Lviv, the former Galician capital in the west of Ukraine, is half way to Kyiv from Budapest, and more accessible due to modern-day regulations. Every day there is a direct Budapest-Lviv-Kyiv train, also an exhilarating experience. See http://budapesttimes-archiv.bzt. hu/2015/10/25/a-case-of-worth-thewait-and-patience-is-a-virtue/

Almost certainly, one of the first landmarks you will see is the Svobody/ Freedom Avenue. This gracious, leafy-green promenade, with congregating tourists and “Lvivites” alike, is situated with the grandiose Opera and Ballet Theatre on one end, and a patriotic and unmissable statue of Taras Shevchenko, Ukraine’s national hero and revered poet, on the other. From there it’s clear where the “main features” are, as this is very much the heart of the city with the Ratusha Town Hall and alluring tower tops nearby overlooking this immediate area.

Once oriented by using the complimentary map from the Tourist Information bureau, then most observances such as the mesmerising Assumption Church and Kornyakt Tower are easily spotted. The pleasure of walking these cobblestone streets continues with much splendour, as well as many fine delicacies found at the legions of stylish cafés along the way.

Although there are plenty of worthwhile museums such as the one of Ethnography and Arts and Crafts, it’s the grandiose all-round façades and architecture that are Lviv’s main prize draw. Various enchanting churches, monuments and market stalls are invariably found along the way.


Westwards from this immediate area is the City Park, and further on the absolute must-see St. George’s Cathedral. A more local scene with shops, cafés, businesses and student life prevails with the impressive Ivan Franko University in this vicinity.

Throughout the day and well into the night, there is much delicious local fayre on offer in this neighbourhood. Should borsch, kvas, stuffed cabbage, beans and pancakes be your thing, then venture forthwith to the highly recommended “Puzata Hata” buffet/ restaurant at Sichovykn Striltsiv Street, where you will find me each time I am there.


As for afternoon teas, visit the “Lviv Handmade Chocolate Shop” on the same street. This exquisite tea shop has a refined crowd and the delightful staff serve all sweet-related essentials in a cosy and intellectually inspiring, unruffled atmosphere.

Afterwards, I suggest to make your way, in late daylight, to the Vysoky Zamok/Castle Hill. This landmark is also obvious, as it has a very tall TV antenna. The quintessential Lviv experience then awaits. Once there, it’s easy to understand the “Florence of the East” tourist cliché with a splendid birdseye view of the city. Whoever coined this description must have done so whilst there. Delightful and charming Lviv hosts other sightings that go beyond this article. However, as I hope I have got you started, please see all else in your way.


Lviv beyond tourism

Lvivites are hospitable, chatty and helpful; but respectfully ask those unfamiliar to refer to their city as “Lviv”, pronounced “Luhveev”, and not “Lvov”, as it is perhaps better known elsewhere. The Austrians call it Lemberg, the Polish use Lwow. Each variant of name and identity is rooted in the meaning “Lion”, as the city has taken this big cat to be its symbol.

Lviv provides all tourist comforts and looks towards a future with the EU. Although a generation has passed since 1991 independence, there are still some antagonistic hang-overs left from the past that are difficult to shake off; especially relating to the ongoing damaging conflict with separatists in the east of the county.

However, let me assure you, I have always been safe in Lviv. As art lovers, historians and architects will respectfully love this city and its alluring ensembles, so will those with an open mind. Lviv is a guaranteed cure for “Soviet-Cynics” and I strongly sense there really is “no turning back”. Such camaraderie was unthinkable 20, 30 years ago and very much at variance with the former regime’s sphere.

Those who came to Central Europe after that particular time will sense in Lviv a similar reminiscing spirit as in 1990s Budapest, Prague and Krakow before all become prized tourist meccas. For those who missed out, now is the time to see Lviv, as it is destined to go the same way.

Look out for the English-language “Lviv Today” magazine, as this inky monthly brings closer the local scene. For televised news and entertainment, tune in to Lviv’s own TRK TV. And for those who want to get close “literally”, there is a newly released, rattling “Legends of Old Lviv” story book by renowned academic Ilko Lemko, available in English. It captures the spirit of bygone Lviv with many compelling stories, making a rich, tantalising read.

My only note of caution is to wear good shoes, as pedestrian routes and roads can be bumpy and uneven at times, especially beyond the main attractions of town. Central traffic and congestion can be tough and wearisome but taxis and trams work well and will get you by.


Outside Lviv

I highly recommend visiting the outdoor Museum of Folk Architecture and Rural Life. This exceptional wonder is 2.5 kilometres away and has many wooden houses and churches from this region, all beautifully restored and newly arranged in an attractive village setting. It makes a splendid outing.

Fifteen kilometres away is a new and highly commendable bear sanctuary in Domazhyr. This 20-hectare forested site is home to many rescued bears that receive hands-on attention and support from dedicated and caring staff. Please make a visit and support the bears.

While en route

Getting to Lviv from the Hungarian capital is as demanding as going to Székelyföld, as both are almost 700 kilometres away. To make this journey more pleasurable, I recommend breaking off near the Ukrainian border at the deluxe Star Hotel at Munkács/ Mukachevo. This wonderful, modest four-star hotel with excellent cuisine will see you through most comfortably. While there, visit the elysian Palanok Castle and make a connection with world-famous artist Munkács Mihály before continuing the journey. Or await the promise of Budapest to Lviv Wizz Air flights yet to come.

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