I have been several times in Ukraine, all the times passing by Lviv. But unfortunately moving to other cities I didn’t have so much time to explore the cultural capital of the country. Finally, I stopped in the city for a couple of days. It wasn’t enough to see everything. But at least I started my tour. Surely I will go back to this pearl. Well, let me give you some impressions and information about it. For me, it was like to enter in an elegant living room. Yes, the architecture and shape give me this idea.
As Italian, I can’t don’t notice a common feature with Rome. The city is built on 7 hills. Maybe it’s not the only common thing with the Italian capital. Culture, art, and museums are the soul of Lviv. Thanks to the lovely people and too marvelous places I already fall in love with Ukraine some time ago. And this time my love growth a lot. I have also to thank the local tourism office because the kindness of the staff gave me a lot of information and hints on what to see according to my short stay in the city.
Lviv, where is it?
In Italy, we call the city Leopoli, city of the lion, because of its coat of arms. Lviv welcomes around one million tourists each year. They come from the closes countries, but also from the USA and I met a couple from Australia. It counts more than 700,000 inhabitants and it is in Western Ukraine, close to the Polish border. There are important universities and the city is under the protection of Unesco Heritage Program since 1998. I have a passion for history, so this place is really perfect for me.
The city was founded in the 13th century and it conserves many memories through the buildings. Lviv was under the Polish reign and then under Russia. Since 1991 it’s part of independent Ukraine. This means that the place hosted different cultures and each of them left something to build and improve the city. Among the populations in the area, we can’t forget Germans, Armenians, and Jews. It was already a cosmopolitan city in the past.
Despite the country have to work a bit more to improve tourism infrastructures, especially in certain areas, Lviv is well prepared for travelers. During my trips to the country, I had the chance to meet some people from local and regional institutions. I have to say that some of them are working hard to promote Ukraine and their cities and regions.
The first time I landed in Lviv, the airport gave me the impression of a small railway station. Then a policeman was following me from the plain to the exit. I also remember that he asked for some information to people that were waiting for me. Before the European Football Championship, everything changed. Now the airport is big, modern, full of windows and natural light. Passengers are freer to move inside.
The old Lviv airport took from the car when I was leaving
Lviv and its elegance
I noticed that the streets, sometimes a bit chaotic, are clean, ordered and in general well kept. I can’t say the same about some roads out of the city, with big holes. Time to time it happened to me to travel between cities. I needed 4 hours for 100 kilometers. You can imagine. But this is not Lviv, especially the downtown. Walking around I felt as going around into the history.
Each building expresses a style and decorations coming from a specific period. Then there are lovely bars and restaurants located between museums and important palaces. That’s why this pearl of a city reminds me of an elegant living room.
Visiting Lviv I feel in Europe, even if it is not part of the Union, it shows many features typical of the European cities. Especially the ones located in the center and in the north of the continent. Also, people involved in hospitality in the city are quite well prepared. Use the English language in Ukraine is possible. I mean not all the people can speak it, but especially young people, the tourism workers, and some representative of the institutions can easily use it. So you are not lost. Since the population is kind and quite open, they will help you anyway. So, don’t worry.
What to see in Lviv
I couldn’t visit all the attractions, but I can describe the main ones. You should put Ukraine and Lviv on your destination lists, you will be delighted. Especially if art, history, and culture are your passions. Outside the city, you can see also castles and nature. Included mountains, the Carpathians. As who follow me know, I love to walk in cities and to see the old town is surely the best way. Luckily the Second World War didn’t make damages, or at least not big ones.
You can’t enjoy properly the historical and artistic part if you are using a bus or a car. Because Lviv has to be felt, not only visited. It’s a totally different experience. Then a traveler wants to keep in touch also with people. Ask for directions can be one way.
I already mentioned it, so let’s start from this part of the city. In the past, the buildings were made of wood but a couple of fires in the 16th century destroyed them. Most of the attractions are located in this area of Lviv. The same for restaurants and bars where to taste the local traditions. Lviv is modern but in the old town, just watching the buildings, the atmosphere in particular. I felt out of the world, without pressure and the typical city stress. Maybe more common in some western cities. The old town is also the set of many cultural festivals, where are and music are the protagonists.
City life is going on around the town hall, especially for tourists. Because Market Square is the proper starting point to visit Lviv. Palaces all around are from Renaissance and some shows Rococo design. In four corners of the square, there are fountains. One for each corner. This particular reminds me of Rome again. The fountains’ statues represent Neptune, Diana, Amphitrite, and Adonis. A few museums, a lot of bars and the tourism office are located there. You should get a map, some hints in the office and then admire the city hall.
The building hosts the city council and the mayor, but what is important and interesting is the architecture. If you don’t pay much attention you can see one big palace, with a huge entrance. Well, it can be divided into three parts. It was developed between the 14th and the 16th centuries. So also the styles are not properly the same. A tower is part of this complex building. The decorations show exactly the Renaissance style, but it was built in 1830. The most important building of the city, because of the institution, is an expression of different periods and architectures.
What’s better than the city hall to explain the meeting between different cultures and populations? Anyway, you can go up to enjoy a nice view of Lviv from the top. I suggest to do it, but let me give you some more advice. Choose a day with sun to see well everything. From there you will have the perfect picture of the city to plan your visits. The other tip concerns your energy.
You have to do around 400 steps to be at the top of the tower. So don’t do it after long walks and a long day of tours. At least the ticket office is not at the entrance. You have to do around 100 steps to reach it. So you will have time to go back before to pay if it’s hard. I am joking, of course. You will enjoy it and it will be a great experience.
Before to give you some more details about the attractions, dividing them per type, I want to mention this street. Mongols, in the 13th century, kicked out Armenians and they established the community in Lviv. Most of the people settled their houses and activities around this street out of the city walls, but not far from the center. They also built their own cathedral. But this will be something I will tell you ahead in the post. The community was following its own rules and it was managing itself like in an independent country.
Virmenska Street, this the real name of the street is still so peculiar. Many buildings show the Armenian style and how the palaces and the houses were at that time. Of course, there are some changes and some restorations. The most recent examples of the Armenian architecture in Lviv are dated the 18th century. Very particular are the house’s portals. You will really enjoy walking here. There are a good atmosphere and some places where you can drink or eat something.
The religious architecture is part of almost all the tours in Lviv. This because there are great artworks and a lot of history to know. It helps to understand better the city. Also, despite your faith, you will see magnificent paintings, sculptures, and decorations. Let’s see what are the best ones you have to insert in your exploration.
St. George’s Cathedral
It is the most important one and since it is the cathedral of Lviv, the most stately. It was built in the 18th century and located on the west side of the city. The building is very rich in decorations and it is lavish Rococo pilasters. Above the portal, it is possible to see two of the main statues, dedicated to St. Leo and St. Athanasius. Inside there is a great artwork dedicated to Mary and made in the 17th century. Then you can see some tombs of important people of the Greek-Catholic Ukrainian Church. Obviously, this is a Catholic cathedral. The position on the hill makes it even more attractive.
I already introduced to you the Armenian Street and the community, now I tell you about their church. Now the community is quite small because many of the people move outside the country under the Soviet Union. But the cathedral didn’t lose its importance. It was built around 1360 when Armenians arrived in Lviv.
Because of a fire and also of the Byzantine period the church changed a lot. But you can see the shape and also the last added parts in the 15th century. After some restoration and after the paintings realize on walls in the 20th century by two Polish artists, no more changes were made. It’s maybe not so rich inside, but it worth a visit. Especially for history.
Chapel of the Boim Family
On the Cathedral square, you can find a masterpiece of the religious architecture in Lviv. This 17th-century Mannerist chapel is unique in all Ukraine and as well in all Europe. What is particular is the facade. It is made of sandstone carvings. Every single part is carved and it is possible to see the main figures of the Catholic religion.
There are St. Peter and St. Paul and the scenes describe the Christ Passion. Even if you don’t know the Jesus story, you can admire what the artists have done. It’s really incomparable. Stucco is the technique used to work inside the chapel. I am sure you will love it. As I do.
Last but not least among the churches to visit there is the Dominican Church. Again Rome. Yes, before to tell you about this building I need to explain that these are the ones I saw and I think you should visit. But Lviv count over 100 churches, that’s why I have again Rome in my mind. It’s to the east of Market Square, so around your starting point. If you follow my tips.
It worths a visit and let’s say that you are already there. In the structure, there are Corinthian columns. I liked a lot this 18th-century church because of art and architecture, but also for history. Even if it is not possible to see the origin, in this place Dominicans were already in the 14th century. Oh, I have to precise that it’s one of the preferred places for weddings, so maybe you can see a ceremony.
Lviv is full of museums for all tastes. Art, history, nature, and much more. There are some places you should explore. I really enjoyed them, especially because they are… different. Every museum in the world has its own features, but these are quite particular and uncommon. Let me tell you something more.
Museum of Pharmacy
The first of my list is a museum opened by a company that started to work in 1735. It is still opened and active now. In the 1960s they changed the headquarter to get a new one, more spacious and equipped. So they used all the free laboratories, archive, library and all the rooms they had to create a museum.
Entering it you will accomplish a journey not only in the story of the company but also in society. You will see old equipment and you will go deep in the medicines knowledge. I mean that you will see prescriptions and descriptions of some strange medicines coming from other ages. There are almost 300 years of pharmacy in Ukraine.
Arsenal of Lviv
Do you like weapons? Would you like to explore history through the eyes of the fighters? Well, this museum is the proper place. I was impressed. It’s not the first one I see on this gender. But it is really rich in collections. It is part of the Lviv Historical Museum.
This department covers the last 1,000 years and 30 different countries, collection all the weapons produced and used. It looks like one of the most complete museums in the world. What can you see? Just a few examples: knives with precious stones, ivory or mother of pearl; cannons, guns. There are Italian products and weapons forged in Lviv.
Museum of Folk Architecture and Rural Life
It is not in the city, but quite close and well connected by bus downtown. This structure offers a view on the traditions of Ukraine, focusing on rural life. It gives an overview of the past, but the reality of the museums, for certain aspects it’s not far from the one you can see in some villages. 124 buildings were collected from different areas of the country and brought on the hill to settle the museum. It is possible to enter in some of them to see the exhibitions of clothes, art and typical objects of rural life.
In particular, you should see, if you decide to go there, the houses coming from the Carpathian village called Oriavchyk. The constructions were made at the end of the 18th century with wood. It is included in the group of that community houses a small wooden church. The transfer was made in the first part of the last century.
I wrote it at the beginning of the post. Lviv is full of amazing buildings made in different historical periods. You don’t have to do anything particular to see them. Just walk around the downtown. But let me mention the most important and famous attractions. Now it’s time to think about Vienna and not Rome. I will explain why. Anyway, I am not affirming that Lviv is like other cities because it is really beautiful and unique. Some common elements make the city a point of culture, art, and architecture meetings.
Theater of Opera and Ballet
A majestic palace with statues on the top, columns, and reliefs on the facade. The Lviv Theatre is one of the symbols of the city and it is located in Freedom Square, out of the old town typical streets. It looks like it has a very special place for itself. The architect who made it was Polish, he realized the project at the end of the 19th century.
He designed a platform for it to stabilize the structure. Now, after more than 120 years, it is the stage of the main events in the city. The importance and elegance are the same as the foundation. Certain elements remind to the Vienna Opera House, like the statues on the top and the columns on the facade. I don’t want to find similitudes between countries, but only to notice a cultural connection around Europe.
House of Scientists
This jewel was a casino, then became the event hall for the Regional Union of Education and Science. That’s why it is called the House of Scientists. This building deserves a mention and as well a visit because of the architecture, especially the one inside. The architects were Viennese and they created a lot of projects in Central and Eastern Europe. The style is Neo-Baroque. The opulent interiors left me totally fascinated. The library and the other rooms are simply wonderful. You can see stuccoworks, wooden furniture, and marble fireplaces.
High Castle Hill
Unfortunately, I have no direct experience with Lviv festivals. But I heard great things when I was there. So, when you plan the trip, check out the dates of the events. I am not telling only about art, music, and culture in general. They organize festivals dedicated to beer, chocolate, coffee, and so on. You will have more fun. Keep also in mind that the city counts more than 700 bars and restaurants, enjoy the food culture. Ukrainians are nice, so to live deeply Lviv will be really pleasant for you. I am planning to do it more.
Where to sleep
Lviv is well organized to host tourists, so from flats to hostels, from boutique to luxury hotels, you can find anything. I can’t list all the solutions, but tell you the one I used. Since I like luxury and comfort when I travel, especially for work trips, I stayed in a 5 stars hotel. It is called Nobilis Hotel. During European Football Championship in Ukraine and Poland, the Portugal national team was in the same structure.
Rates are quite good, especially compared to the high-quality service. It has spacious rooms equipped with modern technologies. The interior design is more classical but opulent. It is more close to the local style. The hotel offers a lot of facilities, like a very good restaurant with local and international cuisine. The elegance of the structure and efficient staff are the main features. You will enjoy your stay. If you want to know more about my experience read my review.
Where to eat
Since I didn’t have so much time, I couldn’t taste the food in many places. I want to mention a couple of restaurants that I found really superb. My goal was to taste local food, something traditional. At least Ukrainian recipes. Because this is a way to get in touch with the country and its culture. Then I like also to be in an elegant place. These two features match completely with my first choice.
Do you remember the palace built by a Greek merchant and inhabited by the Polish king? If not, you are allowed to go back into the post and read it. I won’t give any grade. Well, Baczewski Restaurant is very close to that building. The name is from the family that owned the place and was producing vodka. A glass of spirit can be tasted at the beginning, during or at the end of the meal. For me, it’s a bit strong, but I enjoyed a lot the food.
They prepare traditional Galician recipes. Galicia is the region between Poland and Ukraine. Rabbit, duck, lamb, and sausages are surely a must on the menu. The restaurant is classy, as the service provided by the professional staff. This place, with a different menu, is available also for breakfast.
If you like beer and you are not searching for a fancy place, there is a good restaurant. It is also a brewery. The name is Kumpel. Soups and meats are the protagonists of the menu and surely you should try them. While you drink beer you can share the food. Why? Because the portions are generous. So if you are not alone, you can order more dishes and taste everything with your friends. The beer is very good.
Prepare your trip
Now you have all the information about Lviv. At least the ones I can share with you from my personal experience. Let me give you some tips and hints to organize your travel. About visa, I suggest you check the website of the Foreign Affair Ministry of your country. Italians don’t need it. For us, it is enough the passport.
Documents are important, that’s why you have to check out what you need to do. After that work on your plan. You already know the destination, so you have to reach it. Find the mean of transport. Infobus can help you a lot. This platform has the best offers to find planes, trains, and buses. Using it you can book tickets at the lowest price, but also plan all the connections. Compare the solutions and combine them. It is really convenient.
To plan your tour and have a tailor-made service, visit the TEZ Tour website. The staff is ready to support you in any need to make your trip unique and unforgettable. They have a lot of offers and they are specialized in this area of the world. TEZ Tour will take care of every detail. Of course, they are a good partner for all your trips. If you want to try the same hotel where I slept, see the features of Nobilis Hotel.
I guess it can be useful to get inspiration from my “make money to travel” guides. Some activities will help you to earn extra cash to pay for your trip’s bills. There are various activities you can do. For instance, rent your car or your flat. Start a travel blog. Also, with a small investment in training courses, you can learn how to be successful in web marketing. If you like to work with your hands and with your creativity, I have another proposal. Get thousands of woodworking plans for a very cheap price, realize items, and sell them. It’s funny and profitable.
Suitcase and house
When the journey is organized you have to prepare the suitcase. If you travel light, choose a backpack. For any accessories you may need, I suggest you visit my Amazon page with a selection of items that I use for my trips. Also, AliExpress has discounted, curious, and helpful objects for travelers.
I also prepared a packing list for you. It is the one I use to avoid mistakes and to not forget things at home. You can personalize it. And if you want to get advice on how to pack to use properly all the space, check out this guide.
Before to leave your home for some days or weeks, you should consider housesitting. Why? Because a trusted person in your house will keep away thieves and she or he will take care of it. A house sitter can collect mail, water flowers, feed pets, clean, and so on.
The very last thing to do
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