10 Things You Didn’t Know About Lviv, Ukraine
January 1, 1970
by Victoria Bezsmolna
If you’re planning a trip to Eastern Europe, be sure to visit Lviv. Haven’t heard of Lviv before? Boy, you’re in for a ride! They call Lviv the Western Capital, the Cultural Center and the Heart of Ukraine. All year round, the city welcomes thousands of tourists from Poland, Germany, Russia, France, Great Britain, the USA, Canada, Japan and other countries.
Throughout its over 170-year-long history, Lviv has been a part of eight different states and has managed to keep and cultivate the best traits of all of its rulers. The city combines the character of a Medieval kingdom, the architecture of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the mixed German-Polish jargon and the soul of independent Ukraine.
Lviv is a marvelous city to visit, and here are ten facts to prove it:
Lviv is Close
Lviv was founded at the crossroads of trade routes and lies roughly in the center of Europe. It is one of the westmost big cities of Ukraine, and its proximity to Europe – less than 80 kilometers from the European Union border, is very appealing to tourists. Here’s an interesting fact: the city is situated within 600 kilometers from three European capitals: Kyiv (Ukraine), Warsaw (Poland) and Budapest (Hungary). It is also close to Krakow, Rzeszow, Lublin and Zakopane in Poland, Košice in Slovakia and Miscolz and Eger in Hungary, to name a few. Western Ukraine borders on Poland, Slovakia and Hungary, so tourists can easily go to Lviv on a weekend trip by car, bus or train from any of these countries, not to mention the flights take up to one hour.
Lviv is Beautiful
Lviv is a marvelous city, unique in its beauty. For centuries, people of different heritages came to Lviv and shared their traditions, languages and customs. Italians, Armenians, Jews, Poles, Germans and other ethnic groups contributed to the cultural diversity of Lviv. Add the impact of the states that ruled Lviv (the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Poland, USSR, Ukraine), and you’ll get more than 2 500 magnificent historical and architectural monuments in a single city. In fact, that’s 55% of all historical and architectural monuments of Ukraine. In Lviv, the architectural traditions of central and eastern Europe fused delicately with those of Italy and Germany. That’s why since 1998 its historic center has been protected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage.
Lviv is Festive
It’s hard to believe that more than 100 festivals take place in Lviv every year, and the number keeps growing. This means that each weekend you’ll find a fun event to attend. Regardless of the weather or the season, Lviv hosts some of the most interesting local and international festivals.
Most of the festivals are related to music like the Classical Music Festival “Virtuozy,” the International festival of Jewish music “LvivKlezFest” and two major international jazz festivals “Alfa Jazz Fest” and “Jazz Bez.” If you’re a foodie, be sure to check out the National Chocolate Holiday, the Coffee Festival “To Lviv for a Cup of Coffee” and the Cheese and Wine Holiday. If you’d like to get to know Ukrainian or local Galician traditions, don’t miss the Lviv Christmas Market with the Pampukh Day (a sweet deep-fried bun with different fillings, traditional to Ukrainian Christmas), the Ukrainian Easter Egg (“Pysanka”) Festival where people gather to decorate eggs with traditional Ukrainian folk signs using wax, or International Ukrainian Dance and Culture Festival. And don’t miss “Leopolis Grand Prix,” a retro car exhibition, “Night in Lviv,” two days of events, shows and excursions taking place at night, the Lviv Book Forum, the biggest book fair in Ukraine or The Golden Lion, an international film festival. And that’s not even half of it!
Lviv is Artistic
Lviv can boast the highest concentration of museums and art galleries in Ukraine. History-savvy tourists will definitely like to visit any of the 60 museums. The Lviv Historical Museum is one of the oldest museums in Ukraine, located in different parts of the city center. The Lviv Art Gallery is the biggest art museum in Ukraine with a collection of more than 50 thousand pieces of the last 6 centuries, including those of Rubens, Goya and Mengs. The Lviv Museum of Religious History exhibits unique icons and religious writings of the ancient times, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, the Armenian Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and more.
The Lviv Museum-Arsenal is the only museum of weapons in Ukraine, exhibiting firearms, swords and cannons. An open-air Museum of Folk Architecture and Rural Life is a place to observe Ukrainian rural architecture and folklore. The Museum-Pharmacy is located in the same place the first pharmacy in Lviv was founded and is a great place to feel yourself an alchemist. The National Museum of Natural History has one of the oldest and richest scientific collections among European museums with more than 500 thousand pieces. You can also check out the Lviv Beer Brewing Museum or the Museum of Salo (Lard) for an alternative view on exhibitions.
Lviv is Accessible
The Lviv airport was named after the founder of the city – King Danylo Halytsky, and is located only 6 km from the city center. Currently, it is one of the biggest airports in Eastern Europe, offering flights to Warsaw, Krakow, Berlin, London, Eindhoven, Minsk, Baku, Tel Aviv, Hurghada, Istanbul, Saloniki, Rome, Madrid and many more.
Lviv is Religious
Lviv is a poly-confessional city, predominantly Greek Catholic, with over 100 temples. Greek, Roman and Armenian Catholics, Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Protestants – Lviv welcomes everyone. The oldest churches are mainly located in Lviv’s Old Town, while dozens of newer ones are spread across the city.
Here are some of the most noteworthy churches of Lviv:
- the Church of St. Michael (1292), the oldest acting church in Lviv.
- the Armenian Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary (1360) with unique interior and two wonder-working icons.
- the Archcathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary or simply the Latin Cathedral (1493) with the Boim Chapel
- (1615) that holds the rare statue of the sitting Jesus Christ.
- the Assumption Church (1629) and its beautiful 65-meter bell tower – the Korniakt Tower.
- the Bernardine Church (1630) and a legendary tower with a clock that is always 5 minutes ahead.
- the Jesuit Church (1630), the first monument of Baroque architecture in Lviv with intricate wooden statues of saints inside.
- the Church of the Transfiguration (1730), that was left intact after a shell hit its wall but didn’t explode during a Ukrainian-Polish battle for Lviv in 1919, and the shell is still in the wall.
- the St. George’s Cathedral (1760), one of the most important churches in Ukraine and the central church of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Lviv.
- the Dominican Church and Monastery (1749), a remarkable building that throughout its history has been used as a church, a warehouse, a Museum of Atheism and is now a church again.
- the Church of Sts. Olha and Elizabeth (1911) built in memory of Empress Elisabeth of Bavaria (Hapsburg), known as Sissy.
Lviv is Academic
It may not have any Ivy League colleges, but Lviv is actually a scholarly city with 10 universities, 7 institutes, 5 academies and 27 colleges. Every fifth person in Lviv is a student, with 60% of them graduating with a Master’s degree. The first university in Ukraine and Russia, the Jesuit Academy, was founded in Lviv in 1661. Now, being the oldest continuously operating university in Ukraine, the Ivan Franko (a renowned Ukrainian writer who used to study here) National University of Lviv is also among the most popular and prestigious ones.
The Lviv Polytechnic National University was founded in 1816, and has been among the most prominent scientific and technological universities in Eastern Europe ever since, with 15 institutes offering BS and MS degrees in architecture, power engineering, computer sciences, applied mathematics, electronics and more. Danylo Halytsky Lviv National Medical University, founded in 1784, is one of the biggest and oldest medical universities in Ukraine, teaching medicine, medical prophylaxis, dentistry and pharmacy. Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) is probably the most innovative scientific and educational theological institution in Ukraine. There are two faculties in UCU: the Faculty of Philosophy and Theology and the Humanities Faculty with departments of History, Social Pedagogy, Journalism and Media Communications. UCU was also the base for the Lviv Business School and Institute of Leadership and Management.
Lviv is Green
There are over 30 different parks, botanical gardens and urban forests in Lviv. The Stryisky Park is one of the oldest and most beautiful parks in Ukraine. On its territory of 52 hectares, you’ll find local as well as exotic trees and a pond with swans swimming in it.
The Ivan Franko Park (Kostiushka Park, Jesuit Garden) is the oldest park in Ukraine and one of the oldest urban parks in Eastern Europe. Situated right outside the main building of the Lviv National University, the park is a lovely recreational spot in the center of the city.
The “High Castle” Park is located on a mountain that offers a breathtaking view of Lviv. The “Znesinnia” Park or “Keiserwald” offers spectacular landscapes and an open-air ethno-museum of Ukrainian traditional buildings – the Museum of Folk Architecture and Rural Life. The Bohdan Khmelnytskyi Culture and Recreation Park is a great place for families and youth, with roller coasters, festivals and fairs all year round.
Lviv is Theatric
Theater lovers will have a lot of performances to see in Lviv since the city has 13 theaters. The Ukrainian Dramatic Theater of Maria Zankovetska, founded in 1842, was the third largest theater in Europe at the time. The Lviv State Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet was founded over a century ago, in 1900, and its repertoire offers classical ballets and operas performed in Ukrainian, Italian, French and Polish.
Other theaters in Lviv include the Academic Theater of Les Kurbas, the Dramatic Theater of Lesia Ukrainka, the Academic Spiritual Theater “Voskresinnia” (“Resurrection”), the Lviv Academic Regional Puppet Theater, the First Ukrainian Theater for Children and Youth and more. The city also hosts two major theatrical festivals: “The Golden Lion,” the largest event of its kind in Ukraine, and “Drabyna” (“The Ladder”), the festival of amateur theater.
Lviv is a Football Fan
The first football match ever played on the territory of Ukraine and Poland took place in Lviv in 1894, with the team of Krakow playing against the team of Lviv. That historical day the Lviv team won with the score 0:1. Currently, there are two major football clubs in Lviv: “Karpaty Lviv” (founded in 1963; Ukrainian Premier League) and “Lviv” (founded in 2006; Ukrainian Second League). There are 14 stadiums in Lviv, the newest being Arena Lviv. It was built in 2011 as one of the eight venues of UEFA Euro 2012 that took place in Poland and Ukraine. Arena Lviv hosted three group B games of the championship. The stadium has almost 35 000 seats, and is now used for games as well as concerts and conferences.
Lviv is open to the world, so don’t forget to mark it on the map of your next trip! And don’t forget to take an umbrella, because Lviv is rainy: it rains or snows an average of 174 days a year in Lviv.