Lviv’s Top 20 of 2020

  • Lviv’s Top 20 of 2020
Issue 130, January 2020.
Lviv’s Top 20 of 2020
Lviv Today has your guide to the Top 20 things to do in the Western Ukrainian capital in 2020. Whether you’re into fashion, sports, culture, history, or food and drink, Lviv will show you why it’s called the ‘Soul of Ukraine’ and Lviv Today is your guide to what’s going on!
1. Look down on the city at High Castle
While there may be some nicer lookouts in Lviv – some restaurants and the Lviv City Hall tower come to mind – none have the charm of the city’s High Castle lookout (off Vysoky Zamok St.). Located just outside the city centre, the 413-metre hill is Lviv’s highest point and offers a 360o panoramic view of the entire city. While the castle that gave the hill its name is long gone, fortifications on the site date back as long as Lviv itself! You may want to bring a picnic with you, or a beverage of choice to enjoy at the top. One of the city’s most romantic spots, if you’re lucky – you might even see one lucky Leopolitan couple get engaged!
2. Walk through history in our UNESCO-Recognized City Centre
Once considered a hidden gem, Lviv’s wonderful city centre has become one of the most attractive in all of Europe. This, in part, has to do with UNESCO naming the area in 1998 an “outstanding example of the fusion of the architectural and artistic traditions of eastern Europe with those of Italy and Germany”. UNESCO monies have also helped regenerate the area to its former imperial splendour. Guided tours are obviously worthwhile, but be sure to hike up the 400 steps at Lviv City Hall (1 Rynok Sq.) to catch perhaps the best view of Lviv’s Old Town from 65 metres up. If you’re around at the turn of the hour, check out the royal trumpeteers just below! And if you can, be sure to visit during Lviv City Day (2 May), when there are plenty of additional activities designed to highlight the great history of Ukraine’s most European city.
3. Live Lviv’s ‘Haute Monde’ at the Lviv Opera & Ballet Theatre
Is there any building more famous in Western Ukraine than Lviv’s wonderful Opera & Ballet Theatre (28 Svoboda Ave.)? Built in the late 19th Century, the Neo-Renaissance building is so iconic that it’s featured on Ukraine’s 20 UAH bill. With some of Europe’s biggest orchestras, ballets, and operas stopping by each year, there is always a must-see event going on at the venue. Many of Ukraine’s biggest cultural groups perform there each year, including the Virsky National Folk Dance Ensemble, the Dumka National Choir, and many of the country’s top artists. A favourite meeting spot for locals and visitors alike, why not begin or end your evening downstairs at the magnificent Opera Underground café (28 Svoboda Ave.), where in addition to the signature, one-of-a-kind cocktails, you can catch a glimpse of Lviv’s famed Poltva River!
4. Discover Lviv’s royal side at the magnificent Potocki Palace
In a city renowned for its architecture, Lviv’s magnificent Potocki Palace (15 Kopernika St.) is a sight to behold. Built in the late 19th Century for Alfred Potocki, the then-Governor of Galicia, the pristine French Neo-Renaissance palace that once hosted royals now is the home of the luxurious Lviv Art Gallery. The palace is also the host of some of the city’s biggest events, including a Leopolis Jazz Fest stage, LvivMozArt, and the city’s most important art exhibitions. When Lviv’s incredible Mariya Muzychuk challenged for the Women’s World Chess Championship in 2016, the lavish rooms of the Palace were the backdrop. With tours for less than two Euros, Potocki Palace is one of Lviv’s must-visit architectural gems.
5. Wander through Lviv’s iconic cathedrals
You can discover the rich and colourful history of Lviv’s storied past just by a tour of the city’s iconic cathedrals. Why not start with the ones depicted in Lviv’s rich and colourful tourism logo – the Armenian Cathedral (7/13 Virmenska St.), the city’s oldest; the Orthodox Assumption Church’s Kornyakt Tower (5/7 Ruska St.); the Baroque Catholic Latin Cathedral (1 Katedralna Sq.), and the 17th Century Bernadine Monastery (3A Soborna Sq.). Of course, don’t limit yourself to those – the incredible Dominican Church (1 Muzeina Sq.) and imposing St. George’s Cathedral (5 Yura Svyatoho Sq.), among others, are also must-visits!
6. Relive ancient Ukraine at Shevchenkivskyi Hai
Whether you’re looking to learn about the ancient history of Western Ukraine, wanting a unique place to celebrate a cultural holiday, or just searching for a serene place to spend some time outdoors, why not do what the Leopolitans do and head over to Shevchenkivsyi Hai Museum of Folk Architecture & Rural Life (1 Chernecha Hora St.)? One of Europe’s largest open-air parks, Shevchenkivskyi Hai features ancient buildings from across Western Ukraine, including the 17th Century Church of St. Nicholas. Be sure to check out cultural celebrations like the Ukrainian Culture & Dance Festival (August), Ivana Kupala Day (6-7 July) and, of course, Ukrainian Christmas (6-7 January)!
7. Cheer for our boys at a Karpaty Lviv game
There’s no bigger sport in Ukraine than football – and there’s no bigger team in Western Ukraine than Karpaty Lviv. While the team has fallen on relatively hard times recently, it’s illustrious past has seen a USSR Cup (check out our story later in this issue) and a berth in the Europa League. Start your game day at the official Karpaty FC store (3 Mykoly Voronoho St.) where you can pick up some green and white swag before heading to the park at Ukraina Stadium (Lypova Alley). Keep your eyes open for when Ukrainian heavyweights like Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donetsk stop by, or try to catch the Lviv Derby against FC Lviv. 
8. Catch a concert at Arena Lviv
Since opening so that Lviv could host EURO 2012, the city’s Arena Lviv (199 Stryiska St.) has become a major hub for some of the city’s biggest events. It’s hosted the Europa League semifinal, a world cruiserweight boxing championship, some of the city’s major conferences, and all of Lviv’s biggest concerts. While it’s too early to tell if Lviv’s-own Okean Elzy will make a fourth appearance at the venue, keep an eye out for some major concerts, including in August when the Ukrainian Song Project returns. Designed to highlight Ukraine’s incredible musical talent on Independence Day, the event regularly draws some of the country’s biggest acts, including Alyosha, Tayanna, and Tina Karol. 
9. Take a stroll through Lviv’s lovely Stryisky Park
With Lviv’s city centre teeming with tourists during the popular summer season, sometimes Leopolitans and guests of the city just need to get away from the buzz of it all. There is no better place to do this than in Lviv’s lovely Stryisky Park (off Stryska St.). With exotic trees, meandering pathways, and a romantic lake that is home to swans, the city’s central park has long been an area where Leopolitan artistic types have headed to for inspiration. Hosting international exhibitions, a greenhouse, and a children’s area, Stryisky Park remains one of Europe’s most peaceful and beautiful parks. It’s especially popular among students of the nearby Ukrainian Catholic University (17 Iliarona Svjentsitskoho St.) and eventgoers at that institution’s sparkling, new Sheptytsky Centre (2A Kozelnytska St.). If you ever need to get away, just head over to Stryisky Park.
10. Raise a glass at the Lviv Beer Museum
While Lviv is rightly known as one of Europe’s coffee capitals, the city also boasts a rich history in the brewing of a different kind of drink altogether – beer. Dating back to a popular monastery brew in 1715, the Lvivske brand today is one of Ukraine’s most popular. Featuring its omnipresent 1715 blend, its popular series of Robert Doms brews, and a rich holiday ‘Rizdvyany’ drink, the company has a flavour to match any beer-lover’s tastes. While the company is yet to offer tours of the actual brewery, there is a popular Lvivarnya Beer Cultural Experience Centre (18 Kleparivska St.) tour that includes a tasting. Tracing the history of brewing from ancient Egypt to medieval Europe to Polish Lviv to the modern day, you can end your tour with an elegant meal in the site’s renovated beer hall. Craft brew lovers should stop by Pravda Beer Theatre (32 Rynok Sq.) to check out one of Ukraine’s most popular craft brands and catch some live music, while many restaurants offer tinctures like ‘meduvukha’ or ‘nalewka’, with Lviv’s Drunk Cherry (11 Rynok Sq.) liqueur being wildly popular.
11. Take a ride on one of Lviv’s legendary trams
Where would Lviv be without its beloved trams? One of the first cities in the Austro-Hungarian Empire to adopt the tram, the popular mode of transportation has a history as rich as the city itself. It has inspired countless artistic representations – from incredible murals of the trolleys travelling through the city centre to legendary Leopolitan a cappella group Pikkardiska Tertsiya’s popular hit ‘The Old Tramway’, a trip to the Western Ukrainian capital is not complete until you take a ride on the ‘old tramway’ yourself. Much like the city itself, the tram continues to modernise. Why not check out Lviv’s first fast tram route to Sykhiv aboard a carriage built at Lviv’s-own Elektrotrans? Or, for a bit more history, stop by Lviv’s LEM Station (57 Dmytra Vitovskoho St.), housed in the former tram depot at Sakharova and Vitovskoho streets. Hosting many of Lviv’s cultural initiatives, the building is currently being renovated to its former glory.
12. Paint the town red at Lviv’s most popular nightclubs
While Lviv’s top clubs, pubs, and restaurants can change at a dizzying pace, there are some that have stood the test of time better than others. None is more popular than Kryjivka (located “somewhere on Rynok Square®”), which with more than one million visitors a year could be Europe’s busiest restaurant. Themed as the last hideout from the WWII-era Ukrainian Patriotic Army, it’s best to go with locals – who will make sure that no ‘saboteurs’ are in your midst… For a nightcap, it’s best to check the latest issue of Lviv Today to see what hotspots are hopping each month, but !FESTRepublic Club (24-26 Staroznesenska St.) and the Malevich Concert Arena & Night Club (2 Chornovola Ave.) are two of the most reliable venues for hot contemporary acts and Lviv’s most bumping dance floors.
13. Get your retro on at the Leopolis Grand Prix – 29-31 May
If retro is your thing, then be sure to get all revved up for the Leopolis Grand Prix. While Lviv knows how to retro with the best of them – be sure to check out the inimitable Lviv Retro Day during the Lviv City Day celebrations in early May – perhaps the most popular is the city’s retro car race through the city centre. Meant to mark they heyday of Ukrainian automobile culture when Lviv hosted the top-level Lwow Grand Prix from 1930-33, the festival now draws hundreds of retro car lovers who show off their vehicles and race through the notoriously-difficult historic track around the ‘Lviv Triangle’ (from Vitovskoho to I. Franko to Stryska and Maidan Heroes). So, grab your leather bomber, slide on your best Ivy cap, and flip that scarf back like you’re a WWI pilot – and enjoy the retro ride of a lifetime. 
14. Get your groove on at the Leopolis Jazz Fest – 25-29 June
Is there a bigger event in Ukraine than Lviv’s annual Leopolis Jazz Fest? More than just being one of the biggest festivals in Ukraine, the jewel of Lviv’s summer calendar has been recognised as one of the finest jazz festivals in all of Europe by publications like UK’s The Guardian. Each year the programme features hundreds of the world’s top jazz musicians, like Diana Krall, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Bobby McFerrin, and Kenny Barron. With stages in the historic city centre, outside the majestic Potocki Palace (15 Kopernyka St.), and on the main stage at B. Khmelnytsky Culture & Recreaction Park (4 Bolharska St.), as well as jam sessions and autograph signings throughout the city, the city’s biggest festival attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Simply put, if there is one thing to see in Lviv in 2020 it’s our incredible Leopolis Jazz Fest. 
15. Get Your chic on at the Lviv Fashion Week
Ukraine has carved out a reputation as being home to some of the most beautiful women and most talented artists in the entire world, so when Lviv Fashion Week rolls around, it’s the city’s chance to shine. Among the most glitzy and glamorous of any of Lviv’s festivals, the twice-a-year Lviv Fashion Week allows some of the region’s top fashion designers to parade their newest seasonal lines at some of Lviv’s finest venues. From the D. Halytskyii International Airport to Potocki Palace to swanky restaurants and art galleries, the haute couture lifestyle of Lviv’s jet set is on display for all to see. If you happen to be in town in spring, you might want to check out the annual Miss Lviv pageant at the Opera & Ballet Theatre, where many of Lviv’s finest young ladies compete to represent the region at the annual Miss Ukraine pageant. As an official sponsor of both events, keep reading Lviv Today for more information prior to the 2020 events. 
16. Celebrate Lviv’s multicultural heritage at the Etnovyr Folk Festival – 20-24 August
Having been part of three separate empires in the century before gaining independence in 1991, it’s no surprise that Lviv knows how to celebrate its multicultural past. The city simply doesn’t do it better than during the Etnovyr Folk Festival, held each August to coincide with Ukrainian Independence Day (August 24). One of the city’s most colourful festivals, Etnovyr features vibrant performances of international ensembles, wonderful parades through the historic city centre, tasty presentations of national cuisine, song and dance workshops, and evenings of friendship. If you want to discover Lviv’s wonderful multicultural life, this is the event to visit!
17. Enjoy a legendary brew at the Lviv Coffee Festival – September 
In Lviv, coffee is a religion. So, surely the Lviv Coffee Festival is one of the can’t-miss events on Lviv’s 2020 calendar. One of the “Coffee Capitals of Europe”, the city toasts its beaned brew with Ukraine’s biggest coffee celebration each year. Over 150,000 visitors take in a wide variety of caffeine-infused events each year, which is capped off by the naming of Lviv’s Best Coffeehouse. You may want to start out at the Lviv Coffee Mining Manufacture (10 Rynok Sq.), where you can not only learn how to brew a proper cup, but also see where coffee is mined! You can always finish off at any of Lviv’s award-winning cafés, like the cultural institution that is Dzyga (35 Virmenska St.) or the historic Virmenka (19 Virmenska St.). 
18. Catch the carnival at the Golden Lion International Theatre Festival – September - October
Perhaps the oldest theatrical festival in all of Eastern Europe, Lviv’s Golden Lion International Theatre Festival has been transforming Lviv’s cobblestone streets into a carnival each autumn for over 30 years. Attracting many of Europe’s top theatrical groups each year, the festival has become one of the hottest theatre events on the continent. Performers take over the streets and squares of the city centre, offering an unforgettable European experience. Be sure to check out a show at Lviv’s iconic Italian Courtyard (6 Rynok Square) for a taste of Shakespeare’s Verona right here in Western Ukraine!
19. Indulge your sweet tooth at the Lviv Chocolate Festival – October
For those with a serious sweet tooth, no festival in the city is more highly-anticipated than the wonderful Lviv Chocolate Festival. Known worldwide for its rich chocolate and its ancient chocolate-making traditions, the festival is a fine celebration of Lviv’s most popular treat. With a chocolate goods fair, workshops led by professional chocolatiers, chocolate-making demonstrations and contests, and an incredible chocolate sculpture exhibition, the festival has something for everyone. Why not get started over at the popular Lviv Handmade Chocolate (3 Serbska St.) restaurant, where you can see how the rich delicacy is made and try out the tasty treat yourself. And as the festival happens over the Valentine’s Day holiday, maybe bring your special love over to the Kissing Spot (5 Katedralna Sq.) for an extra ‘sweet’ moment. 
20. Enjoy the world’s longest holiday season in Lviv – 19 December – 14 January
When you celebrate the world’s longest holiday season – nearly a full month from mid-December to mid-January – you can be sure there are plenty of events to catch. Leopolitans and guests of the city are sure to take in the romantic Christmas market (Rynok Square &Svoboda Ave.), with many revelers enjoying a glass of gluhwein under the majestic Christmas Tree with Lviv’s iconic Opera & Ballet Theatre in the background. There are events for everyone – Catholic Christmas at many of the city’s cathedrals, Ukrainian Christmas at Shevchenkivskyi Hai, Malanka (Old New Year’s) parades through the city centre, the Koliady (Christmas carols) Festival, the tasty Pampukh (donut) Festival, or even just ice skating outside Lviv City Hall in our UNESCO-recognised historical centre. Leopolitan clubs offer special themed evenings, while our theatres have seasonal concerts and shows. With ice sculpting competitions, appearances by St. Nicholas, and the always popular Parade of the Christmas Star, there simply is no better or more romantic place in Europe to celebrate the holiday season. 
-- Lee Reaney