Chernivtsi is a city in the western part of Ukraine. It is situated on the upper course of the Prut River and is the administrative center of Chernivtsi province, which includes the Ukrainian part of Bukovina. The city is also the administrative center of Chernivtsi Raion and hosts the administration of the Chernivtsi urban hromada (community), one of the hromadas of Ukraine. A 2020 estimate puts the current population at about 267,060 people.
It is currently viewed as one of Western Ukraine’s main cultural centers. The city is also considered one of Ukraine’s important educational and architectural sites. Historically a cosmopolitan community, Chernivtsi was once dubbed “Little Vienna” and “Jerusalem upon the Prut”. Chernivtsi is currently twinned with seven other cities around the world. The city is a major regional rail and road transportation hub, also housing an international airport.
A little history
Like every city in the region, it has a long and complicated history. A fortress existed here before the 13th century but was destroyed by a Mongol invasion. Later the settlement was part of Poland, Moldavia, and Austria-Hungary. In the 20th century, Chernivtsi belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Kingdom of Romania, the USSR, and, since 1991, independent Ukraine.
The city was always very multinational, with the characteristic groups being Jews, Ukrainians, Romanians, Germans, Poles, and Roma, among others. In 1930, Jews were about 27% of the population; today, it’s 1.2%. During WWII Chernivtsi was captured by both sides. During the rule of Romanian military dictator Ion Antonescu, who was an Axis member and who cooperated with the Nazis, around 50,000 Bukovinian Jews were put in the local Ghetto and later moved to concentration camps. Romanian city mayor Traian Popovici and army officers were able to save 20,000 Chernivtsi Jews.
How can we get there?
Well, you can get there by plane. Chernivtsi has its own small airport. In 2016, scheduled operations were resumed by national carrier Ukraine International Airlines.
You can also get there by train. You can get to Chernivtsi by train either from Romania or from within Ukraine. The trains from Kyiv or Lviv are probably the best option as they are comfortable and inexpensive.
You can also get there by bus. There are frequent minibuses from Lviv to Chernivtsi. One daily bus serves Chernivtsi from Suceava. The bus from Chernivtsi to Suceava leaves at 07:00 every morning and arrives in Suceava in Romania around 10:30-11:00 depending on the number of people on the bus and therefore the time spent crossing the border. The central bus station is not close to the train station, but cabs are very cheap in Chernivtsi. There is also a bus from Chișinău. The ride takes 8 hours and the bus leaves daily at 6:50, 8:00, 10:00, 22:00 and at 20:45 on odd days from Gara de Nord.
If you are coming from Vinnytsia, beware that there is a small town also called Chernivtsi in the Vinnytsia community.
The city center is small and it can be managed all on foot.
What to see
- The old town is mainly of Baroque style. Most of the cities attractions are located within the historical center with some of the city center being a pedestrian zone.
- Main Square – The town hall, the Museum of Arts, Taras Shevchenko monument, and the old post office.
- Chernivtsi National University the complex built in the 19th century in the historicist style used to be the palace of the Governor of Bukovyna (in 2011 the residence was inscribed in UNESCO World Heritage List). It is now open for visitors only in the afternoon. You can also visit its gardens and two churches.
- The German House concentrated the cultural activities of the German-speaking inhabitants of the city. Now although their number decreased significantly it is still active.
- Theater Square
- Old Synagogue which is now a cinema
- Old Bristol Hotel, now a medical student dormitory
- New Synagogue
- Old Court of Justice now a seat of state administration
- Roman Cathedral
- Russian Orthodox Church at the Russian Street
- Monument of the Red Army in WWII Nearby is the Regional Museum and Chernivtsi biggest Orthodox Church
- Railway Station
- The Armenian Church which is now a concert hall
- Saint Nikolay Orthodox Church, with twisted towers
What to do
- Chernivtsi Museum of Arts near the town hall. Exhibits local art from the 19th and 20th Centuries as well as regional applied arts
- Chernivtsi Municipal Museum dedicated to local history and natural history
- Ethnological Museum documenting rural life in Bukovyna. This museum is located out of the city center.
- Museum of Ukrainian Diaspora This museum focuses on the Ukrainian emigration from Bukovyna but also shows some cultural exponents from the German diaspora in the city
- Armenian Church
- Chernivtsi Museum of Bukovynian Jewish History and Culture, Teatralna square. The Museum of Bukovynian Jewish History and Culture invites you to take a trip through time and feel the atmosphere of Jewish life in Bukovyna in 1774-1941. The exhibition reflects the foundation, expansion, and latterly decline of the Jewish community in the area. You’ll get the opportunity to see the unique documents and materials, authentic objects of everyday life, exhibits of sacred objects, and also you’ll get to know about the rich Jewish architectural heritage of the region.
Ukrainian Food and Drink
Follow this link Ukrainian National Food and Cuisine to an article on traditional Ukrainian food and drink. The cuisine of the country is created with a unique style of cooking practices and it is steeped in tradition.