As Ukraine's gateway to the West, Lviv has always played a great role in Ukrainian history and culture. What used to be the capital of East Galicia is now one of Eastern Europe's most beautiful cities. In the 14th Century it fell under Polish reign and it became a multicultural city, where Ukrainians, Poles, Germans and Jews lived peacefully alongside eachother. It later became an even more important city, which led to the foundation of Lviv University. It then fell under the Habsburg empire and later under the Soviets. However, it still remained a very Ukrainian region. The people of Lviv are proud of their beautiful city, history and Ukrainian language and heritage. Due to the city being in Western Ukraine its architecture has been severely influenced by Central European styles. This makes it a city that can - in terms of beauty - easily compete with Krakow and Prague. The difference is that Lviv remains a rough diamond until now. Its number of visitors is quite low so its tourism potential is mostly uncovered, giving it a unique feel that any adventurous tourist would appreciate. Lviv is eye-catching and it doesn't just end in the center - the whole city is worth discovering.
After spending a couple of days sipping Lviv's famous coffee and discovering the center, it's easy to take random bus to any suburb. These are sprawled with little markets with fresh produce - from flowers to meat. Even more interesting are the market halls, as seen in many Eastern European countries. These have meat, fish and herbs departments as well and they offer a good look into daily life. Ukraine is a real country for markets, near most large cities there are immense open-air terrains where basically anything you could need is sold. However, to get off the so-called beaten path, there is no need to even leave the center. Get lost into the maze of streets surrounding the central square or climb the Castle Hill = Vysokyi Zamok. This hill used to house a castle but now it is a mound with the Ukrainian flag on top. It offers stunning views over the center and the city's many churches. It is a pleasant walk up from the center, all the way covered by trees. Another activity guaranteed to be unforgettable is visiting the opera. Eastern European countries in general value culture and the opera is well visited. Only the venue itself is a visit, the Lviv opera is a masterpiece. Besides, as culture is for everyone, tickets for a show are quite cheap. Even if a ballet is not your fancy, it is worth going just to enjoy the venue's beauty. I visited the famous Lychakiv Cemetery as well, where over 400.000 people are buried of whom famous Ukrainians. This is an interesting place to visit as in Ukraine, graves are very important and a lot of effort is put into making very beautiful tombstones. At the back is the Defenders of Lwów cemetery, which honours the dead of the Polish-Soviet War (1918-1920).
What definitely struck me with its beauty was the Museum of Folk Architecture and Rural Life. A staggering amount of research and effort has been put into recreating churches, houses and artefacts from all over the country. Many rural houses are reconstructed and their wooden structures are nothing short of stunning. Outside of high season you might have the open-air museum all for yourself, just like I did. It then has a magical flair and you feel as you wander around in a fairy-tale. The constructins are spread over a large forest and provided you bring some consumptions, it can absolutely keep you entertained for a long time.
Restaurants and hotels are plentiful in Lviv, there is a guaranteed match for your wishes. Likewise, there are many nightclubs and bars. Lviv has a thriving coffee industry - many coffeehouses are located around the central square right in the center. Lviv's Wikitravel page offers an extensive list of hotels, restaurants and clubs. Getting into Lviv is quite easy - especially from Krakow or Kiev. From Romania's Suceava there are regular train and bus connections as well. I traveled from Krakow to Lviv on the nighttrain which was very comfortable and clean. An excellent connection which gets you in Lviv very early in the morning. When arriving so early as I did, around 5 in the morning, it could be useful to call a hotel or hostel beforehand where you could catch up on some more sleep. All have 24 hour reception but this way you will be assured of a hassle-free nap and a fresh day in Lviv after a few hours. From Lviv, I continued south to Ivano Frankivsk and Yaremche in the Carpathain Mountains, which definitely left me satisfied as well.