I’m not the type to fall in love hard and fast. It’s happened only a few times in my life. Berlin. San Francisco. Madrid. Now I can add Lviv, Ukraine to the list.
Maybe it’s because I didn’t really love the rest of Ukraine so much. It was nice and parts were interesting but it was like not love.
I kept hearing how great Lviv was. Other travelers I met said it felt very Western European compared to the rest of Ukraine. Many even compared it to Prague. Because I’ve learned the hard way to keep my expectations in check, I tried to not become excited in advance.
They were right.
I didn’t visit many other cities in Ukraine, but it was immediately apparent Lviv was different. It just felt different. And it certainly looked different.
Lviv has all that you would expect from a Western European city at some of the lowest costs found in Eastern Europe.
Some facts about Lviv-
- Lviv is the largest city in Western Ukraine and the seventh largest city in the country.
- The average monthly salary in Ukraine is less than $250. If you’re a digital nomad, Lviv is a perfect place to maximize your earnings.
- The historical center of Lviv is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was virtually untouched during World War II.
Where to stay-
Using Airbnb I was able to find a one-bedroom apartment in the main square for $25 a night. This was the view when I exited my building:
Many other listings were less than $20 nightly. The first apartment I stayed in with a friend was a two-bedroom apartment for $18 per night, which was less than a ten-minute walk to the main square.
What to do-
Visit the cemetery:
As crazy as this sounds, one of the top things to do in Lviv is to visit the cemetery. Lychakiv Cemetery was officially established in 1787, although the first burials began in the 16th century. The cemetery has graves of over 300,000 individuals. As creepy as it sounds, the cemetery is actually gorgeous and it’s interesting to wander around looking for the earliest dates listed on the headstones. Entrance is 25 UAH/$1 USD
Climb to the top of City Hall for the view:
One of the best views in town can be had for only 20 UAH/.80 USD per person. If you have a fear of heights, this may not be for you. The very narrow staircase is made entirely of wood and, you have to press against a wall to let others pass. There are approximately 500 stairs to the top but the views are completely worth it:
Check out the Lviv Theater of Opera and Ballet:
The building is gorgeous, and it’s nice to sit and watch the kids play in the fountain outside. Is it the most beautiful piece of architecture in all of Europe? No, but it’s certainly impressive and further reinforces my belief that Lviv feels more like Western Europe than Eastern.
Wander the main square:
My favorite thing to do in Lviv was to wander the main square/old town portion of the city. It is a car-free zone so you can safely check out the many interesting shops and restaurants. There is a Pharmacy Museum and even a Chocolate Museum in the area. I would also explore the side streets. While I was wandering I found this scene, one of my favorite photos from my visit:
I also found this bright scene located just off of the main square:
Where to Eat:
These are my favorite meals. For a list of the most unique or unusual restaurants to try in Lviv, click here.
Lviv isn’t hurting for great restaurants at extremely affordable prices. These are some of my favorites:
For breakfast definitely plan to visit Baczewski Restaurant. Located in the main square, the restaurant features a morning buffet that includes champagne and vodka shots along with made-to-order crepes and omelettes. You’ll of course find all the other typical breakfast buffet fare including pastries and salads. Caged birds call out while a pianist lightly plays the piano in the background. All of this for a very reasonable 90UAH/or $3.50 USD.
I returned another day for lunch and the service and presentation were both very high end- what you would expect from a five-star restaurant at home. The cost for two courses? 200 UAH/$8 USD.
For carnivores The First Lviv Grill Restaurant of Meat and Justice is a can’t miss. The restaurant is very touristic, one of the many themed restaurants that are found in Lviv. The theme is a torture restaurant where diners are lowered into cages with water poured on them or taken outside, tied to a wooden table, and flogged. All gimmicks aside, this place makes an excellent steak. I had this T-bone steak with dill butter and cranberry sauce for 220 UAH/8.50 USD.
I found myself at Pravda Beer Theatre almost every night, partly because it was steps away from my apartment but mostly because the food and craft beer are both so great. Some nights the restaurant features a live band, and getting a seat is near impossible. Latecomers would crowd near the entrance trying to get a glimpse of the band. Others would hang over the rafters from the floor above. The entire place was high-energy and the band was incredible. Try their rotating menu of beers produced in-house.
A complete splurge, the mussels in cream cheese and white wine from Bar Mushlya were worth every calorie. The restaurant features fresh seafood. Extremely fresh– you can have oysters shucked to order. The breakfast menu includes choices like scrambled eggs with scallops and croissants or poached eggs with caviar. This dish with a bowl of seafood soup and two glasses of wine was the most expensive meal I had during my visit– 325 UAH/$12.70 USD.
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