Lviv is simply unrecognizable. I have been there multiple times before but this time I simply couldn’t believe I was still in Ukrainian Lviv, a city that 8 years ago although looking pretty, seemed to collapse any minute. You couldn’t walk the broken sidewalks, the buildings were a moment from collapsing and streets were not in its best cleaning wise.
But this time, in the middle of 2016 it is a new place! I literally had to push through the crowds of travelers and tourist groups to walk the Rynok square and its neighboring streets. What a change! Within a few years’ span, the city turned into the hottest tourist spot in Ukraine for both Ukrainians and foreigners who travel from as far as Canada to see the new frontier of Eastern Europe tourism and have a blast with Ukraine’s low prices. And they are not wrong to come here, there are plenty of things to do in Lviv, so you better book a place to stay for a few nights.
Top Things to Do in Lviv
1. Go up the High Castle
This is literally the highest point in the city and it is easily accessible by foot. There’s not much of the castle left after wars in middle ages, but you would be opened to an amazing view over the entire Lviv from there.
2. Stroll around Ploshcha Rynok (Площа Ринок)
Ploshcha Rynok is the very center and heart of the city of Lion aka Lviv. This is where the City Hall is situated, surrounded by lovely cafes on a beautiful paved square. This is the most touristy place in the city and you’ll easily stumble upon a tour agent who can offer you a variety of things to do in Lviv.
3. Visit the magnificent opera theater and play chess with the locals
If you are not a fan of opera (same as me), you can get enough by just walking the Svobody Ave and seeing many of beautiful things around, such as the Lviv National Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet. This is great area not simply to walk around, but also to interact with local retired wise-men who seem to spend their entire days playing chess outside.
4. Take a walk in historical Luchakiv cemetery
Luchakiv cemetery is one of a kind. It is simply a gorgeous park with beautiful tombs easily comparable to Pere-Lachaise cemetery in Paris. It will take you some time to walk around the park where so many important people from Poland, Ukraine and Russia have been buried. With time it became a legacy and a museum of a sort. Not far from the entrance lie the fresh tombs of the people who died during Ukrainian Revolution better known as “Euromaidan” who were honored as the “heavenly hundred” by the people of Ukraine. The entrance to the cemetery is not free, however. The price is rather symbolic, 1$, but the mere fact that you have to pay in order to enter the cemetery is outrageous!
5. Visit the yard of lost toys
This is the weirdest thing you will ever see. This back yard of an apartment building serves as an open air museum-collector of the lost toys from all over the city. Both creepy and sweet at the same time.
6. Learn the secrets of brewing by visiting the Museum of Brewery
Lviv is known as a city with excellent brewing tradition. One of the most popular Lviv beer brands is called 1715, which literally states the year when Lviv started exporting beer outside the city. If you are not into museums, I suggest you just sit down in any of the numerous cafes and take a taste of fresh local beer. You will not be disappointed!
7. Test your knowledge visiting the world’s biggest crossword-puzzle
The building situated on Saharova, 82 boasts having the biggest crossword puzzle in the world which is nearly 30 meters tall. The complication is that clues to this puzzle are hidden all over the important historical landmarks of Lviv and they are in the Cyrillic alphabet. However, the building is still fun to see, resembling the iconic dancing house in Prague.
8. Glance upon the Church of St. Olha and Elizabeth
One of the postcards of Lviv is this Gothic church that is among the first things you see if you arrive from the main Railway Station. Get inside to see what the Greek Catholic church looks like.
9. Walk the Virmenska street
Stroll around one of the oldest streets in Lviv center – Virmenska street. Many of best cafes are situated here and you will get an inspiration for your Ukrainian meal.
10. Take a ride in an old tram
Part of the authentic experience is using the local public transportation. Hop on that typical Lviv tram (which will cost you almost nothing) and see the city from the window of the slow moving public transportation.
Top Places to Eat and Drink In Lviv
Having great foundation to becoming of interest to foreigners with its unique coffee and chocolate making, the city took one step further, transforming their cute cafes into playful scenes. If you haven’t noticed yet, Lviv loves everything thematic and theatrical. Most of the cafes will try to lure you in using some sort of theme or performance to differentiate themselves from the other competitors. And this is why Lviv is so fun!
11. Witness the chocolate making process at Lviv Chocolate Manufacture
Lviv Handmade Manufacture store started up as something very specific to Lviv but eventually spread out as a chain throughout the entire country. A great store/cafe filled with everything chocolate always has plenty of visitors. You’ll see rivers of chocolate, edible souvenirs and chocolate chefs doing their magic. Try some treats, see how they are made and get some unique souvenirs with you!
12. Get down and around the “Coffee Mine” (Копальня кави)
Believe it or not, Lviv is famous in Ukraine for its great coffee. And here, in the Coffee Mining Manufacture, you get the chance to experience the coffee roasting process. It is not only a coffee shop but a small museum, where you can go down the labyrinth and the real coffee mine. You’ll be convinced to put on a safety helmet (which is not really needed) and would be able to see barmen making coffee with help of a blowtorch! Besides the thematic farce, there is a lovely gift shop where you can buy little bags of coffee for all sorts of moods and days.
13. Go to “Kruyyivka” (Криївка) for some shots and Ukrainian tapas
This place became one of the most visited restaurants in Lviv. Though without a name or any visible signs of the entrance (hint: it is situated on P. Rynok, 14), you’ll be able to find it following the lines of people trying to get in. Kryyivka because famous for it’s password based entry – in order to be let in you need to know what to reply to the saying “Slava Ukraini”, which should be followed by “Heroyam Slava” (this literally means: Glory to Ukraine – Glory to Heroes) and drink a shot of mead.
Kryyivka is styled up as an underground military base of 1920’s, the times of nationalistic movements in Ukraine. Here you can try all sorts of ‘military tapas’ which goes very well with shots of Ukrainian mead. Among other peculiar things, you can also order a meter of beer and a half-a-meter sausage.
14. Visit the gingerbread workshop “Yurashky” (Юрашки)
Drop by the colorful world of gingerbread. Rows and rows of colorful cookies with all sorts of creative ornaments would make greet you at the entrance. Besides being a souvenir shop, this is also a place for getting a cup of coffee and a workshop space on making some treats yourself.
15. Get enlightened at pub-museum “Gas Lamp” (Гасова лямпа)
Gas Lamp restaurant is dedicated to the inventors of this kind of lamp. The eatery also serves as a museum of all sorts of ancient illumination devices, giving out the atmosphere of chemical research, which supposedly happened here. As always, you are unlikely to leave the restaurants without a bottle or two of souvenir liqueur.
16. See locals getting creative with pig fat at restaurant “Salo” (Сало)
Are you ready for some extreme dining? Stop by modern art restaurant Salo, which pays tribute to traditional Ukrainian specialty – salo, which is basically just a gathered pig fat. This place takes things you can do with salo to the whole new level. Here you can try salo-sushi, salo in chocolate, and different sculptures made out of it. Just look through their menu for inspiration and you will be tempted to at least visit and see the sculptures with your own eyes.
17. Stock up in Roshen official store
This has become the landmark of Ukraine – tasty Ukrainian chocolate, made in one of the biggest European confectionary – Roshen. You can find one of their official shops in Lviv. Through the window case, you can see the moving doll figures representing the city life and masters of chocolate.
18. Get a drink in the Post Office (Друкарська)
Another great thematic cafe in Lviv is disguised as a Post Office. Decorated by multiple postcards, old letters and post stamps, it gives that great retro style. You can even create a postcard of your own! Stop by for a cup of coffee and a snack.
19. Test your pain threshold in “Masoch” cafe
Themed cafe Masoch became popular all over Ukraine for its exceptional poignant experience. The cafe is named after infamous Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch who was born in Lviv and made his sexual preferences be known as masochism. Despite the pornographic menu, here the waitresses will whip and handcuff you for free upon request! Do not pass on the opportunity to try the bull’s testicles and the best fondue in town.
20. Relish in the most expensive Galician restaurant
No worries, the price is just another trick to get you in! With a proper discount card which you can get in any other !Fest restaurant (Kryyivka or Lviv Chocolate Manufacture, for example) you get exactly 90% discount. Again, you won’t be able to find the entrance door with a name on it, you have to know where to go. And believe me, you will be confused every step of the way! The entrance door will lead you to the old apartment where you’ll have to chat to the apartment “tenant”, who’ll tell you that the restaurant is not here. But after minute of chatting, you’ll be able to get in and dive into the atmosphere of secretive mason society.
This is not a nearly complete list of all things to do in Lviv, which is constantly developing and reinventing itself. Lviv is not some rustic off the beaten path place anymore. It looks like a solid European city with the ambition to be number one tourist spot in Ukraine and probably, the region. The next time I visit it might be something completely different, but one thing for sure – it will be an unforgettable experience.
By the way, Lviv Airport is situated only 10 minutes drive away from the city. You can get here with direct flights from Wien or Warsaw. Check out if there is a flight from your city: