Lviv, Lwów, Lemberg, Leopolis. These are all the names for the place I call home. Lviv is a remarkable city which has witnessed different cultures and communities throughout its history, elements of which remained deeply entrenched in the city’s architecture, the mindset, and lifestyle of Lvivians.
Lviv will disappoint those looking for relics of Soviet past and surprise skeptics viewing Ukraine as “wild east.” With its narrow cobblestone streets, romantic decay and impressive details of every door panel and balcony, Lviv is as if built for aimless leisure strolls. And its numerous thematic cafes and traditional coffeehouses will make it into the hearts of the pickiest.
Lviv is the most elegant and multicultural city in Ukraine. Incredible as it may seem, it is still often overlooked on the travel map. This guide is my humble attempt to acquaint you with my favorite place in the world and help those who plucked up enough courage to explore the new corners of Europe.
Hope you enjoy your stay in Lviv. And maybe you’ll be one of those many who come here and never leave.
Table of Contents
- 1 History of Lviv
- 2 Lviv Weather
- 3 Historic Hotels in Lviv
- 4 What To Do in Lviv
- 4.1 Get Lost in the Old City
- 4.2 Stroll Along Svobody Avenue
- 4.3 Visit the Local Opera Theater
- 4.4 Enjoy the Neogothic Graveyard
- 4.5 Admire the Sacral Art in Lviv Churches
- 4.6 Get Smarter by Visiting Lviv Museums
- 4.7 Take a Nap in Lviv Park
- 4.8 Explore Hidden Courtyards
- 4.9 Wander the Markets
- 4.10 Greet the Sunset from High Above
- 4.11 Go on a Pub Crawl
- 4.12 Meet Locals and Fellow Travelers
- 5 Where To Eat in Lviv
- 6 Bars & Pubs in Lviv
- 7 Coffee & Sweets in Lviv
- 8 Lviv Nightlife
- 9 Shopping in Lviv
- 10 Practical Information About Lviv
- 11 Where Next?
History of Lviv
The first mention of Lviv in the historical chronicles was dated 1256. Its name the city derives from the Ukrainian word Lev – it is said that the founder Danylo Halytskyi named the new settlement after his son Lev.
Lviv Under the Polish Rule (1349-1772)
In the mid 14th century, Polish King Casimir III invaded Galicia and seized Lviv after 9 years of battles. The rule of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth lasted for more than 400 years. During this period, the city developed by leaps and bounds. It lied at the crossroads of the Silk Road, and while the trade was flourishing all sorts of nationalities and people were flocking to the city.
The new ruler Casimir III laid down a new Market Square along with residential buildings around it to augment his power over the city.
The population grew to approximately 10 000 people at the beginning of the 15th century, with German and Polish having the majority.
In 1572, Ivan Fedorov, the father of Eastern Slavic printing, came to Lviv and founded one of the first printing houses in the city.
Mid 17th century was characterized by numerous attacks on Lviv. Ukrainian Cossacks were raiding the city as a part of the Cossack Uprising against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth along with Turkish raids led by a Swedish King Carl XII.
Lviv Under the Habsburg rule (1772-1918)
Due to the First Partition of Poland in 1772, Lviv was handed over to the Austrian Empire. The city became the capital of the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria – one of the biggest provinces in the Empire.
Austrian authorities were trying to make Lviv worthy of being called a European city.Legend has it that when Austrian emperor Josef II came to Lviv to check his new territories, he was unhappily surprised to see a medieval city. The market square was filled with so much garbage and dirt that the emperor’s cart stuck in mud and servants were forced to carry the emperor to the city hall.
At the end of the 18th – beginning of the 19th centuries, Lviv faced drastic changes and its architectural landscape transformed into the one recognizable today.
The medieval walls around the old city were dismantled. A muddy and undermaintained Poltva river (now – Svobody Avenue) was put in an underground collector. The cemeteries inside of the city walls were moved outside, and streets were paved with cobblestones. The culture, art, and science started to flourish while the city attracted the best minds in the Empire.
Lviv is particularly proud of hosting a son of Mozart, Franz Xaver Mozart, who moved to Lviv in 1811 to give private music lessons. He founded the first music school in the city.
In 1853, a kerosene lamp was invented in one of the Lviv pharmacies. Thus, Lviv became the first Ukrainian city with street light.
In 1894, a first electric tram was introduced. Lviv adopted the transport innovation 3 years earlier than Vienna and 7 years earlier than Krakow.
Lviv Opera House, one of the most beautiful operas in Europe was opened in 1900.
At the beginning of the WWI, the Russian army occupied the city. But already in June 1915, Austro–Hungarian Empire retook it.
Lviv Under the Polish Rule (1918-1939)
After the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian government, Ukrainian authorities unsuccessfully tried to unite the West Ukrainian lands into a single state. The Polish-Ukrainian war broke out, which resulted in the annexation of Lviv to Poland.
The majority of the population at the time was of Polish (50%) or Jewish (approximately 30%) origin. Ukrainians comprised only 15% of the total population.
Lviv remained an important cultural and scientific center, the second after Warsaw. A world-famous school of Mathematics, which introduced a theory of functional analysis, was founded in Lviv. In 1928, Rudolf Weigl invented the first vaccine against typhus, a disease which ravaged millions of soldiers during the WWI.
In the 20s-30s, a unique Lviv dialect became popular in the city. It roots from Polish but also has elements of Ukrainian, German and Yiddish. The dialect was particularly widespread among local subculture – batiars. These were usually lower-class citizens, but generous and honest and with a great sense of humor. Batiars liked ridiculing the authorities and deliberately provoking the police. They were risk takers, loved to challenge societal norms and were apparently always eager to pick up a fight.
Lviv dialect is still common nowadays. Inhabitants from other Ukrainian cities, such as Kyiv for example, often struggle to understand some local vocabulary. Whereas those who grew up in Lviv, even the millennials, can easily strike up a conversation with a Polish speaking person due to language similarities.
Lviv Under the USSR Rule (1939-1941)
In 1939, the whole Galicia including Lviv was annexed to the USSR. The period is characterized by massive repressions of Ukrainian and Polish citizens who were exiled to Siberia.
Lviv Under the Nazi Rule (1941-1944)
These were three tragic years in the history of Lviv during which almost the entire Jewish population of the city was swept away. Before the war, there were nearly 200 000 Jews in Lviv. By the time the Soviet troops came, less than 1000 remained.
Yanovski concentration camp is notorious for the “Tango of Death” occurrences. One of the Nazi officers came up with the idea of organizing an orchestra which would include imprisoned Jewish musicians. The orchestra was ordered to write and play a composition especially for mass executions. It was called the “Tango of Death.”
Lviv Under the USSR Rule (1944-1991)
According to the agreement between the Soviet Union and the Polish People’s Republic about population exchange, the majority of Polish inhabitants of Lviv were relocated to Poland. In Galicia, they were replaced with Ukrainians from the east, expatriates from Russia and the village population who came to the city looking for work.
Independent Ukraine (1991-present time)
Ukraine gained independence in 1991. Soon after, the city was included into the UNESCO heritage list.
In June 2012, Lviv was one of the cities-hosts of EURO 2012. That’s when the number of tourists started to increase every year, and it reached approximately 2.6 million in 2017.
Local citizens jokingly call Lviv the city where it has been raining since 1256.
Indeed, this is the area with the most precipitation in Ukraine. On average, it rains 174 days out of 365, so almost every other day. July is the wettest month while also the hottest.
The average temperatures during the year are -4,1°C (24.8 F) in January and 18,3°C (64.4 F) in July. But, these estimations are hardly to be true given the recent changes in climate. If you’re unlucky (or lucky enough), you can get caught by a -20°C freezing cold in winter. And it might seem not that much if you’re from the colder areas of this world. But in reality, the temperature feels much lower due to excessive humidity (79% on average).
Summer weather is hardly predictable with several showers a day and parching sun in between. So pack a raincoat or umbrella.
Historic Hotels in Lviv
Lviv is a paradise for backpackers with new hostels springing up on every corner like mushrooms after the rain.
But if you want to make your visit unforgettable and don’t mind spending a bit more on accommodation, here are four historic hotels which will let you completely immerse yourself in the city’s past.
Panorama (Svobody Avenue 45)
Formerly known as “New York,” Panorama was the first hotel in Lviv where each room was equipped with a telephone. It is conveniently located right next to the Opera House and Svobody Avenue. You don’t need to be a resident here to enjoy the stunning view from the terrace of the Panorama Restaurant. Coupled with live jazz music every Thursday, it is well worth a climb.
Citadel Inn Hotel (Hraboskoho St 11)
This building might be one of the spookiest hotels in Lviv. First, it is located on the top of the hill in a genuine fortress. It was built in the mid 19th century by the Austro-Hungarian authorities. In defiance of all expectations, the Citadel complex was erected not for the protection of Lviv from the enemy, but to scare the local population after the series of revolts of 1848.
Second, despite being located in a park and seemingly quiet area, it is a place of tragic events. The Citadel territory was transformed into a concentration camp during the WW2, where Nazi kept prisoners of war and killed approximately 140 thousand people.
Historians say there is an extensive network of catacombs under the fortress used as bomb shelters in times of war, but they have been barely studied so far.
Grand Hotel (Svobody Avenue 13)
Before the construction of the hotel, this land plot hosted Lviv Police Administration headed by Leopold von Sacher. This is where in 1836 his son – a famous Austrian writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch was born (though originally from Lviv, people who were born in the former Austrian Empire became Austrians by default). In case you don’t know, this is the man from whom the term ‘masochism’ derived. The hotel honored Masoch by creating a special sado-maso themed room in the red-and-black color scheme and decorated with leather.
Hotel George (Mickiewicz Square 1) is a legendary building. After the restoration in 1900, it offered one of the most luxurious lodgings in the city at the time. Just imagine, more than a hundred years ago, the hotel had around-the-clock hot and cold water supply, central heating system and electrical elevator. Book a bed, and maybe you’ll get a room in which a famous writer Honore de Balzac stayed. Or the first man in space – Yuri Gagarin. Or even the very same Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz-Josef I.
What To Do in Lviv
Get Lost in the Old City
Rynok Square has been the heart of the city for centuries. It consists of 44 buildings and a City Hall in the middle. Initially, the buildings didn’t have numbers but were named after their owner or facade decoration, e.g., Under the Lion, The Doctor’s House, etc. The square is decorated with four fountains of Roman gods that used to perform the function of wells in the past. Nowadays, the fountains are indispensable decorative elements of Rynok and are dressed in embroidered shirts during national holidays.
Don’t miss Virmenska Street – a heart of a former Armenian quarter. It’s one of the most beautiful streets in the old city with an excellent artsy ambiance. Lesi Ukrainky Street – just a corner from Virmenska, is now a popular place for an evening out.
Staroyevreyska Street dates back as far as the 13th century and used to be a part of an Old Jewish quarter. Between the buildings 40 and 46, there is the smallest square in Ukraine – Koliyivshchyny square.
When tired of hordes of tourists around Rynok Square, head to Old Rynok, which is only a 5-minute-walk away. Old Rynok Square was the foundation for the city, the place where trade routes crossed, but it is remarkably the quaintest and the most neglected historical part.
Stroll Along Svobody Avenue
Before the 19th century, a city river Poltva was flowing in the present Svobody Avenue, and locals were hunting ducks at this very place. With the annexation of Lviv to Austro-Hungarian Empire, the authorities took on the task of transforming Lviv into a European city. They hid the river in an underground collector, dismantled the medieval walls, and expanded the city borders.
Now, the avenue is always busy with local markets (Christmas or Easter), tourists, and Lvivians playing chess or just enjoying a sunny day on the grass.
Visit the Local Opera Theater
Lviv Opera Theatre (Svobody Avenue 28) is the iconic building of Lviv skyline. It is named after Solomiya Krushelnytska, the world’s renowned opera singer. The interiors are as lavish as the exteriors and are definitely worth checking. There are always cheap tickets available for operas and ballet, but book at least few days in advance.
Enjoy the Neogothic Graveyard
…no matter how spooky that sounds. Lychakiv cemetery (Mechnykova St 33) is not only the oldest graveyard in Lviv but an official museum and a landscape park with well-maintained alleys. There are more than 300 000 gravestones., and the oldest ones date back to the 17th century. The most prominent people of Lviv used to be buried here. Note: You can book a night tour.
Admire the Sacral Art in Lviv Churches
Armenian Cathedral (Virmenska St 7). A must see even if you’re not a fan of religious monuments. The frescoes inside may give you goosebumps – they are pretty eerie and unusual for a church. A legend has it that the Polish artist Jan Henryk de Rosen took inspiration from local citizens when painting the murals. Thus, when depicting the saints, Rosen showed the faces of real people he has seen in the streets of Lviv.
Jesuit Church (Teatralna St 11). It is the largest cathedral in Lviv which can host up to 5,000 people. Take a tour of the underground during which you can see authentic medieval walls of the 14th century and enjoy many ghost stories.
St George’s Cathedral (St Yura’s Square 5). A spectacular ensemble of Baroque buildings located on the top of the hill. This is the very place where in 1826 Franz Xaver Mozart (a son of Wolfgang Amadeus who was residing in Lviv at that time) orchestrated ‘Requiem.’
The Chapel of the Boim Family (Katedralna Square 1) is a lavishly decorated structure initially used as a crypt. Though it looks tiny at first sight, you’ll be shocked by the magnitude of the interior. Note: Entrance for a fee.
Get Smarter by Visiting Lviv Museums
Lviv Art Gallery at Potocki Palace (Kopernyka St 15) displays European art of ХІV-ХVІІІ centuries. In case you’re not into fine arts, just admire the building constructed in the best French traditions. Check out the collection of miniature Ukrainian fortifications in the park behind the palace.
In Beer Museum (Kleparivska St 18), enjoy stories about brewing technology and local beer history followed by tasting session.
Arsenal (Pidvalna St 5). The museum is located in a former fortress protecting the ancient Lviv from enemies. Exhibition items include ancient weapons from more than 30 countries dating as far back as the 11th century.
Listen to mysterious tales about alchemists, development of medicine in Lviv and underground chemical experiments in Secret Pharmacy (Soborna Square 1).
Take a Nap in Lviv Park
Shevchenkivskyi Hai (Chernecha Hora St 1) is an open-air museum of folk architecture. It consists of several small villages all of which replicate landscapes of different Western Ukrainian regions as well as their architecture including wooden churches, houses, and workshops. The park hosts exhibitions, concerts, festivals on a regular basis. Note: Entrance for a fee. To get to Shevchenkivskyi Hai from the center, use public transport. Take tram 2 (from Ruska St) to the stop Mechnykova St. Or tram 7 (Pidvalna St) to the same stop Mechnikova St.
Znesinnia Park is the largest park in Lviv and only 20 minutes walking from the city center. It is an excellent choice if you want to add a bit of hiking to your trip. Bring some food and drinks and chill under hundred-year-old trees.
Ivana Franka Park (opposite to University building in Sichovykh Striltsiv St 1). This is the oldest park in the country named after Lviv writer Ivan Franko. It is lively all year round due to the university nearby. Visit free yoga classes and open-air food stands during summer.
Stryiskyi Park is like a big breath of fresh air in the middle of the city. The park is hilly with lots of winding trails, which is especially charming in autumn. Great for bike rides, feeding squirrels and swans, picnics and relaxation.
Explore Hidden Courtyards
The yard of lost toys (Knizia Leva St 3) hosts an uncanny exhibition of old toys and artifacts. It was arranged by local citizens and is continuously growing. You can see old teddy bears, bunnies, dolls, toy cars, and even old musical instruments and rubber boots. You are welcome to bring a shabby childhood toy here and exchange it for the one you like.
USSR courtyard (Knizia Leva St 3). Just around the corner, you will be greeted by portraits of Putin and Stalin, different kind of Soviet junk as well as things which were once elements of trendy home décor.
The Italian courtyard (Rynok Square 6). A romantic place where you can enjoy a cup of coffee while listening to jazz. Note: Entrance for a fee.
In Lviv Coffee Manufacture (Rynok Square 10), coffee is extracted directly from Lviv underground. The courtyard inside of the cafe is transformed into a coffeehouse and hosts art events and concerts almost every day.
Shchos Tsikave/Something Interesting (Rynok Square 13). A local creative space with modern open-air exhibitions, a shop with designer’s glass jewelry and a cozy cafe.
The Courtyard of the Theater for the Young (Hnatiuka St 11) is home for dolls and decorations which used to be a part of children’s performances. It looks like a psychedelic exhibition fancier than in a modern art museum.
Armenian Church Courtyard (Virmenska St 7) used to be a graveyard in the past. When Lviv became a part of Astro-Hungarian Empire, all the burial grounds were transferred outside the city walls. The only thing that remained intact on the territory were Armenian cross-stones with inscriptions in different languages. According to Armenian belief, it brings good luck and absolution of sins to the deceased when travelers walk over their gravestone.
Wander the Markets
Flea market near Ivan Fedorov monument (Pidvalna St 13). Ivan Fedorov is the founding father of Ukrainian printing. So it comes as no surprise that the square near the monument has turned into a second-hand market where you can buy rare books in different languages, vinyl, antiques, etc.
Halytskyi Market (Serbska St). The oldest food market in Lviv. Come here for fresh fruit and veggies, artisan cheese, spices, and flowers.
Vernisazh (Vicheva Square) is a market for arts and crafts, paintings, embroidery, and souvenirs.
Greet the Sunset from High Above
High Castle Hill. Don’t be upset when failing to find a castle. It was pulled down during the Habsburg rule. The stones from the castle were used for Lviv cobblestone and the construction of new buildings. Now, the High Castle is an artificial mound with the height of 413 meters (the highest point in town) from which you can admire a bird’s eye view of the city. Which of course makes it a perfect place for meeting the sunset (or the sunrise if you have insomnia). Be aware that the place is usually packed with people during the summer months. Note: You can bring a drink to the top. Though it’s illegal to drink in public areas, authorities usually turn a blind eye to drinking at a High Castle Hill.
The Tower of Sts. Olha and Elizabeth Church (Kropyvnytskoho St 1). Climb the 88-meter tower to get the panoramic view of the city. The place is not very popular among tourists yet, so it’s suitable for those who don’t like crowds. Note: Entrance for a fee.
The Observation Deck of the City Hall. Right in the heart of the city, this is one of the best places to see the old part of the town spread before your eyes. Narrow staircase and 408 steps make the ascend the great adventure in itself. Lots of people all year round. Note: Entrance for a fee.
House of Legends (Staroyevreyska St 48). You can check the roof terrace of the House of Legends cafe for free even if you’re not planning to order food or drinks. You will most probably end up in hanging out in an old car on the roof (god knows how they managed to put it out there).
Go on a Pub Crawl
Lviv has a unique culture of thematic places called ‘emotional restaurants’. Generally, they are not very good for meals. The quality of food is not the best while the prices are sometimes a bit higher than the standard average. But that’s exactly why they are called ‘emotional.’ You pay for the experience, not the food. My advice is to get a drink in every cafe and check out the interiors. Choose the places you want to visit from the full list of emotional restaurants and set out on a pub crawl.
Describing every cafe is impossible. In a nutshell, make sure to pay a visit to Kryivka cafe decorated as a hiding place of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. The location is somewhere at Rynok Square (P.S. It’s the building number 14). To get inside – knock on the door and say the password “Slava Ukrayini” – Glory to Ukraine. Above Kryivka take a look into The Most Expensive Galician Restaurant. Pop into the pub-museum dedicated to the Gas Lamp (Virmenska St 20), get whipped at Masoch cafe (Serbska St 7), send a letter from a Post Office on Drukarska Street (number 3), explore the methods of torturing in Lviv Grill Restaurant of Meat and Justice (Valova St 20). And there is no end to it…
Meet Locals and Fellow Travelers
The Couchsurfing community in Lviv is not very strong, so you won’t get lots of action when posting in a city group. But there are regular Couchsurfing meetings which take place every Thursday at Zalizko, Drukarska Street, 12.
Language Exchange Meetings are free of charge meetings with locals and travelers for the purpose of language exchange and just for fun.
Where To Eat in Lviv
Apart from emotional cafes, Lviv offers a refined experience when it comes to dining. The cuisine in this part of Ukraine is a bit different from the traditional one and is significantly influenced by the region’s history. Lviv was the place where diverse nationalities and communities had to live side by side, not always amicably. But willy-nilly the culinary practices were merging and penetrating each other. Galician cuisine now combines Ukrainian, Polish, Jewish and Austrian traditions. I don’t mean to say that you can’t try traditional Ukrainian dishes. I mean that Lviv will offer you much more than that.
Baczewski Restaurant (Shevska St 8) is a must-visit in Lviv. An authentic interior of the 20th century including a fantastic orchard house room in the ground floor coupled with tasty Galician cuisine will become a promised cure for everyone skeptical of Ukrainian cuisine. They also have more than 40 kinds of nalyvkas (local name for infused vodka). Do you remember ‘Every Flavour Beans’ candies from Harry Potter? The same is here: you never know what you’re gonna get. Breakfast buffet before 11 is okay but come very early. Standing in a line can take more than an hour. Very moderate prices.
Korky i Krykhty/Corks and Crumbs (Lesi Ukrayinky St 27). Another place with all-you-can-eat breakfasts at a fixed price including a beverage.
Atlas (Rynok Square 45) is a legendary cafe which used to be popular among Lviv bohemian public in the past. The place was frequently visited by a Polish poet Jan Kasprowicz and Jewish writer Bruno Schulz. You will feel yourself a king in the Art room with large leather sofas and portraits of knights. They serve Polish, Ukrainian and Austrian cuisine.
36Po (Rynok Square 36). The biggest restaurant in the center of Lviv which occupies 5 floors. It boasts of the highest aquarium in Ukraine with small sharks inside (yes, you read it right), the largest collection of flowers, a coffee machine made of pure gold (one of 3 existing in the world), two terraces with the views on the historical center and their own brewery. The restaurant mission is to prove that Ukrainian cuisine is much more than borshch and can even up to those of Paris or Milan. Prices are rather high for Ukraine.
DRUZI Cafe (Krakivska St 5). Druzi means friends and the staff treats you as a friend. Modern interior, boarding games, a wide selection of food: breakfasts, snacks, main courses, burgers and plenty of cocktails to choose from. Check out the summer terrace in the patio.
Trapezna Idey (Valova St 18a) is located in the museum of glass, in the underground of the former monastery. The cafe is great for lunch and dinner after a long sightseeing day. The food is delicious (the onion pie, in particular, is to die for), and the prices are reasonable. Mind that the place is in the cellar, so it’s dark inside.
Dreamer’s Place (Sichovykh Striltsiv St 8) represents a rather humble vegetarian scene in Lviv. The menu is limited, but they offer tasty seasonal dishes, smoothies, and coffee. Lovely atmosphere and background music. You can bring your pet.
Green (Brativ Rohatyntsiv St 5) is a chill vegetarian cafe and a shop. Go up the second floor to have a short rest on the pillows.
Culinary Studio Kryva Lypa (Kryva Lypa Passage 8) offers decent food of European cuisine and drinks, such as meat dishes, pasta, and hot cocktails.
Khinkalnia (Kryva Lypa Passage 1| Fedorova St 14). A chain cafe of delicious and cheap Georgian cuisine.
Puzata Khata (Sichovykh Striltsiv St 12 | Shevchenka Avenue 10). Cafeteria with local Ukrainian food and cheap breakfasts (around 50 UAH). Nothing extraordinary, the food can be a bit cold sometimes, but it is good value for money. Note: The one in Sichovykh Striltsiv St. 12 was recently renovated and looks very fresh and hipsterish.
Mistechko (Mentsynskoho St 12) is a self-serving bistro 3 minutes from the Opera House. Dirt cheap and good for lunch.
Bars & Pubs in Lviv
L’affinage Cheese&Wine (Kryva Lypa Passage 7). You can enjoy a variety of artisan Ukrainian cheeses with a nice selection of wine, or take that big piece of Brie you like so much home. The staff is surprisingly knowledgeable about what they sell and will offer you free tastings in case you’re hesitant about what kind of cheese to choose. The place is ridiculously tiny, but they have a comfy terrace in summer.
Zelena Slyvka (Staroyevreyska Street 11). A popular place among local youth which offers a wide selection of wine from all over the world and tasty snacks. Nothing extraordinary when it comes to the interior, but they offer great outdoor seating during warm months. They close early (at 23:00).
The Room Wine Bar (Lesi Ukrayinky St 18). “Your favorite place to feel happy, free and drunk” as they write on Instagram. It is largely popular among local hipsters. Great sangria and Aperol-spritz and large crowds on weekends.
Pyana Vyshnia/Drunk Cherry (Rynok Square 11 | Krakivska St 1). Best cherry infused vodka in town. There are no sitting places, but it is always busy with tourists, rain or shine. Good for heating up before a pub crawl.
Libraria Speak Easy Bar (Armenian courtyard) offers cocktails and live jazz combined with an amazing interior. A definite win-win! Reasonable prices, but often extra charge at the entrance. Note: Closed on Mondays.
Masoch Cafe (Serbska St 7) is only for brave travelers. Dedicated to an Austrian writer Leopold von Zacher-Masoch (who gave birth to the term masochism), the place is a museum of eroticism. You can try dishes with aphrodisiacs or surprise cocktails – order one and the staff will prepare a whole quest-show for you. Be ready for explicit interior and dominating waitresses who can beat you up any minute with their whips.
Pravda Beer Theater (Rynok Square 32) is a pub-brewery right in the heart of the city. The place has live music every day and heaps of tourists. I do not recommend the food here. Maybe, I was unlucky, but everything I tried lacked taste. Beer is okay, but there are better places for craft beer in the city. At the same time, it is an awesome pub to meet people, especially after midnight and during warm months.
Choven Beer Bar (Virmenska St 33) offers 16 taps of Ukrainian craft beer, pizza, burgers and other snacks. The service leaves much to be desired, but this is a place to be on a Saturday night (and every night). The crowd consists of locals and tourists alike, very easy to meet people.
Robert Doms Pub (Kleparivska St 18) is located a bit outside the city center, but right near the local brewery & museum. So fresh beer is guaranteed. The pub often offers free live concerts of local bands. Note: They sometimes host closed parties, so be sure to check their Facebook page before popping in.
Bilyi Lev/White Lion (Lesi Ukrainky St 15) serves a wide selection of Ukrainian mass market and craft beer. They have live music on the underground floor from Thursday to Saturday and sports events broadcast on big screens. Good for big companies.
Music Lab (Brativ Rohatyntsiv St 27) works around the clock (which doesn’t often happen in Lviv). Frequent live music (rock, indie, electronic), decent food and karaoke after a few drinks.
Cantona Pub (Dudayeva St 16). A bar for Manchester United fans though they show all football matches. Cheap local beer and snacks with a great atmosphere.
Habbl Babbl (Valova St 15) has shisha, X-box with hundreds of pirate games (seems Microsoft is doing a pretty lousy job in Ukraine), and cocktails. Great for a rainy evening and a big company.
Coffee & Sweets in Lviv
Coffee culture is deeply embedded in the Lviv’s lifestyle after its transition under the Astro-Hungarian Empire. A legend has it that is was a Ukrainian Cossack Yuriy Kulchytskyi who developed a new ‘coffee fashion’ in Vienna – a coffee with sugar and milk in it, which later spread all over Europe.
Nowadays, Lviv and coffee are two inseparable words. Making a coffee is an art and drinking it is a sort of ritual. In Lviv, you don’t just dash over to a coffee house and finish your espresso on-the-go. When you go or meet up with a friend for a coffee, it is a no-haste and chill experience, which usually lasts at least half an hour.
Virmenka (Virmenska St 19) is a legendary place which almost didn’t change since 1979 – the year of its opening. It used to be the meeting place of liberal youth, musicians, artists, and poets. In 2016, the coffeehouse was chosen as the best in Lviv. The coffee here is said to be the tastiest in the city and is prepared in Oriental style. Beans are grounded very finely and the beverage in a Turkish coffee pot cezva is put on hot sand warmed by a stove.
Svit Kavy (Katedralna Square 6 | Rynok Square 30 (newer). Heaven for bean heads. Iconic coffeehouse offers nearly 30 different kinds of coffee along with tasty desserts.
Alternatyvna Kava/Alternative Coffee (Doroshenka St 45 | Svobody Avenue 1 | Shevchenka Avenue 14). Chemex, french press, vacuum, cold brew… You know what these words mean? Then head to Alternative Coffee. If you don’t, they will sure teach you.
Dzyga Gallery & Coffeehouse (Virmenska St 35) is the heart of Lviv contemporary culture. The ground floor is a tiny modern art gallery with a cozy coffeehouse above. Every day the cafe hosts jazz and blues concerts, jam sessions, poetic nights and meetings with artists. Great place to enjoy a coffee and a snack.
Medelin (Koliyivshchyny Square 1) is a charming cafe with a variety of coffee types, coffee cocktails, teas, sweets, and board games. There is a mini pub downstairs with local beer, pizza, and a table football.
Na Bambetli (Rynok Square 29). A traditional coffeehouse in one of the passages of Rynok Square. Quitely and without fanfare, the place welcomes for a coffee and a dessert.
Apothecary Restaurant Under the Gold Star (Kopernyka St 1) has literally a jaw-dropping interior. Located in the old pharmacy where two Polish pharmacists succeeded in extracting kerosene from oil (the invention resulted in the first kerosene lamp), the place preserves authentic renovated furniture, gas lamps and original posters. They serve a variety of desserts (sweet lovers, don’t faint) eat-in or take away as well as breakfasts, lunches, and main courses. The service is usually sluggish (and sometimes not pleasant). Prices are above average.
Lviv is neither Berlin nor Barcelona. The city smells like coffee and a new book. So you won’t find tons of parties any day of the week. Locals usually hunt for good stuff via Facebook or Telegram groups.
FESTrepublic (Staroznesenska St 24). Around 25 minutes walk from the city center, an old factory was turned into a modern alternative music club. They host various festivals on their vast territory (such as Craft beer fest) and regular concerts and parties in the club itself.
Fredra.61 (Zelena St 20) is a non-commercial and independent project of local citizens which organizes parties, acoustic evenings, artsy exhibitions and many other things.
Lviv Film Center (Volodymyra Velykogo St 14a). In 2015, a group of initiative young people turned a rusty Soviet cinema into a creative space for film lovers. The place also often hosts parties on the roof. Check their events on Facebook.
Night Ambassadors. A promo agency organizing parties around the city on a regular basis. Sometimes the locations are pretty impressive: a local museum, a library, a botanical garden or even a church.
Textura. It’s not a concert venue, but a promo team. They unite the fans of technoculture in the city and from time to time organize underground rave parties. No glamour, no fashion. Monitor their events on social media.
Malevich Night Club (Chornovola Avenue 2). One of the biggest night venues in the Western Ukraine just a stone throw from the Opera House. This is a nightclub in a more traditional sense with fancy lounge rooms and a concert hall.
Rafinad People Club (Stepana Rudanskogo St 1). A traditional nightclub and show bar in the historic center of the city. Dress code advised. Note: There were cases when the staff tries to scam foreigners. Order only with a menu and after checking the exact price of a drink.
Shopping in Lviv
Forum Lviv (Pid Dubom St 7B). A modern shopping center just a stone’s throw from the Opera House. More than 120 shops including such mass-market brands as Bershka, Zara, Mango, etc., 4DX Cinema, restaurants and a large supermarket.
Opera Passage (Svobody Avenue 27). A small shopping gallery in the historic center with an underground supermarket.
Roksolana (Soborna Square 14). High-end shops such as Ralph Lauren, Marc Cain, Santoni, Armani, and a decent supermarket downstairs.
Open Store Lviv (Fedorova St 8). Modern and comfy designer clothes and accessories.
Rhizome Store (Brativ Rohatyntsiv St 24). Clothes and accessories from Ukrainian designers.
Practical Information About Lviv
Lviv International Airport is only 15 km from the city center. Every hour there is an express transfer bus which takes you to the railway station (price app. 20 UAH, less than 1$).
A city bus 48 stops near Terminal A and passes right through the city center (Stop: Svobody Avenue). It costs 5 UAH, which is I don’t even know how many cents, but it’s less than 50. The problem is that buses do not announce stops to the passengers and may be crowded during peak times. There is also no air conditioning in the summer (now you get it why it’s so cheap).
There are 1 train station and 2 bus stations which operate international routes.
If you’re coming from other Ukrainian city or from Poland by train, you will end up at the Central Railway Station (Dvirtseva Square 1). The Central Bus Station is located right next to it.
To get to the city center just hop on a tram 1 (get off at the station Ploshcha Rynok/Market Square) or tram 9 (get off at Ruska St station). Most of the trams have WiFi and also announce stops in English and Ukrainian.
If you’re at Stryiska Bus Station (Stryiska St 109), take a bus 3A and get off in Pidvalna St.
The historical center is easily walkable. There are trams available in the city center in case you need to get to a bit distant sightseeing point such as Lychakiv cemetery.
Not long ago, a city municipal bike rental service Nextbike became available.
Taxi service, e.g., Uber works perfectly fine. Uklon is an alternative service, you can as well order online, and often it is much cheaper than Uber. Note that Lviv taxi drivers often like to call you and inform you that they are on their way even though you have received the confirmation message. Most of them are friendly and speak enough English and Polish.
In Ukraine, we use Cyrillic letters, which might be a bit confusing at first. Thus, if you’re planning to travel for more than a week, it would serve you well to at least learn the Cyrillic alphabet. Most of the young people know some of English and will be able to help you if needed.
Stress the bold part of the word:
- Hi – Привіт/Pryveet
- Good bye – До побачення/Do pobachennya
- Yes – Так/Tak
- No – Ні/Ni
- Thanks – Дякую/Dyakooyoo
- Sorry – Вибачте/Vybachte
- Excuse me – Перепрошую/Pereproshuyu
- I don’t know – Я не знаю/Ya ne znayu
- One beer, please – Одне пиво, будь ласка/Odne pyvo bud’ laska
- Check please – Рахунок, будь ласка/Rakhunok bud’ laska
- How much does it cost? – Скільки це коштує/Skeel’ky tse koshtooye
- Give me this please – Дайте це, будь ласка/Dayte tse bud’ laska
- Grocery store – Продукти/Produkty
- Tourist Information center, Rynok Square 1 (office #124)
(in the City Hall – entry from the Neptune Fountain, on the left side of the main entrance to the City Hall) – lviv.travel
- City transport routes – eway.in.ua
- Ukrainian railways booking system – booking.uz.gov.ua/en
- A chain of co-working spaces for IT freelancers, startups, entrepreneurs – ihub.world/en/lviv-en
Bear Sanctuary Domazhyr is a unique rehabilitation center for bears who were retrieved from baiting stations, zoos, and circuses and faced maltreatment from their owners. The sanctuary currently accommodates 8 bears and if you’re lucky you can see all of them during the tour.
Skolivski Beskydy National Park. Only 1.5 h on the electric train and you are in the middle of a stunning mountain landscape. Try conquering the highest peak Parashka mountain (4,162 ft) in a day.
Lviv Region Castles. There are plenty of castles and fortification structures around Lviv. Most of them are easily accessible by public buses, though it would be impossible to see all of them in a day without hiring a car or booking a tour.
Explore the rest of Ukraine. Lviv is conveniently connected to main Ukrainian cities by regular trains and buses. It is a perfect transport gateway on your way to Central and Eastern regions.[QuestionBoxStart]
Do you know an interesting place to see or visit in Lviv that wasn’t mentioned in the guide?
Share your tips in the comments![QuestionBoxEnd]