Life in Ukraine. Live, @ first hand.

Are you short of words because of your love to Lviv?

Are you short of words because of your love to Lviv?

Lviv has recently become one of major tourists attractions in Ukraine.

People from many countries come to this place.

How does it easily get its place in their hearts?

This city has lots of interesting things to offer to its visitor. You can just stroll along its narrow streets taking shot of every beautiful building.

However, you will enjoy this city more if you know little bit about its major attractions.

And this is what I’ll talk about today.

So, scroll down to see what to explore when you finally trip to Lviv to dive into its charming, cosy atmosphere.

Let’s start with a bit of history

a bit of Lviv history

Will you agree if I say that Lviv is magnificent? This old city has got this distinctive European flair. One can hardly believe it is situated in Ukraine and not somewhere in Europe.

However, it will not be true if I say Lviv hasn’t got anything to do with Europe. Before becoming part of USSR in middle of XX c. Lviv belonged to Poland and Austro-Hungarian Empire.

This city is the place where Ukrainians, Poles, Jews and Germans lived for a long time and created that mixture of cultural traces that we can enjoy today.

General impression

General impression

Historical center of the city is a place of special atmosphere while its outskirts are no difference from any other big town.

Atmosphere of Lviv center is combination of infrastructure, narrow streets, old architecture and coffee smell. Coffee is one of many prides of the city, it is ‘bitter as saying goodbye to Lviv’, so don’t forget to try it.

Walking through the historical center is a great pleasure. Narrow streets covered with stone sett paving are filled with different vehicles. There is so little space that local tram drivers can actually paint big S on their chests for being able to share the road with lots of cars without causing accidents.

Today Lviv attracts thousands of tourists so that marketers work hard to provide various entertainments and attractions.

Every cafe and restaurant tries to make its best to attract visitors, including original sign-boards, menus, ads, ways to serve dishes or welcoming customers.

Sweets shop

caffes and street ads in Lvov

Souvenir shops are literally everywhere. Current political situation has greatly affected their assortment.

souvenirs

In addition to traditional cups, souvenir magnets and tourist guides shops sell embroidered clothes (vyshyvanky) and its many modernized variants, wreaths decorated with flowers and many other things with patriotic symbolics.

Russian president Vladimir Putin deserves special attention here and souvenir shops show best of their sense of humor suggesting to wipe your feet before entering or clean your hmm you know what toilet paper is used for.

clean your feet

Putin toilet paper

And here is another ad saying that Putin is not a good man (reference to that song of football fans , although initial letters are interchanged to avoid swearing).

Putin khuylo gallery

There are many other traditional street entertainments like street musicians and dancers. Sometimes street music here is so great it feels almost like at concert in the opera.

And the last thing which contributes to creating charm of the city is language.

It is not a secret that every other region of the country has its special dialect so that people from Eastern and Western parts of Ukraine can hardly understand each other. While east of the country is either Russian speaking or has got many Russian words in local dialects, in Western part speaking Ukrainian is as natural as breathing.

Yes, locals can easily shift to Russian if you talk to them like this, but it is much more pleasant to talk to them in Ukrainian.

Ukrainian language in Lviv has its peculiar intonation and it is so catching that you start copying it almost immediately.

I’ve been talking Ukrainian for my entire life, I know eastern dialect as well as western one, but even for me Lviv talk was charming and I couldn’t stop myself from trying to talk like locals.

Great places for panorama view of Lviv

Great places for panorama view of Lviv

Panoroma of Lviv from the top of Church of St. Olha and Elizabeth

Market Square or Ploshcha Rynok

It has been a long time since this place witnessed last market days. However, it still preserves the name. Today it is a starting point of many excursions and one of major tourists attractions in Lviv with lots of cafes.

Market Square or Ploshcha Rynok

44 buildings representing various architecture styles surround the Square. Fountains decorated with statues of Greek gods Diana, Neptune, Amphitrite and Adonis mark corners of Ploshcha Rynok.

Ratusa or the Town Hall

Ratusa or the Town Hall

13 of 44 buildings surrounding the Market Square are actual monuments or museums, but only one of them brightly stands out from the crowd. Ratusa or the Town Hall houses Lviv city council for many years.

The Tower Hall wasn’t such an attraction during all time of its existence. In XIX century locals called it an ‘ugly chimney’.

In 1851 Austrian Company Wilhelm Stiehl installed mechanical clock in the Tower Hall. Although not so prominent, this event has got its own legend. A monk whose duty for many years was to ring a bell every quarter of an hour had a heart attack when he had been made redundant. The legend has it that sometimes his ghost appears near the clock at night.

The tower itself has got two bells of different sizes to strike hour and quarter an hour. The biggest one has got inscription in German that says: ‘Sleep well, we’ll wake you up’.

The tower hasn’t got an elevator. So you’ll have to walk more than 400 steps to reach the roof. We assure that the reward for this journey will be the highest. At the height of 65 meters (213 feet) you’ll see great panorama view of Lviv. The best time to take this journey is before the sunset. This will give you possibility to take some great photos of Ukrainian Paris from above.

Church of St. Olha and Elizabeth – also called Polish Roman Catholic church of St. Elzbieta. This huge building was constructed in Neo-Gothic style in early XX century.

Church of St. Olha and Elizabeth

Emperor of Austria Franz Joseph I laid the foundation stone in 1903, the building was finished in 1911. The church was designed by Polish architect Teodor Talowski, its neo-Gothic style bears strong resemblance to style of the Votive Church located in Vienna.

Spires of two towers and belfry of 85 meters high rise high above ordinary buildings and greet Lviv visitors that arrive at the train station.

In addition to bare interior with impressive high high columns this church has one more thing to offer to it visitor. And this is thing is a great view which opens from the belltower. Walking up the spiral staircase is rewarded with amazing view of Lviv. At that altitude one can actually see hawks flying.

Church of St. Olha and Elizabeth

After walking down the ladder it is good to stand and listen to public worship. Even if you haven’t got a clue of what is going on [like I did], the very sound of worship is enough to feel that calmness.

Another place to have panorama view of Lviv is the High Castle. The name of this place may puzzle you because there is no castle to see on the hill. Let me explain.

the High Castle

Castle on the top of the hill was built in 1300s and up to 1600s it was a stronghold. Massive walls protected Lviv residents during numerous sieges.

Only three times did this castle fall to enemies. In 1648 it was seized by Ukrainian Cossacks, in 1672 it surrendered to Turks.

However, 16th century doesn’t seem so bad for the castle compared to early 1700s. This time Swedish army seized the High Castle. Since then it was never rebuilt. Only parts of the walls survived to our times. They can be seen along the path leading to the top of the hill.

Some 150 years ago Polish community celebrated 300th anniversary of Poland and Lithuania unification into a single state. In order to mark this outstanding date they made a mound. By the way, stones of the castle were used to construct observation platform that is used today.

High Castle is a great place to see Lviv. Town Hall Tower, black dome of the Opera House and towers of multiple churches create fantastical mixture of architectural styles.

When weather provides good visibility even outlines of Carpathians can be distinguished from the south-west

You’ll also easily find top of Bald Mountain. Green area beyond the hill is Rural Life and Architecture Museum.

Let’s walk along the main Street in Lviv

Svobody Avenue is the main street in Lviv and it has many things to offer.

All you have to do is to walk along and don’t forget to turn your head around.

Let’s suggest what you shouldn’t miss.

Statue of Virgin Mary

Fountain with the Statue of Virgin Mary might be a good starting point to examine Svobody Avenue.

Close to it there is a monument to well known Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz. If you approach the monument you will discover sculptural composition called Inspiration – it features an Angel who hands Lyra to Mickiewicz.

Angel who hands Lyra to Mickiewicz

If you look to the right you will find Hotel George which is named after its original owner George Hoffman.

This building also deserves a closer look. St. George the Dragon Fighter on a horse meets the hotel visitors over the main entrance.

Hotel George

Standing close to Virgin Mary fountain one can spot Copernicus Street that branches off the Lviv main avenue. This street has a nice place to offer to the traveler – a pharmacy where one of pioneers of the world oil industry Ignacy Lukasiewicz worked. In 1853 he invented a method to distil kerosene and constructed the world’s first kerosene lamp.

And now let us go back to the mentioned fountain and walk north towards the Opera House. There are many things to see on the way.

It is difficult to believe, but walking along the street you will have river under your feet. In 19th century Poltva River was put under ground due to high level of pollution caused by sewer system.

You will not hear the sound of running water. But at least it is a good fact to know and surprise your friends with it.

monument to great Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko

The next stop on the way might be monument to great Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko. Characters from his literary works can be distinguished if one takes a closer look at the vertical structure.

Right in front of the monument there is Grand Hotel. This place is known for two facts: in 19th century the city police had a building there, and right here, Leopold Masoch was born.

Yes, the term masochism derived from his name. The man is also known for his romantic novels and stories of Galician life.

Jesuit Church is to be found on the opposite side of the street.  Not far from it you will come across Ethnography museum which building originally was a bank.

The museum is on the corner and if you apply some imagination it will resemble some exotic bird with middle part of its body and two wings presented as flanks.

A stone figure on the top of main entrance bears resemblance to Statue of Liberty and symbolizes progress of Galicia (which was a province of Austria-Hungary).

Since the year when Ukraine finally gained independence the open space around monument to Taras Shevchenko along with alleyway that leads to Opera House are places for political discussions. Orange Revolution of 2004 sparked here.

If you visit Lviv in summer and sit under shade of chestnut trees on the Svobody Avenue, look to your right to see the only original remnant of the Lviv’s town wall. The recently restored brick tower will be next to it.

remnants of old wall in Lviv

You will also find the National Museum with an open air souvenir market behind it.

The main building of the museum displays Ukrainian Art starting from Middle Ages and up to 19th century.

Imposing building of the Opera House is easy to find. Even if architecture is not your cup of tea you will definitely like the wonderfully decorated façade with its statues: winged statues of Glory in the center, on their left there are Genius of Drama and Comedy, Genius of Music can be found on the right. Statues representing Comedy and Tragedy can be found below in niches.

Opera House

Lviv Opera House is situated right in the heart of the city. Regular performances of operas and ballets are offered here.

Give me more of impressive architecture!

Give me more of impressive architecture!

Yes, architecture of Old Town is great. It fits so good into the general style of the streets that sometimes you do not immediately realize you are standing in front of another old monument.

It looks like you are walking along the narrow street and decide to take a look at what is in this small park just around the corner. Oh, what an impressive building! I’ve got to take some photos in front of this huge green door. Here is an inscription above the door. What does it say? ‘Soli Deo honor et gloria’. Hmm, some latin.

And that is when something stirs in your mind, you take a look into your map (or ask Google) to discover you are standing in front of Dominican church, one of UNESCO World Heritage and a national monument of architecture.

Dominican church

The style of late Baroque in the west-European manner gives the church this stunning look. It was built in middle of XVIII century (1749-1764). Due to its elliptical shape the building has a great acoustics. When inside look for 16 wooden sculptures on the upper level interior and 4 sculptures of saints on the baroque altar.

Dominican church inside

By the way, the inscription is a quotation from Bible, it says ‘Glory and Honor to God alone’.

And yes, I also have photo in front of this door [although for some reason I thought it would be boring to look at the photographer].

Vasylyna in front of Dominican church

St. Andrew’s Cathedral – built in early XVII century (1600-1630) in style of Italian and German renaissance. Monastery of the Bernardine Order was constructed along with the church. Later it became part of Lviv defensive constructions.

St. Andrew’s Cathedral

Armenian Church also belongs to UNESCO World Heritage and it is actually one of the oldest architectural structures in modern Lviv.

Armenian Church

The Cathedral was founded by Armenian merchant and it became the mother church of Armenian community.

The Armenian Church was built in late XIV-th century (1363-1370) and even after numerous restructurings the eastern part of it still preserves features of old Armenian and Rus monumental building. After fire in 1712 Interior of the church was made in Baroque style, in addition, it was remodeled in 1908-1927. Frescos really deserve that you stop for a while to examine them closer.

Armenian Church frescos

St. George’s Cathedral – another UNESCO heritage in Lviv.

The Cathedral was built in 1744-1761 in baroque and rococo styles. The bell tower has the oldest Ukraine’s bell made in 1341.

St. George’s Cathedral

Although the cathedral was erected only in mid XVIII century, the story of this place dates back to late XIII century when, according to the legend, there in the cave lived a monk who expiated for sins in constant prayers. In XVIII century the old church was destroyed and the new one later appeared here.

Wonderworking Icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the most valuable relic of the Cathedral.

And now let’s shift to some old fortification constructions. Lviv has many of them to offer. However, to avoid boredom with old stones, let’s point out only two.

Powder Tower used to be one of the strongest fortifications of the city with its walls of 2.5-3 meters thick. The building was erected in 1554-1556 from the stones of Old City Arsenal.

Powder Tower

Powder Tower was part of outer defense system of the medieval town. It is one of several dozens of defensive towers which have survived to modern time. During peace times the tower was used as grain storage.

Hlynyany Gate or Entrance Gate is one of the best preserved fragment of old city fortifications. The Gate was built in XVII century as part of Bernardine monastery complex.

Hlynyany Gate or Entrance Gate

So, as you see, there are many interesting things to see in Lviv. This long article hardly covers half of them. But, let’s stop in order not to bore you with too big amount of info.

If there is something you’d like to know – feel free to leave a comment below.

And it would mean the world to me if you share it!


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