Lviv the last stop of the east and the first stop of the west. A city full of culture, gastronomy, and history but most of all it is a city full of fun. I had the ultimate pleasure of taping there and it is a city that did nothing but surprise me. The people there are so warm and friendly and the thing that really made me happy was the feeling that they were trying to do their best to take their cultural wealth and add to it by creating concepts that entertain but also inform. I was truly impressed, and I really can’t begin to say how astonished I was at the level of quality of everything we experienced was. The people of Lviv have a strong connection to their culture and they keep it alive in everything that they do. They have taken the products of this cultural and cultivated them into experiences that have become places and events that make people happy.
On your drive in from the airport you will pass through the communist part of the city. Sadly, these buildings lack the finesse and beauty of the real LVIV. Be patient as a small version of Vienna is waiting for you at the end of the road. The first thing I really noticed was the organization of the city centre. The city centre is full of beautiful buildings all restored to their past grandeur and the streets lined with their wide sidewalks are clean. You can easily see almost all of this city on foot. The landscape is flat, so walking is easy.
The town square or Rynok Square is a place where people go to meet up and hang out. It organized into four different sections each starting at one corner of the square with the town hall in the middle. This area is full of energy with art installations and Renaissance, Gothic, and Modernist buildings surrounding it. Each corner has a statue of a Greek god (Neptune, Diana, Aphrodite, and Adonis) with a fountain around it that represents the culture of this amazing city. The four areas are set up into theArmenian, Jewish, Orthodox and Polish sections of town. Each holds a unique feeling of the culture they represent, and the shop owners are usually from the ethnic group the area represents.
You can catch tango and salsa dancing in the evening on one corner café in particular. The Diana at Rynok Square Café where novice dancers and professionals mix and mingle to the lively music of salsa and tango. Whether you are a pro or just like watching this is a great place to just enjoy the atmosphere. If you are looking for the place to taste the best Leopolis cake in town go no further than the Grand Café Leopolis in the courtyard of the town hall. Every day at 12 o’clock sharp you can catch the trumpet player that will peak his horn out of the top floor window of the town hall and play the Ukrainian national anthem. If you want a bird’s eye view of the beautiful city from above climb to the top of the town hall observation platform and see the breath-taking rooflines of this gem of a city. While I am mentioning the roofline let me tell you that there are some bars that let you actually sit on the roof and watch the sunset. The entire area in this square is filled with interesting concept shops, from cherry liquor (Drunken Cherry) to chocolate, from coffee mining to gingerbread, from bunker restaurants to the latest concepts of gastronomy. Even a mason restaurant. There is something for everyone.
The electrical tram which goes directly through the city centre drives by and the one thing that will stand out the most other than their bright yellow colour is that they are all driven by women. The entire tram way drivers are all women! I loved seeing this. As you walk on the cobble stone roads into the corner of the Aphroditestatue you are actually walking on the old cemetery of the cathedral on the corner. Past the Dominican Cathedral the road opens into the spot of the Boim Chapelwith its beautifully carved facade and the smallest statue in Lviv on its corner. It is a Wroclaw Dwarf statue. Children and adults all pour sugar at its base in the belief that it is lucky. You can continue down this road and it will lead you to the Jesuit church. I highly recommend seeing the inside of this amazing church. But other than the inside you should see the bunkers below it. Lviv is a city that is filled with underground bunkers. Many of them have been restored into restaurants and bars even coffee houses. Oh, while I am mentioning coffee I can’t keep the fact that there are 1400 coffee houses in this city. Yes, you read that right. Lviv drinks coffee and they drink a lot of very high-quality coffee. Coffee is serious business here.
Now onto the corner of the Poseidon Statue. Right on the corner you find an amazing craft beer restaurant, Pravda Beer Theatre, that brews over 52 different artisan beers. It is a three-story building that has live music and the most amazing rotisserie chicken I have ever tasted. The fun part was to eat chicken is with your hands well not with your hands literally they have moved this experience up a few notches. They serve it with metal claws, so you can rip and shred your chicken before rolling it up in homemade flatbread for the perfect bite. A great place for kids and adults! On the side road we run into another restaurant. The Bachevski! This restaurant doesn’t look like much but once you go inside and into its garden-like dining area you are transported into luxury. Bachevski is in my opinion one of the best restaurants in Lviv. It is a Galician gastronomic mélange of beauty and quality everything is home-made and served with exquisite style. Everything is special. They even have a shop in the front where you can buy some of the products you tasted at dinner. I say dinner but lunch or dinner it doesn’t really make a difference. As you can see the gastronomy in Lviv is significant.
Lviv has the food, fun and history but the importance to culture is also there. They have one of the most beautiful Opera houses I have ever seen. A philharmonic orchestra, art installations throughout the city, art museums, Galleries that will blow your mind and my favourite of all the is the State History and Culture Museum-Preserve, cultural village that is about 10 minutes outside the city. This village is mind blowing. 42,000 square meters in the forest with 150 historical buildings representing all the tribes of the Ukraine. It is a beautiful place to go walk through. Each building contains pieces of their culture that you can try first hand. From music to bread making and cookie making and toy making. This is a place that should be an example to every country in the world on how to present their historical wealth. I was so impressed it’s hard to put into works. They have so much going on that it is really a whole day you need to spend experiencing the true culture of the Ukraine. It is in the forest so if you are traveling in the summer months bring your mosquito spray. I heard that in the winter they do a whole Santa Clause setting here in the snow. I can’t imagine how magical that must be.
Another unusual thing that I think you have to experience when in Lviv is the Lychakiv Cemetery. The mausoleums and graves of historical figures are like an open-air art gallery. It’s so relaxing to walk through this beautiful place and really contemplate the harmony of life. There are so many stories and myths around so many of the graves its very fun to hear them. If you are feeling tired no worries you can take a golf cart tour where you can sit back and enjoy the beauty without the walking.