When people think of traveling to Europe, very rarely does Ukraine make the list. Of course, with so many beautiful countries on the continent you’d be hard pressed to find Ukraine in the top 10. However, for frequent travelers who want to explore some place new, then Lviv is a great option.
Located in the west of Ukraine, just an hour from the Polish border lies the cultural capital city of Lviv. Centered around the colorful Rynok (market) square with classic Austrian buildings, tourism has been increasing in Lviv year after year. I myself moved to this city two years ago and still haven’t fallen out of love with it.
If you decide to make this your next visit then here is a simple guide for how to spend a perfect day in Lviv.
Arrive in the morning. I know you can’t always control when planes arrive, but for the sake of a perfect day, it’s best to show up early. Luckily the city center is just 15 minutes drive from the airport, and a taxi will cost less than $3. The first thing you should do is go to one of the many popular cafes that border the main square. If you are hungry you can grab some breakfast, otherwise just have a coffee and people watch for a bit. I recommend ATLAS or Cafe Centaur.
Next it’s time to head to the top of the clock tower. Called Ratusha, the famous Lviv clock tower shoots up from the town hall building. The climb to the top will cost you around $1.25 and give you 360 degree views of the city. Even though I’m a local I still go up a few times a year.
After your descent, I can just imagine you’ll want to experience one of Lviv’s famous small museums. Well, for that you can head to the Apteka (pharmacy) museum just two minutes’ walk from town hall. This quaint museum is only a couple of rooms, but the coolest part is the dungeon underground. Even if you don’t care about medicine you will want to see this. At the end of the tunnels, you are let out into the building’s courtyard which gives you a better idea of how these classic buildings look.
If you are tired at this point you’ll want a coffee. But not just any coffee, you need to try the flaming coffee at Lviv Coffee Manufacturers. What just looks like a simple coffee and gift shop on the outside holds a fun secret. A Coffee mine! Did you know that coffee isn’t grown on trees, but mined in caves deep underground? Okay, maybe this cafe twists the facts a bit, but make sure you go down into the “mines” where you can get their signature drink. Coffee topped with crystalized sugar, and then blasted with a huge torch. It’s also affectionately called coffee Brulee. I order mine with a shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream as well.
Time to go for a short walk to the Lviv opera house. Considered the most beautiful building in the city you can actually enter and look around the opera house for free if there isn’t a show occurring. Walk up the marble stairs and pay attention to the gilded molding around the place. Admire the carved statues and take a visit to the hall of mirrors. You can even walk into a balcony and look at the actual theater. I would recommend seeing a show here if you have the time, but for now, just looking around will have to do.
Exit the theater and walk down the beautiful Svobody avenue with its tree lined promenade. Maybe buy an ice cream from a vendor, or some souvenirs if that’s your thing.
Continue along until you reach the arsenal and ancient city wall. There’s a museum here that’s well worth visiting. Only about a dollar to enter, you can see weapons from the past millennia that were collected over the many wars in Lviv. In fact, there are quite a few weapons of Asian origin which surprised me. But then I guess we were conquered by the Mongol horde back in the day.
Underneath the arsenal museum is where you’ll have dinner. It’s called Ribs Under Arsenal. I know, creative right? Many restaurants in Lviv are themed, and this is no different. Styled like a medieval great hall this restaurant makes some of the best pork ribs in the city. Of course, they don’t give you silverware so prepare to eat with your hands.
After dinner you have plenty tipple options, it really depends on what you’re looking for.
For an authentic taste of Ukraine you can head to Drunken Cherry, a vendor of famous cherry liqueur. You’ll often see many locals hanging around the outside of this place as it’s quite popular.
If you are looking for something more unique then head over to Masoch Cafe. Yes, you read the name right. This masochism themed bar is not for the faint of heart. Decorated with lewd drawings all over the wall you may feel out of place. On entering you might even be whipped a few times by one of the busty waitresses. The cocktails here are delicious and strong, but for an experience you’ll never forget I recommend ordering off the “special menu”.
Well that’s one of the ways to spend a perfect day in Lviv. Of course, there’s plenty more to do and see so if you do plan a trip try to stay for at least a few days.