Exploring off the beaten track Kiev: A trip to the Aeroplane Museum
Even if you’re not into aircraft and all other things aeronautical, the State Aviation Museum is a brilliant place to spend a couple of hours if you are in the Ukrainian capital and looking for something a bit unusual to do.
Jam-packed with all sort of fantastic-looking flying machines, including passenger planes, fighter jets and strange-looking helicopters (including the largest in the world, the Soviet/Russian designed Mil Mi-26), the museum is literally full to the rafters with aircraft that were all once in the service of the mighty Soviet Air Force. According to the museum’s own website, it is the largest historical and technical museum of its kind in not only Ukraine but all of Eastern Europe and I, for one, certainly wouldn’t disagree with that statement. The museum opened in 2003 with 33 aircraft and helicopters but now has in the region of 90 machines on display.
The museum’s location, next to Kiev’s second (and smaller) Zhuliany airport, is an added bonus for proper plane-spotters. There is a high perimeter wall surrounding the entire complex but the authorities have left a section where you can see through to the runway and watch aircraft take off and land. We refrained from stopping what we were doing and bolting across the complex at breakneck speed to the viewpoint every time (see below) we heard the familiar roar of jet engines (Zhuliany airport is still used by the military) but for many of the visitors (the museum was surprisingly busy), it looked like it was the highlight of their visit.
Cost for the State Aviation Museum
The entrance fee for the museum is 50 Ukrainian Hryvnia (UAH) per adult (approximately £1.48, €1.65, US$1.92). Additionally, there are four aircraft and two helicopters that you can go inside. Plus you can also enter a small museum displaying aviation engines. These all have an additional charge of between 5UAH and 10UAH for each one and you need to purchase these tickets when you pay your main entrance fee.
Given that it only costs an additional 55UAH per person to buy tickets for everything (you end up with a fistful of them!), this is what we did but on reflection, we would have skipped the engine museum and randomly picked just a couple of the aircraft to go inside rather than all four. Both helicopters were worth the additional expense but be wary of the curator inside the Mil Mi-26 (the largest helicopter in the world, mentioned above). This guy seriously loves his job and will show you video after video on his phone of what this helicopter can do! The first video was interesting but we slowly backed away from him and made a dash for the exit as he was about to show us a fifth video on the subject. If you are interested, just type ‘Mi-26 lifting a plane’ into YouTube!
If you want to work out in advance what you want to pay extra for go to the cost section on the museum’s website and click on the appropriate links. What’s more, at the ticket counter the additional costs are listed in English and you just point at the ones you want.
It also states on the museum’s website that there is a camera fee of 10UAH but this doesn’t appear to be listed at the actual museum anymore and we weren’t asked to pay one.
Opening hours for the State Aviation Museum
The State Aviation Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday (closed Monday and Tuesday) from 10am to 5pm (October to March) and 10am to 6pm (April to September).
The entire museum is outdoors except for the engine room. This is fine on a warm, sunny day but I’d think twice about visiting in the rain or during Ukraine’s brutal winter months.
How long is needed to visit the State Aviation Museum?
Including getting there from the centre of the city, I would recommend setting aside half a day for a visit. We spent about 2½ hours in the museum itself. This was longer than we anticipated but then again, the area is much bigger than we were led to believe and it took this long to see all of the planes and other stuff on display at a leisurely pace. Also I must fess up that, even though I’m not a plane-spotter (honest guv’nor!), I did run over with the enthusiasm of a puppy greeting his master to the viewing area mentioned above a couple of times in order to watch the odd aircraft take off or land and this prolonged our stay at the museum!
Additional information for the State Aviation Museum
The museum has a good website with lots of practical information on it as well as nerdy stuff.
Public transport to the State Aviation Museum
As mentioned above, the museum is next to Zhuliany airport (coordinates 50.407222°N 30.459444°E). The easiest way to get there from the centre of Kiev is to take the metro to Demiivska (Демiïвська) metro station (Line 2/blue). When you come out of the metro station you need to walk the short distance to Lobanovskyi Avenue and catch bus number 220 in a westerly direction to the museum, which is the last stop on the route.
Alternatively, you can take the metro to Shuliavska (Шулявська) metro station (Line 1/red) and from there get on trolleybus number 22 to Zhuliany airport. The trolleybus is marked Kiev Airport in English and when you arrive, you need walk 1.5km to the actual museum.
We happened to experience both routes as we didn’t know about the first one until after we had arrived at the museum but the first option is the better of the two as it involves no walking.
Is the State Aviation Museum in Kiev worth visiting?
Definitely! I challenge anyone, regardless of gender or age, not to get excited by the huge, aeronautical beasts on display in this wonderful museum. Add the fact that it isn’t expensive to enter and is also relatively easy to reach on public transport and you’ve got yourself a real winner, especially if you have got children with you. The place is also a dream for photographers and lovers of all things retro.