a member of the World Federation of Twin Cities, Odessa has ten twin-cities, among them nine cities are seaports: Varna (Bulgaria), Genoa (Italy), Marseilles (France), Liverpool (Great Britain), Yokagama (Japan), Alexandria (Egypt).



During a city tour of Odessa, you can hear an interesting legend about the origin of the city name. There were many discussions about founding a town in the waterless steppe at the seaside. According to the legend, it was Empress Catherine the Second who put an end to all the debates by simply saying, "Assez d'eau" (read: "assedo"), which means "enough water". However, the empress was wrong. On the contrary, there was not enough water in the area. So one of the first town residents who was dying of thirst one day wanted to contradict the empress. He evidently had a good sense of humor and formed the negative of the empress' famous phrase by pronouncing it the other way round. Thus, the word Odessa" appeared. Therefore, thanks to a joke, the city got its name.

In 1834, when the resort of Odessa was only beginning to develop, I.Vitsman, a resort doctor, said, "Located on the hills, washed by the Black Sea from the south and the west, surrounded by steppes from the north and the east, where nothing prevents the free movement of air, Odessa disposes of one of the healthiest climates. Its air is dry, mild, and clean, especially in summer. It is considerably richer in oxygen than ordinary air".




The central area around Primorsky Boulevard (Maritime Boulevard) includes all the main tourist sites.



Sights and Activities

Two days is enough to sample the most picturesque parts of Odessa (and that's including a day at the beach!)

The Opera and Ballet Theatre (opened in September 2007 after 11 years of restoration) is a grand building, worth seeing inside and out. You must have a ticket to a performance to enter (tickets available at the 'kacca' inside the main door - performances 3-4 times a week including some afternoon showings; tickets are cheap and the best place to sit for a view of the interior is high up at the back or in a box at the side).

Several picturesque streets surround the Opera Theatre and walking along tree-lined Primorsky Boulevard will take you to Potiomkin Steps, immortalized in Eisenstein's classic of cinema 'The Battleship Potiomkin'. The steps lead down to the (less than picturesque) Odessa seaport (where ferries to Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria leave in the summer).

A free gondola takes you back up the steps (if you're too tired to walk). From the top of the steps you can walk west to Catherine's Square, where a restored statue to Catherine the Great and the four founders and influential personages of early Odessa now stands. City Gardens, in the centre of the city (again, newly restored) is a great place to relax. City Gardens is on Odessa's main, pedestrianised street, 'Deribasovskaya'. At the uphill end of the street, you can see the cathedral (recently rebuilt after being destroyed under Soviet occupation). The 'lower' end of Deribasovskaya leads towards the opera theatre.

Various city beaches line the shore, the closest are 20-30 minute walk from the centre but these are usually the busiest and loudest. In the summer (May-September) Arkadia Beach opens up a huge number of outdoor clubs and discos which attract revellers and big-name peformers, bands and DJs for the weekend. Visiting the famous central city beach in Arcadia, you can sunbathe and enjoy everything the beach has to offer including cafes, restaurants and casino. There are lots of cafes, among them: Tropicano ..... Mexican Village ..... Western ...... Prince .... Itaka ..... Pago ....... Atlantis Club ....... Assol tavern etc. In the evening, there is a disco at 'Kon-Tiki'. By the way, Arcadia; means God’s Gate in Ancient Greek. The ancient Greeks gave that name to a highland area in Hellas for its beautiful landscape and heavenly way of life of its inhabitants. Arcadia in Odessa has always been a resort for people living in Odessa and its visitors.

For a taste of 'real' Ukrainian life, venture to 'Privoz' the large city food market, one block West of the train station.

St.Nickolas, the patron saint of all sailors, is the patron saint of the city too. There is St. Nickolas Cathedral on the territory of the port.

Odessa is long famed as a resort area with a noted city park system. There are a lot of spas and more than 20 hotels in Odessa. Odessa with its splendid Black Sea harbor is also known as Ukraine's southern window on Europe. Ukrainian sociologists declared that Odessa was one of the best Ukrainian cities to live in, according to all life criteria.



Events and Festivals

Odessa Humor Carnival has been held there since 1973. Unlike all other cities of Ukraine, April Fool's Day is a day off in Odessa. Traditionally, the Mayor of Odessa proclaims April 1 a day off. Moreover, if it is a weekday, it is transferred to the nearest Saturday.

The holiday program starts at noon in Cathedral Square. Then April 1 Procession starts. It proceeds to: De Ribas Street - Richelieu Street - St.Panteleimon Street - Kulikovo Field. The last stop of the Procession is the place where the evening gala concert takes place. At 6 p.m., there is usually an April 1 fireworks display.




Odessa is damp, generally bleak, and cold in the winter months (November to February), with temperatures frequently below zero at night, but generally around or slightly above zero during the day. For the past few years snow has not been as heavy or as long-lasting as it used to be, but there are usually 2-3 major falls which cause havoc with the traffic. The summers are hot and humid, with temperatures in the 25-30 °C and mild nights. The best time to visit (in terms of weather) is mid-May to the end of June, or September and early October.



Getting There

By Plane

Odessa International Airport (ODS) remains a flashback to the Soviet era. Small, dirty, and with surly staff it is located 10 kilometres south of the city centre. Aerosvit Airlines serves most destinations, with flights to/from Athens, Istanbul, Kiev, Milan, Moscow, Riga, Tbilisi and Tel Aviv. Other airlines serve destinations like Yerevan, Timisoara, Prague, Batumi, Simferopol, Warsaw, Budapest, St. Petersburg, Aleppo, Varna and Vienna.
If you arrive from abroad you must complete an immigration form before presenting your passport to immigration. You must keep this immigration form with you until your departure from Ukraine! Get a taxi (70-100 uah) or take a marshrutka 117 (2 uah) to the city centre.

By Train

Odessa train station is located about 1 kilometres south of the central 'old city'. Trains arrive from Moscow and St Petersburg. Connections exist to Poland. Note: there have been no trains to Moldova for 5 years, because these used to travel through Transdnjestria.

By Bus

The main bus station with arrivals from various cities in Russia, Moldova, Belarus, Georgia and Romania is located 5 km to the South West of the city centre. Take tram #5 to the train station and navigate from there.

By Boat

In the summer months international ferries to Odessa run from Istanbul, Constanta (Romania), Poti and Batumi (Georgia) and Varna (Bulgaria). Daily or twice daily ferries also arrive from Yalta and Sebastopol in Crimea. Check UKR Ferry for information about routes, schedules and prices.

If you have your own yacht, Odessa has 3 marinas: the most convenient (and most expensive) is just beside Hotel Odessa, next to the ferry terminal at the bottom of Potemkin steps. Another marina, used by locals, is situated about 4 kilometres south, next to Otrada beach. From Otrada beach it is about a 45-minute walk to the centre of the city. If you arrive on your own be aware that it may take some time (up to a week if the man in charge is not around) to get the required departure visa issued when you decide to sail away!



Getting Around

By Car

Your own car is best avoided as Odessa drivers are notoriously bad. You can flag down any car and give them the address you wsh to reach and a price you're wiling to pay. The driver will accept, decline, or haggle. Don't get into cars with more than one driver. Taxis do not have meters. Agree a fare before you get into the taxi.

By Public Transport

Odessa transport is generally old but includes electric buses, trams, and 'marshutka' minibuses. The latter are stopped by flagging down at the side of the road. Pay when you get off - you must request your stop. Useful tram is #5: goes from the bus station to the train station and then on to Arkadia beach (and vice versa - just check which destination (Autovauxhal or Arkadia) is displayed on the tram. Marshutka 117 terminates at the airport then goes through the city centre; 195 can be caught from the main street near the cathedral and terminates at Arkadia; 175 and 185 also go from/to the train station (you must request this stop) but terminate by the cathedral in the centre.

By Foot

Central Odessa can easily be covered by foot. All areas are no more than 30 minutes walk away.

By Bike

Except for cycling down 'The Health Road' that links Odessa's beaches, cycling in Odessa is not recommended.




Recommended restaurants on Deribasovskaya: Steakhouse (look for the bright wooden cow outside); Kompot (next-door to steakhouse).




There are cafes and bars on every block in Odessa. Prices range from budget to upmarket. Between May and September Arkadia beach open a huge number of nightclubs. Get there about 11:00pm. The clubs are open until 6:00am.

Odessa sparkling wine

Odessa sparkling wine

© Vic_IV

Your impressions of your stay in this city can be complemented by drinking some sparkling wines made in Odessa such as "French Boulevard", "Odessa" and others. Odessa has long been famous for its sparkling wine that the Ukrainians call champagne. You can recognize Odessa sparkling wine by its black label. There are also new sorts of sparkling wine. 36 French Boulevard is the address of the famous Odessa winery that produces sparkling wines. A bottle of sparkling wine was a good souvenir to take home and a good memory of your stay in Odessa.

Odessa is also known for its brandy. The trademark is called "Shustov". The winery was founded in 1896 and is one of the few wineries in Ukraine.




The best budget option is to rent a room. Find someone with a sign advertising 'Kamnata' outside the train station. Be aware that the room or apartment you book may be some distance from the centre, however the rates will be far cheaper than anything in the centre but you may get food (and other Ukrainian hospitality) thrown in.

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)




Keep Connected


Internet develops quickly in Ukraine, and therefore, today it is no problem to get access to the world wide web - both wired and wireless. There are more access points in big cities, nevertheless there are also some in small settlements. The majority of Ukrainian hostels and hotels of different level have Wi-Fi points, which allow visitors to use high-speed Internet. Most Ukrainian restaurants and many cafes are equipped with internet access points, there are also Wi-Fi zones in terminals of the international airports. You may also access Internet from your cell phone, if your device supports GPRS or one of the 3G standards. All cellular carriers in Ukraine offer access to the mobile internet. Moreover, it's usually no problem to find Internet-cafe in Ukrainian cities. "Ukrtelecom" company offers Internet access as well. Its offices are easy to find in any town of Ukraine. The cost of one hour of Internet access usually doesn't exceed €1-2.


See also: International Telephone Calls

The international phone code for Ukraine is 380. The general emergency phone number is 112 and there are special ones for fire -(101), police (102), ambulance (103) and even gas leaks (104).

Although cell phones are becoming more and more popular, a lot of people still use phonecards and this might be a good and cheaper option for travellers as well. If you are here for any length of time it is worth investing in a local sim-card for your mobile. No major international mobile operators exist in Ukraine (yet) so if you have Vodaphone or T-mobile (etc) your phone may not work here. Kyivstar and MTS are the biggest Ukrainian operators.


Ukraine Poshta is the national postal service of Ukraine (website is rather slow and not always working). Unfortunately, the postal service in Ukraine is unreliable or at least inefficient and slow. Most packages get stolen or searched for things that can be sold. Post offices exist in all cities and towns and postcards can be sent quite safely, but the service may be slow. Like many other businesses, post offices are open from around 9:00am to 6:00pm with a lunchbreak between 1:00pm and 2:00pm, though opening times may vary. Smaller ones in rural towns keep shorter hours, while the largest ones in Kiev are usually open very late, during weekends or even 24 hours! If you want to send a letter or postcard and buy stamps, just queue up at the line where you see envelops and cards. Be prepared to wait a while, also regarding the time it takes to send a postcard to Europe (a week) or the USA (two weeks), let alone places further afield. Always send letters by airmail (avia in Ukrainian). For faster (but more expensive) sendings of parcels, try companies like TNT, DHL, UPS or FedEx.


Quick Facts


  • Latitude: 46.4751901
  • Longitude: 30.732928

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This is version 55. Last edited at 14:48 on Oct 30, 23 by Vic_IV. 20 articles link to this page.

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