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Kyiv may not be the first city that comes to mind for Christmas travel. However, visiting the Ukrainian capital during the festive season may change your mind completely. In December and January, this eastern European metropolis becomes a sparkling winter wonderland, with a variety of cozy markets and tasty street food, not to mention its impressive ancient cathedrals and traditional celebrations.

The Christmas fair transforms St Sophia’s Square in Kyiv into a winter wonderland © Marianna Ianovska / Shutterstock

Ukraine celebrates St Nicholas Day on 19 December. This day feels like a rehearsal of Christmas, with people gifting each other sweet treats. A few days earlier, on 16 December, the Christmas fair at historic Kontraktova Ploscha in Kyiv officially brings the holiday spirit to the capital, with pretty rows of wooden houses selling various local delights, handmade goods and warm wine. The country’s main Christmas tree is erected on 19 December on St Sophia’s Square, next to the magnificent St Sophia’s Cathedral; come at 5pm to see the stunning moment when the tree is illuminated with myriads of lights. This year it will feature more than 500 toys and 3km of garlands. For the best view of Kyiv’s Christmas fair, head to the top of St Sophia Cathedral’s bell tower.

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Europe Ukraine Kiev