My favorite days in Lviv were spent wandering the streets of Old Town, taking it all in, stopping by restaurants, shops, churches and coffeehouses with no particular plan or goal. It's a city you can really enjoy without a bunch of planning, rushing, or money. The streets are like a maze in some parts and around almost every corner there are ornate historical churches, buildings with beautiful architecture, squares, statues, or the smell of roasted coffee.
Lviv is famous for its coffeehouses and it seems each one we visited had something unique. For hardcore coffee lovers, try my favorite spot Svit Kavy where you can order from a huge selection of coffees from around the world, If you need a sugar fix, Cafe Freska has delectable desserts and a nice atmosphere. If you're a homesick North American, Kredens Cafe is modeled after Starbucks. All are located in Old Town; please see my individual tips for directions.
The Solomiya Krushelnytska Lviv Theatre of Opera and Ballet has been a hub of Lviv arts and culture since its construction in 1897-1900. Designed by Zygmunt Gorgolewski, the architecture uses details of Renaissance and Baroque styles. The facade features towering Corinthian columns and is covered with detailed statues and carvings of muses and metaphorical figures like comedy and tragedy. At the very top, there are beautiful bronze statues symbolizing glory, poetry and music. Inside the theatre, the tiered auditorium is covered in oil paintings.
It is difficult to visualize, but when the theatre was built, the Poltva River that used to run through Lviv was enclosed in a tunnel and incorporated into the city's sewer system to provide the new theatre with a central location. The theatre was built over top using a concrete foundation. There was a time when the building was sinking, but it has since stabilized. Apparently there are tours and webcam feeds where you can see the underground river.
If you're interested in seeing a show, you can check the schedule on the theatre's website. The cost of tickets is very reasonable and you can e-mail questions in English, but reservations can only be done in person.
Christmas is a perfect time to visit Lviv, and the Christmas markets are a great place to take in the festivities. There are rows of little huts selling souvenirs like crafts and kitschy stuff, food and drinks. Like every fourth hut sells coffee, tea and alcoholic drinks like "med" to help you keep warm. The food we had was tasty and there are lots of different things to try; see my other tip about street food in the "restaurants" section. The Christmas grain pudding called "kutia", a rice and meat dish called "plov" and the grilled kovbaca are our favorites.
Of course, you'll need to dress warmly as the average temperatures can be around -1 C to -6 C, but you can always plan to stop into a few coffeehouses and pubs around the markets to warm up. In the evening all the colorful lights are absolutely beautiful. The party starts early and goes late, and there's music, dancing and a skating rink set up. On Orthodox Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, January 6th and 7th, there are live concerts and dance performances, and thousands of people turn out to celebrate.
Boyim Chapel is the burial chapel of Georgi Boyim, a rich Hungarian merchant. The facade, dating from 1617, is completely covered in biblical sculptures and the perfect mix of beautiful and creepy. Some of the biblical scenes even feature some of Boyim's own family members in the mix.
Over the course of several days, no matter when we visited, the chapel was closed. Although there was a bright orange sign up saying that it would be extra money to take pictures. We went in January so maybe it was closed for the holidays but I understand it's pretty cool inside so good luck.
Prospekt Svobody, or Freedom Avenue, is the main thoroughfare in Lviv. There's a walkway through a strip of park in the middle of the boulevard that's perfect for hanging around and people watching. You can't miss the huge statue of celebrated Ukrainian author Taras Shevchenko, which was a gift to the city from the Ukrainian diaspora in Argentina. The street is lined with old buildings with nice architectural features, clothing boutiques, banks and restaurants, and some places catering to tourists. The Solomiya Krushelnytska Lviv Theatre of Opera and Ballet is at the head of the avenue.
Lviv's old market square, or Ploshcha Rynok, is a cobbled square surrounded by colorful houses and crowned with the 19th century town hall. A square has existed here since Lviv was established as a city, but the houses have been rebuilt over the years with most current structures dating to the 16th to 18th centuries or later. The buildings are in different stages of repair and restoration which adds to the charm and authenticity. House no. 4, The Black Mansion, built in the 16th century for an Italian tax collector, is probably the most beautiful and recognizable, followed by the Kornyakt House at no. 6 with its amazing row of sculptures along the roof. Due to its beautiful and authentic architecture, the Lviv city centre is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site and a major part of that experience is Ploshcha Rynok!
When researching my trip to Lviv, I read about the Lychakiv Cemetery and I sort of put it on the "if we have time" list. I'm so glad that I took the time to visit because only by being there did I truly appreciate this amazing place that so many other travelers have enjoyed. Lychakiv Cemetery is one of the oldest cemeteries in Europe. It's a huge necropolis where wealthy, important and notable Ukrainians and Poles, such as Ivan Franko and Maria Konopnicka are buried. There's a section and monument dedicated to the Lwow Eagles and Ukrainian Insurgent Army. The cemetery's thousands of gravestones date from the 1700's to the present, and range from markers like stone slabs to beautiful statues, to grand mausoleums.
The cemetery is truly incredible; gravestones line the grounds as far as the eye can see and up the sides of hills. In the summer, the green grass and overgrowth would look very picturesque. In the winter, the snow -capped statues and open view give a different, almost eerie feel. It was truly an unforgettable experience.
Catholic (or different name- Latin) Cathedral was build in 1360-1493. As name tells, it is main church for Catholics, mainly Polish origin people. It is quite interesting and richly decorated inside (pity, it was always closed, I have been only on mass time).
In Soviet times this Cathedral was one with a permission to organize masses here, so not only Polish Catholic, but also Greek Catholics went there for a mass.
It is hard to take a photo of this Cathedral, very good view of it appears to be from the top of tower in Town hall. Nowadays Cathedral looks baroque, but with a strong features of Gothic style.
The house was built in 1588 and nowadays is called as an unique Renaissance style building not only in Ukraine, but in Europe. In the end of 16th century one of the first Lviv pharmacies was working here, founded by Jan Lorencowicz. Former owners of house added some sculptures to a house to save them and make life more successful. It was black already in 19th century, it was due to chemical reactions, later no one tried to change it.
It is indeed strange and both beautiful house. Nowadays it houses a museum of Ukrainian diaspora (part of Lviv history museum). I haven't visited it, as I think there are more interesting museums there around.
Museum is located in old house in town hall square. House was built in 16th century, got numeral reconstructions. House now belongs to Lviv State Museum of History. The exposition shows the history from early times to around 17 - 18th centuries.
Actually I liked this exposition, learned some new things, took a photos from open window to city town hall square. Entrance price was 10 grivens.
Town hall square is not only nice due to its Renaissance houses around, but also due to four sculptures with fountains around. Each sculpture represents mythological person from Ancient World: Neptune, Diana, Amphitrite and Adonis.
Wells - fountains in town hall square was designed by Hartman Witwer and stands here from 1793. All these four corners of square is quite popular as meeting places, but probably the Neptune is the most popular one.
I medieval times present Lviv old town was surrounded by defensive walls. Nowadays only small part of it left. After invention of new technologies of armors, it was not so practical to keep the walls. Also town spread in bigger area than today's old town.
Walls were built in 15 - 16th centuries, this current section, that survived is from 16th century.
Chapel was constructed in 1611 - 1616 as a burial place of Boim's family, by agreement three generation was buried here. Long time ago there was a cemetery around Latin Cathedral, so it was a part of cemetery.
Boim family was invited by Polish - Lithuanian king Stefan Batory to stay in Lviv. One of members of Boim's family - Pavlo - was a doctor and traveler, traveled to China, after that he wrote a manuscript about culture of China, medicine.
Chapel is impressive both outside and inside. It is a very good example of late Renaissance. To see interior you have to pay around 10 grivens. To take photos inside also cost money, but upppsss ... I made one :)
Both of these spots located at the same building complex, that dates back from 16th century, it is example of Renaissance style.
Royal halls is so called due to rich, detailed design of rooms, that were used also as Polish - Lithuanian Commonwealth king Jan Sobieski III residence. Nowadays rooms are not so original, most furniture and other things just taken here to make atmosphere of how it looked before.
Italian yard is topical Renaissance structure with arches, so it looks like "Italian". It seems that yard is also used as restaurant. Entrance was around 10 grivens for both (if I am right), anyway, only to see Italian courtyard cost 2 grivens.
Lviv had a town hall for a long time, at first wooden one in 14th century. The new shape of town hall in Viennese classicism style appeared in 1830-1835, architects were Y. Markley, F. Thresher, A. Vondrashek.
As near almost every town hall, it was a public place in medieval times, punishments were made. Nowadays town hall and its square is active one, with beautiful houses, many people around.
Town hall provides a service of going up to the tower to see panorama. Well, I made it and it was worth. Entrance, as I remember was 5 grivens.