12 Free (or Nearly Free) Things to Do in Lviv, Ukraine

This summer I asked you whether EURO 2012 made you want to go to Poland and Ukraine.  In reply, here’s a guest post from Tim Louzonis, an American expat in Lviv for the past 4 years, and founder of LvivAlive.com.

Why Visit Lviv?

Walkable, inexpensive, a university town, off the beaten path, and not so touristy. Lviv is also Ukraine’s cultural capital, city of art & music, and creative hub of the IT industry. All of these words describe Lviv as a place that’s just beginning to emerge on a tourists’ radar after hosting matches for the recent EURO 2012 championship.

What to See in Lviv (Top Sights)

1. Explore Rynok Square. Start your visit to Lviv by seeing this UNESCO-recognized cultural gem. Listen to street musicians and performers, browse shops for souvenirs or pop into one of the many small museums and cafes that line the square.

2. Climb the Ratusha (City Hall). For a magnificent panoramic view and great photos of Lviv’s Old Town, pay a small fee, climb 408 steep and narrow steps to the observation deck that’s open year-round.

3. Stroll Along Prospect Svobody. Walk this central avenue to see Lviv’s Opera House (one of the most beautiful in Europe), the Shevchenko Monument, and Adam Mickiewicz Square. During the Easter and Christmas holidays the middle of the avenue hosts an outdoor fair and souvenir market.

Museums, Music, and Churches

4. Art and History Museums – Art lovers should visit Potocki Palace, a beautiful French Neo-Renaissance manor that houses the Lviv Art Gallery. The Pharmacy Museum is right on Rynok Square and is the city’s oldest operating drugstore. Admission is about 1-2 EURO.

5. See the Icon Collection or Tour Lviv’s Churches. The National Museum holds one of Ukraine’s finest icon collections. St. Yuriy (George) and Armenian Cathedrals and the Dominican Church are some of the most popular churches in a city with almost 100 functioning churches.

6. Catch Some Live Music. Lviv is full of musicians and student hangouts. Check out Kvartyra 35 (Dzyga), Kult, or Robert Doms Beer House (next to the Brewery Museum) to enjoy daily (often free) concerts by local bands, playing blues, jazz, and rock.

7. Dance Under the Stars on Rynok Square. On weekend summer nights Rynok Square’s Diana Cafe opens up its dance floor for open salsa and tango nights.

Borcht, Horilka, Beer, and Cheesecake

The food in Lviv is flavored by the city’s multicultural past–traditional Ukrainian cuisine is combined with Hungarian, Polish, and Viennese influences.

8. Try Ukrainian and Galician Food. You’ve probably heard of Ukrainian dishes like borshcht and varenyky (dumplings called pierogi Polish.), but so why not sample regional specialties like kruchenyky (meat rolls stuffed with mushrooms, or banosh (a polenta-like dish with bacon and cheese).

9. Drink Like a Ukrainian. Have some salo (cured pork fat like bacon) with your horilka (“vodka” in Ukraine). If you’re a beer drinker, you’ll be happy to know that beer-making enjoys a proud tradition in Lviv and many brew pubs serve their own beer. Check out Kumpel, Stargorod, the Lazy Dog, or the Mons Pius steakhouse.

10. Have Coffee and Cheesecake. Lvivites are proud of their city’s coffee-drinking tradition–Yuriy Kulchitsky, a man from Lviv region, opened Vienna’s first coffee house. Lviv’s position along the Silk Trade Route and status as a regional capital in the Habsburg Empire enriched the city with sweets-making artisans, who were famous across Europe. Try syrnyk (cheesecake), strudel and plyatsky (Galician pastries). Svit Kavy, Veronika and Cukernia are Lviv’s most well-known sweet shops, but there are many more.

Cemeteries and Castles

11. Visit Lychakiv Cemetery. Often compared to  Pere Lachaise in Paris, Lviv’s Lychakiv Cemetery is one of the oldest in Europe with many funeral monuments that are considered works of art.  About 6-7 EURO including a 90-minute guided tour in English.

12. Take the Golden Horseshoe Castle Tour. While not nearly free, this day-long excursion is one of the most popular tours in Lviv region and worth mentioning. See Oleskyi, Pidhoretskyi and Zolochivskyi Castles. About 20 EURO, including transportation and admission, a guided tour will cost a bit more.

Getting to Lviv on the Cheap

Lviv is not well-served by budget airlines. There are some flights by WizzAir and CarpartAir, but not as many as some other European cities. Another option can be to travel through Krakow, Poland, and take the night train to Lviv. If you’re an adventurous traveler, the cheapest way to Lviv from Krakow is to take a train to Przemysl, a bus to Medyka, use the pedestrian border crossing to Shehyni, Ukraine, then take a cheap bus (marshrutka) to Lviv’s Central Railway Station.  The Krakow-Lviv train will cost about 45 EURO one-way and take 6.5 hours, while the cheap route will cost about 15 EURO and take about 7-8 hours, depending time spent on the border and waiting for your bus.

Where to Stay in Lviv?

Make sure you stay in Lviv’s city center – most top sights are walkable, but public transportation is not easy or comfortable to use if you don’t speak Ukrainian or Russian. On the other hand, travel by taxi can be reasonable (3-5 EURO per fare) if you use metered cabs, or bargain with independent cabbies.

The average hostel in Lviv will cost you about 8 EURO a night in a shared dorm. Most hostels offer a common kitchen, free Wi-Fi, 24-hour reception, and luggage storage. Many hostels can help you with city tours, day trips, and travel bookings. Apartment rentals and budget hotels are other options if you’ve got a bit more money to spend (from 30 to 40 EURO/night) and prefer more privacy.  Apartments are usually a better bet if you prefer to be close to the city center.

Curious About Lviv?

Read more travel tips for Lviv, Ukraine, including dining and nightlife guides, an event calendar, and more at LvivAlive.com.

– Photo Credit: Nataliya Kuzil

3 Responses to “12 Free (or Nearly Free) Things to Do in Lviv, Ukraine”

  1. Barry says:

    Lviv sounds like an interesting place. I will need to visit it should I go to Ukraine.

  2. Marco says:

    Very thorough list you put together and they all sound worthwhile…it’s also nice to see I wouldn’t be paying an arm and a leg to experience the area!

  3. Ivan Petrik says:

    Interesting blog Jane! your blog postings helped me planning things with my travel group tour to Lviv(Ukraine)


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