CURRENCY: Hryvnia (UAH)
0.032 GDP/0.038 Euro to UAH at time of writing. (0.028 GDP to UAH during my visit)
In Autumn 2017, I took a coach from Kraków in Poland to Lviv in Ukraine. I went with my mum, a native Pole, and my friend Verity from the UK.
Lviv contains many beautiful buildings to explore, green spaces, exciting bars and coffee shops, and delicious food. It is a must visit for those who enjoy old European cities.
This guide explains the TRAVEL from Kraków to Lviv, ACCOMMODATION suggestion, THINGS TO DO in Lviv, DAY TRIP outside of Lviv, PLACES TO DRINK, RESTAURANT Recommendation, COFFEE SPOT recommendations
SOMETHING TO BEAR IN MIND: English did not seem to be very common in Lviv and barely spoken where we went for a day trip. My mother’s Polish was widely spoken or understood. Russian is understood but, due to the political climate, it may not be appreciated.
TRAVEL TO UKRAINE:
We took the G4 from Krakow Bus Station (Główny ).
Our bus was at 21:50 on a Monday night and arrived at 5:30 the following morning at Lviv railway station. The border crossing took 2 hours from getting to the border and crossing over.
Bus Cost: £17
The return bus trip took significantly longer, due to the border crossing into the EU. Consequently, we waited about 8 hours at the Ukrainian-Polish border on top of the driving. So bring snacks, drinks, and plenty of entertainment if you struggle sleeping. The bus pick up and drop off were the same on the return.
Accommodation: The George Hotel.
The George Hotel is in the centre of Lviv and was built in 1907. The hotel captures the turn of the century decadence with lavish staircases and vibrant colours. Whilst no longer as extravagant, I found it a great, affordable place to stay with so much history and character.
Not needing anything too flashy, we opted for the cheapest room. The ‘Tourist’ room contained 2 single beds and the toilet and shower were down the hall. This was enough for us busy people who were out and about all day!
Tourist- €35 a night
Standard Double- €62
Suites are also available for a reasonable cost.
All rooms came with access to breakfast buffet
THINGS TO DO IN LVIV
Explore the Old Town
Lviv old town is a designated UNESCO world heritage site and contains many beautiful buildings. Gorgeous churches can be visited, and towers climbed up. The small and winding streets are fantastic to wander through and usually contain great restaurants and shops. Old structures like the Medieval walls and city arsenal, or beautiful, recent ones like the 19th century opera house are easily explored.
Many market stalls to be explored and different market places selling clothes, food, jewellery and more – including anti-Putin memorabilia!
Places I stumbled upon in my wanderings included a small square where books could be bought beneath a statue, and read whilst drinking coffee from a converted tram trolley.
Climb the Castle Hill
The ruins of the High Castle, originally built in the 13th century and rebuilt for centuries, sit atop a large castle mound. Those who make the climb are given a breathtaking view of the city.
Visit the Lychakiv Cemetery
On the outskirts of the city centre is the Lychakiv Cemetery, an 18th necropolis, similar to ones seen around the world in similar time periods (Highgate in England, and Central Cemetery, Cluj Napoca in Romania, for example). It was the main Christian cemetery for the city.
In the 1970s, Many of the graves were destroyed though it was later treated with respect and out into repair.
The Field of Mars area is dedicated to soldiers of WWII as well as those who defended the city in the 1920s, the 1863 Uprising. The cemetery is for Lvivians of the last 3 centuries so both Poles and Ukranians occupy the graves, with respected people of both nations buried here, their graves still regularly visited.
The graves are beautiful, from the Gothic 18th and 19th century elaborate tombs and masoleums , to the multiple monuments in honour of fallen soldiers and defenders. It is peaceful and solemn and many hours can be spent walking amongst the tombs and paying respect to those buried there.
TRIPS OUTSIDE LVIV:
We went to the tourist information area and went to see what day trips were available. Whilst I love castles, there were only palaces available in the local area. We chose to go to TUSTAN FORTRESS AND KAMYANKA WATERFALL.
The tour costs 450 UAH (£15), with 52 UAH (£1.70) as further entrance into the fortress area.
We were told there would be an English option though we found that this was not really the case. Be advised!
We booked onto the trip and met for the bus in the morning at the Market Square.
The coach took us to the Tustan Fortress museum, which gave a history of the fortress and archaeological work. There was also a small shop to buy gifts related to the fortress.
Outside the museum was a gorgeous church, however due to tourists stealing from it, we were not allowed in.
We then ventured towards the fortress. The entrance to the fortress contained a large number of stalls. The bus stopped here and some women got on the bus asking (in Ukrainian) what food we would like. We told them our order and got off the bus. As English speakers, we were give a guide and led up the fortress.
History of Tustan Fortress– The original, 5 storey wooden fortress is no longer evident, but the striking, stone natural structure formed part of the fortress’ defence. Carvings from Pagan worship are evident on the rocks (and Pagan statues such as the Zbruch Idol have been found in Ukraine), and the fortress was originally built in the 9th century. The fortress remained in use until the 16th century though suffered heavy damage in the 13th century.
The landscape is stunning and we were able to explore the area. We found a small shrine with fresh running water and explored the woods. Returning from the fortress, we went via the small stalls which sold trinkets and home made alcohol. The food we had ordered earlier was served and it was delicious! Meat, aubergine, and peppers were grilled on skewers, alongside mushroom soup and rye bread.
From the fortress we got back in the bus and went to the KAMAYANKA WATERFALL.
At the waterfall were more stalls including shops selling wool and fur goods. The waterfall was very pretty though not much to explore in the area around. The trip was well worth going on as I was able to leave the city and see more of Ukraine besides just the city of Lviv.
PLACES TO EAT IN LVIV
Pstruh, Khlib ya Vyno
This restaurant was located in the old armory walls, a large square containing a series of resturants. Wine came in litre jugs, costing £7, or £4 if you only wanted half a litre. The delicious food was very reasonably priced too, with steaks and other meats costing around £5.
This restaurant had a very local feel, providing hearty eastern European food in a casual atmosphere. The wooden decor was pretty and the food was hearty and delicious. Good if you wish to try Ukranian food.
An Austro-Hungarian restaturant, with decoration inspired by Vienna. This restaurant seemed rather fancy and high end but was still very reasonably priced. The food was delicious and well presented.
PLACES TO DRINK IN LVIV
Kryivka is a fantastic spot to visit, located mysteriously “Somewhere in the Market Square”. To access this unique location, you must go to number 14 in the market square and knock on a non-descript but old large wooden door on the ground floor. A man wearing an old war uniform will open the door and you must say the phrase (anglised) “Stari Ukrayni”- GLORY TO UKRAINE. The man will open the door and lead you into a small room, surrounded with bookshelves, take out his hipflask and give you a shot of questionable liquor. Once you have done the shot, the guard will push a bookshelf back to reveal a staircase going down into a dark, loud area. All very speak-easy.
The bar is made up of a number of rooms, and bar snacks and booze is served. The rooms are decorated with weaponry galore, whilst for 20p you can shoot targeted photos of Putin in a gallery.
This was a really interesting place to visit, with a good selection of bar snacks (giant sausages and chicken wings) and drinks. The atmosphere was insane and very unique.
Pravda Beer Theatre
The Pravda Beer Theatre is situated in a great location in the old town square, overlooking the market stalls. The Beer Theatre is a large building that contains a brewery.
The beer is delicious and cost the equivalent of around 60p for the cheaper drinks.
Live music and delicious food are both enjoyed here, whilst a gift shop sells bottles of beer to take home, merchandise, and many anti- foreign government images adorn the walls.
Zolotoyi Dukat/Golden Ducat
A coffee shop in a gorgeous old building. The room, down in a basement, is dimly lit and contains interesting decorations. The shop sells coffee, other hot drinks, and desserts. A novelty of this coffee shop is that the drinks and ice cream can be set on fire, which adds to the atmosphere of the dark room.
The majority of drinks cost around £1
This shop sells all manner of shaped and decorated gingerbread, which make for tasty gifts for friends. There is also a cafe area for teas and coffees to go with your cookies.