Lviv is a wonderful city. It’s also refreshingly weird. This modest Ukrainian gem offers travellers something more remarkable than the norm. If the beaten track is making you yawn, Lviv is the place for you. Delve into our top ten things to do in Lviv for an extra-memorable visit.
1. Sip some far-out coffee
If you have a craving for gin and tonic coffee or an orange juice cappucino, Svit Kafy can help.
Loved by locals and visitors alike, this specialty coffee house was homegrown in Lviv and recently celebrated its 20th birthday. Their pursuit of the perfect brew has seen them grow to two branches and a roastery in Lviv and a venture in Kyiv.
As well as being discerning about their roasts, Svit Kafy prioritises experimentation. A woman working at the wonderful Dream Hostel urged me to try the frothed orange juice coffee. From a fan of simplicity, I can best describe it as an acquired taste.
But the adventurous will love Svit Kafy’s bold and playful flavours and may just find their signature drink.
For traditionalists, the espressos and flat whites are excellent. The ambient surroundings are also perfect for watching Lviv go by.
2. Chew the pork fat at the Salo Modern Art Restaurant
Fancy eating some thick, white pork fat? I suspect there aren’t so many hands in the air.
But if you’re looking to get under the skin of Ukrainian culture, salo is the layer you need to sink your teeth into.
Salo, or cured pig fat, is a traditional and revered dish in Eastern Europe. Ukrainians enjoy it as a snack or the centrepiece of a meal.
Lviv’s very bizarre, very fun Salo Modern Art Restaurant pays homage to this divisive delicacy. Part museum, part eatery, visitors can browse some unusual exhibits before reaching the restaurant.
Here you can eat salo in almost any way imaginable. Try it with beer, spread on bread, sliced with pickles, drizzled with chocolate or even as sushi.
Exhibits include human body parts sculpted from salo. Ears, hands, a giant heart and errm, some other prominent pieces sit proudly in display cases. The walls are hung with reproductions of iconic artworks reinterpreted with slices of salo.
Bon appetit! Or as the locals would say, Smachnoho!
3. Bathe in the shade of colourful umbrellas
Cities can be notoriously grey on rainy days. For travellers, this can bring about a case of the blues. Luckily, Lviv has a remedy.
Get yourself out of bed and along to Mykoly Kopernyka Street. Here, on the doorstep of the city’s art gallery, a canopy of coloured umbrellas awaits.
You don’t need bad weather to enjoy this installation. On a sunny day, you can stand underneath and cast yourself in colour. On a rainy day, you get free shelter; it’s a win-win situation.
Granted, this is something you can see in other cities. But the umbrellas add a splash of fun and colour and make for a great snap. Twin this with our next recommendation to delight your inner child.
Address: Mykoly Kopernyka Street, Lviv.
4. Munch a milky splash at the big Roshen shop
If you’ve never encountered Ukraine’s most prolific sweetmaker, Lviv is the perfect gateway. Established in Ukraine, Roshen is listed as one of the top producers of candy in the world.
The confectioner distributes 410,000 tonnes of sweet treats annually. Who knew?
If you find yourself criminally underexposed to Roshen’s delights, pop along to its store on Valova Street.
Each store is a lavish showroom and the window displays are worth the trip alone. Inside you’ll find stacks, shelves and boxes of Roshen’s signature sweets.
Unwrap a Milky Splash, a soft toffee-based sweet filled with a milky centre. Or enjoy a hazelnut-studded chocolate bar, a minky binky or a choco crazy.
If you want to avoid the sugar rush, Roshen sweets make a perfect Ukrainian souvenir.
5. Sip blowtorched coffee in a pitch-black basement
If you’re prepared to go industrial for your love of java, head to Lviv Coffee Mining Manufacture. Skip the civilised ground-floor café for the dark staircase leading underground.
A solemn gentleman will hand you a hard hat before you feel your way down to a pitch-dark basement. There, a waiter in overalls will hand you a menu and brandish a blowtorch.
Have the top of your excellent coffee dramatically blasted by flames while squinting at the menu. Treats on offer include Lviv cheesecake and local coffee-flavoured craft beer.
Coffee Mining Manufacture is also a museum. Take the tour and learn about Lviv’s longstanding love affair with the dark brew. Keep an eye on their events, which are often free and feature live music.
Sipping on your brulee’d coffee in a cave is an experience that will stay with you forever – even if your eyebrows don’t.
Address: 10 Rynok Square, Lviv, Ukraine, 79000.
6. Never sleep again after the yard of lost toys
If clowns make you cry and puppets keep you awake at night, you may want to avoid Lviv’s yard of lost toys. Although it would be a shame if you did.
As with all the best places, there are few facts to go on. Even the address is sketchy at best.
Legend has it that the yard was born when a local man found a lost toy. He propped it against the nearest wall in case its owner returned. The toy then gained more and more companions to become a full-blown outdoor ‘museum’.
Tucked away in the working-class suburb of Pidzamche on the edge of the centre, the yard will greet you with unsettling sights.
Rain-soaked teddy bears sit propped against benches. Forgotten Barbie dolls bathe in fountains. Smiling dolls lie on shelves with their arms out, awaiting their long-gone owners. Cracked mirrors are scrawled with messages.
This could be a place of nightmares. But it could also be a reminder of the kindness and creativity of humans. Very unmissable and very Lviv.
Address: 5 Staryi Rynok Square, Lviv, Ukraine, 79019
7. Rub the belly button in the floor
Every bit as strange as it sounds, Lviv is home to a sculpture of a bulging round belly. As if this wasn’t odd enough, it’s embedded into a paving stone down an inconspicuous side street.
The story behind the belly is that nobody knows the story. The internet yields almost no information on the metallic midriff.
On a mission to get to the bottom of it, I grilled a Lvivan friend for his perspective. According to him, the belly button was installed by the owner of the bar opposite, Royal Brewery Restaurant (Королівська пивоварня), in honour of beer bellies everywhere. Mystery solved and as ever, beer is the answer.
Find the large round tum on Staroievreiska Street. Admire the impressive detail, from its hairs to the puckered folds of skin. That’s if you don’t trip over it first.
Website (of restaurant): https://royal-brewery.com/
Address: Staroievreiska St, 17, Lviv, Lviv Oblast, Ukraine, 79000.
8. Get high on Castle Hill
There’s no better way to get a feel for a city than to climb to its highest point. In Lviv, this is Castle Hill. A hotspot for teenagers and locals on balmy evenings, the path to the top winds through an ambient park. Tackle the 400-foot ascent gently through shady groves, horse chestnut trees and even a café bar.
Castle Hill isn’t officially a hill, but a mound on which a castle used to sit. Now long gone, ruins and stone sculptures lie scattered around for added curiosity.
The walk up to Castle Hill is best done in the no-man’s-land between late afternoon and dinner.
Pause over the panorama and soak up the stunning sunset while listening to music from local buskers. Castle Hill is the perfect chance to relax alongside Lvivans as they head skyward to socialise.
9. Lighten up over a Ukrainian dinner
Lviv has all manner of unforgettable restaurants. But few can hold a candle to Gasova Lampa. This ambient eatery doubles up as a rare spectacle, housing one of the largest collections of gas lamps in Europe.
Make your way up the spiral staircase past walls, rooms and ceilings dotted with lamps of all types.
Whether you’re impressed by antiques, standard lamps, modern shades or uplighters, every illumination preference is taken care of.
Perfect for unwinding after a busy day of Lviv-ness, Gasova Lampa’s menu features well-made and modestly priced Ukrainian dishes.
Try the potato pancakes, borschdt and local beers in the intimate, relaxing setting. If you have room left, the alchemy themed cocktail menu will end your evening with a bang.
Address: Virmens’ka St, 20, Lviv, Lviv Oblast, Ukraine, 79000.
10. Get whipped by waitresses in a den of masochism
When my friend heard I was going to Lviv, he said “you must visit Mosoch Café , you’ll have a cracking time.” With no prior knowledge, how innocent I was.
Enter to find yourself bathed in red light among bras and vintage burlesque posters. Take a seat at the bar for the best views.
Named after the 19th-century writer and apparent father of masochism, Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch, the café is a den of punishment. Corseted waitresses dish it out mercilessly to volunteering clientele.
Men can enjoy being blindfolded, having hot wax dripped on their chests or being whipped with a cat o’ nine tails. Women get off slightly lighter, being ordered to moan while being spanked with riding crops.
The crowd is a mix of locals, visitors, friends and travellers, making for a unique evening every time. Not one to visit with your grandparents. Unless they’re into that type of thing.
Address: Masoch Hotel and Café, Serbska St, 7, L’viv, L’vivs’ka oblast, Ukraine, 79000.
All places above were visited and are recommended by Denise Tench, Editor, Travel.Art.Coffee.
Month of visit: September 2018.
Commercial interests: This piece was written by an independent female solo traveller. No gifts or favours were exchanged as part of its writing.