Kiev. Founded in the 5th century, the city of Kiev was the birthplace of the eastern slav civilisation, the mother of the Ukraine, of Belarussia and of Russia. Located on a prosperous commerce route linking the Baltic to Constantinople, the city really started booming when prince Varegue Oleg named Kiev the capital of a powerful principality in the year 882. The city saw its peak during the 11th century, working as a real rival to Constantinople, religiously, artistically and in terms of commerce. The Saint Sophie cathedral dates from this period, inspired by its namesake in Constantinople. The city's sacking at the hands of the Mongols in 1240 marked the end of its dominance. Kiev was also badly damaged by the bombings that took place during the Second World War, but the old town, found to the north-east of Volodymyrska Street still maintains various historic monuments. The most impressive of these is obviously the Saint Sophie cathedral. This beautiful byzantin building is made up of 19 domes, and was built between 1037 and 1039. It has since undergone numerous external modifications. The interior of this church that was, for centuries, the centre of religious life in Russian Kiev, is decorated with beautiful mosaics, frescoes, icons and altar pieces, particularly in the central naive. A hundred meters to the south of the Cathedral is the main shopping street, Khreshchatyk street. It boasts several shops and cafes. It opens onto the Bessarabie fruit and vegetable market. Another charming street is the Andriivsky slope, linking the higher part of the city to Podol, the old trade and artisan quarter. At the centre of Podol, Kontraktova square houses restaurants and galleries within the confines of the Kontraktova Dim, a neoclassical building in white stone. Located at the end of Volodymyrska Street, we reccommend a visit to the museum of Ukranian history, which houses an interesting collection of ancient objects. Also worth seeing is the Chernobyl museum that describes the story of the 1986 nuclear disaster. Sitting at the top of a steep slope that dominates the Dniepr, the St Andrew Cathedral is a beautiful baroque building topped with five blue, white, green and gold cupolas. Also not to be missed: the Golden gate (zoloti vorota), the former main entrance to the town, which houses a small museum of ancient architecture. Nearby is the St.Vladimir cathedral, which should be seen, as well as the Russian Art museum and the Eastern and Western Art museums located to the south of Chevtchenko park. To the south of the old town, perched on the heights overlooking the Dniepr, the Kyiv-Pechersk lavra, or Catacombe lavra, is one of the jewels of the capital. Founded in 1051 in the grottoes inhabited by hermit monks, the Lavra has grown over the course of centuries and has long been Russia's main monestary. The Lavra is a vast collection of churches topped with golden domes, subterranean labyrinthes and monastic buildings transformed into museums, split into a smaller and larger part. The larger part of the Lavra is accessed by Trinity church, built in 1108 and covered in rich baroque ornamentation, topped by a golden dome with a cross. Inside, murals and golden icons come together to form a beautiful decor. The oldest building in the monestary, the Dormition church, no longer exists bar a few walls and the tower, subsequent to its 1941 destruction. Further south, the metropolitan residence houses the Ukranian museum of Arts and Tradition and its remarkable collection of craft. In the printing house, the museum of historical treasure is a must see - containing an exceptional collection of Scythian goldsmith's work. At the northen entrance is the All Saints church, built in 1696-1698 and a magnificent example of Ukranian Baroque architecture. The smaller part of the Lavra is made up of a series of grottoes, crypts and underground churches. Access to the further away grottoes is via the church of the Conception of St Anne - dominated by the seven domes of the church of the Nativity of the Virgin. 7 miles or so from Kiev, near the village of Pirogov, the Ukranian museum of Architecture and Tradition recreates the villages of old from different Ukranian regions, with their thatched houses, windmills and wooden churches.