Sevastopol (Russian: Севастополь), also known as Sebastopol, is an important and historical port on the Black Sea in Crimea. It is also a popular seaside resort and tourist destination, mainly for visitors from the Commonwealth of Independent States countries.
In Graeco-Roman times it was known as Chersonesus Taurica. This settlement was sacked by the Mongol Horde several times in the 13th and 14th centuries, and then totally abandoned, only to be refounded in 1783 as the base of the Black Sea Navy of Russia. It was famously besieged by the British in the Crimean War. The unique geographic location and navigation conditions of the city's harbours make Sevastopol a very significant naval strategic stronghold, not unlike Gibraltar and Halifax. As the historic home port of the Soviet (and later the Russian) Navy's Black Sea Fleet, the city has always had a significant Russian naval presence. Before the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea, the city was home to the headquarters of both the Ukrainian Naval Forces and Russia's Black Sea Fleet.
The population is largely ethnically Russian, so the population's sympathies lie largely with Moscow rather than Kyiv. Some city residents had strongly protested the visit of American naval ships and Ukrainian interest in joining NATO. The political orientation towards Moscow continues to define Crimea and Sevastopol.
There are more than 30 bays within the bounds of the region. The total area of the city is 1079 km². The water area of the inner bays takes 216 km² of the total area.
There are more than 2,000 monuments in the city, a lot of historical places, museums, theatres, numerous parks and boulevards.
The major features of the city are on two streets, ulitsa Lenina and ulitsa Bolshoya Morskaya; there is a hill between them, on which is ulitsa Sovietska; there are numerous steps to get up and across the hill. Marshrutki (mini buses) tend to go up one of these streets and down the other; at the south end of ul. Lenina you can turn left to get to the train station and the bus-station.
- 1 Sevastopol International Airport. Has service from Moscow. (Flights from Dnipropetrovsk and Kyiv (Kiev) have been suspended since the Russian annexation).
The international airport in Simferopol is much better connected.
Sevastopol is rather poorly served by long-distance train but the nearby city of Simferopol is well-connected with many major cities in western Russia. With up to 20 connections each day between the two cities, and a journey time of only two hours, it's easy to get here by train. There are a few direct long-distance overnight services. Moscow (24 hours) has one daily train as well as Saint Petersburg (35 hours). Services from Kyiv (16 hours) via Dnipro (9 hours) and Donetsk (11 hours) have been suspended since annexation.
Getting around Sevastopol, on a day to day basis, can be done by foot, by mini-bus (marshrutka), and by city bus. Given the hilly terrain and circuitous routes created as Sevastopol grew around its bays and shoreline, walking is less likely to be efficient, especially after one leaves the city center.
English maps and schedules for buses are hardly available, and that one may need to depend on the word of citizens, operators, and fellow passengers to find the right route and stop. Buses and marshrutkas are economical, though often crowded, with marshrutkas being faster and slightly more expensive. Some travel sites contain comments recommending boats that will take tourists to beaches and islands. It's much harder to get off boats if you realize you are on the wrong one and it is also difficult to leave a dicey location if the only transport is by boat.
Good road maps of the town (with street names in both Latin and Cyrillic characters) can be obtained from press kiosks.
Renting a car is a great way to experience Crimea without dealing with the often late and uncomfortable public transportation. Car rental is possible at many places, but the cheapest appears to be at Number 43 Proletariarskaya ulitsa at the southern end of the city. Starting from US$10 per day (250 km included) and a refundable US$200 deposit, it is fairly easy to rent a car and enjoy the southern coast this way.
Sevastopol is a good jumping-off place to see some of the sites from the Crimean War. There are also many Soviet war memorials - Sevastopol is one of the thirteen Hero Cities of the Great Patriotic War. There is a large statue of Lenin, with soldiers, peasants and workers, on ulitsa Sovietska, which is the spine of the main section of the city. There is a statue of Admiral Nakhimov, who defeated the Turkish fleet and masterminded the defence of Sevastopol at the time of the Crimean War, in a square at the head of the main part of the city.
- 1 Nakhimov Square (Площадь Нахимова). The central city square. In the middle of which you can see the monument to Admiral Pavel Nakhimov - the hero of the Sinop battle and the first heroic defense of Sevastopol, the talented naval commander and true patriot of Russia.
- 2 Count's Landing Stage (Графская пристань). The Count's Landing Stage are the grand sea gates to the city. Its granite steps go down to the sea. Sevastopol is geographically advantageous as it is in a unique non-frozen bay (closed from storms and winds), surrounded by 12 countries within a 600 km radius - a short distance to Istanbul. Equipped with two moorings at 135 m and 200 meters, the terminal has the capacity to accommodate passenger cruises with a draught of 4 and 8 m, respectively. The image of the Count's Landing Stage has become a specific emblem of the hero-city: the whole history of Sevastopol from foundation to the present days relates to this architecture monument. There are many excursions by boat on the bay. Most take 30 minutes.
- 3 Monument to Catherine II (Памятник Екатерине II). The Empress Catherine II of Russia founded Sevastopol in 1783. She visited the city in 1787 accompanied by Joseph II, the Emperor of Austria, and other foreign dignitaries.
- 4 [dead link] The Black Sea Fleet Museum, 11 Lenina st. Open Wednesday to Sunday and closed on the last Friday of every month. the Black Sea Fleet Museum reflects the history of the Black Sea Fleet of Russia from the very beginning till nowadays (the periods of the city's foundation, the 1850s Crimean War, 1905 and 1917 Revolutions, World War II ). The museum has a great number of rarities of big educational value (18th-20th centuries). There is also a small exhibition of Russian and Soviet weapons outside the building. A couple of doors further down ul. Lenina is the Church of the Black Sea Fleet.
- 5 St. Vladimir Cathedral (Владимирский собор), corner of Marata and Frunze streets. St. Vladimir Cathedral was built in the aftermath of the Crimean War, as a memorial to the heroes of the Siege of Sevastopol (1854–1855). Its dome rises to a height of 32.5 m. The architecture of the church is Neo-Byzantine. The marble-clad interior was decorated by a team of Swiss and Italian artists. The names of the heroes of the 1850s siege are inscribed on the walls. The cathedral was the site of the tombs of the Russian Imperial admirals Lazarev, Nakhimov, Kornilov and Istomin, which were destroyed by the Soviets in 1931. The church sustained further damage in the Second World War. One can admire the view of Sevastopol harbor from the top of the Central City Hill, where the Cathedral is.
- 6 Monument to Lenin (Памятник Ленину), inside Lenin Park (in front of St Vladimir cathedral).
- 7 The Sevastopol Art Museum (Художественный музей), Prospekt Nakhimov, 9. The Sevastopol Art Museum is one of the richest art collections in the Crimea. Although it wasn't organized until 1927, its history is remarkable in many ways and, for one thing, could be dated further back, to the first days following the end of the Civil War in Crimea. To date it displays about 8,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings, engravings and items of decorative and applied art of different times and countries.
- 8 [dead link] Sevastopol Lunacharsky Theatre (Театр имени Луначарского), Prospekt Nakhimov, 4. Sevastopol Academic Russian Dramatic A. Lunacharsky Theatre was founded in 1911. During the October Revolution and the Civil War (1917-1920) Sevastopol was a refuge for the intellectuals of the ruined Russian empire. In 1920 revolutionary committee took hold of the city and gave the name of people's commissar of education Anatoly Lunacharsky to the theatre. The original building of the theatre was destroyed during the Second World War. The group of architects from Moscow headed by V. Pelevin worked out the project of a new building in classic style. Renewed theatre was opened in fall of 1957 on Primorsky Boulevard. The auditorium has 742 seats. The theatre has its own studios and workshops that make stage properties, scenery and costumes. Lunacharsky theatre also stages summer performances at the remains of the ancient (4th century BC) amphitheatre inside the "Chersonesus Taurica" National Preserve.
- 9 Dolphinarium (Дельфинарий), Kornilova embankment, 2. The Sevastopol Dolphinarium in Artillery Bay is in the city centre. The performances are held daily (the Dolphinarium works in summer time only, and in winter it is moved to the main pool in Kazachiya Bay) where dolphins do various tricks. The show of seals is diverse and has many comic numbers. However, the dolphin show is based on various combinations of trainers swimming with dolphins. After the performance, those, who will, can take photos with the most loved sea animals and swim in a small pool with dolphins at extra cost. Some scientists say that sound signals of dolphins make biological resonance, stimulate the production of endorphins, the hormones that make psychological and emotional state better, improve vegetative nervous functions, and tone up.
- 10 [formerly dead link] Aquarium-Museum (Аквариум), Prospekt Nakhimov 2. It’s in the center of Sevastopol, on Nakhimov Avenue, in a classical white building of the Institute of the Biology of the Southern seas of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. It was founded in 1897. Expeditions of the institute scientists all over the world, including the famous Cousteau crew, supply the aquarium with more new exhibits. In the central basin, 2.5 m deep and 9.2 m in diameter, live the inhabitants of the Black Sea: spurdog shark, beluga, sturgeons, big skates, sea bears. In the 12 wall aquariums, 7 m³ each, the fish, tortoises, shellfish, seaweeds and corals from all seas and oceans of the world are represented, including very rare and unusual ones from the fauna of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans, the Black, Mediterranean and Red seas, as well as reptiles and amphibians from different parts of the world.
- 11 Monument to the Scuttled Ships (Памятник зотопленным кораблям) (on Primorsky Boulevard). Built in 1905 and erected in the sea in memory of Russian ships scuttled here to block the entrance into Sevastopol harbour and port, a world-famous symbol of Sevastopol.
- 12 Panorama. This museum depicts the siege of Sevastopol, from the Russian point of view, with a display like a diorama, but much more impressive - there is a huge circular canvas of about 2000 m² as a backdrop, and then lots of props such as cannons and models of redoubts in the foreground. It's narrated in Russian but you can hire an audioguide in English or French.
- 13 Sapun Gora. A park with war memorials, though it focuses on the battles of the World War II siege of Sevastopol. You can visit the "Valley of Death", where the famous Charge of the Light Brigade occurred, and you can also visit nearby Balaklava, site of another famous battle, and an interesting little town, formerly a secret Russian submarine base.
- 14 Chersonesus (Χερσόνησος) (about 3 km from the city centre). The Greek city of Chersonesus Taurica ("Taurica" stands for the Crimean Peninsula) is where Volodymyr, aka Vladimir The Great, aka St. Vladimir, the first leader of the Kievan Rus to convert to Christianity, was baptised; on the site are various Byzantine basilicas, including a famous one with marble columns, and the 'foggy bell', made of melted-down Turkish cannons in the late 1700s, which was taken to Paris after the Crimean War and returned in 1914. Tourists swarm all over the ancient monuments with little respect for their antiquity. Few signs tell you what is what. Still, the atmosphere is nice. Consider bringing your swimming gear - the locals do, because there's a narrow but beautiful beach in the grounds. It's listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- 15 Chersonesus Cathedral (Владимирский кафедральный собор в Херсонесе, St. Vladimir Cathedral on Chersonesus), Bulitsiya Davnya 1. This Neobyzantine cathedral commemorates the presumed place of St. Vladimir's baptism. According to legend and historic facts the baptism of Vladimir the Great took place in 988 in Chersonesus. The idea to immortalize the place of the Baptism of the Holy Prince was first represented in 1825, by the Black Sea Fleet Chief, vice-admiral Alexey Greig. On his initiative, excavations were conducted at the site of Chersonesus Taurica in 1827. As a result, several remains of ancient Christian churches were found out at the center of the market square, including a cruciform basilica. In 1830 the historians Frédéric Dubois de Montpéreux and N. Murzakevich made the conjecture that Vladimir the Great was baptized in this basilica, which dispelled all doubts about where to build this church. The construction took 15 years and was finished in 1874-1876. The consecration of the Cathedral took place on October 17 1891, though the final decorative design was completed only in 1894. As far back as 1859, the marble reliquary in form of Gospel with relics of Grand Prince St. Vladimir was passed from the Small Church of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg to Chersonesus. After the building of Chersonesus Cathedral, his relics were placed in the Lower Church, near the ruins of the ancient basilica. At the Upper Church altar is the Korsun icon of the Mother of God, brought from Chersonesus by Vladimir the Great, according to legend. Altogether, the relics of 115 saints were passed to Cathedral. It was closed down by the Soviets in the 1920s and blown up by the Nazis in 1944. The work on its restoration began in the late 1990s, even though it was made more active only in 2000. The consecration of the high altar of St. Vladimir Cathedral in Chersonesus took place on April 3, 2004.
- Ride the ferry boats crossing the bay. Common routes include those to a number of locations on the north side of the town, where the best white sand beach and small airfield are. Locals use these north/south ferries to commute to and from work. The ferries travel all over the city and it is a good way to get photos of the various landmarks.
- In the summer, there are numerous tented beer bars on the waterfront. It's great for watching the ships entering the bay.
There are lots of boutiques on Bolshoy Morskoy Str. if you want fashionable clothes.
Russian domestic debit and credit cards are accepted in most shops in the city, but not accepted in markets, foreign banks are wary to do business due to ongoing sanctions. There are a lot of ATMs.
- You should try original and real "Baklava", which is different than the Greek or Turkish versions. European soldiers fighting in the Crimean War coined the term "Baklava" while fighting in Sevastopol and neighbouring Balaklava from the local fried bread coated in honey popular in the region. Hence, the name, Baklava, was imported to the West. It's a thin unleavened fried flour bread covered in honey and sold in small stores and on beaches by vendors.
- Pizza Celentano (in the city centre). The popular Pizza Celentano serves cheap pizzas, fruit salad, pancakes and drinks. There is a vast range of toppings to be chosen for the pizzas and pancakes. Staff can speak some English.
- RusBurger, Prospekt Nakhimova. A McDonald's at this site in the city centre, one of the three Crimean locations closed in April 2014, was popular among teens. RusBurger, a Russian regional chain (established 2009) with twelve locations in Moscow, Tver and Stavropol, placed its white-on-red signage on the former McDonald's on Prospekt Nakhimova in July 2014. RusBurger offers a “Taste of Russia” menu of pear lemonade and Czar Cheeseburgers made from Russian beef, vegetables, and cheeses. The chain's meals typically cost 300-500 руб, served from 10:00-22:00.
- Ukrainiski Shinok (On the basement level of the Hotel Sevastopol in the Center). This is an excellent authentic Ukrainian Restaurant.
- Ostrov Sushi (Island of Sushi). This is quite the landmark in the center where the ferries dock at Artillery Bay. They are also one of the few Wi-Fi spots in the city. Meals usually cost over US$20.
- Restaurant Rybatsky Stan (on the west side of Artillery Bay). It has excellent fish dishes; it's a bit expensive.
This is a major naval port, there are lots of places selling beer and other drinks scattered around the city.
- Hotel inside railway station (Комнаты отдыха на ж/д вокзале) (right inside railway station).
- [dead link] Atlantika Hotel, 22 Geroev Stalingrada Street, Sevastopol, Ukraine 99014, ☏ . It's near Kamishovaya Bay and offers rooms equipped with balcony/deck, private toilet, bath and a telephone. They also have a café, which serves Ukrainian and Russian cuisine; a conference room that can can accommodate up to 80 guests; and two banquet halls that can accommodate 30 and 70 persons, respectively. from €26.
- TIU Bolshaya Hostel, Bolshaya Morskaya 38, ☏ . Great accommodation in a small backpacker/traveller hostel with quiet courtyard and garden on one of the main city streets opposite the Post Office and next to the Cathedral. English-speaking staff with great local knowledge on premises 24/7. Free WiFi~Linens~Coffee&Tea. 24-hr hot water. Safe & secure. Top rated Sevastopol hostel on Hostelworld every year. Open only during the summer season (June 1-Sept 15). Dorm from €12, private room €35.
- Sevastopol Mega Hostel, V.Kychera 5, ap.. Quite central and most staff speaks English. Rooms: US$50-200/night, Dorm: ?.
- Hotel Ukraine (across from the Panarama Park). The rooms are quite standard. US$35-100/night.
- Hotel Olymp. Only about 100 m from the Hotel Ukraine on a quite street, it's a nicer and newer hotel, but lacks an elevator, which is useful if lugging heavy bags up four floors. Rooms range from US$75-120/night.
- Fort Hotel, Chernomorskaya 2, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Small, family owned hotel with sea view from the terrace near Chersonessus. Swimming pool with jaccuzzi in the yard, garden and BBQ. Booking in advance required. English speaking staff. €30/2 person room.
- [dead link] Private house for tourists, Sevastopol, email@example.com. Private house (room, shower, toilet, kitchen, microwave, refrigerator, TV, Wi-Fi). Clean and comfortable. Green yard, good safe place for travelers. House is situated near the city center (10 min by bus). Nearby are the shops, supermarket, Ecopark. A beautiful green, quiet area, always fresh air. All conditions for comfortable rest. English speaking host. US$10-15/night.
Places with Wi-Fi in the city center:
- The main post office in the center of Bolshaya Morskaya has a large Internet café.
- Restaurant "Ostrov Sushi" in the center of Artillery Bay has wireless
- The Greenwich Coffee House at Admiral Oktyabraskaya, 15 (~300 m West of Bolshaya Morskaya) also has Wi-Fi in a Starbuck's-like atmosphere.
- Restaurant "Il Patio" Nakhimova ave, 8, near the sea in Artillery Bay
- Restaurant "1820" Nakhimova, 10, at the bus stop near Lazareva square
- The Hotel Crimea (Gostinica Krim) has an Internet café that is open 24 hours a day.
Sevastopol was a closed city during the Soviet period. Residents, as in other ethnic Russian areas, are not impressed with foreigners who have no appreciation or understanding of their language and culture. Probably fewer than 20 percent of the locals have a working knowledge of English and only about 10 percent of those care to speak English with foreigners who assume that English is widely understood in former Soviet republics. If, on the other hand, you have bothered to master a basic understanding of Russian and show a little humility, Sevastopol locals, like Russians elsewhere, will often go out of their way to communicate with you, most often by adapting their speech as if they were speaking to a five year old or whatever your level is.
Sevastopol, like most any ethnic Russian town, is a challenge, but certainly worth the attempt for all interested in its unique charm and war history.
- One of the nicer beaches is located approximately 30 minutes from the city in the village of Lyubimovka. It is a big sandy beach with hundreds of tourists in the summer. Another nice beach is Uchkuyevka. You can get there by taking the ferry (parom in Russian) from the city center to Severnaya and then a short ride by marshrutka. The beaches are relatively crowded but frequented mainly by locals (and Russians who feel like locals too :)
- The city of Balaklava is approximately 45 minutes away and popular for its underground submarine port that is now a tourist site.