Things to do in Odessa Ukraine + Black Sea

Odessa is a city located in the south of Ukraine with a coastline on the Black Sea.  Things to do in Odessa;

  • Potemkin Stairs (Primorsky Stairs)
  • Statue of the Duke of Richelieu
  • Monument to Orange
  • Odessa Opera and Ballet Theater
  • Transfiguration Cathedral
  • Vorontsov Palace
  • Odessa City Hall
  • Parks of Odessa
  • Museums of Odessa
  • Port of Odessa
  • Black Sea Facts
  • Arcadia Beach, Lanzheron Beach and nightlife

You’ll find that hotels in Odessa are on the expensive side, for this reason you may want to check out apartments on Airbnb.

Potemkin Stairs (Primorsky Stairs)

Things to do in Odessa - Potemkin Stairs

In Odessa they have managed to make stairs a beautiful tourist attraction.  The Potemkin Stairs are considered to be the gate to the city of Odessa.  At the bottom of the stairs is Odessa harbor in the Black Sea with central Odessa at the top.  There are 192 stairs in total with 10 landings.  The stairs were designed to have an optical illusion.  If you stand at the bottom of the stairs you’ll see only the stairs but if you look down from the top you see only the 10 landings and not the stairs.

The stairs featured in a famous silent movie from 1925 called Battleship Potemkin.  A more recent movie which Odessa featured in is the Jason Statham action movie Transporter 3.

Odessa Funicular

If you are unable to climb the stairs (or too lazy) then adjacent to the stairs is a funicular.  For a few grivna you can take this up to the city or down to the Port of Odessa.

Statue of the Duke of Richelieu (Duc de Richelieu)

Things to do in Odessa - Statue of the Duke of Richelieu

At the top of the Potemkin stairs is the Statue of the Duke of Richelieu.  Behind the statue are lots of Soviet style buildings, Odessa really has a beautiful entrance.  The Duke of Richelieu was a historic French governor general.  He was one of the founders of the city of Odessa.  Another significant statue located close by is the statue of Catherine the Great.

Monument to Orange

Located close to the bottom of the Potemkin stairs is the Monument to Orange.  During the 18th century, the construction of the city of Odessa depended on it having a seaport.  Emperor Paul I cut off funding for the seaport.  The people of Odessa started to send tropical fruits to the king before going to the court where he gave them money to complete the project.  The monument is of an orange which is believed to have saved the city of Odessa.  There is a miniature Emperor Paul I located inside the orange as well as Odessa’s famous landmarks.

Odessa Opera and Ballet Theater

Things to do in Odessa - Odessa Opera and Ballet Theater

The Ukraine is famous for its opera and Odessa has a huge opera scene.  You can check the opera schedule to see if there is anything on when you visit.  The horse shoe shaped auditorium is absolutely stunning, it’s worth seeing a performance just to see the interior.  The Baroque style building was completed in 1887 and is the oldest theater in Odessa.

Transfiguration Cathedral

Located in Cathedral Square, the Transfiguration Cathedral is a very Instagrammable orthodox cathedral.  Opposite the cathedral is the famous Odessa Passage hotel which used to be the best hotel in Southern Russia.

Vorontsov Palace

Vorontsov Palace is a 19th century palace with a colonnade built for Russian Prince Mikhail Semyonovich.  The palace was built where the home of the Duke of of Richelieu formerly stood.  Nowadays only the facade and front end of the palace remains.  The remainder of the palace has been modified in apartments.  The colonnade and Medici lions are the most Instagram worthy parts of the palace complex.

Odessa City Hall

Things to do in Odessa - Odessa City Hall / Town Hall

I found the Odessa City Hall to be the most beautiful building in the city.  There are 2 large statues in the facade at each side of the building.  These are statues of Ceres and Mercury.  Ceres is the goddess of agriculture and Mercury is the god of trade.  The city hall used to be the Exchange building which is why these 2 statues are here.  The cannon you see in front of the building is from the British vessel, HMS Tiger which sank in the Black Sea during the Crimean war.  There is also a Pushkin monument nearby as he lived in Odessa for a short period.

Parks of Odessa

Things to do in Odessa - Parks of Odessa

As well as beautiful buildings you’ll find lots of parks and fountains in the city.  The park you are most likely to visit is the City Garden as it’s right in the center.  City Garden s the oldest park in Odessa.  Istanbul Park is located at the bottom of the Potemkin Stairs.  Also in the center is Palais-Royal Garden which used to be called Charles Darwin park during the Soviet era.  Other parks surrounding the city are Shevchenko Park and Arboretum Pobedy.  If you are traveling to Odessa with kids then you could take them to Odessa Zoo.

Museums of Odessa

Things to do in Odessa - Museums in Odessa, Ukraine

Museum lovers have plenty of interesting museums to visit in Odessa;

  • Odessa Museum of Western and Eastern Art
  • Odessa Archeological Museum
  • Smuggling Museum
  • Odessa Art Museum
  • Museum of Interesting Science (Ukrainian)
  • Odessa Museum of Regional History (Ukrainian)

Port of Odessa

Things to do in Odessa - Odessa Seaport

Many people on a Black Sea cruise make a stop at the Port of Odessa.  It has lots of bars and restaurants and is located a short walk from the Potemkin Stairs.  From the cruise port you can see the red and white Vorontsov Lighthouse.  You’ll also see a lot of freight which arrives at the post because it is connected to the railway line.

Black Sea Facts

I have visited the deepest lake in the world in Siberia, Lake Baikal but yet to visit the largest lake in the world which is the Caspian sea.  As a fan of visiting lakes I was looking forward to seeing the Black Sea.  The Black Sea used to be the largest lake in the world but is now classed as sea because it receives a large inflow of water from the Mediterranean.  It gets about half its inflow in saltwater and the other half in fresh water.  In addition, there are several rivers  which flow into the Black Sea.  In fact, the Danube which passes through Europe and is classed as a UNESCO site in Budapest flows into the Black Sea.  The countries which surround the Black Sea are Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, Turkey, Romania as well as Bulgaria.

Arcadia Beach, Lanzheron Beach and nightlife

You will need to take a taxi to the beaches and nightlife in Odessa.  As soon as I got out of my taxi and walked 50 meters I was approached by 3 policemen.  The policemen urgently needed to check my passport which I didn’t have.  As a result they told me I must carry my passport with me at all times as Ukraine is not in the EU.  Consequently, they demanded a $200 fine which I had to haggle down to $5.  In this area police target foreigners for easy money so carry your passport or prepare to bribe them to leave you alone.  Having said that the night life is worth the taxi ride down and hassle with the police.

How to get from Odessa to Kharkiv

The bus station is located close to the train station in Odessa.  It’s possible to walk from the center to the bus station, alternatively the local bus is easy to take there as well.  There’s a McDonald’s conveniently located outside the bus station with a good bathroom facility.  I recommend you buy your bus ticket a day before leaving to check the schedule as well as reserve your seat.  The bus from Odessa to Kharkiv takes over 12 hours so you may consider taking an overnight service.

Kharkiv to Kiev

2019-01-02T21:17:18+00:00September 7th, 2017|Eastern Europe, Ukraine|21 Comments


  1. Abigail Sinsona September 7, 2017 at 11:59 am - Reply

    I love seeing architectural features in the city. The Ballet Theater and the City Hall are both breathtaking. You have taken such great pictures of the things to see in Odessa! Great job, again, James!

  2. Lisa September 7, 2017 at 5:18 pm - Reply

    You’re absolutely right about Odessa City Hall, it’s stunning in your photo, and more in person I’m sure. Thank you for your tip on staying in an Airbnb, who knew Odessa would be expensive. I love the look of the Potemkin Stairs, I think I would take the stairs up and the funicular down.

  3. Lois Alter Mark September 8, 2017 at 4:57 am - Reply

    I wouldn’t have guessed that Odessa was so expensive so I’m glad to know this now. It looks like a beautiful place, and I love that you gave us the must-sees. I’d love to see the sights in your photos in person. Unlike the other commenter, I think I’d take the funicular up and the stairs down!

  4. Bee September 8, 2017 at 7:33 am - Reply

    Odessa has so much rich history and it can be seen in all it’s amazing architecture and artistic tributes throughout the city. Great guide for the city too.

  5. Hannah September 8, 2017 at 8:45 am - Reply

    I had no idea Ukraine had such beautiful architecture! And to be honest I’d never heard of Odessa; it sounds wonderful and ideal for a cultural or photography trip. Shame it’s so expensive, but it looks worth it!

  6. Claire Summers September 8, 2017 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    You really do go to some of the most interesting places. Most of which I have never even heard of! This is a great informative guide with some really useful condensed advice to help make sure people see the key places. Your photography really captures the place.

  7. Kate Storm September 8, 2017 at 4:31 pm - Reply

    Odessa looks amazing! I’ve wanted to go there for ages, hopefully the time is right one of these days. I’d love to see the Black Sea eventually, too!

  8. Nadine September 9, 2017 at 1:51 pm - Reply

    Wow! Everything in Odessa looks so grand, particularly the architecture! They even managed to make the stairs look majestic. Some of the opera and museums are really stunning. Their architecture looks so great in photos but I bet I’d be more floored if I see them in person!

  9. Shibani September 10, 2017 at 11:05 am - Reply

    The city is like a photographer’s piece of cake and is incredibly beautiful. Being an architecture admirer and photographer myself, I would love the city. Everything in the city is so so gorgeous fro the opera to the museums and precisely everything. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Archana Singh September 10, 2017 at 11:51 am - Reply

    I love the way you wrote this post. As a photographer, I always look for interesting points to shoot. I loved your list of what to see and photograph in Odessa. The parks look great. Ideal for night photography.

  11. Jenn and Ed Coleman September 10, 2017 at 4:20 pm - Reply

    I remember learning about Battleship Potemkin in my theater class in college. The Odessa Stairs sequence was revolutionary for its use of montage to elicit Id response. I haven’t thought about this for years but good memories. That would be my place to visit in Odessa.

  12. Bhusha September 12, 2017 at 10:13 am - Reply

    I haven’t heard of Odessa! But then, I’ve never thought of traveling to Ukraine!!! Your post is very inspiring!
    Whoa! That’s something to actually promote a staircase as a tourist site!!!
    Monument of Orange fruit? Smuggling Museum??? Its indeed a quirky city I guess!

  13. Rashmi and Chalukya September 12, 2017 at 11:46 am - Reply

    The Potemkin Stairs looks amazing, I was wondering if everyone needs to climb the 192 steps to the old city but good they have funiculars. The buildings and statues in the old town look stunning indeed sounds like a great place for the history buffs. Visiting the Black Sea is a dream hope to someday.

  14. Tom September 12, 2017 at 9:03 pm - Reply

    Odessa looks so beautiful especially from your photographs, so colorful! Thanks for the list of the best photo ops. The city gates are incredible, I’d love to walk up the Potemkin stairs, past the statue and into the historic center of Odessa.

  15. Yukti September 13, 2017 at 2:54 am - Reply

    I have been to Georgia and Black sea in Batumi but missed south of Ukraine. Odessa in Ukraine is really worth-visiting place due to its architectural beauty. I would love to feel the optical illusion on Potemkin stairs. City Hall Area, Parks and Museums are worth watching at this place. It is good of you that you pointed out about carrying a passport or else policemen will harass us. This same I felt in Georgia also about the nightlife. Great tips!

  16. Kathy James September 13, 2017 at 11:04 am - Reply

    Your travel posts are so inspirational, James, as you make known to me some of the destinations I never even knew existed. Ukraine is definitely one country I should add to my bucket list. The parks and museums offer so much interest. The City Hall is a beauty on its own!

  17. Johnson October 6, 2017 at 7:50 am - Reply

    Would love to visit Odessa one day! Discovered it along our journey through the Balkans and we stopped at the Black Sea. Didn’t know it used to be the largest lake only to be changed to a sea.

  18. John October 6, 2017 at 8:45 pm - Reply

    Odessa is really famous across the former Soviet Union countries and I’ve always heard great things about it. Looks like a city full of stunning architecture and history. Would love to walk up and down the stairs from Battleship Potemkin – such an iconic film and scene!

  19. tracy collins October 7, 2017 at 12:40 am - Reply

    Odessa looks like a fascinating city to visit. Those stairs look like they are worth a climb! Interesting buildings and seems to be a lot to do – will add that to my list for future travels !

  20. Carmen Baguio October 10, 2017 at 7:08 pm - Reply

    Interesting post! I love history tidbits like how the orange saved Odessa. I’m glad you were able to square things off with the police. That could have gone terribly wrong (good tips!)

  21. Michael October 15, 2017 at 9:57 am - Reply

    I love all these places that you visit, most I’ve never heard of! Ukraine has now been added to the ever growing list of places to visit 🙂

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