Lviv wasn’t initially on the itinerary but easily one of the best accidental stop over destinations I’m happy to have been stranded in.
The original plan was to head straight to Khmelnitsky for my Language Immersion Programme, however after a 5 hour flight delay (which inevitably resulted in missing my train from Lviv) I decided to ditch the station and look for a hostel instead.
It was dark, my phone battery was dying and I was desperate for a place to stay, so when I spotted availability at Dream Hostel I booked myself in. (I figured if my battery died or I got lost, Rynok square would be an obvious spot that anybody could direct me to)
The morning after I woke to a beautiful sunny day and a bustling hostel, I peered out of the window overlooking the street which leads to Rynok Square and was sold instantly.
Had it been dark and tired upon arrival I hadn’t even noticed how beautiful my surroundings where.
So I got dressed and went to explore.
Of course it was only fair to give Lviv the time it deserved and extended my stay, adding Lviv to my adventures across Ukraine.
Lviv –> Khmelnitsky –> Odessa –> Kiev
I didn’t have much time to plan and see everything I wanted to but what better excuse to return right?
A little about Lviv
Lviv, known as the capital of Western Ukraine and often referred to as the little Paris of the East, is a city steeped in a culturally rich and historical past.
Founded in 1256 by King Danylo Halitsky, he named the city in honour of his son Lev. (Also known as Leo)
Lviv historic centre Rynok Square is a UNESCO protected zone and the heart of the city.
Around the city you will find an eclectic collection of Ukrainian architectural styles (known as the Hutsul Secession) which bases its designs around local folk architecture as well as Renaissance and Baroque builds which can be found scattered throughout the city.
Nowadays the city is and so known for its plethora of coffee, chocolate and it’s welcoming atmosphere.
I’ve noticed that hostels in Ukraine are quite generous in terms of check-in and checkout times (Or at least from the 4 different hostels I’ve stated in so far in Ukraine)
Whilst in Lviv I stayed at Dream hostel, in central historical district (Krakivska Street) which is situated less than one minute walk away from Rynok square.
The hostel boasts orthopaedic mattresses which in itself are what sold it for me. Other perks include: Location, high quality accommodation at affordable prices, Free WI-FI throughout, a spacious kitchen and lounge area and onsite café.
I will leave a link to the hostel here.
So If like me and you’re just passing through for a couple of days, then here’s what I recommend;
Rynok square (Market Square)
Rynok Square is the heart of the historical old town, here you will find a collection of conceptual restaurants, coffee shops and of course the Tourist Information Center.
Walking through the Square will transport you back in time, laid out are the beautifully decorated buildings, cobblestone paths and local produce stalls.
In each corner of the square you will find monuments depicting four Greek Mythological figures, Neptune, Amphitrite, Adonis and Diana.
Neptune Monument is also the meeting spot for local guided tours, which include the half day sightseeing tours, private Lviv Jewish history tours and free guided walking tour, all of which are operated in Ukrainian, Spanish and English.
Rynok square plays an important part in being the center for market for trade, hosting festivals and is the hub of social activity.
Here you will also find Lviv town hall, one of two spots where you can enjoy beautiful panoramic views of the city; all you need is a ticket and the determination to tackle 408 steps on your way up. The views are worth it, I promise.
Entrance to City Hall is free but a ticket to access the stairs/observation deck cost approx 20 Hyrivna.
(Unfortunately my phone started playing up by this point and was unable to snap a photo, so here’s an earlier shot of a Lada instead)
Not quite what I expected but well worth the 2km hike from Rynok Square nonetheless. High Castle is in fact not really a castle but just a few remaining ruins of the historic castle remains.
It is basically a park located on the highest hill in Lviv, just outside the city centre.
The artificial Union of Lublin Mound is located on summit of the hill where the castle used to stand and there is an observation platform with a flying Ukrainian flag on the top of the mound.
The view from the platform is just fantastic and well worth the hike up the hill (approx 30 minutes).
Lviv Theatre of Opera and Ballet
Located in the heart of the city, Lviv Theatre of Opera and Ballet is one of the most distinctive and beautiful buildings in the city.
A neo-classical build combining influences of Baroque and Classicism.
Here you will have the opportunity to watch world-class classical performances or Opera music.
From the outside you can admire the stunning exterior of the building as well as enjoy a stroll up and down what seems to be a small square, equipped with seating areas, beautiful fountains and small craft market stalls.
Also, be sure to come visit at night too, the lighting of this building is truly beautiful.
Yard of Lost Toys
Located in one of Lviv’s oldest neighbourhood you will come across an eerily unusual attraction of lost toys which have been left behind.
The story goes that a local resident living in the area found two lost toys and placed them under a small roof located in the courtyard of 1 Mukachivska apartment block, in hopes that they would be found.
Unfortunately the owner of these lost toys never returned and has since become a little hub for other lost toys and items such as bicycles, instruments, furniture and even a swing, giving these forgotten items a home.
Items in which have been carefully placed to resemble some kind of colourful shrine.
New toys are added, some are retrieved but you can’t help but appreciate the quirkiness (and somewhat creepiness) of hundreds of dolls/clowns peering at you.
Restaurants I loved
For a truly quirky experience let me tell you a little about Kryivka, a restaurant with a secret address.
An underground wartime bunker of Kryivika was once the hidden hiding place of the Ukrainian insurgent army during WWII.
This is a must visit restaurant in Lviv. The fun starts with the guard in the entrance, to enter you may need some help you when you knock on the door.
To enter you must say the password “Slava Ukraini” meaning ‘Glory to Ukraine’, the guard will then pour you a shot of Honey Vodka and direct you downstairs to continue the fun, for example where ordering the wrong dish can see you imprisoned as a suspected Russian spy.
Release is only achieved by singing a Ukrainian song.
The interior of the bunker is dimly lit yet extremely cosy, the food is rustic, delicious and extremely affordable.
Honey Vodka and Borscht…. I ate/drank copious amounts.
One of the more unusual places to visit and certainly not for the faint.
Masoch Cafe, dedicated to the famous writer Leopold Sacher-Masoch, who was born, raised and even crafted his masterpieces in Lviv, today you can still enjoy a coffee or a bite to eat – however this isn’t the only reason this place attracts so much intrigue.
What if I told you this was a BDSM bar too?
Who would have thought that masochism and dining can go together?
As soon as you enter you will be greeted by moody candlelight and BDSM-aesthetics which continually runs throughout the cafe, even down to the wall decor and ‘vagina’ carved seats.
The staff plays in important role too by whipping you as you enter and exit the cafe.
If you’re feeling particularly brave they will even blindfold you and tie you up and whip you more.
I wish I could have taken a few photos but upon reaching out for my phone, I was relentlessly whipped by the waitress.
The 5th Dungeon – 5 Pidzemellya
How could I not include this place?
A restaurant entirely underground and made up of stone chambers and dungeons.
The general feel is incredibly atmospheric! Everything is thought out to the smallest detail, medieval style in everything: the interior, candle lighting, a menu of rustic dishes, craft beers and how cosy everything is.
I mean where else are you going to find a slab of meat with a side of chicken hearts served on a slab of stone right?
Even the service itself was like a theatrical performance made up of servers dressed as monks rushing throughout the halls!
Not forgetting the dozens of amazing photo ops to be taken, including the sword in the stone.
Honestly I wish I’d had more then 48 hours to explore but given the circumstances of having to attend my language immersion programme, I could have easily stayed here and extra week or so.
However I’ll take 48 hours over nothing, any day.
So here it is.
I hope you enjoyed this short but sweet post about Lviv, my post barely scratches the surface on the absolute amazing things to see, do and eat.
My list could go on.
I’ll be sure to visit again soon and hope this inspires your interest in visiting beautiful Ukraine.
But until then, Happy travels.