Our hearts go out to all Ukrainians and those affected by the war. Please note that this article was written in 2019, before Putin’s full invasion of Ukraine. It’s not safe to visit Lviv at this time. You can check the U.S. Department of State’s website for the most up-to-date travel recommendations.
Here’s a dare for you- go to Lviv and try not to fall in love with it. With its cobblestone streets, colorful squares, and architecture that will leave your neck sore from gazing up, Lviv doesn’t have the typical feel of most Eastern European cities.
This guide will introduce you to the many things to do in Lviv, both the must-sees and sites that aren’t on the average tourist radar.
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Getting around Lviv
Due to its small size, all the sites mentioned in this post can be explored on foot. However, if you’d like to give your feet a break, you can hop on a tram.
Taking the tram is by far the best way for getting around Lviv’s historical center (aside from walking) since not all streets are open for public vehicles.
Things to do in Lviv
Below are our twenty-two recommendations for things to do in Lviv. You can be sure that you’ll be getting a well-rounded Lviv experience if you explore these sites.
1. Rynok Square
It wouldn’t be right to start this list of things to do in Lviv with a place other than Rynok Square. This square is in the heart of Lviv’s historical center. As such, it’ll be the reference point we use for most other places listed in this post.
Rynok Square is surrounded by colorful, historic buildings with the city hall in the center. The tram is the only public “vehicle” allowed to pass through its cobblestone streets, making this a pedestrian-friendly area.
Live music is common. On summer nights, the bars and cafes that surround the square oftentimes overflow with people.
Long story short, if you only have time to see one place in Lviv (which we hope isn’t the case!), make it Rynok Square.
2. Lviv Opera and Ballet Theater
Located at the furthest end of beautiful Svobody Avenue, Lviv’s theater steals the architecture show of the area.
The theater was built in 1900 and still hosts a number of performances throughout the year. You can view a list of upcoming events on Lviv National Opera’s website.
If watching opera and ballet isn’t your thing, the theater is open to the public during the day. For a small fee, you can take yourself on a self-guided tour and admire the early 1900’s décor.
3. Visit a password-protected bar
Have you ever had to say a password to enter a bar? If not, the Kryivka Bar in Lviv is your chance to do so!
“Slava Ukraini” is the password you’ll need to tell the doorkeeper in order to enter the Kryivka Bar, which is located on Rynok Square. This translates to “Glory to Ukraine” in English.
The multi-story bar has an eclectic array of items including old car parts, TVs, and a shooting gallery. Unmistakably, the tone is of Ukrainian culture and pride.
Finding Kryivka isn’t easy, even though it’s located in Rynok Square. It’s in front of the City Hall, on the right of Lvivski Pliatsky. There’s a large, wooden door that you’ll need to knock on and this is where you’ll have to give the “Slava Ukraini” password.
Despite being tricky to find and needing to learn two Ukrainian words, Kryivka is a popular underground bar and restaurant. Live music is common, and when there aren’t professional singers, you may find attendees breaking out with their own songs.
4. Hike up Castle Hill
Castle Hill is a popular place to visit for lovers of nature and hikes. Nowadays, Castle Hill is a hill without a castle, although back in the day there was one at the top.
Going up Castle Hill involves a steep climb with lots of stairs. However, the path is mostly shaded as you’ll be hiking through a forested area.
Personally, we weren’t overly impressed by the views at the top. After all that hiking, and not being able to get many views of the city on the way up because of the trees, we had expected to be “wowed”.
Instead, we found that since the mountain is set a bit outside of the city, the views were too removed to be able to appreciate the details of the architecture.
Nonetheless, we wouldn’t discount Castle Hill altogether. If you love being active, it’s a great change of pace from the historical center.
5. Town Hall Tower
If you want good views of Lviv and are limited on time, skip Castle Hill and make a beeline for the Town Hall. Located right in the center of Rynok Square, you’ll get much better views of the old town from the Town Hall Tower compared to Castle Hill.
That being said, this is still a rather challenging climb, requiring over 400 steps to get to the top.
In order to begin the climb, you’ll need to enter the Town Hall through the main entrance. From there, you can either go up staircases to get to the 4th floor or take the elevator, thus saving you about 100 steps.
In either case, you’ll purchase your entrance ticket on the 4th floor. Then, you’ll head up a winding staircase. The staircase is wide for the majority of the climb, only getting narrow at the very top when you reach the tower portion.
From there, you’ll get 360-degree views looking directly down on Rynok Square. You’ll also get to enjoy views of Castle Hill.
In typical Ukrainian fashion, there isn’t a shortage of churches in Lviv.
Ukrainian Greek Orthodox, Catholics, and Armenian are some of the more common churches you’ll come across.
Churches welcome visitors. Just make sure to dress appropriately- no skin showing above the knee, and your shoulders should be covered.
If you’re searching for Instagram hot spots, the blue door at St. Eucharist Church is an Instagram famous place in Lviv.
7. Drunken Cherry
If you think the name is fun, wait until you feel the atmosphere of the Drunken Cherry. This liquor bar originated in Lviv, although it’s now a popular chain across Ukraine.
The Drunken Cherry is unique in that it only sells one drink- the traditional Lviv cherry liquor. Having only one option doesn’t shy people away, though. In fact, it’s common to see people lined up for a glass before the bar even opens.
There are a number of Drunken Cherry bars throughout the Lviv, including one in Rynok Square.
Bottles of cherry liquor make for great gifts to bring home. Bottles are sold in all sizes and are priced reasonably for Western standards.
8. Pravda Beer Theater
While we’re on the drinking theme, after you make a stop at the Drunken Cherry, head over to the Pravda Beer Theater.
Located on Rynok Square, the Pravda Beer Theater is famous for its politically motivated beers. In stark contrast to the Drunken Cherry, you’ll have countless drink options to choose from.
Does Putin beer sound up your alley?
How about Trump, Merkel, or Obama beer?
Even if you’re not a beer person, we encourage you to take a peek inside the bar. They have a large souvenir section where you can admire your favorite politicians on beer bottles.
9. Yurashki Gingerbread Shop
You’ll need something to soak up all the alcohol you’ll be drinking, so how about some gingerbread?
Gingerbread is a classic Ukrainian dessert. However, you’ve likely never had gingerbread quite like this before. In Ukraine, they have talented gingerbread artists who frost gingerbread in such an intricate way that it’s easy to mistake the gingerbread for an ornament.
Yurashki has an open kitchen where you can watch bakers make gingerbread. If you’re looking to try some gingerbread but feel bad about eating anything too pretty, they have a 50% off basket of broken gingerbread pieces. Yum!
On one hand, gingerbread makes a great gift to bring home. But, as the full 50% discount basket suggests, chances are your gingerbread figures will arrive home in (delicious) pieces.
10. Buy a driver’s license at Vernissage Market
By now you’ve probably got a hunch that Ukrainians have a political sense of humor. This humor continues at the Vernissage Market.
Second-hand clothes, trinkets, and touristy items are sold at this market. However, the biggest attraction for tourists is the politician driver’s license knock-offs.
Ever wondered what Obama’s driver’s license looks like? You can buy one at the Vernissage Market. The same goes for Merkel, Putin, and Trump, among many others.
Talk about a great souvenir!
11. Wroclaw Gnome
If you enjoy cute, quirky things, you’ll love visiting the miniature Wroclaw Gnome.
Why the name? Wroclaw is known for placing miniature statues throughout its city. They decided to share the love and donated one to Lviv.
Located beside a post and about 6″ tall, you’ll really have to keep your eyes out for the gnome. It’s fairly common for locals to leave pieces of candy for the statue, so colorful candy wrappers could help point you in the right direction.
The saying goes that if you rub the gnome, you’ll have good luck. So, the Wroclaw Gnome has an oddly shiny hat from luck-seekers.
12. Open-Air Museum
The Open Air Museum in Lviv (aka, Museum of National Folk Architecture and Rural Life) is an incredible opportunity to be in nature and get a glimpse of how traditional Ukrainian villages used to look.
The museum is located in a forested area, about a 30 minute walk from Rynok Square. It was built over time by carefully taking down historical buildings throughout Ukraine and re-constructing them at the Open Air Museum.
You can go inside many buildings and see how the people used to live, with recreated kitchens, churches, and barns. Speaking of barns, they even have a small farm with pigs, a donkey, geese, etc.
The entrance fee to the museum is less than $2 USD and you can easily spend half a day or longer exploring the countless trails.
During winter and shoulder months, many of the buildings are closed, so you can only admire them from the outside. Also, entrance to the buildings are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Travel Tip: I found that the buildings opened to the public about two hours after the regular opening time. Therefore, I recommend aiming to visit around noon or later when the exhibits have a higher chance of operating in full swing.
13. Look out for Slavik
Slavik is Lviv’s beloved homeless man.
Years ago, a photographer noticed that Slavik dressed in a different outfit, and in his own stylish fashion, nearly every single day. With Slavik’s permission, the photographer began a photo collage of him by taking photos whenever their paths crossed.
Slavik became locally famous as a result of the photos, and nowadays, when you walk around Lviv, it’s common to encounter photos of Slavik on walls and “Slavik spots” as seen in the photo below.
No one knows Slavik’s secret, but since he doesn’t carry bags around and has so many clothes, it’s believed that he lives in a bunker of some sort.
14. Ladder to the sky
Chances are your head is going to be looking up a lot while you’re in Lviv to take in the beautiful architecture. When you’re doing all that looking up, it’s likely you’ll stumble upon the ladder to the sky.
There’s not a lot of information about the background of the ladder, but plenty of people have their theories and interpretations. It’s something that you’ll need to experience yourself in order to form your own conclusion.
The ladder is located in a nook by the popular Choven Pyvbar restaurant, so it’s a nice place to stop and grab a bite to eat or drink during your Lviv explorations.
15. Street with 7 signs
Have you ever seen a street with seven names, none of which are its real name? Lviv is your chance to boast about seeing such a strange sight.
Formerly called Arkhivna Street, the street never used to have a road sign since all of the buildings on the road have entrances facing other roads.
Therefore, when the KinoLev Independent Film Festival was established in Lviv, each year the festival named the street after a famous filmmaker.
Unfortunately, the start of the conflict in Crimea marked the end to the film festival. Therefore, the street hasn’t gained any new signs since the festival ended.
16. Museum of Ethnography & Historic Artifacts
Located right by Rynok Square, the Museum of Ethnography & Historic Artifacts is a fun activity to add to your Lviv to-do list.
The purpose of the museum is to showcase Ukrainian culture from the end of the 19th until the 20th century. The first portion of the museum is open to the public. They have a room for showing the coffee roasting process, a room for cheese, chocolate, honey and other local food, and a room for Ukrainian souvenirs.
Head upstairs, and you’ll arrive to the actual museum, which is open every day except Mondays. Located in a former bank and one of the oldest museums of its kind in Eastern Europe, paying the small entrance fee just to see the inside is worth the visit.
17. Lviv Crossaints
We’ve talked a lot about drinks in this post. Now it’s time to give food some love.
Lviv Croissants is a local cafe chain that specializes in croissant sandwiches. They have an extensive list of choices, with the average price being around $2 USD. Go hungry, because this will easily be the largest $2 sandwich you’ve ever eaten.
There’s a Lviv Crossaint cafe on Rynok Square, but when in Ukraine, Lviv Crossaints are on street corners like Starbucks. And like Starbucks, they have a great cafe ambiance and free WiFi.
18. Book market
Lviv’s second-hand book market is a fun stop during your Lviv exploration. The outdoor market is small and surrounds the statue of Fedorov, who was the founder of Ukrainian printing.
If you don’t speak Russian or Ukranian, it’s unlikely you’ll come across a book you can read. However, know that many of the books you’re looking at are from the Soviet era.
The market is open daily, although things get sparse on rainy days.
19. Tree Art
It’s easy to miss the tree art in Lviv, but if you happen to be on Hetmana Petra Doroshenka Street (number 45), be on the lookout for art on a tree.
A painter got creative and used natural shapes on the tree’s bark to paint images. Our favorite was the fish painting.
The tree is located near the tram stop on Hetmana Petra Doroshenka Street. There is a building with street art behind it.
20. Halytsky Market
Markets are one of our favorite go-tos when we visit a new place.
Admittedly, the Halytsky Market in Lviv wouldn’t make the list of top markets in Europe. However, if you’re in the mood for cheap produce and a quick walk around to see what household items and other knick-knacks are sold, this is a solid option.
Just how cheap is cheap produce?
We bought a huge cup of blueberries and red raspberries for less than $2 USD each, and a bag full of plums for a couple of dollars.
21. Monument to the Victims of Communist Crimes
The Monument to the Victims of Communist Crimes was created for the reason in its name. However, what’s less obvious is where the material came from.
We’ll give you a second while you take a guess…
The monument was constructed from repurposed material from a former Lenin statue.
Thanks to an anti-Soviet law passed by President Petro Poroshenko in May 2015, all monuments and street names representing the Soviet Union had to be eliminated. It was a success, with the removal of 1,320 statues of Lenin in Ukraine.
22. Get a Kiss beneath the kissing sign
If you’re traveling with your partner, a stop at the “Kiss Place” sign is a must in Lviv.
Located near the Wroclaw Gnome, you’ll find the sign in front of a restaurant, but it’s free for everyone to take their selfies by.
There’s not much else to say here other than, oh la la.
Lviv is a stunning city, still untouched by mass tourism. Aim to spend at least three nights in order to explore the places on this list. There’s a good chance you’ll find yourself wanting to spend even longer.
Have you been to Lviv? What were your favorite places there?