Excursions in Odessa
1. Walking City Tour
Walking tour around Odessa city center is the best opportunity to see the most important cultural locations and learn more about the people and events, which shaped Odessa’s history. The tour starts at Deribasovskaya Street, the heart and soul of Odessa city. It is named after first mayor of the city - Joseph Mikhailovich de Ribas, whose monument is located in the beginning of Deribasovskaya Street. The famous City Garden is located next to the Deribasovskaya Street and it harmonizes with the street’s quiet and calm appeal. Deribasovskaya Street is closed to traffic and filled with cafes and bars, which make this street favorite meeting place for Odessa citizens and tourists.
Pushkinskaya Street crosses Deribasovskaya Street and is most known as the place, where Alexander Pushkin used to reside. Odessa was one of Pushkin’s favorite cities and source of inspiration for his writings. To commemorate Pushkin’s frequent visits to Odessa, museum dedicated to this famous Russian poet and writer was established at Pushkinskaya 13.
Next point on the tour is Primorsky Boulevard, another famous walking route in Odessa, where travelers admire historic monuments and breathtaking panoramic view of sea and port. Here tourists can explore all the architectural monuments located near Primorsky Boulevard: the City Hall and Dumskaya Square, famous Odessa Opera and Balley Theater, Vorontsov Palace, built in 1827 in Empire style, and the Potemkin Stairs – 192 stairs, which goes from the city center down to the seaport.
Connecting Primorsky Boulevard with Zhvanetsky Boulevard is the Mother-in-law’s Bridge (Teshchin Bridge). There are two versions explaining what the extraordinary name “Mother-in-law’s” Bridge originated from. According to the legend the name comes from strong winds and stormy weather often appearing near the bridge, but according to the history the bridge was built to provide connection between city center and the other side of the gully, where Mikhail Sinitsa’s, chairman of the Party Committee, mother-in-law used to live.
Through Sabaneyev Bridge, built in 1831, the path leads to St. Catherine (Ekaterinskaya) Street and St. Catherine Square, which both commemorate Catherine II The Great, empress of Russia. Monument depicting Catherine II and the most important among Odessa’s founders: de Ribas, Potemkin, de Volan and Zubov is located at St. Catherine Square.
Finally, Cathedral Square is one of the biggest squares in Odessa’s city center. Its name comes from Savior Transfiguration (Spaso-Preobrazhenskiy) Cathedral – the biggest Orthodox Church in Odessa. Founded in 1794, destroyed in 1936 and renovated in 21st century, Savior Transfiguration Cathedral is a jewel among Ukrainian churches.
Walking tour through historic streets of Odessa takes two hours, during which professional tour guide, speaking in either English, Russian or German, will provide the most important information and legends connected to the monuments and buildings in the tour itinerary. The cost of the tour is only $40 for 1 or 2 tourists. Learn more about Odessa and visit difficult to find places with professional tour guide.
2. Odessa Catacombs
The most enigmatic part of Odessa city surroundings are the so-called catacombs. The name can be misleading, since most of the underground passages and corridors of the “Odessa catacombs” complex are remnants of limestone mines, which provided Odessa citizens with this precious building material throughout the19th century. When mines were closed down most of the tunnels were left unused and soon they were adapted by smugglers as their hideouts. During World War II catacombs were used by 13 groups of Soviet partisans as shelter during the Siege of Odessa. At one point the catacombs were even turned into battlefield with German Army. The gigantic underground labyrinth of Odessa catacombs has the estimated length of 2,500 kilometers and the exact map of corridors is not known even to historians and geologists. For that reason and also because Odessa catacombs are not yet properly renovated, individual tours into old mines are strictly forbidden. Professional tour guide assistance is mandatory to ensure safety of the visitors
The part open for the public is known as Museum of Partisan Glory, with the entrance located in village Nerubayskoye, located 15 km north from Odessa. A lot of relics from the WWII era commemorating operations of Odessa’s partisans are collected inside the museum, with original notes and drawings left by partisans on the walls of the catacombs, whose monument is located near the museum. During the tour you will see underground rooms adjusted for living and storing armory, so you can almost feel the atmosphere of everyday life and fighting during WWII. Before traveling to Odessa catacombs museum make sure that you have the obligatory tour guide assistance. Recommended by our company tour guides speak English, Russian or German fluently and are well versed in Odessa catacombs history and layout. The tour lasts 2 hours and costs $40. There is also an option of transportation to and from Nerubayskoye – the cost for hiring air-conditioned car with a driver is $20.
3. Odessa’s Memorial 411 Battery
For those, who are interested in World War II Battery 411 is a must-see location. It is the place of historic battlefield, located at the outskirts of Odessa and is known as the Siege of Odessa territory. The battery was built in 1935 to defend port and the city against German Army. It was a place of fierce and long battle between Soviet Forces and German Army, which took place in 1941. By the end of 73 days of Odessa siege there were roughly 93,000 casualties on German side and 41,000 casualties among Soviets. During the siege artillery batteries fired estimated number of 200,000 shells to protect the city against invaders. On the last day of siege the battery was blown up on the command of the Marshal of the Soviet Union, Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov. Currently 411 Battery is a WWII museum with multiple exhibits from this epoch. The cost of two hour tour around 411 Battery with assistance of English, Russian or German speaking tour guide costs $40.00. Additional transportation fee (transport from hotel to the battery location and back in air-conditioned car) is $20
4. Bilhorod-Dnistrovskaya Fortress
Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi is a town located in Odessa province in the historical Bessarabia region. It is famous for the “White Castle” or the so-called Akkerman (in Turkish: white fortress) Byzantine fortress, which stood the test of time and is now one of the oldest architectural complex in Eastern Europe.
The earliest settlement on this area – Tyras city – was founded by Milesian colonists in ancient times. The first foundations for the fortress located on the seashore of Black Sea were established in 6th century BC. The fortress was then known as Asperon. It was later mentioned in Kievan Rus’ earliest medieval chronicles as the fortress raising above the Black Sea, at the mouth of river Dniester.
In the ancient epoch the White Fortress was part of Byzantium. However, in medieval era all of the nations living next to the White Fortress were trying to conquer the city. In 14th century it was ruled by Moldavian Prince Alexander the Kind, who fought with Ottoman invasion for years. Finally in 1484 the city surrendered to Ottoman Empire, but the fortress was not destroyed. Instead it was reinforced and served as part of Ottoman defensive system against Polish, Lithuanian and Russian invasion for over three centuries.
In 1826 Ottomans signed convention pact with Russia, which was a guarantee of peaceful cooperation between these two parties. In the beginning of 20th century the city became part of Romania territory. However, over two decades later it was annexed by Soviet Union. Since 1991 Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi is officially part of Ukraine. Currently Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi population is estimated at 50,000 citizens.
The White Fortress is now considered the main tourist attraction of the Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi town. Two towers (Poushkin and Maiden Tower), yards and medieval citadel tell the story of hundreds years of hard-fought battles between countries, which ruled in medieval Europe and Asia. European and Oriental influences make the White Fortress multicultural tourist attraction. Traces of Greek, Byzantine, Slavic, Moldavian and Turkish culture can be found in the design of the White Fortress and in historic monuments located in Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi town.
Visiting this extraordinary architectural complex is most recommended for those, who are interested in ancient and medieval history, as well as those, who like to discover less known parts of Ukrainian hereditary. Trip to Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi from Odessa and back along with a visit to Bilhorod-Dnistrovskaya Fortress takes around 5 hours. The cost of the trip – visiting Bilhorod-Dnistrovskaya fortress and transportation in air-conditioned car with a driver – is $120 for 1 or 2 persons. Assistance of English, Russian or German speaking tour guide during visit to the White Fortress is also included in the price. Due to organizational matters the trip to Bilhorod-Dnistrovskaya Fortress have to be booked 2 or 3 days prior to the excursion day.