Unmissable Holidays and Festivals in Ukraine

Ukraine Medieval Festival

Ukraine has a full calendar of festivals, public holidays, and celebrations. From parades and firework displays commemorating important moments in the country’s history to some of the biggest music festivals in Eastern Europe, visitors are welcome to experience Ukrainian culture up close.

Discover Ukraine’s various holidays and festivals in this handy guide.

What Are the Main Holidays in Ukraine?

There are a number of public holidays worth attending in Ukraine. These are either religious festivals, such as Easter, international holidays, or days commemorating important historical events.

National public holidays in Ukraine are as follows:

  • New Year (Jan 1)
  • Orthodox Christmas (Julian Calendar) (Jan 7)
  • International Women’s Day (March 8)
  • Easter Monday (Julian Calendar)
  • Pentecost Sunday (49 days after Easter)
  • International Workers’ Day (May 1)
  • Victory Day over Nazism in World War II (May 9)
  • Constitution Day (June 28)
  • Independence Day (August 24)
  • Defender of Ukraine Day (October 14)
  • Christmas (Gregorian Calendar) (December 25)

Many consumer-focused businesses (e.g. bars, shops, supermarkets, etc.) remain open on public holidays, while offices and banks tend to close. They are also busy times when it may be difficult to book things like train tickets due to high demand.

Among the most important of these holidays are Victory Day, which sees military parades honouring those who fought in the Second World War and battle reenactments, and Independence Day, which celebrates the independence of Ukraine from the USSR with fireworks, military displays, and live music.

Christmas in Ukraine

Christmas is celebrated twice in Ukraine. This is because the dominant religion in Ukraine is Eastern Orthodox Christianity, which follows the Julian calendar. The Julian calendar celebrates Christmas on the 7th of January.

The Western tradition of celebrating Christmas on the 25th of December, as per the Gregorian calendar is also a public holiday.

Kiev at Christmas // Image Credit tomch via Getty Images/Canva

New Year is also a huge occasion, with parties, fireworks, and celebrations throughout Ukraine. Again, it is celebrated twice according to both calendars: on the 1st and 14th of January. New Year is the time for giving presents and decorating the Christmas tree in Ukraine and locals will take to the squares in the towns and cities to toast the New Year at midnight.

Festivals in Kiev

The capital of Ukraine plays host to several festivals throughout the year. Kiev is a hub of art, culture and entertainment in the country, which is why it is one of Ukraine’s most popular destinations. It is easy to travel to Kiev with a Ukraine visa to enjoy these cultural events.

Kiev Day: The Capital’s Biggest Holiday

One of the main events of the year in the capital, the name “Kiev Day” is misleading as festivities continue throughout the last weekend of May. Many parts of the city are lit up, such as Independence Square and Khreschatyk Street and actors and musicians perform in the streets.

Kiev Day sees residents and visitors alike celebrating with drinks on Friday night and enjoying festivities around the city on Saturday and Sunday, culminating in a huge firework display on Sunday night.

GOGOLFEST: Kiev’s Arts Festival

GOGOLFEST in Kiev is a unique coming together of different art forms. Performances, readings, screenings, and art installations appear all over the city, often in venues not intended for traditional art.

GOGOLFEST focuses on 5 main types of art:

  • Theatre
  • Music
  • Film
  • Literature
  • Visual art

Events include screenings of short films (and sometimes feature-length motion pictures too), concerts, plays, and literary readings. Visual art is also prominent, with exhibitions, installations, and street art on display around Kiev. Collaborations between different artistic mediums are fairly common.

GOGOLFEST takes place in the middle of September, with the exact dates changing from year to year.

Music Festivals in Ukraine

For visitors who love music, Ukraine has a variety of music festivals during the summer months. International travellers come every year to see artists perform live, with genres ranging from jazz to electronica.

Some of the biggest Ukrainian music festivals include:

  • Leopolis Jazz Fest (June 27 – July 1, Lviv): one of Europe’s biggest jazz events.
  • Ostrov (June 30 – July 2, Kiev): the largest electronic music festival in Ukraine.
  • Atlas Weekend (July 4 – 8, Kiev): a large open-air festival featuring Ukrainian and international artists.
  • Zaxidfest (August 24 – 26, Rodatychi): a rock festival near Lviv.
  • White Nights (June/September, Kiev): features art installations, light shows, music of various genres, and dancefloors.

The Z-Games: A Unique Ukrainian Festival

The Z-Games held in Zakota (a town in Odessa oblast) combine music and sports in an unusual, but exciting festival experience. Hip-hop performers, electronic music, and DJ sets are all part of the party. However, the main focus of this festival is extreme sports.

At the Z-Games, visitors can watch or compete in:

  • Parkour
  • Skateboarding
  • Rock climbing
  • Breakdancing
  • Wakeboarding

The sporting side of the festival occurs during the day, while music and dancing continues into the night.

The Z-Games take place towards the end of August.

Ukrainian Film Festivals

Ukraine plays host to a number of important events in the world of cinema. In addition to the film screenings at GOGOLFEST (see above), there are 2 important film festivals.

  • Molodist International Film Festival
  • Odessa International Film Festival

Molodist takes place in Kiev in the last week of October. It supports and promotes young filmmakers and contemporary cinema. It features a competition between a number of national and international young filmmakers and showcases the greatest achievements of new films.

Odessa International Film Festival has quickly become one of the biggest Eastern European film festivals after its inception in 2010. Held in the middle of July in the Black Sea port city of Odessa, it boasts the longest red carpet in the world and features awards, screenings, and parties at the nearby beach clubs.

How to Go to Festivals in Ukraine

In order to go to a Ukrainian festival, travellers must first ensure they are legally able to enter the country.

Citizens of certain countries, such as the USA, Canada, Japan, and EU members can visit Ukraine without a visa for up to 90 days, but will need a valid passport. Visitors from the following 5 countries can enter Ukraine visa-free for an indefinite stay:

  • Armenia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Georgia
  • Moldova
  • Uzbekistan

All other travellers must apply for a visa.

A number of nationalities can obtain a Ukraine electronic visa (e-Visa), which features a simplified application process and avoids the need to travel to an embassy to collect a paper visa.

There is an online visa application form for the Ukraine eVisa, allowing travellers to apply remotely.

Is Kiev family-friendly? Absolutely, check out this detailed guide of family things to do in Kiev (Kyiv) from locals Inessa & Natalie on our Explore My City series

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Chrsitmas tree in Kiev, Ukraine

Feature images sourced via CanvaPro

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