Carpathian Mountain magic
The peaks and pastures of the Carpathians may be a long way from central Lviv, but the lure of the mountains has always exerted a powerful influence over the city’s imagination. Spread over a forested hillside to northeast of the city centre, the Museum of Folk Architecture provides the ideal introduction to the much-cherished rural traditions of the Ukrainian southwest. The most spectacular buildings are the fairytale Carpathian churches, their belfries raised in pagoda-like tiers.
Outdoor art at the Lychakivs’ke Cemetery
Three kilometres southeast of the centre, Lychakivs’ke Cemetery is one of Europe’s most celebrated burial grounds, park-like in its landscaped beauty and brimming with over two centuries’ worth of fine funerary monuments. Originally laid out in 1786 it is now a museum reserve: indeed the sheer profusion of ornate family chapels, sculpted angels and statues of the deceased gives the place the appearance of an outdoor art gallery.
Somewhat underfunded in recent years, Lviv’s museums are actually rather charming in their creaky wooden staircases, polished parquet floors, staff that follow you from one room to another switching the lights on and off, and a refreshing lack of anything resembling touchscreen interactivity. Housed in the rather grand Potocki Palace, Lviv Art Gallery does at least display some fine-looking antique furnishings in a sequence of opulently decorated halls.
Beer with tradition
One exception to the old school museum rule is the Brewery Museum, an entertaining display that tells the history of brewing from its origins to the present day. It’s attached to the Lvivskie brewery, a highly respected institution throughout both Habsburg and Soviet eras that continues to churn out local-recipe brews. And it’s far from being the only show in town: Stare Misto is a highly rated local private brewery supplying many of Lviv’s bars, and a number of the city’s pubs (notably Kumpel) brew their own excellent ales.
A walk in the park
A huge wedge of greenery stretching south and uphill from central Lviv, Stryiskyi Park is the ideal spot for a leafy stroll or a blanket-on-the-lawn picnic. Mazey paths lead through the landscaped, largely wooded terrain. In the southwestern corner of the park, the Lviv Childrens’ Railway is run by teenage trainees and operates narrow-gauge services round the rim of the park.
One of Lviv’s most famous sons is Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (1836-1895), author of Venus in Furs and inspiration behind psychologist von Krafft-Ebing’s concept of masochism. In this city filled with themed cafés and pubs, it is only fitting that the man who lived his fantasies as well as writing about them should have a tribute bar of his own. The kinky décor at Masoch contains the kind of lacy fabrics and undergarments that are charming rather than over-the-top. Cocktails have corny names like Burning Desire, and your bill is delivered in a high-heeled shoe.
Death by Chocolate
During its Habsburg heyday Lviv’s cafés were famous for keeping the city awash with coffee, hot chocolate and ice cream. And judging by the number of coffee shops and patisseries clogging the city’s central boulevards today, it’s a tradition that is very much alive. Something of a local institution, the Lviv Handmade Chocolate café makes pretty much everything you might want from the brown stuff – you can drink it in any number of forms, eat it as a mousse, or buy bags of chocolate sweets in all possible shapes, sizes and flavours.
One of the most authentic souvenirs of any Ukrainian trip, the sorochka is a white smock embroidered with traditional folk motifs, still worn by locals on festive occasions. If you’re looking for the high-quality hand-embroidered version, head for the Old-Town souvenir and handicrafts market on the corner of Teatralna and Lesi Ukrainky streets. For a cheaper, factory-produced sorochka, browse the open-air stalls of the Krakivsky rynok (market), the city’s main source of fruit, veg and inexpensive clothes.
You can find more information about Lviv at www.touristinfo.lviv.ua and explore more of the country and region with the Rough Guide to Europe on a Budget.
See what the Rough Guide to 2014 says about Lviv, Ukraine.
Book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.