- By Annabelle Chapman
- Jun. 09 2013 00:00
Main industries: new industries — tourism, IT; traditional ones — engineering and transport, electronics (television and radio), chemical industry.
Mayor: Andriy Sadovyi
Founded in 1256
Interesting fact: A river, the Poltva, flows beneath the main street.
Sister cities: Winnipeg, Canada; Lublin, Poland; Przemysl, Poland; Wroclaw, Poland; Banya Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina; Rochdale, Great Britain; Novi Sad, Serbia; Saint Petersburg, Russia; Freiburg, Germany; Budapest, Hungary; Kutaisi, Georgia; Amiens, France.
Helpful contacts: Serhiy Kiral, head of foreign investment at the Lviv City Council (+38-32-254-60-06, firstname.lastname@example.org, investinlviv.com)
Sophia Opatska, CEO of the Lviv Business School (+38-032-240-9958, email@example.com, lvbs.com.ua/en)
Dmytro Aftanas, president of the Lviv Chamber of Commerce and Industry (+38-032-276-4611, firstname.lastname@example.org, lcci.ua/en),
Maryana Lutsyshyn, manager of the Lviv branch of the European Business Association (+38-032-261-2928, Lviv@eba.com.ua, lviv.eba.com.ua),
Tourist Information (1 Rynok Ploshcha, +38-032-254-6079, email@example.com, touristinfo.lviv.ua or lviv.travel/en)
Where else do people have it so good?” croons a local song from the 1930s. The answer, of course, is “only in Lviv.”
This is the largest city in western Ukraine, located two hours’ drive from the border with Poland. Visit it for the charming Central European atmosphere.
Historically, Lviv has gone by many names. King Daniel of Galicia, who founded the city in 1256, named it after his son Lev. In 1349, Lviv, known in Polish as Lwow, was incorporated into the kingdom of Poland. As a result of the first partition of the kingdom in 1772, it became part of the Austrian Empire under the name of Lemberg. When Austria-Hungary collapsed in 1918, Lviv became part of Poland again.
In Yiddish, one of the languages spoken by the city’s large Jewish community, it was known as Lemberg, while the Russian name is Lvov.
During World War II, the city experienced the horrors of Soviet, then Nazi, then Soviet occupation again. Finally, in 1945-46 Lviv was formally integrated into the Soviet Union along with western Ukraine. The city spent a relatively short time under Soviet rule, and this shows.
Up until World War II, the city was known for its multiethnic character, home to Poles, Jews, Ukrainians, Germans, Armenians and others. For a glimpse of Lviv’s prewar cultural and linguistic diversity, tune in to In Darkness (2011), directed by Agnieszka Holland. The film is based on the true story of local Jews who found shelter in the sewers of Lviv during the Nazi occupation, though the film was shot in the city of Lodz, Poland. Jews made up about a third of the city’s prewar population.
Electron Television Plant (+38-032-239-5589, firstname.lastname@example.org, tv.electron.ua/old/en). This plant has been producing televisions since 1957 and now makes liquid-crystal TV sets.
Lviv Bus Factory (LAZ) (+38-044-371-4150, email@example.com, laz.ua/en). Once a major bus manufacturer in the Soviet Union, the factory continues to produce.
!Fest (+38-080-050-1494, firstname.lastname@example.org, lokal.lviv.ua). This young company runs the Lokal chain of 17 eye-catching venues in Lviv. Each restaurant or café has a different theme — such as Masoch Café and Under the Golden Rose, both mentioned above.
Unlike most major cities, Lviv does not have a river flowing through its center. Or, at least, not one that you can see. Lviv was built on the shores of the river Poltva, but in the 19th century it was made part of the city’s underground canal system. To this day, the river flows beneath the main avenue and the Opera House. Legend has it that you can hear the faint sound of the river from the orchestra pit.
Since 1991, Lviv has again blossomed as one of Ukraine’s cultural capitals. This is one of the best places to hear and practice Ukrainian. The city is a hub for writers, artists and theater, and draws many students to its universities. The annual Publishers Forum in September attracts readers and publishers from Ukraine and abroad, and small film festivals are held throughout the year. Lviv is also the hometown of Okean Elzy, probably the most popular Ukrainian rock band. Its first concert took place in front of the Opera House in 1995. The band’s charismatic front man, Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, has a PhD in theoretical physics from Lviv University.
Lviv’s Central European charm shows in the architecture and the local customs. Its Habsburg years left a fondness for coffeehouses. According to popular legend, the first coffeehouse in Vienna was opened in the 17th century by a nobleman named Kulchytsky, who hailed from what is now western Ukraine.
Today, Lviv has dozens of cafes dotting the city center, from cavernous underground ones to pleasant outdoor terraces in the summer months. In addition to the usual cappuccinos, many places serve coffee Turkish or “Eastern style.”
A: The two priority sectors are tourism and IT and business services. It is extremely important that these two directions are not only declared on paper but actively worked on by the local administration, business sector and educational institutions.
Q: How would you describe the business climate in Lviv?
A: I think that Lviv — like Ukraine as a whole — has challenges in the business environment right now connected to taxation, justice and procedures. Sill I believe that Lviv is doing the most to encourage dialogue between different sectors and find solutions.
Q: Did the Euro 2012 make a difference?
A: Euro 2012 gave Lviv a new airport and has been crucial for making the city and its business community closer to the world and for investors.
Q: How does Lviv Business School (LvBS) contribute?
LvBS takes an active part in the development of high-value low-cost innovation moves in both IT and tourism. Our new program, the Master's degree in technology management, will open in 2013. It has been developed together with the IT sector and will respond to the needs of IT companies located in Eastern Europe, including those situated in Lviv.
The city is becoming increasingly tourist-friendly and was one of the eight cities to host the Euro 2012 soccer championship in Ukraine and Poland. New bars and hostels are springing up all the time. More and more languages can be heard in the street. The words on Lviv’s colorful, relatively new city logo proclaim: “Lviv: open to the world.”
What to see if you have two hours
Start on central Prospekt Svobody facing the statue of Taras Shevchenko, the most famous Ukrainian poet. Turn left and stroll along the tree-lined avenue, where old men play chess on the benches, leading up to the Opera House. Turn right and walk up Virmenska (Armenian) Vulitsya, named after Lviv’s once significant Armenian population. There is still an Armenian cathedral on this street at No. 7, boasting richly-colored frescoes.
Reaching the end of Virmenska Vulitsya, turn right onto the main square, Ploshcha Rynok. If you need to, drop into the tourist information office located inside the Town Hall (1 Ploshcha Rynok, +38-032-297-5911, city-adm.lviv.ua), the building with the tower. Walk around and admire the historical facades that line the square. No. 4 is famous for its blackened look, actually weathered sandstone. No. 6 leads through to the atmospheric “Italian yard,” with entry costing less than 4.06 hryvnas ($0.50). Then pick one of the surrounding coffee houses and sit down for a cup of coffee, Lviv style.
What to do if you have two days
Take more time to explore Lviv’s panoply of churches, many of them located in the streets around Ploshcha Rynok, with most being Greek Catholic. Look out for the Dominican Cathedral, the distinct Boim Chapel and the Roman Catholic Cathedral. The St. George Cathedral with its Rococo architecture and peaceful grounds is a short taxi ride uphill from the center (5 Ploshcha Svyatoho Yura, +38-032-299-2376). On a sunny day, take a walk up the hill behind the old town to Vysokyi Zamok (“High Castle”). Don’t waste your time looking for an actual high castle there — it is long gone. Instead, soak up the panoramic view of the city below.
Lviv is scattered with unusual museums. Depending on your interests, try the Pharmacy Museum, on the site of a pharmacy that opened in 1735 (2 Drukarska Vulitsya, +38-032-272-0041); the Brewery Museum, which includes beer tasting (18 Kleparivska Vulitsya, +38-032-294-8065, lvivbeermuseum.com); or the Johann Pinzel Museum, displaying his unique 18th-century sculptures that were recently on display in the Louvre (2 Mytna Ploshcha, +38-032-275-6966, lvivgallery.org).
Take a ride on one of Lviv’s trams, which twist their way around through the city’s streets. But Lviv’s historical center is compact enough to enjoy on foot. Stroll up Ruska Vulitsya from Ploshcha Rynok and stop by the daily book market (13 Pidvalna Vulitsya) on your left. It has a wide selection of classics in Ukrainian and Russian and many books on Lviv’s history and architecture.
What to do with the family
A: Since last year, we have been better organized. The City Council has approved a strategy for attracting investment, including our priorities and specific projects. All the information can be found on our website, investinlviv.com.
Q: What is the Council's priority for investment?
A: Our priority is opening a new industrial park. It would produce goods such as textiles, food and logistics; no chemical or heavy manufacturing. Secondly, we are planning a business park, as Lviv currently lacks good office space. Many companies want to open call centers or offices in Lviv. I think the demand is already there.
Q: Which country is most of the interest coming from?
A: The new EU member states are particularly interested in opportunities in Lviv: Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania.
By the fountain in front of the Opera House (28 Prospekt Svobody, +38-032-235-6586, opera.lviv.ua/en) there is a selection of little cars and other attractions for small children. In the winter, children and adults can enjoy outdoor ice-skating on the scenic Ploshcha Rynok, beside the Town Hall.
A Chocolate Festival runs in February at the Palace of Arts (17 Vulitsya Kopernika, +38-032-235-7788, shokolad.lviv.ua). For a few years now, it has brought together chocolatiers, producers and visitors with a sweet tooth.
The Puppet Theater puts on colorful performances of folk stories and fairy tales (1 Ploshcha Danyla Halytskoho, +38-32-235-5832). Shows start daily at midday, with additional ones on weekends. Tickets are about $1.50.
Lviv is famous for its Opera House (28 Prospekt Svobody, +38-032-235-6586, opera.lviv.ua/en). It is named after Ukrainian soprano Solomiya Krushelnytska (1872-1952), who performed across Europe and beyond. You will find the standard opera repertoire and ballet, plus one or two Ukrainian compositions. Tickets cost $5-25.
A five minute walk away is the Les Kurbas Theater (3 Vulitsya Lesya Kurbasa, +38-32-272-4824, n.kurbas.lviv.ua). It’s a state theater with an artsy, run-down feel. Among others, it does a lively performance of the Ukrainian classic “Lesova Pisnya” by the poet Lesya Ukrainka. It would be helpful to understand some Ukrainian though.
For late-night drinks, head to Masoch Cafe, just off Ploshcha Rynok (7 Vulitsya Serbska, +38-50-235-6872, masoch-cafe.com.ua). Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, the writer whose name gives us the term “masochism,” was born in Lviv in 1836. But this is no BDSM hangout. Rather, relax in the boudoir-style décor, sampling the cocktails and “aphrodisiacs” on the menu. It is open until 4 a.m. The prices are reasonable.
Where to eat
For a special meal, try Restoratsiya na Valoviy, which specializes in regional Galician cuisine and hearty Central European fare (25 Vulitsya Valova, +38-032-235-4973, valova25.lviv.ua/en). Warm up with a range of main courses including Hungarian-style goulash coupled with potato pancakes (daruny) for $11 or sturgeon with steamed vegetables for $20; expensive prices by Lviv standards.
For a low-cost feast of Ukrainian specialties, Puzata Khata is a must (12 Vulitsya Sichovykh Striltsiv and 10 Prospekt Shevchenko, +38-044-391-4699, puzatahata.com.ua). This Ukrainian chain has two branches in Lviv. It is a self-service restaurant that offers decent borsch, salads and varenyki (like pelmeni but larger), as well as standard meat dishes. Spending $5 will get you a few side dishes; mix and match.
The underground supermarket in Opera Passage, a stone’s throw from the Opera House, is a handy place to buy groceries (27 Prospekt Svobody, +38-032-295-8807, operapassage.com/en). It also stocks fine foods from across Europe and an impressive wine cellar.
Where to stay
Leopolis (16 Vulitsya Teatralna, +38-032-295-9500, leopolishotel.com). A stone’s throw from Ploscha Rynok, this luxurious hotel carries Lviv’s name in Latin. This beautiful renovated 18th-century building even has floor tiles that can be heated up. A standard double costs $249, while an “exclusively designed” executive suit costs $786.
Grand Hotel (Prospekt Svobody 13, +38-032-272-4042, grandhotel.lviv.ua). The elegant but discreet entrance is on Lviv’s main avenue. A standard double and a luxury suit cost $223 and $288, respectively. Free services for guests include theater ticket booking and access to the hotel’s swimming pool and sauna.
Hotel George (1 Ploshcha Mitskevicha, +38-032-232-6236, georgehotel.com.ua). This landmark hotel offers mid-cost rooms overlooking the monument to Adam Mickiewicz, Poland’s national poet. A suit costs $157 for two people, while the cheapest doubles start at $52, including breakfast.
Ask about approaching public or religious holidays, the celebrations planned in the city, and locals’ own traditions. Talk about Lviv’s music scene; a visit to the Opera House or, with younger people, local rock bands. Ask about the lush Carpathian Mountains, which begin to the south of Lviv. They are a favorite for healthy mountain air, walking trips and skiing in the winter (the largest ski resort is Bukovel, bukovel.com/en). They can be reached by train via the city of Ivano-Frankivsk.
Lviv is a hub of the Ukrainian language, even compared to Kyiv. Russian is understood and in newer tourist destinations, the staff speak English. Why not arrive with the Ukrainian words for “hello” (dobry den) and “thank you” (dyakuyu)?
Take home handmade chocolates or a bag of freshly roasted coffee beans. Embroidered shirts (vyshyvanka) and other gifts can be bought at the Vernisazh market, near the Opera House.
How to get there
Ukraine International Airlines has many direct flights between Moscow and Lviv, starting at about $130 one way (flyuia.com). Lviv International Airport (168 Liubinska Vulitsya, +38-032-229-8112, lvivairport.info) opened a new terminal in 2012. It is a half hour drive from the city center and taxis start at $12; check with the driver first.
Or else, fly to Kiev and continue to Lviv by train (booking.uz.gov.ua/en, 1 Dvirtseva Ploshcha, +38-032-226-2068). By high-speed Hyundai train, the journey takes five hours and costs from $30 one way. There are also overnight trains, which are a lot cheaper (second class is about $20). There are direct trains from Moscow to Lviv, usually two a day. The journey takes 24 hours and costs about $100 for a second-class berth.