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Odessa is the beautiful port city of Ukraine, which still retains its unmistakable charm and which has attracted millions of sailors, businessmen and tourists alike over the centuries.
Odessa remains one of the energetic cities, in continuous movement, which led its social life according to its own rules, regardless of the uncertain political periods – the period of the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union or the Independent Ukraine – Odessa has always been different.
Although the buildings in the city date from the 13th century, Odessa has a fairly recent history, being founded in 1794 by the decree of Empress Catherine the Great of Russia.
Odessa was originally founded to serve as the ” window to Europe “; precisely for this reason the architecture of the buildings you will admire here will lead you to think of the French or Italian architectural styles and by no means to the buildings that now define the urban areas of the former communist bloc. Shortly after its establishment, Odessa became a bohemian city that brought together Ukrainians, Russians, Greeks, Moldovans, Germans and Jews, constituting a cultural mix that became essential and defining for Odessa. In no other place in Ukraine will you find such cultural diversity, which is natural for a port city.
Odessa is at the same time a city, a port and a resort with long sandy beaches, flowers as far as the eye can see and a sunny Mediterranean climate. More in our top today – Top 5 Odessa tourist attractions.
1. Potemkin stairs
The Potemkin stairs in Odessa became a symbol of the city of Odessa and were named after the cruiser Potemkin , a warship named after Grigory Aleksandrovich Potemkin-Tavricheski, a military man and statesman very close to Catherine the Great. The revolt of the sailors on the Potemkin is said to have been the spark that announced the Russian Revolution of 1905, the first step towards that of 1917.
The stairs were built in 1837 to provide direct access to the port, according to the plans of the Italian architect Francesco Boffo , but the entire responsibility regarding the construction itself fell to the English engineer Upton.
Today, the Potemkin stairs comprise 192 steps , with a total length of 142 meters and a difference in level of 27 meters. They were built between 1837 and 1841 , in perspective, creating the feeling of endless steps due to the way they were designed – the base of the stairs is wider than the top.
Although initially, the Potemkin Stairs included 200 steps, today, as mentioned above, there are still 192 steps left after 1933, when 8 steps of the initially built staircase were permanently abandoned.
In 1906, a funicular was built on the left side of the stairs, to facilitate the ascent of people who could not climb the 192 steps to the top. After 50 years of operation, this funicular was replaced in 1970 with a modern escalator that still helps tourists reach the top without making a significant effort.
Over time, these stairs have been named in various ways, such as the Boulevard of the Steps , the Gigantic Staircase or the Richelieu Steps , but after the Soviet revolution that took place in 1955, they were called the Potemkin Stairs , in honor of the celebration of 30 years since the making of the Soviet film ” Cruiser Potemkin “, a film that dramatically presents the revolt that took place in 1905, when the crew of the warship rebelled against the officers of the tsarist regime.
2. Vorontsov Palace
The Vorontsov Palace is a real architectural jewel of the city of Odessa and is all the more admired as we know that it was built in 1827 on the site of an old Turkish fortress by the Italian architect Francesco Boffo for Prince Mikhail Semyonovich Vorontsov , hence the name of the palace. The architect combined several architectural styles, but despite this fact, it shows a lot of elegance.
The colonnade of the Vorontsov Palace , an architectural complex within the domain, includes 10 columns arranged in two rows. These columns are considered to be a symbol of eternal love and often the complex is also called ” Portal of a lonely girl “.
3. Transfiguration Cathedral
The Transfiguration Cathedral in Odessa dates back to 1794, being dedicated to St. Nicholas the Apostle. Built on the site of an old wooden church, the Odessa Cathedral was built with the aim of being able to accommodate a larger number of believers. In 1825, the construction was finished, when the bell tower was added.
When it was named as the cathedral, there was a need to expand the existing building, which was much smaller than what you can admire now. Thus, at the request of Archbishop Gabriel, between the years 1841-1880, the architect D. Heidenreich proposed a plan to expand the proportions, the last works being completed between the years 1900-1903.
The construction of the imposing Cathedral that we can visit today stretches over three floors and is the work of the style of Italian artists. The brightly colored stained glass windows attract the attention of every tourist who arrives here or every Christian who crosses its threshold.
4. Statue of Duke Richelieu
The Duke of Richelieu was an important statesman, with the rank of officer in the Russian Imperial Army. Appointed governor of Odessa in 1803, he contributed significantly to the development of the city, succeeding a few years later in making Odessa the third largest city in the Russian Empire.
Due to his remarkable contribution to the economic and cultural development of Odessa, a monument was erected to him in 1828 depicting him. The statue was made of bronze, by the sculptor I. Martos. The monument depicts Duke Richelieu dressed in a Roman toga, holding a manuscript. The residents of Odessa honor him on the occasion of every national holiday, the Duke Richelieu statue being a landmark and its square being the host of all the important festivities of the city. More than that, if you also want to have money luck, you only have to touch the money bag of the statue and make a wish! At least that’s what the local legends say…
5. The Museum of Western and Oriental Art
The Museum of Western and Oriental Art is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Odessa. Founded in 1923, it brings together a series of important art objects belonging to various cultures. If you arrive here, the first thing you will notice is the impressive architecture of the building – the Museum of Western and Oriental Art is housed in an impressive palace belonging to the 18th century, built under the signature of the architect L. Otton . Originally built in the Baroque architectural style, after a series of reconstructions and improvements brought to the original project, it now combines Baroque, Gothic, Rococo and Imperial architectural styles.
The Museum of Western and Oriental Art extends over three floors, each floor hosting a unique exhibition. The first floor is dedicated exclusively to the antiquities section – Western and Oriental art objects, an impressive numismatic art collection, old clothes and jewelry as well as a collection of manuscripts.
The second floor of the museum is dedicated to the West European section – paintings of the 15th century, bearing the signature of national and international artists, such as Frantz Hals, Carreno Juan de Miranda, Pierre Mignard, Josef Israels , etc., but also sculptures that present decorative art , such as the Statues of St. John the Baptist, St. Peter or the goddess Venus .