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  • Writer's pictureThe Paladins

Ten things I love about Lviv, Ukraine



The Opera House


The envy of all Europe, one of Europe's top-five opera houses is situated in a beautiful historical city on the edge of a war zone. Even while the war is playing out on the battlefield and in the world's media, the Lviv Opera House performs several outstanding world-class operatic and ballet performances per week, as well as classical musical recitals of the highest calibre, and at a fraction of the price of often inferior quality found elsewhere in Europe's operatic capitals. A link to the Opera's website is here. You can buy tickets online.


Churches


Lviv has almost a hundred churches, all of them historical and of a variety of denominations and a remarkable display of architectural styles. They are innumerable and they will take your breath away.


"Mano's Bar"


This ludicrous establishment, whose real name is Цегла ("Tsegla", or "Brick"; sign in Cyrillic only), is located in the heart of Lviv's Old Town at Brativ Rohatyntsiv St 9/16 and is a dive bar frequented by the international community in Lviv. In this bar virtually everyone speaks English and it is populated by quirky and moody foreigners and youngsters learning English alike. It is notorious for egregious, strong cocktails, live music and an enormous sense of fun even in the middle of a war zone. It is particularly popular with foreigners from 9pm (remember that in Lviv, due to the wartime curfew, most bars close at 11pm). You can find it at this link.


Lviv Volunteers' Kitchen


If you are looking to travel to Lviv to volunteer to help the war effort, then the Lviv Volunteers' Kitchen is the natural place to start. Located about 20 minutes' walk from the Old Town to the north, it is a friendly environment which works from 8am to 7pm Monday to Fridays, and from about 11am on Saturdays and 12 Midday on Sundays with variable closing hours on those days. During summer hours volunteers work outside helping prepare and peel vegetables. You can find a description of it here. Even if the work isn't for you, the network of volunteers you will meet is extremely well-natured and sociable and can put you in contact with other people and other volunteering opportunities around the city.


You don't need to contact Lviv Volunteers' Kitchen in advance or schedule an appointment; you can just show up and the hours are as flexible as you want them to be. The location is Viacheslava Chornovola Avenue 45a, Lviv, and you should look for the "MuzCool" sign (a music project for youth) because it is on the 1st (i.e. Ground) floor of the same building but with the entrance at the back. A link to its location is here.


Domivka Animal Shelter


Rescuing animals abandoned by their owners during wartime conditions is a major voluntary activity in Ukraine and this is one of the largest animal shelters in Ukraine, in a location behind a convent up a hill in a park just behind the Old Town in Lviv. The website, in English with full directions, is here. It is open seven days a week from 10am to 5pm and you can assist by looking after the animals, taking the dogs for walks, tidying and cleaning, and a variety of other manual labour relating to care for the animals.


The restaurants and nightclubs


Lviv has almost as many restaurants as it does churches and although we are not going to attempt a shortlist here (others have produced them elsewhere) there can be few places in Europe in which there is such a high concentration of good food to eat in the Old Town, with beautiful historical buildings each one seemingly housing another exceptional restaurant.


Likewise Lviv's nightlife has not been completely exterminated just because of the Midnight curfew. Some places break the rules. Others just move forward the festivities early. There is a handful of nightclubs that open at 5pm on Fridays and Saturdays and you can dance your socks off at them until 11pm when you all have to go home to be in bed for Midnight.



"Hashtag"


A set of adjacent bars with the same owner, unimaginatively named "Hashtag 1" and "Hashtag 2", these are restaurants, coffee shops, shisha smoking houses, bars and places where you can watch the television and play computer games with your friends or strangers alike, or work with your laptop at a table, all rolled into one. The food is divine and the staff are friendly, and vibe is relaxed: a cross between an office, a front room, a smoking house and a bar, all wrapped into one. They are next door to each other; one is just an overflow of the other and they share the same kitchen. You can find them both here.


Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra


Lviv is blessed by not just one but by two incredible world class classical music theatres. The second, after the opera house, is the Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra that has several events a week, most of which involve classical music of the finest distinction. The Philharmonic Orchestra is located at the other end of the Old Town from the Opera House and its website, where you can buy tickets for its events, is here.


The railway station


Just outside town to the west, this early twentieth century beautiful classical building of its time offers trains all across free Ukraine and is probably the busiest railway station in Ukraine after Kyiv. Its grandiose and pompous architecture boasts two waiting rooms with coffee shops, a series of underpasses and classical music blaring out as the trains arrive, to give the event a sense of ceremony. It is pleasingly easy to use: just download the Ukrainian Railways App onto your mobile telephone to buy tickets. (It's in English and full refunds are available until a few days before departure.) Lviv railway station is your gateway to the rest of free Ukraine.


Stepan Bandera monument


Stepan Bandera, an inter-war fascist Ukrainian paramilitary leader who spent much of his career in different countries' prisons before ultimately being assassinated by the KGB, considered Lviv his home and the people of Lviv consider him something of a patron saint. Read up about the controversial Bandera; but whatever you do, don't miss the dramatic monument and statue to him just outside the centre of town. Its location is here.



THREE THINGS NOT TO LIKE ABOUT LVIV


The public transport


Lviv's public transport is an archaic relic of Soviet times and its narrow cobbled streets in the centre of the city are barely appropriate for public transport or for private cars of which there are far too many, particularly as the city as suffered a population explosion of refugees since the beginning of the second Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022.


The public transport is slow, non-transparent and exponentially difficult to use in the winter as it gets all iced up. Try to stay in the centre and to walk. Taxis are not easy either, due to the problems with the snarled traffic.


The hotels


Lviv's hotels are mostly duffers. Ukrainian standards of customer service were never perfect and this rubbed off on their hotels. Now there is a war on, the hotels are often empty or just blocked off for use by dignitaries. Do what the locals do and rent an apartment on AirBnB or via friends.


The airport


Due to the war, since February 2022, Lviv airport, in common with all Ukrainian airports, has been closed. This makes Lviv a 7-hour bus ride from the nearest big airport, Kraków in Poland. All in all, getting in and out of Lviv is the least comfortable part of the experience of visiting this otherwise wonderful city.


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