you only do three things:
Spend an evening at the opera. Imagine yourself to
be a character in a classic novel, surrounded by the crumbling baroque
splendour of Odessa's famous opera house.
Stroll to the beach through
the leafy Shevchenko Park against the backdrop of the Black Sea.
Visit the sprawling Privoz market for
a feel daily Ukrainian life. Try a piece of Salo (pig fat), a Ukrainian
Click here for hotels in Odessa
is an awful place. Everybody knows how they murder the Russian language
there. All the same, I think there's a lot to be said for this great city,
which has more charm than any other in the Russian Empire …. In
Odessa there are sweet and relaxing spring evenings, the strong scent
of acacias, and, over the dark sea, a moon which radiates a steady, irresistible
Isaac Babel - Odessa 1916
What to see
Like many port towns around the world, Odessa has led a life apart. The
port has always been its lifeblood and even today most people have some
connection to shipping and the docks.
is a city of sunshine and its relaxed joie de vivre fits well
amoung European architecture, packed beaches and wide green parks. Famous
for its ready wit and silver-tongued residents, the character of the city
can be traced back to its very beginnings. Odessa was founded in 1794
after Russia had taken control of the area five years earlier. Its neoclassical
style was the height of late eighteenth century good taste, and Odessa
always felt a little different to its rural surroundings. To populate
and develop this new city the governor, a Frenchman, the Duc de Richelieu
slashed taxes and created a laissez-faire atmosphere that attracted entrepreneurs,
criminals, refugees, and dissenters from all over the Black Sea region.
This created the rich multicultural blend of pioneers and rogues that
helped to form the strongly independent character of the city today. Still
stubbornly Russian speaking, Odessa pays scant regard to attempts at Ukrainianisation
by Kiev. Complex notions of torn patriotism between Russia and Ukraine
come a distinct second behind allegiance to Odessa itself.
culture has always played a key part in the atmosphere of the
city and at its peak the Jewish population in Odessa constituted about
a third of the population. Although there were waves of pogroms and emmigration
throughout the 19th Century, it was the brutal occupation by German and
Romanian forces during the Second World War that finally decimated the
Jewish population. This has slowly recovered to reach a current level
of around 30,000.
still shows the signs of its role as a popular Soviet resort and health
spa. The large number of crumbling concrete sanatoria that stretch along
the shore were built to house legions of spritely comrades on their annual
holiday from Moscow or Leningrad. This annual invasion continues unabated.
Population: 1.1 million.
Getting there and away
Air: Odessa has an international airport with regular
flights from Istanbul, Frankfurt and Budapest. There are also domestic
routes to major cities.
Rail: Like most former Soviet cities, Odessa has a grand
train station with good links to Kiev, Simferopol, and most major cities.
Boat: Many people visit Odessa as part of a Black Sea
or Dnepr River Cruise, there are also ferry routes to Crimea, Turkey,
Romania and Georgia. [top]
Odessa’s central street, the pedestrianised Deribasovskaya,
pulls large evening and weekend crowds with its lines of shops and cafes.
The souvenir and art market on Deribasovskaya is largely aimed at the
short stay visitors that pile off the cruise ships at intermittent intervals,
however it is a pleasant enough place.
From the top of the famous Potemkin Steps to the small
bust of Pushkin, runs the treelined Primorsky Boulevard
that looks down on the port. Odessans tend to sit on benches along the
boulevard to talk and watch the ships on the horizon turn on their anchors.
one hundred and ninety two Potemkin Steps that lead up
from the seaport to the town are perhaps Odessa’s most famous landmark.
Immortalised in Sergei Eisenstein’s classic film Battleship
Potemkin as the scene of the tsarist troops’ vicious suppression
of popular support for mutinying sailors in 1905.
Between Lanzherovskaya and Chaikovskaya Streets
Tel: 0482 291 329
Odessa is rightly proud of its stunning opera house that dates from 1887,
the interior of which is a sumptuous whirl of baroque flourishes and gilt
classical motifs. The building takes pride of place in the city centre
and has performances most nights (although it is often closed in the summer
when the company tours abroad). Tickets can be purchased in the little
'kassa' booth next door for a few pounds. It has to be said that the quality
of the performances do not quite live up to the grandiosity of the setting;
the company is consistantly short of money, a situation exacerbated by
the fact that the building itself is constantly under threat of total
Just to the east of the station, Kulikovo Pole retains much of its Soviet
atmosphere. The square is dominated by a ten metre high statue
of Lenin that once served as a gathering place for major events
and communist rallies. It still attracts communist demonstrations and
many war veterans gather here on 9th May (Victory Day). The view down
the tree lined route towards the station through Lenin Park is dramatic,
taking in both Lenin and the silver domes of the Andryvska Podvore
Orthodox Church, neither of which are hugely representative of
the rest of the city, but atmospheric nonetheless. At the bottom end of
the square, in Lenin Park is a second hand book market
where you will find Russian versions of classic novels mixed in with dusty
copies of books with titles like: “Tungsten Bearing Manufacture
in the Soviet Union - a Guide for Schools”.[top]
Privoznaya 14 06:00-17:00
Living in a port, trade and the exchange of goods come naturally to Odessans
and consequently there are a number of large markets throughout the city.
The largest is the Privoz, an enormous and bewildering farmers’
market not far from the rail station. Farmers and villagers come in from
miles around to sell fresh produce at cheap prices; this is where most
Odessans do their shopping. Some farmers will travel into the city and
stay until all their produce is sold, often sleeping in the streets around
the market. A crowded and bustling place, the Privoz is where rural and
urban Ukraine collide. Well worth exploring. [top]
The long walk along the coast to Arkadia, takes in most of Odessa’s
major parks and beaches. These are often packed with holiday makers in
the summer and can be dirty and a bit rough and ready.The beaches in the
exclusive residential district of Arkadia come alive
in the summertime with its high concentration of bars and nightclubs.
You can reach the popular Lanzheron Beach more easily
from the city centre by walking through leafy Shevchenko Park
looking down on the docks.[top]
Much of Odessa was built with blocks of sandstone cut directly from the
ground beneath the city, this has resulted in a network of passages estimated
to be nearly 2000km long under the whole region. Stories of smugglers,
hideouts and ghosts abound, however the catacombs are most famous as the
underground base of the local partisans during World War Two. It was from
these passages that the guerrillas mounted their resistance to German
and Romanian occupation of the city. Tours through a section of the catacombs
run from the museum in the village of Nerubaiskoye, about half an hour’s
drive from Odessa. Most hotels and travel agents run regular organised
tours. It is not recommended that you try and see any part of the catacombs
unaccompanied; half the stories you hear in Odessa are tales of people
missing in the pitch black of the underground passages.[top]