We’ve already hit our three week anniversary of living here in Lviv. So, we thought it was time to bring you our insiders’ guide to what to do in and around Lviv in the summer. Of course you could also do some of these things in the winter too. But considering that winter here can get down to -30 degrees centigrade, whilst summer can at least get up to London temperatures, we thought it was best to create a separate guide for summer and winter.
How to get there: Lychakiv Cemetery is about 25 minutes’ walk from the centre (head straight up Pekarska Street for the most direct route). Alternatively, you can take the no. 7 tram from the centre for the princely sum of 2 uah (around 5p).
Cost: 20-25 uah for a ticket
A cemetery might not be the number one thing on your tourist itinerary in many cities, but Lychakiv is among the most popular places to visit here in Lviv. Much like Highgate Cemetery in London, it’s absolutely huge, and really worth a visit. They run tours, although they are all in Ukrainian. If you don’t speak the language, you may prefer to just wander around. We made a night-time visit as part of a festival of Lviv culture, and eventually wandered away from the tour. It’s probably more interesting if you do follow the tour, but otherwise it’s a beautiful and atmospheric place which is worth an hour’s wander.
2. Rynok Square
How to get there: Rynok is in the city centre – follow the signs which are everywhere.
Rynok square is the beating heart of Lviv and the best place to stroll around and watch the world go by. Of course it’s packed with cafes and souvenir shops, and you can sit outside a cafe, bar or restaurant with a beer or coffee and enjoy the atmosphere of the centre of this half-European half-Eastern city. There’s often something going on here, with street performers and musicians in every corner.
How to get there: Visoky Zamok is a hill located at the back of the city – it’s about a 10 minute walk from the centre, then a 20-30 minute climb. It’s well signposted from anywhere in the city.
High Castle, despite its name, is not a castle. In fact, it is really just a hill with a park halfway up and a viewing platform at the top. But it offers excellent views of the city and on a nice day it’s a good place to relax. You can probably buy bottled water from a seller halfway up the hill if you get thirsty, although they’ll also try to sell you random bits of tat (er, souvenirs…). Young people often go up here at night to drink and party, and at night the views are especially awesome.
4. Vynnyky Lake
How to get there: The lake is about ten minutes’ drive from Lviv. There is a bus that runs all day and drops you off at the top of the slope that leads down to the lake.
Cost: 15 uah to enter the beach. You can buy ice-cream, beer and bottled water here for about 15 uah each.
One of the strange things about Lviv as the second biggest city in Ukraine is that it is nowhere near the sea or a major lake, and nor does it have a river. So, in the summer, you might find yourself wondering where to go to relax and catch some rays. Real Lviv-ers tend to take their summer holiday in faraway Odessa, but for those who are stuck here, Vynnyky Lake is a popular mini resort. It’s a small lake, but they’ve made the best out of it, dressing it up as a reasonable approximation of a beach resort, with kiosks selling ice cream, beer, water, hot dogs and snacks. They also rent out little beach huts and barbecues, if you bring your own meat. In summer the entire shore is lined with locals sunbathing and kids playing. You can swim in the lake, but only as far as the line of buoys, which means that in reality you’re pretty much limited to paddling and wading. But as far as sunbathing goes it’s great. Every time we go we get accosted by locals who speak (some) English and are really excited to talk to us authentic Europeans. As a final note, remember that Ukraine is quite a traditional country and topless sunbathing is an absolute no-no!
How to get there: We kinda struggled to find King Cross the first couple of times, but it’s actually a straightforward 10 minute drive from the city. Or there’s a bus.
Cost: It depends. Bowling costs 150 uah per hour during the week or 240 uah per hour at peak times.
Leopolis is a big commerce centre just outside Lviv, where quite a few different handy entertainments and shops are situated. For a start, there’s a huge Auchan, which sells absolutely everything, from every kind of food and drink at great prices, to homeware, camping gear, hardware and more. There’s also bowling, cinema, ice skating and a huge shopping centre. The cinema only shows films in the Ukrainian language, but the bowling is a fun evening out and there are quite a few shops here that you can’t find elsewhere.
6. Opera Square
How to get there: It’s very central – you’ll spot it easily
The Opera House in central Lviv is something of a central meeting point – everyone seems to meet up for dates or hangouts there. The Opera House itself is an impressive building. We’ve not actually been inside, but there is apparently an underground river below it, and a posh restaurant. The square in front of it is home to a huge fountain, kiosks of all kinds and a tonne of street sellers and performers. Generally there are people there offering you a small prize of around 200 uah if you complete a challenge such as cycling between a narrow line of cones or hanging from a pull-up bar for a certain time. Or there are street musicians, old Ukrainian men playing chess on benches and a variety of old women selling sweets and other items.
7. Lviv’s many, many churches
How to get there: They are scattered all around the city, and outside as well. The famous ones are signposted.
Cost: It’s free to enter all the ones we’ve been in, which is quite a few.
If you’re interested in either religion or architecture, you won’t be disappointed by Lviv’s enormous selection of churches. Most of them are Orthodox or Greek Catholic, which to a Westerner’s eyes are quite different and interesting. In Western Europe most of our churches (especially in England) have more or less the same look, whereas here they’re really quite unique. If you venture outside the city you’ll see dozens of small, golden-domed churches dotting the landscape, even in areas where not many people seem to live – and they look really amazing. In the city itself, there are several major churches which you can visit, and they are pretty splendid both inside and out.
Cost: Clubs are free for girls on Thursday nights. Men generally have to pay around 100 uah to enter. It’s usually around 120 uah to smoke shisha at one of Lviv’s countless chilled out bars. Drinks are very cheap: a large beer is usually around 28 uah, which is less than 1 GBP.
There are quite a variety of different pubs, bars, clubs and other nightspots in Lviv, considering its size. We’re not big fans of clubbing, but of course we had to try. One of the biggest and most popular clubs here is called Fashion, and we went with a couple of other girls, who all got in free, so it was worth a look. Clubbing here is much like it is in any other part of Europe. The party gets started around 11-12am, and goes on until 4-5am. People here tend to get very dressed up for clubs (well, girls dress up all the time actually), and you have to look good to get in, otherwise you get ‘face controlled’ away. Ukrainians are judgmental like that. But generally it seems to be a fun night out where you can meet a few people.
If clubs are not your thing, there are tonnes of different bars with nice outdoor tables where kal’yan (shisha), cocktails, beers and relaxing are the order of the evening. We’re bigger fans of this option.
Cost: Fill your belly for less than a quid at a self service place like the Food Factory or Puzata Hata (you can fill a tray with food and drinks for ~100 uah for 2 people at either of these). Other restaurants vary in price, but even at a very nice place, 2 people can eat for 300 uah (9-10 GBP).
There are loads of different places to eat in Lviv, and we will write an article on them soon. Our favourite way to eat is to go to a self-service chain like Puzata Hata, where you can get all sorts of typical Ukrainian stuff from varenyky (pierogies) to borsch (beetroot soup) to chicken kievs, cake, beer and kvas (a sickly malted drink which we quite like despite ourselves).
10. Olesky Castle
How to get there: Olesky castle is located 70 km North East of the city. You can either drive or take a bus. (From Lviv bus station #2 (B.Khmelnyts’koho 225) take the Lviv-Brody bus (every 20-30 minutes).
Cost: 20 uah for entry to the castle. Another 10 to enter the dungeons. Plus you can buy tasty cherry buns and cheburek (pasties) outside for 10 uah each from the old ladies.
Whether or not you choose to make the long-ish trek to see Olesky castle is up to you. Compared to some of the castles you can see in other parts of Europe (especially the UK or France), Olesky is a pretty underwhelming approximation of a castle. It’s fairly small and not enormously impressive. It was the residence of a Polish king in the 17th century, before eventually becoming an art gallery in the 1970s. But considering that it’s relatively cheap to enter and surrounded by some nice gardens and countryside, if the weather is ok, we think it’s worth a visit. It’s a bit more interesting on the inside than the outside. It’s full of religious artifacts and artwork, and has a fairly impressive dungeon stuffed with really horrific torture implements. The dungeon is quite disproportionate the the size and scale of the rest of the castle in fact, which has mainly served its purpose as a family residence. Make sure you don’t show up hungry though, as Olesky is in the middle of nowhere and there are no nearby places to eat, unless you want to fill yourself up with hot dogs and traditional cherry and cheese buns outside the entrance.