Sevastopol is an important and historical port on the Black Sea. Founded in 1783 as the base of the Black Sea Navy of Russia, it was beseiged by the British in the Crimean War. In the 20th century it was the home port of the Soviet Navy's Black Sea Fleet, and the city retains a significant Russian naval presence.
The population is still largely ethnically Russian and the population's sympathies still lie largely with Moscow rather than Kiev. City residents have strongly protested the visit of American naval ships and Ukrainian interest in joining the NATO alliance. Russian politicians, including the Mayor of Moscow, have even suggested Crimea and specifically, Sevastopol, joining the Russian Federation. While peaceful and stable, the political orientation towards Moscow, continues to define Crimea and Sevastopol.
The major features of the city are on two streets, ul. Lenina and ul. Bolshoya Morskaya; there is a hill between them, on which is ul. Sovietska; there are numerous steps to get up and across the hill. Marshrutki 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.
Sevastopol is rather poorly served by long-distance train but the nearby city of Simferopol is well-connected with many major cities in Eastern Europe and western Russia. With up to twenty connections each day between the two cities and a journey time of only two hours it's easy to get here by train. However, there is still a few direct long-distance overnight services. Moscow (24 h) have one daily train aswell as Saint Petersburg (35 h). Domestic services are daily from Kiev (16 h) via Dnipropetrovsk (9 h), there is also a daily train from the eastern city of Donetsk (11 h).
Getting around Sevastopol, on a day to day basis, is much like getting around many Ukrainian cities -- 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.
Note that English maps and schedules for buses do not appear available (based on internet searching) 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 (e.g., virtualtourist.com) contain comments recommending boats/skiffs that will take tourists to beaches and islands. Note that its 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) cost 7.5UAH from press kiosks.
Sevastopol is a good jumping-off place to see some of the sites from the Crimean War. There is an amazing museum called a Panorama, which depicts the siege of Sevastopol (from the Russian point of view) with a display a little like a diaorama, but much more impressive - there is a huge circular canvas of about 2000 square metres 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. Admission 40UAH +15UAH for camera.
There is a park with war memorials on Sapun Gor nearby, though it focuses on the battles of the World War Two 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 Russian submarine port.
The Greek city of Chersonessus is located about three kilometres from Sebastopol, near the city centre; admission is 20UAH for Ukrainians plus 5UAH for a camera, and 40UAH for foreigners (camera is free), though if you speak Russian and argue you can get in for the Ukrainian price. There is a good guidebook available from the ticket office for 15UAH. This is where Volodymyr, the first leader of the Kievan Rus to convert to Christianity, was baptised; there is a large cathedral at the spot, rebuilt in 1999 after being closed down by the Soviets in the 1920s and blown up by the Nazis in 1944. Also 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 located in the grounds.
You will also find, at 11 ul Lenina, the Museum of the Black Sea Fleet. It is open Wednesday to Sunday and closed for cleaning on the last Friday of every month; there is 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.
In the Park Panorama sits the famous Diorama museum dedicated to the Crimean War. It features a massive diorama depicting the siege of Sevastopol by the British and French Allies. The museum was heavily bombed during WWII and meticulously restored in the 1950's. Admission is 25UAH for adults. Occasionally they offer English tours, but there is signage in English.
Ride the ferry boats crossing the bay. Common routes include those to a number of locations on the north side of town, where the best white sand beach and small airfield are. Locals use these north/south ferries to commute to and from work. Price of the ferries is only 2.5UAH (~$US.70) and they 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 and the beautiful and skinny scantily clad Ukrainian and Russian girls prance the boulevard in their high heels.
Please note, that 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 ten 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.
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. For 200 UAH per day (250km included) and a refundable 200 USD deposit, it is fairly easy to rent a car and enjoy the southern coast this way.
There are lots of boutiques on Bolshoi Morskoe if you want fashionable clothes. Debit and credit cards are accepted in most shops in the city, but not accepted in markets. There are a lot of ATMs.
The restaurant 'Rybatsky Stan' on the West side of Artillery Bay has excellent fish dishes; it's a bit expensive, perhaps 200UAH per head for a meal without wine.
Ukrainiski Shinok is an excellent authentic Ukrainian Restaurant on the basement level of the Hotel Sevastopol in the Center.
Ostrov Sushi (Island of Sushi) is quite the landmark in the center where the ferries dock at Artillery Bay. They are also one of the few wifi spots in the city. Meals usually cost over $US20.
The McDonalds in the center is probably the most popular restaurant in the city and a hangout for many teenagers.
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 neighboring Balaklav 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.
The popular Pizza Celentano located in the city centre serves cheap and delicious pizzas, fruit salad, pancakes and drinks. There is a vast range of toppings to be chosen for the pizzas and pancakes. If you're lucky the staff will speak some English.
This is a major naval port, there are lots of places selling beer and other drinks scattered around the city.
Ostrov Sushi in the center of Artillery Bay has wireless. The Greenwich Coffee House at #15 Admiral Oktyabraskaya (~300 m West of Bolshaya Morskaya) also has WiFi in a Starbuck's-like atmosphere.
The main post office in the center of Bolshaya Morskaya has a large Internet café. The Hotel Crimea (Gostinica Krim) has an Internet café that is open 24 hours a day.
None of these locations have English-speaking staff.
One of the nicer beaches is located approximately 30 minutes from the city in the village of Lyubimovka. It is a sandy beach with hundreds of tourists in the summer.
The city of Balaklava is approximately 45 minutes away and popular for its underground submarine port that is now a tourist site.