In Central Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, Kryvyi Rih is a working city that doesn’t receive many tourists. The main employers are the iron mining and metallurgy industries due to the rich deposits of iron deep underground.
Beginning in the 1800s this gave rise to a column of headframes and blast furnaces than 130 kilometres long. You can see that ore on the surface in the shale rocks by the Inhulets River and in summer a red dust sometimes settles on car windshields. So you might gather that Kryvyi Rih is a road less travelled, but if you’re inspired by industry and engineering, and want to see Ukraine’s engine there are a few things to keep you in town for a day.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Kryvyi Rih:
1. Postovy Prospekt (Postal Avenue)
Even in Kryvyi Rih’s earliest times in the 1800s this north to south road, until recently named after Karl Marx, was the main route through the city.
The most striking monuments are from the second half of the 1800s, in an Academic style.
The way Postovy Prospekt looks today is the result of reconstruction right after the Second World War following extensive damage.
There are shops and restaurants and cafes all along the avenue, as well as cultural venues like the Shevchenko Theatre.
This building neighbours an attractive plaza with fountains, where you can sit and grab a drink, and has a clear view across to the imposing central post office building.
2. Mershavtseva Park
Formerly named after the Pravda Newspaper, this park was given a new title during “decommunisation” efforts that have taken place since 2014. The park was landscaped in the Stalinist Empire style in the 1950s, and has been renovated in the last couple of years.
It holds one of the emblems of the city, a very romantic boating pavilion with a white colonnade beside the Inhulets River.
From there you could go on a relaxing pedalo trip in the greenest part of the city, under the iron bridge over the Saksagan River, known as the Bridge of Lovers.
3. Spaso-Preobrazhensky Cathedral
“Transfiguration Cathedral” in English, the seat of the Kryvyi Rih diocese is a nine-domed church that was only started in 1989 and completed in 2003. Permission was granted to build this new cathedral on a on a small rise to accommodate the city’s Orthodox congregation that outgrew the Saviour-Ascension Church.
Spaso-Preobrazhensky Cathedral is a revival of the Ukrainian Baroque style from the 18th century and has nine domes and a bell tower 50 metres in height.
This contains 22 bells cast in Novovolynsk, the heaviest weighing 1,200 kg.
If you can get in, there are icons of St George and Matrona Nikonova and four altars to admire.
4. Flower Clock Pavilion
The Sotsstovo area has what is possibly the most photographed sight in Kryvyi Rih.
At 22 metres in diameter the flower clock is officially the largest in Europe, and is something to see at night when illuminated.
It also sits on top of a glass pavilion run by the Kryvyi Rih Historical Museum: This space has an exhibition of black and white photos, curiosities and footage in 2D and 3D formats about the different districts in the city.
There’s also a gallery of upcoming development projects to give you an idea of how the cityscape might change over the next few years.
5. Kryvyi Rih Historical Museum
Make for Kaunas Street in the oldest part of the city for a deeper insight about Kryvyi Rih.
The historical museum has over 100,000 artefacts in its archives, the oldest from the Stone Age.
At the entrance you’ll be met by a mysterious Bronze Age stone figure of a woman, but most of the artefacts are from the last two centuries: There are coins, mining implements, photographs, paintings, applied arts and tools for old-time trades like spinning.
6. Mopr Rocks
Barely 15 minutes on foot from the Mershavtseva Park, the banks of the Inhulets River become high and jagged.
These are the Mopr Rocks, shale formations dating back two billion years, and with a slight reddish tint due to their iron content.
At their highest point the cliffs reach almost 30 metres, and they are pocked with caves and grottoes that have signs of mining activity by Ancient Slavs and Scythians.
In summer climbers pick their way up the cliff faces, and the north bank has a picturesque view of the river valley.
7. St George bell Tower
On Heroes’ Street a few steps from the Flower Clock Pavilion in Heroes’ Park is one of Kryvyi Rih’s newer monuments.
The George Bell Tower was only built in 2009, stands at just over 50 metres and holds nine bells that have a total weight of 3.5 tons.
The tower has five storeys, and you can go up to an observation platform at a height of 37 metres.
Through the doorway are murals depicting war-time events in the city’s history.
And just on the opposite side of Heroes’ Street is a memorial in the Social Realist style commemorating Great Patriotic War (1941-45).
8. Botanical Garden
Kryvyi Rih isn’t famous for the purity of its air, so when residents crave some serenity and clean air the obvious choice is the botanical garden.
Managed by the National Academy of Science, this is on the far northern fringe of the city and the best way to reach it is by car or taxi as public transport can take a while.
The garden’s flowerbeds are carefully manicured and the park has a river, bridge and shaded avenues to wander along.
In late spring/early summer the irises and lilacs are a real spectacle, but if you come a little earlier, step into greenhouse where the azaleas are in bloom from about February to April.
9. Museum of Aviation History
Kryvyi Rih has long ties to Ukraine’s aviation industry and has been home to the National Aviation Academy since 1951. During the 20th century, this was one of the top civil aviation schools in the Soviet Union and was awarded the Red Banner on three occasions.
The museum mapping this history opened in 1975, and has gathered more than 4,000 objects in its galleries.
There’s a lot of paraphernalia related to flight training and the school’s most decorated alumni, but also an exhibition recounting the events of the battle for Kryvyi Rih in the Great Patriotic War.
You can sit at the controls of a Tupolev Tu-114, while the fuselage has a 100-year timeline of aviation in Ukraine and the former Soviet Union.
10. Taras Shevchenko Drama and Musical Comedy Theatre
Both Kryvyi Rih’s most important cultural venue and an impressive landmark of its own, the city’s main theatre was raised at the beginning of the 1930s.
From the street you’ll notice the high Renaissance-style barrel arch, flanked by a portico supported by Ionic columns, which are worth a photo.
The theatre can seat 764 spectators and over the last 85 years has staged tens of thousands of plays and musicals.
Check the programme to see if anything catches your eye, though you may need to be know the story beforehand if you don’t understand Ukrainian!
11. Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin
This handsome church is the oldest in the city, dating to 1886 and constructed in a Neo-Baroque style.
The sky blue walls, exterior icons and golden onion domes all add up to a very charming scene.
Like all religious building in Ukraine, the church has come through difficult times, having lost all of its interior fittings and been converted into a processing centre for young offenders in the 1930s.
At that time its altar was used as a table tennis and billiards table! But a full restoration began in 1991 and in 1995 new icons were painted for its iconostasis.
12. Michael Marmera Museum
There was a sizeable Jewish community in Kryvyi Rih from the late 18th century following a wave of immigration from Russia.
Since the Second World War and Ukrainian independence this population has started to rebound, and there’s now a synagogue, school and even a Jewish newspaper in the city.
Situated in the Bteis Shtern Shulman synagogue, the Michael Marmera Museum reveals the history of the Jews in Kryvyi Rih.
Photos and liturgical items shed light on Jewish culture here in the 19th and 20th centuries, and the museum offers an emotive account of the pogroms and holocaust in Kryvyi Rih.
13. Burshchytskyi Slag Heap
You know you’re in an ore city when there are slag heaps on the horizon.
And as slag heaps go, this one on the southern side of Kryvyi Rih next to the Inhulets River is a monster.
It is so large in fact that you can hike to the top for a panorama of the city, extending over the a chain of heaps, quarries, blast furnaces, headframes and chimneys that seems to go on forever.
At this setting most of the mines have been abandoned, and nature has started to take over the Burshchytskyi Slag Heap.
Its green slopes now resemble a natural river canyon more than a post-industrial eyesore.
14. Puppet Theatre
The art of puppetry still has a place in the hearts of Ukrainians, as it does across most of Eastern Europe.
Kryvyi Rih boasts one of the country’s foremost puppet theatres, established in 1977 and putting on a season that begins in September and lasts until April.
There are two shows a day, and while most of the performances are for children, many have an artistic merit that grown-ups will appreciate.
They’re worthwhile for a firsthand dose of Ukrainian folk culture, even if the language barrier might leave you a little perplexed.
15. Mining Experiences
Although iron and steel production has contracted a little in Kryvyi Rih, ore extraction is still the city’s main business.
If you want to really want to contact with a tour company or take matters into your own hands.
There are humungous quarries, more slag heaps and a man-made canyon 16 hectares in size caused by a collapse at the Ordzhonikidze Mine.
One sight you can see on your own is the abandoned Hdantsivkyi mine, which is surrounded by historic infrastructure like housing for miners , a pump-house and an iron railway bridge over the Inhulets River from 1884, If you really want to immerse yourself in working life in Kryvyi Rih you could also sign up to look around a working mine, dressing up in a hard-hat and overalls descending 1350 metres in a cage to feel, see, hear and smell what it’s like in a real iron mine.