With eight cities in Ukraine and Poland sharing the hosting privileges during next year’s Euro Cup 2012, there are plenty of opportunities to explore Eastern Europe. Lviv is a culture hub, a city that shouldn’t be overlooked when planning which football matches you’re going to see.
What to see in Lviv
Lviv’s eclectic culture comes a lot from its history. The city itself was founded in the mid 1200s and since then Poles, Jews, Ukrainians and Germans have all called Lviv home at some point. Lviv has an eclectic selection of museums to visit, everything from art, metrology, ethnography & crafts, religion and folk architecture. If you think Lviv will be just another post-Soviet city, you’re wrong. The entire city centre is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a myriad of styles, rococo, baroque, Renaissance and a touch of Gothic.
- St. George’s Cathedral, centre of the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine
- Boyim Chapel, noted for its morbid yet magnificent carvings
- Dormition Church, 65m bell tower with three tiers… incredible!
- Lviv Art Gallery, mostly 14th-18th century European art but worth the 5uah for a tour of the ground floor
- National Museum, mostly Ukrainian art from the 12th to 20th centuries
- Apteka Museum, located in a pharmacy that is still in use from 1735
- Lvivske Museum of Beer and Brewing, this is the oldest still-functioning brewery in Europe
Not to miss
Bania: this is a Russian-styled sauna for both men and women, although they enjoy it separately. Lviv has several Bania located throughout the city so reserve a morning to experience this bathing ritual. Locals enjoy the sauna completely naked, foreigners should follow suit.
Opera: Lviv is a city of arts, high arts and that includes an outstanding opera house on Svobody Avenue. You can still catch operas and ballet performances in this historic building. Tickets cost between 50UAH and 80UAH which comes out to £4-6, a steal!
Lychakivske Cemetery: a bit out of the city centre but cannot be missed! Considered to be the Père Lachaise Cemetery of the East, this is where you’ll find many buried Soviet heroes including the nationalist poet Ivan Franko, gymnast Viktor Chukarin, 20th century opera star Solomiya Kurshelnytska among others.
Other places of interest
Some call Lviv the Florence of the East. Why? The city has an astounding number of churches and to truly appreciate them, climb up to the top of Castle Hill, known locally as Zamkova Hora. From there you can see the entire city, and every one of those cupolas.
Lvivi is shaking at night! The clubs are happening! You’ll find just about everything in this city: dark and dingy places like Club Metro to chic and polished with only cocktails on the menu at Zanzibar. One of the best things about partying in Ukraine are the drink prices. While it’s likely you’ll need to pay entry into the bar, once you’re in you can grab a table with your friends, order a bottle of vodka and enjoy the evening in local style.
- Kriyivka – a bunker-style place that is hard to find but well worth it once you do. The bar is unnamed, located in the main square. You’ll find it by a man with a vintage machine gun standing outside. To get in use the password “Slava Ukrayini” (Glory to Ukraine) and he’ll grant your entrance with a shot of meduvokha as you descent into the dark.
- Millenium Club – this is where the city’s posh crowd go at the end of a work day to put up their feet. It’s more like an entertainment complex complete with restaurant, casino, movie theatre, video games and even a billiards room. 2 Chornovola Ave.
- Picasso – more laid back than the last two mentioned here, Picasso is a great place if you just want to relax with friends and chat. Inside you’ll see why this place is so famous. It was one of Lviv’s original party spots with a huge vaulted ceilings and cosy balconies. The drinks menu revolves around specialty beers. 88 Zelena St.
There is very little signage in English around Lviv and you’ll find it quite difficult to get around without knowing, at the very least the Cyrillic alphabet. If you can manage to learn some Ukrainian that’s even better. Many speak Russian as well in Lviv, after that only Polish and German are useful.
When buying train tickets it helps to write down the details of your train in Cyrillic for the ticket cashier. Don’t bank on them being able to read/speak or write in English.
How to get to Lviv
The easiest way to reach Lviv is actually from the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. From there you can either travel by train (overnight is recommended) or take a cheap domestic flight to Lviv International Airport with Aerosvit or Ukrainian Airlines from Kiev.
Flights to Kiev are relatively cheap if you book as far in advance as possible, anywhere from 3-6 months before next summer’s football match dates.