Lviv holds the unofficial title ‘the most beautiful city of Ukraine’, and I couldn’t agree more. I have visited it two times already and it still does not bore me. How could it? There are so many amazing things you can do. The city center is a UNESCO World Heritage site and offers beautiful pastel-colored merchant houses and churches in almost every shape and form. Add a vibrant atmosphere and plenty of cafes and restaurants and you get a wonderful travel destination. A piece of advice for future Lviv visitors: go soon. More and more tourists are visiting Lviv, so it is getting busier. And when you have booked that plane or train ticket, here are 17 wonderful things to do in this city.
Hold on: is it Lviv or Lvov?
Because of the multicultural history of Lviv, this Ukrainian city has received a number of names throughout the years. During the Austro-Hungarian rule the city was called Lemberg, after the World War I the city became part of Poland and was renamed Lwów and then the Russians took over and they changed the name to Lvov. Sounds confusing, right? Well, you only have to remember one name and that is the official city name Lviv.
17 amazing things to do in Lviv:
1. go see the most beautiful square of Eastern Europe
The dynamic center of Lviv is the Ploshcha Rynok (central market square). Dynamic, because there are always things happening. Trams crossing the square, actors walking around in medieval costumes and salsa dancing on long summer evenings. The Ploshcha Rynok is vivid and stunning. The four sides of the square are surrounded by colorful merchant houses (44 in total) with each a different exterior. Some are yellow with a pointy roof and others are black with a heavy stone patron. Each house is unique. The best way to take it all in is to visit the tower of City Hall. From there you’ll get a panoramic view over the Ploshcha Rynok.
Entrance fee: 20 UAH, tickets are sold on the fourth floor.
2. Gaze up in Boim’s Chapel
Walk from Ploshcha Rynok to Halytska Street to find Boim’s Chapel. This is one of the most unique churches in Lviv. It has a dark and massive look. A sign for what is in the chapel which is the tomb of the seventeenth century Boim family. This chapel is very popular in Lviv and the reason for this is the beautiful interior. During the winter months the chapel is closed, but if you visit Lviv in summer, make sure you go inside. Don’t forget to look up to see the spectacular interior of the dome. It’s beautifully decorated.
Address: Katedral’na square, 1. Opened from 11.00 to 17.00 (summer only). Entrance: 30 UAH.
3. Take a stroll on Virmenska street
One of the oldest spots in the city is Virmenska street. This street is the center of the old Armenian quarter. The weathered houses are a sight for sore eyes. From crooked windows to little statues and paintings, it’s all here. There is something cool and artistic about this street. For example, do you see the white stairs to heaven on the next photo? Another great place is the Dzuga gallery at the end of the street. Here you can visit an art exhibition, listen to live music and drink a few lemonades or beers on the terrace.
4. Peek into the courtyards
Lviv has many secret courtyards. This is because of the way the city is structured: square apartment blocks with a communal courtyard in the center. This is where ordinary life takes place. People hang their laundry out to dry, chat with their neighbor over the balcony and let the children play games. Some courtyards are revamped to tourist attractions. The most well-known courtyard is the Italian courtyard at the Ploshcha Rynok. It is beautiful, but a bit too neat for me. I like the courtyard I found in the Armenian quarter better.
Italian courtyard: Ploshcha Rynok 6. Entrance fee: 2 UAH.
Armenian courtyard: Virmenska street.
5. Pay your respects at the Golden Rose Monument
Lviv has a tragic Jewish history. At the beginning of the 20th century, there were over 45 synagogues in this city. A little under 50 percent of the people of Lviv were Jewish. And today? None. Zero. Nearly all the Jews were taken away during World War II. Not only the Nazi-Germans were responsible for this, also the people of Lviv themselves. Antisemitism was pretty common back then. One by one the synagogues were blown up. What stayed behind were empty places. Literally holes between two houses. And it stayed that way for years. Some turned into garbage sites, others are little squares or parks. The most well-known site is the place where the Golden Rose synagogue used to stand. In 2016 the city opened a memorial site here to inform people about the Jewish history. Every memorial stone tell a story from World War II.
Address Golden Rose Monument: Ivana Fedorova Street 7.
Photo from 2015: the place was fenced off. Only photos reminded people of the history.
Photo from 2019: the Golden Rose Monument.
Street side of the Golden Rose Monument
6. Stare in awe at Potocki Palace
Where can you find a palace in the middle of the city? Right, in Lviv! The beautiful Potocki Palace immediately draws your attention when you walk passed it. In 2015 I was doing volunteer work in Lviv and passed this palace every day to work. The Potocki Palace is built in the nineteenth century as a residence for the Austrian governor Alfred Potocki. The Potocki family was one of the most powerful and richest families in Central Europe. Today the palace is home to the Art Gallery of Lviv.
Address: Kopernika Street 15
7. Have a cup of fire coffee
Lviv is known for two things: coffee and chocolate. The most memorable coffee was the one I drank at Lviv Coffee Mining Manufacture. The concept of this place is already unique: they mine coffee beans from under the Rynok square. From the entrance visitors walk through the shop to the cafe where gentlemen with impressive mustaches pour very strong cups of coffee. The most interesting part waits in the basement. This is the place where they serve fire coffee. This is not just a cup of coffee, it is a show. I will not spoil too much for you, but let’s say the flames will fly around your ears. All basement visitors need to wear a helmet, a prop to enhance the mine experience.
Address: Ploshcha Rynok 10. Price fire coffee: 42 UAH.
Coffee to go anyone? Order it at this cute coffee cart at Ploshcha Rynok.
8. Visit the many churches of Lviv
Lviv is a city of churches. Everywhere you go you see churches. The Central European position contributed to this. But they’re not all the same. Every church belongs to a different religious group, ranging from Greek-catholic, orthodox to Armenian. Most people go to the Greek-catholic church. This church recognizes the Pope as their leader, but they follow the Orthodox calendar. This means that Christmas is not celebrated in December, but in January. The oldest church in Lviv is the Armenian Church. The entrance of this church is a bit hidden behind an iron fence, but once you get inside you’ll be amazed by the colorful frescos and icons.
Armenian Church: Virmenska street 7
Dominican Church: Muzeina square 1
9. Watch the parade of newlyweds
During the weekends there’s no escape. You will literally see newlywed couples everywhere. Fully dressed up in their smoking and wedding dress they walk around the city and pose in front of every historically significant building. And not just them, friends and family will taggle along. Sometimes it gets so busy, that two or three newlywed groups stand in line to get the same shot of the couple in front of a particular church. Take a seat at one of the cafes, order a coffee and enjoy the show.
10. Visit a local Rynok
‘Rynok’ means market and you find them everywhere in the city. Ranging from small ones to big indoor markets. I always like them, because markets are full with colors, movement and people. My advice is to visit a rynok in the city center. People there are a bit more used to nosy tourists. I also visited a few markets outside the city center and there I was often asked to put my camera away.
Location: Soborna square close to the Bernardine church
11. Climb up Castle Hill
The view from city hall is pretty good, but if you want to go even higher then you should visit Castle Hill. This is the highest point of Lviv. The name itself is misleading, because you won’t find any castle up here. The original castle got destroyed in the eighteenth century by the Swedish army. Today the hill is marked by a huge radio mast. It’s pretty ugly, but at the same time useful as an orientation point in the city.
Location: Vysoky Zamok park
12. Take a stroll over Svoboda Prospekt
If you’re done with the newlyweds parade, head over to Svoboda Prospekt to watch some other local rituals. On the summer weekends everyone gathers here to chill on the benches. You’ll see young couples secretly hugging and kissing each other and retired men playing chess. And if you are lucky, there is also someone selling home-made kvas. The Svoboda Prospekt ends at the beautiful Opera House. If you happen to have a note of 20 UAH in your wallet, pull it out and check the backside for the image. The Lviv Opera House is pictured on this bank note.
13. Discover the quirky side of Lviv: Yard of Lost Toys
It is time for the alternative sights of Lviv. The Yard of Lost Toys is definitely one of them. This is one of the oddest courtyards in Lviv. The story behind is: local resident Vasily Petrovich found two lost toys and brought them over to the communal yard so that the owner could pick them up. However, the toys were never collected. Precisely the opposite happened: more and more toys were added and now the yard has been taken over by fluffy teddy bears and dolls. It sounds like a messy image, but all toys are neatly placed on a specific location in the yard. It is a bizarre, perhaps a bit creepy, place, but is fun break from the normal sightseeing.
Address: Knyazya Leva Street 3
14. Find the street with seven names
Random fact: there is a street with seven names in the center of Lviv. It is a bit tricky to find since there are no tourist directions to guide you to this street. You just have to pay close attention to the street signs when walking around. By the way, the real name of this street is Arkhivna. The additional seven names are a result of a local tradition. The city of Lviv organizes an annual film festival and to celebrate this festival locals made a street sign of a famous movie director. It started out as a joke, but when the city didn’t remove the signs, they kept on adding more street signs every year. Unfortunately, after the start of the Crimea conflict the Lviv Film Festival got cancelled. So no more new street signs for now.
15. Go on a little street art hunt
Thanks to a number of street art festivals, Lviv has seen an increase in murals. To help you organize your own street art hunt, I created a small list with titles and locations. The first three are rather close to each other. The last two are a 20-minute walk from the Ploshcha Rynok. So if you have a bit more time, you can check these out as well.
- Comtemplation, located at Sians`ka Street 4
- Focus point, located at Sians`ka Street 9
- Interaction, located at Prince Mstislav the Udatnogo Street 4
- Children’s games, located at Haidamats`ka Street 4
- Collector, located at Khmelnyts`koho Street 74
Want to see more street art? Unexplored City has an online map with more than 20 murals.
16. Visit the local book market
Do you like flea markets? Head over to the daily second-hand book and antique market in front of the church at Pidvalna Street. What to expect to find here: everything from old coins, books, posters to suitcases and trunks. If you read Ukrainian or Russian, then you can buy a book. If not, then browsing is also fun. The market is centered around the statue of Ivan Fedorov. He was the first person who printed a book in Ukraine.
Address: Pidvalna Street 13.
17. Taste all 39 Lviv chocolate varieties
Attention chocolate lovers: Lviv is your dream destination. As mentioned before, Lviv is known for its coffee and chocolate. The best place to taste handmade chocolate is the Lviv Chocolate Factory. Just like the Coffee Mine, the chocolate factory is huge. It has six floors. On the ground level you get to see how the chocolate is made, the second floor is a shop and the other floors are used for the cafe. This place has a total ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’ feel to it. Supposedly, they have 39 varieties of chocolate. Do not miss out on the roof terrace for an awesome view over the city.
Address: Serbska Street 3.
Want to add something to this list? Let me know in the comments.
This blog post was written in 2015 and updated in 2020.