Travel to UkraineL'viv - Long Live Ukraine
No matter how many jaunts you’ve made to Paris, there’s still always another Paris to be discovered. This Paris lies in the East. It’s equally historical and romantic, with a bustling café culture and world-class museums. Like the capital of France, this city was largely preserved during World War II and is now a harmonious hub in Eastern Ukraine.
L’viv is a city waiting to unveil its beauty and culture to you – and the world. Visitors will feel thrust back in a romantic and mysterious era, where a rich history and culture rivals the cuisine fit for an oligarch and pastries as killer as Vienna.
Back in the U.S.S.R
Certain aspects of L’viv hark back to the Soviet era, including the airport, which will be replaced with a modern terminal that’s being constructed for the 2012 European Football Championships. Several daily flights from German, Austrian and Eastern European hubs touch down at L’viv International Airport. For now, though, you can view your experience in the immigration line as a snapshot into L’viv’s history. L’viv has a few four- and five-star hotels: The finest is Hotel Leopolis, named after the city’s lion-emblazoned coat of arms, where you can wile away the weekend in a charming renovated room with first-class service and breakfast. Hotel Leopolis sits in the center of the old city and within strolling distance to many of the important churches, museums, and restaurants. The hotel can also arrange for a driver to chauffer you 25 minutes into city center. In the late afternoon, take advantage of the hotel bar’s daily happy hour, when complimentary cocktails and hors d’oeuvres are served in the library.
In 1998, the historic center of L’viv was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site – and you’ll understand why when you explore L’viv’s breathtaking churches and buildings, many dating from the 13th century.
Take a leisurely stroll around Market Square and the pedestrian streets that flow north and south from its corners. Soak in the range of architecture from Renaissance to Modernism among the 44 tenement houses that line the square. Make sure to visit the Church of Transfiguration, Armenian Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary and the Chapel of the Boim Family surrounding the square.
From cocktails to culture: L’viv’s unique museums are well worth a browse. A short walk from Hotel Leopolis is the L’viv National Museum, which is dedicated to Ukrainian culture and houses the largest collection of Ukrainian icon paintings in the world. Another relic is the L’viv Art Gallery in the Potosky Palace, known as much for its collection of European art as for its decadently decorated rooms – it’s easy to daydream here, and imagine hosting a lavish cocktail party or luxuriating in the salon.
Part of the cultural experience is hopping in the open-air Craft Market. Look out for Russian dolls, woolen socks and rugs and beaded necklaces to bring back for your friends and family.
Put on your cocktail attire for the opera or ballet at the stunning L’viv Opera House. Box seats will give you the perfect viewpoint to peer over the crowd nestled below in the cozy theater. Between acts, wander through the foyer and mirrored halls of the opera house. Make sure to bring a flask in your pocket, as there is surprisingly no bar in the opera.
Meals Fit For an Oligarch
Lunches are about savoring the café culture, which is clearly influenced by the Viennese. During your stay, kick back on the terrace of the Weiner Kaffeehaus and refuel over wienerschnitzel and beer. Directly next to the Boim Chapel is a charming small café, Coffee World. Plan to stay while – lingering in a café is a tradition borrowed from the Austrians who occupied L’viv from 1772 through 1914. Indulge in the hot chocolate or a sweet wedge of homemade cakes with a bright seasonal fruit filling. And make sure not to skip Veronika, where you’ll relish your cherry tart and cappuccino take stock of the scene around you.
Dinners are fit for an oligarch, and showcase old-school Russian grand meals. At Amadeus, savor local Ukrainian verenyky, dumplings stuffed with potatoes, meat, onions and poppy seeds or sour cherries and topped with sour cream and honey. For home cooking, make sure to calorie burn first then head to Seven Piggies, a Ukrainian restaurant that serves traditional salo or pork lard with garlic. For a true local epicurean experience, try Ukrainian borscht, a typical soup made from beets and vegetables. Make sure to wash it down with a beer (or three) at Kumpel, a local microbrewery.
The Underground Scene
While L’viv can be quiet after dark, you’ll find a few hopping clubs to take in the Ukrainian scene. Dance the night away at Fenomen Club, a favorite among the stylish set.
For a more authentic Ukrainian experience, try Kryjivka Bar, a secret underground bar on Market Square. As you approach, the dark wooden door may seem uninviting but knock twice and a small peephole will open and a voice will proclaim, "Slava Ukrainian" (Glory to Ukraine)! The password to enter is "Geroyam slava" (Glory to its heroes)! The door will then be pulled open by a uniformed guard who will halt you to question whether there are Russians in your party. This is a night of some serious role-playing and you’ll have to drink a shot of throat-burning vodka to prove you’re a Ukrainian supporter. Only then can you descend to a dimmed bunker where the walls are plastered with pictures of heroic men and women, “weapons” are propped up in every corner, and armed soldiers patrol the tables and serve local food and spirits. As you take stock of the scene around you – with just 20 years of a national history, the Ukraine has come a long way. And right now, you’re a piece of L’viv’s living legacy.