An elegant and eclectic city full of hip restaurants, bars and cafes, with a unique vibe that’s rare to find in Europe: discover your foodie guide to Odessa.
I planned my holiday in Odessa without expecting much. The city fascinated me as soon as I got off from the crowded, old and dirty mini bus I had spent four and a half hours on, all the way from Chisinau. The large streets and old communist blocks of my imagination were immediately replaced by flamboyant art nouveau architecture, in perfect condition, challenging cities like Paris and Vienna. But, like any post-communist city, Odessa is very eclectic: the city is sprinkled with old Lada cars, some covered in dust and autumn leaves, others fully functional. The greenery that covers a multitude of old buildings give the city a strange, beautiful, elegant jungle feel.
Once one of Imperial Russia’s most important cities, Odessa is now buzzing, hip, elegant and perfectly fit for foodies. Specialty coffee, prosecco on tap, elegant brunches and lunches with bio dairy products, Buddha bowls, waffles and perfectly poached eggs; ramen, won-tons, fancy fine dining dishes; red ale, pale ale, and all sorts of craft beer; cocktails with chilli, with burning cinnamon and oven roasted tomato Bloody Marys. Odessa is one of the most up and coming cities and no one talks about it.
How to get around and what to see
While Uber and taxi have some of the lowest prices in the world, if your hotel is in the centre you are not likely to need any of them. To fully absorb Odessa you need to walk, discover hidden corners and stop for photos whenever your artistic spirit tells you to. And don’t worry, you’ll find enough places to relax and take a break!
To make the most of the city, I suggest you buy a local SIM – I paid less than €2 for 2GB of data, then save all the main sights into Google maps:
- Odessa National Theatre on Lanzheronivs’ka street
- Monument to Alexander Pushkin
- Priymorskyi boulevard
- Derybasivska street
- Monument to Catherine II
- Potemkin Stairs
- The Witch House on Vorontsovs’kyi lane
- Cathedral Square and the beautiful old buikdings on Sadova St
- Vorontsov Palace
In between these sights, get lost on side streets, and walk; ten, fifteen, twenty kilometres per day. Odessa is a city that will not cease to surprise your eyes!
Where to stay, eat and drink
I recommend you find a hotel in the centre. We were lucky enough to find an available room at Amsterdam Hotel, a lovely and stylish three-star hotel that costs around €30 per night (I know, right). The rooms were lovely, the staff helpful and the location excellent: right in the middle of Derybasivska street, one of the main streets of Odessa.
I liked Moloko so much I went again right before I left. They serve delicious breakfasts, good coffee, prosecco on tap and all sorts of dairy products that they actually produce at their farm. Yes, they have a farm! The staff is lovely, the atmosphere is young and cosy and the music is great. Their breakfast menu is impressive and every dish is based around one of their homemade dairy products that range from milk to yogurt, mozzarella, halloumi and more. Some examples: lemon tart trifle with yogurt, lemon curd, oranges, mint and vanilla sable; grilled camembert waffle with sautéed spiced apples; smoked halloumi with peaches, dukka, salad, almonds and honey.
Atelier Design & Coffee
A little bit further away from the centre compared with most eataries and coffee shops, Atelier Design & Coffee is worth the walk! The interior design looks great and their coffee is excellent, but what I liked the most were their lemonades: with violet flowers, with milk syrup and tangerine fresh, with coffee or aloe and grapefruit syrup (the one I had), with birch, juniper and rosemary, or grapefruit, cucumber and chilli syrup. Doesn’t that sound fancy?
Momoyama Ramen Bar
I have to admit I was a bit sceptical to having Asian food in Ukraine, so I went to Momoyama and ordered a portion of pork and shrimp dumplings and some shrimp and pear spring rolls. We wanted to test before we buy. Both starters were so good we ordered more: another portion of dumplings (this time in the ramen broth) and the wasabi shrimps (somehow thinking those were actually a topping for ramen). The wasabi shrimps were finger licking good. Had I not been so full from the rest, I would have gladly ordered a second portion. The ramen broth was balanced, fragrant and flavoursome, the setting is hip and minimalistic, and the local méthode-traditionnelle sparkling wine a great accompaniment to a lovely dinner.
The Fitz Cocktail Bar
The Fitz is a gem of Odessa that kept us busy on both nights. Half barber shop and half cocktail bar, The Fitz is always full in the evenings. The staff are friendly and happy to make recommendations or point you towards cocktails that are not in the menu. The mixologists have a broad knowledge of ingredients and are happy to tell you stories while preparing your favourite cocktail. My favourite cocktail was one with tequila, mezcal, cilantro-jalapeno syrup, green chartreuse, lime and soda. Their Bloody Mary was the first cocktail of its kind that I actually enjoyed. The cocktails are not cheap, about €5 per glass, but they’re totally worth it!
Kompot is a lovely traditional Ukrainian place, great for something small for lunch. Their borscht (both traditional and green) are good, as well as their cherry vareniki (dumplings). They are well known for their compote (just as the name suggests). The interior décor is inviting and cosy.
Finally, if you wish to have a traditional meal, which I recommend, go to Kumanets. The interior looks traditional and the staff are also wearing traditional clothes. I recommend trying multiple starters and a dessert. The portions are large and we weren’t impressed by the mains as much as we were about the starters. We tried the snails stuffed with cheese, salo (Ukrainian lard spiced with paprika and herbs), the fish soup, which was lovely and the fried gobies with mustard sauce. We ended the meal with a portion of cherry vareniki, which became a staple of our trip to Odessa.
Cheaper than most Europeans cities, Odessa is the perfect low-budget city break. Hotels are cheap and a lot more luxurious than your usual hotel in Europe. Taxi and Uber is one of the cheapest in the world! We took an Uber from the centre to one of the bus stations and we paid €1.5 for a twenty-minute long ride. Food is a little more expensive, but with €10 per person you can have a nice, filling meal and something to drink! And if you’re on the lookout for fine dining, the prices range between €5 and €15 per dish.
Odessa surprised me in every way: it is a lively city with beautiful architecture, friendly people and a lovely royal-jungle atmosphere. It is the perfect city for any urban photographer, food lover and curious traveller! Have I convinced you?