Odessa, Ukraine

Photo: Alex Levitsky & Dmitry Shamatazhi / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

The world is just starting to get to know Ukraine. Kyiv is its hip capital. Kharkiv is its tech hub. Lviv is its mysterious rebel. You look forward to getting to know them all. But your introduction to the country should definitely be Odessa.

Odessa is considered the Pearl of the Black Sea. An ancient Greek settlement once sat on the terraced hills along the sea’s northwest shore. The Greeks picked a gorgeous spot. The Tartars, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and the Ottomans agreed. So did Catherine the Great, Russia’s longest-ruling female leader. She officially founded Odessa in 1794. The city quickly grew into a great port. Wars and Soviet control didn’t even diminish its importance. It’s now one of the largest harbors on the Black Sea. Beaches spread out from there.

There’s a lot more to Odessa than the waterfront, though. Beyond Primorsky Boulevard, a waterfront promenade, the city’s architecture leans more Mediterranean than Russian. Art Nouveau, Classicist, and Renaissance buildings from the 19th century fill the center. Elegant limestone houses line Ekaterininskaya Street. It intersects with the shops on Deribasovskaya Street. The iconic Potemkin Stairs, the fine Odessa Opera & Ballet Theater, and the historic Odessa City Garden extend from there. Odessa is simply charming.

Photo: Rooms & Rumors

But Odessa is by no means stuck in the past. The city is full of art. Modern art museums and galleries pop up on a regular basis. It has a vibrant cafe scene with strong coffee, local wine, and an emerging foodie scene. The beach crowd flocks to clubs and live music venues at night. Plus new hotels are keeping visitors in Odessa longer than ever before.

Rooms & Rumors is one of those hotels. The design hotel took over the penthouse—the 16th and 17th floors—of a residential building. Ukrainian rock stars supposedly live nearby. So the hotel played up that cool vibe. It not only named each of its six rooms after a rock legend, but it designed the rooms around their personalities. The Bob Marley Room. The Elvis Presley Room. The Mick Jagger Room. Turntables and a selection of vinyl records that changes daily were added, too. Music magazines, breakfast from one of the best chefs in the country, and a Rock Star Drink Corner are in the lounge-like lobby. While full walls of windows look over the city and out toward the sea. It could be an interesting summer in Odessa.

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