Lviv

Dormition Church and the 400 year old Korniakt Tower.

Lviv (also spelled L'viv and Львів; Polish: Lwów, German: Lemberg, Russian: Lvov, Latin: Leopolis) is in Western Ukraine and used to be the capital of East Galicia. It's the biggest city of the region and a major Ukrainian cultural centre on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Understand

The city has a multicultural history but little of the evidence of this has survived until today. It was founded in 1256 by King Daniel of Galicia (Ukrainian: Король Данило Галицький - Korol' Danylo Galyckyy) and fell under Polish control in the 14th century. Poles, Jews, Ukrainians, Germans and others lived there together for centuries. This multicultural experience virtually came to an end during and after WWII. Germans, with the help of Ukrainian nationalists, killed most of the Jews (about one third of Lviv's population at that time) and, at the end and in the direct aftermath of the war, the Polish population (about 50% of the population) was first partly driven out by nationalist terror, then "repatriated" to Poland in its new borders by the Soviet government. The Polish and Jewish heritage is hardly preserved, but one can find some inscriptions on former shops in Polish, Yiddish and German.

In recent times, because of Lviv's proximity to Europe and openness to foreigners, the city's multicultural feel has experienced a resurgence. Even today, walking through the city centre, a traveller can hear Poles laughing and taking pictures of the beautiful old buildings, Germans walking through the city on guided tours, Ukrainian or Russian tourists and students joking about this or that, and American or British businessmen chatting in cafes. There is even a small Jewish community in the city. The many universities in Lviv attract students from every continent on the globe, and its old architecture draws tourists from various parts of the world, including Ukraine.

The Polish king John II Casimir founded the Lviv University in the 17th century and Lviv (known as Lwów) was by that time one of the most important cities in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, along with Kraków, Warsaw, Gdańsk and Vilnius.

In 1772 the city was taken by the Habsburgs and in Austrian times it was known as Lemberg, the capital of Galicia. After the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, it was returned to Poland.

As a result of World War II, Stalin moved the Soviet frontier westward so Lviv became part of the USSR under the name Lvov (still widely used, even locally). With Ukrainian independence in 1991, the name was officially changed to Lviv (Львів).

Lviv is located in the most Ukrainian region of Ukraine. When it was a Soviet province, most signs were only in Ukrainian, and only a few also in Russian. Because of its Polish and Austro-Hungarian history, Lviv has a Central European flair in its architecture that makes it one of the most beautiful cities in Eastern Europe. Lviv has even been called "the capital of Ukrainian culture". The people there are very warm, although somewhat direct (which is very common in eastern Slavic cultures).

Since slightly before the Euro 2012 soccer tournament, the city has become more and more tourist-friendly. All downtown street signs are now in both Ukrainian and English, and the staff of the Information Center on Rynok Square speak many different languages. Maps, schedules of local events, and tourist guides can be obtained there for free in English, German, Polish, and Russian. There are even small information kiosks beside some monuments (small touch-screen TV's that offer maps and information about the city). Visiting Lviv is very rewarding for the pioneer traveller, as living is extremely cheap here and the place has a truly authentic feeling, unlike places like Kraków or Prague, which are swamped with tourists.

Get in

By plane

Old airport terminal seen from the airfield

By train

The Art Nouveau Main Railway Station of Lviv

By bus

By car

For more information see Western_Ukraine#By_car

From Poland: take the E40, this will end at the city centre. Keep in mind that all formalities at the border take from one hour upwards. There will be a long line for trucks, which you can pass if you travel by car. Don't expect the border police to treat you respectfully, or speak any language other than Ukrainian, Polish or Russian. In fact, expect the very opposite regarding both.

It is also illegal to drive in the city centre (including Prospekt Svobody) on Sundays and holidays. This is signposted in Cyrillic only, and there are always some police present to catch some unsuspecting foreigner, so keep this in mind.

Get around

Lviv has an extensive tram and mini-bus network.

See

Latin Cathedral

Churches in the "Old Town"

Other churches and synagogues

Monuments in the "Old Town"

Landmarks

Museums in the "Old Town"

More Museums

Further afield

Chervonograd
Drohobych
Castle Olesko
Sambir, University
Castle Stare Selo, Inner Yard
Remains of Castle Zolochiv

Do

L'viv Opera House (Svobody Ave)

Parks and gardens

Buy

Market

Other stores

Shopping centre

Money

For more information on currency see here

Both ATMs (known as "bankomats") and currency exchanges ("obmin valyuti") are ubiquitous throughout Lviv, particularly in the city center. Most, but not all, ATMs will accept Visa and MasterCard. Currency exchanges will often only accept foreign currency in pristine condition. Travellers' checks are not very useful in Lviv; however, there are still a few hotels and banks that will cash them for you.

Credit cards are now widely accepted in many of the city center restaurants, cafes, hotels and some hostels. Also at the main bus station and long distance train station. Surprisingly, lots of small grocery stores now also accept plastic.

You should be aware that attempting to pay for something inexpensive with a large denomination (50 UAH and above) will often at the very least annoy the shopkeeper; salespeople may even refuse to sell to you if you do not have any smaller denominations. Grocery stores and other high-volume shops are an exception to this rule.

Learn

Eat

Budget

Life in Lviv is very cheap. It's not difficult to find a place where you can have a full meal for €2. The challenge is rather ordering if you don't speak Ukrainian.

Mid-range

Splurge

Drink

Cafés

Bars

Clubs

The club scene in Lviv is thriving; with many options ranging from the cavernous clubs Metro and Millenium to the intimate and upmarket Zanzibar. There are usually entry charges but drink prices more than make up for this. In most clubs you are able to buy bottles of vodka for a reasonable price and simply chill at a table all evening.

Sleep

L'viv has a variety of hotels, hostels and apartments to suit all budgets and needs. The best deals for budget travellers (2-3 people) are found with the lovely apartments for rent all over town - These can be found online (preferably in Russian) or on arrival at the train station. Expect to pay around 150-200 USD/mo. for a nice studio apartment with a kitchen, TV and a nice warm-water bathroom.

Budget

The hostel scene is quite new in L'viv so be sure to check reviews of hostels using well known booking agents and forums.

Mid-range

Splurge

Connect

The dialing code for Lviv is +380 32(2). The telephone system was recently modified; thus, to dial 6-digit numbers, use the city prefix 322, but for 7-digit numbers, use only 32.

All calls to and from cell phones are treated as long distance calls. The telephone system was recently modified one more time, thus, you must not dial an 8 followed by the city/mobile prefix, followed by the phone number. Some frequent mobile prefixes are 050, 067, 066, 096, and 097. The main mobile operators are Kyivstar, MTS, and Life. You can buy a SIM card or a balance replenishment card at many stores throughout Lviv.

Internet cafes are plentiful. Centrally located is Chorna Medeia on Kryva Lypa.

Stay safe

Ukrainian cities are not dangerous, though a bit more precaution is required. Common tricks include impersonating a police officer. In doubt ask an officer or tell him you're not following him. The first thing they try is to get you out of the tourists places in to areas where they can 'acquire' a fine. Openly robbing you or pick-pocketing happens less as the risks are bigger.

Cope

It is essential to learn some Ukrainian before visiting, or at the very least, learn the Cyrillic alphabet. Everyone can also read, speak and write in Russian and aren't so prickly about it, although they'd appreciate that you learn a few basic phrases in Ukrainian as well. Learn the Cyrillic alphabet (both the Russian and Ukrainian versions) way in advance until you can write words with perfection, as many do not know the Latin alphabet. German and, especially, Polish (as Lviv used to part of Poland) is spoken well among people with mature memories of the interwar era.

People selling you tickets at the train station will most likely not speak anything other than Ukrainian or Russian and may have no patience nor sympathy for you. (Neither will the people waiting behind you in line). If you speak Polish then surviving in Lviv shouldn't be a problem, as many people understand it since it's quite close to Ukrainian. Some sales people will not know the Latin alphabet, so make sure to carry a small note with your name written in Cyrillic! Queues in Ukraine tend to be a chaotic mess, especially at stations. Assert your place with an elbow and mean stare, because everyone else will, including the fifteen babushki pushing you to the side. Make sure you get in the line for foreigners when you want to buy train tickets. No, the cashier will NOT speak English, but if you know the details of the train you want, just write them down! But if you go to a different line they'll just tell you to go to the foreigner's line, and then you will have wasted a lot of time waiting for nothing.

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This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, February 25, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.