LVIV: HOW 24 HOURS TURNED INTO 80
24 hours before arriving in Lviv, Ukraine; I purchased a last minute spur of the moment train ticket, packed my bags, traveled to the train station, got on the train only to realize I forgotten my passport (thank goodness I noticed before departure, that would have been VERY embarrassing if I realized at border patrol that I didn’t have my passport). I got off the train, went home, grabbed my passport, purchased a new ticket (bus this time around) to Lviv, and sat on the bus for 14 straight hours before arriving at this unique town that sucked me in enough to stay there for longer than originally planned.
One thing going wrong after another, I stepped foot off the bus and tried heading toward my hostel. Great! My Polish sim card doesn’t work here nor do my maps (usually I prepare myself by downloading my maps, but it was too much spur of the moment) so I tried to find the closest shop/café/anything that might have wifi. After walking around aimlessly for about 10 minutes I found a coffee shop that had wifi. Success! I’m able to get directions to my hostel!
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My first impression of Lviv was, “I’m not in Poland anymore”. It was dirty, I couldn’t read any of the letterings and it reminded me a lot of South East Asia. Hot, dirty, foreign, but with a slight charm that I just couldn’t put my finger on yet.
25 minutes later I stumbled into the Rynok Square (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and boy was I surprised and joyed to see such a beautiful area with many things to do. I literally felt like I crossed the diving line into Eastern Europe. Cobble stones, beautiful pastel colored buildings, coffee shops, bars, greenery, beautiful churches, and my hostel (Hollywood Hostel) nearby. I was excited to be staying near the center where everything is centralized, and looked so much more beautiful than where I was dropped off at.
Where to eat
After checking into my hostel I met a fellow Canadian and German that wanted to get food. We went over to Puzata Hata a traditional Ukrainian buffet. It reminded me of Milk Bars from Polish communist eras. The seating was cafeteria like and you just pointed at the food you wanted. Different traditional dishes served included borsch, cherry dumplings, assortments of veggies, traditional salads, meats, and fish.
Once fed it was time to get some exploring done. The National Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet is a beautiful building with amazing architecture. Locals can often be found here hanging out, drinking beers or playing chess. Right outside the theatre is a beautiful water fountain that children play on/in and adults sit to people watch. Unfortunately there were no shows playing during the time I was there, but they have a variety of performances from opera to traditional folk Ukrainian dance. See the show schedule here.
Next I walked over to the Yard of Lost Toys. The collection began when a small boy of one of the surrounding apartments found two lost toys and placed them under a roof in the courtyard in case the owner returned and was looking for them. The owner never came back, and a shrine to lost things was born. Today it is the Yard of Lost Toys that constantly shifts and changes as more people add lost and old toys and others are retrieved by their owners. A bit creepy if you ask me but a nice gesture and photo opportunity overall.
At this point, I went back toward the Rynok to my hostel and took a nap. I barely got any sleep on the very long and uncomfortable bus ride and needed some rest. There was talk of a self-guided pub crawl throughout the hostel so I wanted to be well rested.
What’s for dinner?
For dinner we went to Arsenal Ribs and Spirits. I am a pescatarian 90% of the time, but ribs have always been my guilty pleasure. This place was meat heaven for any carnivore. The ambiance was dark, seemed like an underground bunker turned restaurant, wood fired ribs everywhere, and people having fun. The staff was friendly, and offered English menus right away. There were three of us that went to dinner, each ordered a slab or ribs, and a side dish (grilled veggies, cabbage salad, mashed potato) and one alcoholic beverage each (two beers and a glass of wine). Our server placed a large paper tablecloth over our table and drew three plates, forks, and knives. This should be fun! Shortly after we were handed bibs with rib cages for the two guys, and boobies for me. The food came out on a wooden platter with sauces and the server cut up the ribs right in front of us using a small weapon. The food was DELICIOUS!!!!! This was also my first experience that put in perspective how cheap Ukraine really is. The total for all that we ordered was $23 USD. Like WHAT???? I’ve paid that for lunch at Whole Foods before! I ended up going back there another time with new friends from the hostel, the next time ordering the fish instead of the ribs, and it was one of the best fish I ever had.
After dinner, we were ready to go out on a self-hosted bar crawl. We started the night at a place called Choven, they have about 20 different taps on beer and a cider that changes daily. The atmosphere is dim and underground like but it’s a great place to hangout. They have a lot of tables and an outside patio so it was great for a bigger group like ours. We also came back to this place several times as it was right by the hostel and stayed open fairly late. While sitting at Choven I was thinking about how much I don't want to sit on a bus or train for another 10 hours tomorrow afternoon. I decided to look at flights going back to Wroclaw. There were no flights on Monday, but there was a flight in the afternoon on Tuesday. Only an hour flight and $40 USD. I've met some incredible people and I was having too much fun with my new friends not to pass up this opportunity. I booked the flight for Tuesday and I was staying in Lviv for 2.5 more days.
We followed this by Pravade Beer Theatre, the place had a fun dark atmosphere to it with many levels. There were a few levels that played live music that got the crowd going and excited on a Friday night and MANY controversial political statements found throughout the restaurant that made the restaurant that much more fun and entertaining trying to look for them. They only had dark or light beer on tap, no ciders, many beer bottle options, and a wine for me.
We continued the night going to an underground bunker bar named Kryyivka. Greeted at the door by a man in uniform asking for the password, we timidly scream out “Slava Ukraina” (Glory to Ukraine). The man nodded his head and lets us in. There was another man right on the other side of the door preparing shots from a flask. We enter the bunker, take a shot, and continue into the deep layers of the bunker. There are several different rooms each looking slightly different. Looking all round, you can see rifles, old military clothing, and other military weapons from the war. How neat! We sat down at a table ordered a round of honey vodka and went to explore the different photo opportunities we can have. We stumble upon a part of the bar that had BB guns where you can shoot at Putin’s face, my friends were totally intrigued by this so we went to shoot. There was something about being in this country of conflict, deep in some military bunker, drinking beer and taking shots of vodka. One round led to another and it was time to leave.
We came across a bar called Masoch Café. It’s a BDSM bar dedicated to the man that came up with the terms sadists and masochists. He was originally from Lviv, Ukraine and there is now a bar dedicated to him, and you guessed it, sadists and masochists. There are two separate rooms to this bar. The first is extremely well lit and allows you to hang around before you go into the “dungeon”. You get whipped right before you enter and this is where the fun begins. The bar itself was extremely small, only about 15 tables total and there weren’t that many people there. We ordered our cocktails sat down and enjoyed the show. None of us from the group participated (other than the initial whip) but we did get to enjoy entertainment right in front of us. Without giving too much away, you can really test your pain tolerance here.
What’s for breakfast?
Starting the day off at a beautiful breakfast buffet called Baczewski Restaurant. We went there slightly late the first day and almost didn’t get in because the line was too long and the cut-off was 11. We learned our lesson the following day and came early in the morning. The restaurant itself is stunning! There were beautiful green plants, birds in cases, a pianist playing beautiful music and a glass roof that added to the beauty. I was stunned by this place. The actual food was delicious, full spreads of breakfast buffet ranging from cheeses, eggs, meats, vegetables, to a dessert table. Along with the buffer you also get a coffee or tea and a glass of champagne for breakfast. All of this in such a stunning café cost us only 4Euro. We definitely came back the following day.
Not just another Cathedral.
I don’t often visit churches when I travel unless they’re remarkable. Once you’ve seen enough cathedrals you’ve seen most of them. The Armenian Cathedral of Lviv was an exception. I’ve never been to an Armenian church before so I wanted to see what how it looked. And I am very happy I went. The cathedral was remarkable. Beautiful colors peaking through the windows, the architecture was amazing, and the courtyard was lovely. I tried doing a guided tour but they didn’t speak any English, it was still amazing to view and something that showed how old and multiethnic Lviv is.
Feel the music.
Some of my favorite things about traveling is going to see live music and finding the best speakeasies in town. So when I found a speakeasy that was playing live music I was all over that. Libriana Speak Easy is slightly hidden and hard to get to like most speak easies, you will walk into an alley, enter through a small courtyard, go up wooden stairs and enter a library like bar. The bar itself was really beautiful, books everywhere, dim lighting, and a beautiful ambiance. We were seated and there was already a jazz bar playing. Our waitress gave us our menu’s that were printed on hard cover books (great touch) and we looked through the variations of cocktails. I had the Polish and it was scrumptious! So delicious I wanted to eat the glass afterwords, I couldn’t get enough. We sipped out cocktails and enjoyed the amazing musicians, a perfect ending to the trip.
I really enjoyed Lviv. Even though the start of my journey was very abrupt, I made the most of it. I made some awesome friends from all over the world and enjoyed my time eating, drinking, and sightseeing. Sometimes those hurdles that you go through that make the best situations at the end. What would be top of your list of things to do/see in Lviv, Ukraine?
Traveling to Lviv? Look for flights here.
Xoxo Ania Travels 💜
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