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Home to around a million people, Odessa may be a major Black Sea port but it’s better known these days as Ukraine’s capital of hedonism. The city center itself is a planned grid of atmospheric (if car-plagued) streets sporting some ornately crumbling 19th-century facades, behind which writers such as Pushkin and Isaak Babel once lived and worked. With its Pushkin connection and Kremlin-funded origins (the city was founded by Catherine the Great), Odessa is traditionally one of Ukraine’s more Russian cities. Oddly enough, it’s also known as Ukraine’s city of humor, though (sober) smiles can be hard to find. Glorious sandy beaches hem the ...

Home to around a million people, Odessa may be a major Black Sea port but it’s better known these days as Ukraine’s capital of hedonism. The city center itself is a planned grid of atmospheric (if car-plagued) streets sporting some ornately crumbling 19th-century facades, behind which writers such as Pushkin and Isaak Babel once lived and worked. With its Pushkin connection and Kremlin-funded origins (the city was founded by Catherine the Great), Odessa is traditionally one of Ukraine’s more Russian cities. Oddly enough, it’s also known as Ukraine’s city of humor, though (sober) smiles can be hard to find. Glorious sandy beaches hem the Black Sea coast for miles, but Odessa’s signature sight is the Potemkin steps, best known for their starring role in Eisenstein’s 1925 film Battleship Potemkin. However, Ukraine’s most celebrated flight of stairs and the recently renovated opera theater play second fiddle these days to unfettered nightlife of the thumping, scantily clad kind as well as the grungier, more alternative ilk. Indeed, two of Ukraine’s wildest nightclubs (Ibiza and Itaka) are located in the Arcadia neighborhood just yards from the Black Sea’s briny.

Marc Di Duca
About the Expert

Marc Di Duca has written and updated more than 40 guides, mainly for Lonely Planet but also for AA, Thomas Cook, Berlitz and Bradt. Having spent the last 20 years exploring the former communist world, his main field of expertise is Eastern Europe and Siberia.

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Late spring to early autumn. The Carnival Humorina takes place annually April 1st.