Six things to do in Lviv!
When entering Ukraine I had little expectations, and was pleasantly surprised when we stumbled across Lviv. A beautiful city with amazing architecture and history, amazing food, local home made chocolate and a love for coffee almost as strong as my own; it was the perfect city for me.
In the centre of the main square you find old detailed buildings painted in colourful earthly tones. The cobble streets and windy roads reminded me of a very European feel, a vast contrast to the wide soviet streets we had come from in Belarus. Here’s a small review of my favourite things to do while in Lviv:
- Drink lots of coffee
The romantic cities love for coffee means you can find cute cafes wafting with delicious aromas of ground coffee beans on every corner. They’re especially famous for their underground coffee shop, Lviv Coffee Manufactures, a café that took an unusual theme of mining coffee. Nevertheless, exploring the underground secret passages with muscular Russian looking men in helmets holding mining picks taking your orders is a new experience to add to my list of café hopping. They’re most famous for their flaming coffee, a delicious milky coffee topped with sugar that is then scorched by the waiters, as the eager tourists gaze on in amazement, cameras at the ready.
- Eat local chocolate
Another creative little shop just down the street is The Lviv Chocolate Factory. The elegant detailed shop transports you to Willy Wonkers workshop; with ladies sitting on display painting the largest carefully constructed Easter egg I’ve ever seen. Inside you can follow the making of the chocolate, and wind your way up the five story store, with cafes and chocolate shops with excited children buzzing around looking in amazement at the display of chocolates crafted into all shapes and toys. The chocolate itself is quite expensive, but you can buy a small taste for only a couple of dollars. If the chocolate doesn’t interest you, its still wroth paying this beautiful shop a visit anyway, even passing by you can admire the moving art works down the building as they dance and play with the ticking clock.
- Visit the Underground Restaurant (unless you are a Russian…)
Lviv seem to have a fascination with things undergoing and themes. When our couch surfing host told us of a restaurant called Kryjivka in the city center where you had to say a password to enter and Russians were banned, we knew we had to try it out. Lining up he taught us the password, an extremely long, confusing and hard to pronounce sentence in Ukrainian. We practiced it over and over, but once we made it to the door as soon as I said the first word, he laughed and asked where we were from. Once we knew we were Australian, and not Russian, the door swung open and in we entered, took a shot and were taken to our seats. We were quite disappointed we couldn’t finish the password though. Inside the restaurants theme is war, with play stations for children with toy guns. The local Ukrainian food is amazing, I would recommend the dumplings.
- Visit the Beer Theatre, Pravda.
Another great bar to visit in the main square of Lviv is Pravda, a microbrewery that has great artwork on all their bottles featuring political stances again Russia, Putin, Lukashenko and America. They use their bottles as a way to protest against what is happening in Crimea and draw attention towards the countries that they believe can help but wont. The four-story pub is a great place to visit, it has amazing tasting beers, live music and the atmosphere is great. Definitely worth just a walk through, but sit down and have a beer if you have the time.
- See the city from birds eye view
One of the best ways to see a city is bird’s eye view, Lviv being one of the best. Taking a walk up the top of the hill overlooking the entire old town is one of the best things to do in Lviv. Day or night, you get a beautiful 360-degree view of old town, and stretched far out into the suburbs. In the city centre you can climb the old bell tower, another breath taking view allowing you to look directly down into the backyards of small town houses, colorful brick restaurants and people watch from above. Just be warned, every hour the bell rings and it sends a fright through everyone around, a hilarious moment to be enjoyed.
- Visit the mountains
Although Ukraine is an extremely flat country, the mountains it does have certainly does make up for it. The Carpathian Mountain range is just a short hour ride out of Lviv, and defiantly worth a visit. Buses take you out, or hitch hiking is quite simple enough. You can visit small remote villages, wind your way through the breath taking landscape and hike up to the highest peak of the mountain still snow capped in the warmer months.
- Take a train ride to Kiev
Although this isn’t exactly in Lviv, taking a train ride is a must do in Ukraine. The 10 hour slow sleeper train mixes you in with locals, were you meet small grumpy typical Ukrainian men who grunt and use large hand gestures to communicate with you. The beds are reasonably comfy and the cabins are clean, as you read, play cards or just simply stare out the window and watch the beautiful Ukraine countryside roll past. The trips are cheap and fairly easy to book, you can book online although most of the webpages are in Ukrainian, you can simply rock up at the train station an hour before and book a departure. We took the 9pm train and it went almost too quickly, as we slept all through the night and had to wake early to enjoy rolling into the capital of Ukraine, Kiev.
Just some helpful tips:
- Bring an I-pod or ear plugs, as some Ukrainian men lay mouths open and snore the whole way there.
- Bring a pack of cards, the small tables and cabins make the perfect setting to sit opposite someone and play a few hands of cards before bed
- Alcohol is not permitted. We had a cheap bottle of vodka that was okay stowed away in our bags but drinking is forbidden.