Last Updated on January 24th, 2020
Lviv is my favorite city in Ukraine and one of the favorite places in entire Europe. This city is cozy and charming. It is definitely a destination for gourmands and everyone who loves cute coffee shops and cafes. However, to understand it, it is not enough to walk along its central streets with a camera, just get a meal and coffee. There are so many hidden gems and places to visit in Lviv during each season that you need to look further and deeper – into the cobbled courtyards through high doors and narrow corridors. And, you’d need to devote at least a few days to exploration!
If this is your first visit to Lviv or even if you are traveling there not for the first time but wish to get to know the city in a unique way, my post will give you some ideas what quirky and cool things to do in Lviv no matter when you go.
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Less-Known and Non-Touristy Places to Visit in Lviv
Visit One (or All) of Lviv Art-Yards
The fact is – Lviv is full of hidden courtyards with some artsy things in them. I have been to many cities around Europe and feel like Lviv and Tbilisi have the highest number of secret courtyards. If you don’t know where to go, you won’t find them. So here are a few ideas for you.
1. ‘Something Interesting’ Yard & Cafe
Nor far from the Market Square (3 min walk) there is a hidden yard with a tiny shop and cute cafe (Koliivshchyny Square, 1). It is easy to miss because it’s somewhat part of the Alternative Coffee cafe. This partially open-air gallery offers a very interesting selection of home and gift items, designer glass ornaments and jewelry. From time to time they also have painted pebbles, customized pillows, and various exhibitions. Prices for jewelry start from 25 UAH ($1).
“Something Interesting” cafe is more of a coffee shop than a cafe, there is no extensive menu but there are a few items for breakfast. Here you can relax and read interesting magazines about art, travel, and creativity. The place is very peaceful, atmospheric, and in the evenings they are often playing music on an old record player.
2. Yard-Gallery and Yard of Lost Toys.
These two courtyards are located next to each other and are probably more famous because every guide (including the one on a free tour of Lviv) brings the visitors there. But you can easily venture in there by yourself too.
So, both of these places are museums that Lviv residents themselves turned their courtyards into. When you are visiting, don’t forget to be quiet and respectful, people actually live there.
The address for the yard of lost toys is Knyazya Leva St, 3. All the toys you will see in this yard were the toys children had in the USSR and post-USSR time. There are dozens of them: from Soviet dolls with long eyelashes, huge and tiny soft animals, plastic cars and bicycles to Russian style roly-poly doll.
Since the selection of goods in the 80s and 90s was pretty limited, children all over the country played pretty much with the same type of toys. When Mark and I visited, we could recognize most of them. They are conveniently seated on shelves along the walls, in the center of the courtyard there is a tiny fountain, and even a sandbox with shovels and buckets, and a rare metal bridge.
I wasn’t sure if this yard looked like children’s paradise or a setting for apocalypse movie. But in any case, it is a very unique place to see in Lviv and you should like it as well.
And just on another side (Knyazya Leva St, 2), there is another courtyard-gallery with paintings and portraits on the walls and along steep stairs in the porches. All of them also come from USSR and post-USSR time.
3. A colorful art-courtyard with theater decorations.
You’ll find this yard in the courtyard of the Theater for Young Spectators (Akademika Hnatyuka St, 11). It happened that some of the old theater decorations and dolls turned out to be of little space in the theater, so they moved outside to the walls of this yard.
All of them are actually heroes of favorite fairy-tales during the 80s and 90s. You will see a Russian type of Pinocchio, Harlequin, robots, and many more characters. And the drainpipes turned into woolen palm trees.
Stop By the Gingerbread Cookie Bakeshop “Yurashky”
Lviv and sweets are two words that always go together. You’ll find multiple candy shops, chocolate workshops, and cafes all over the city. This gingerbread cookie bakeshop is one of those shops. It is a unique place to visit in Lviv if you are visiting with kids or without. It’s an interesting spot to buy a souvenir, see how local gingerbread cookies are made and even participate in the painting (or baking) process.
This bakery adheres to the old traditions of Lviv and will be fascinating to visit for both adults and children. There is a small coffee shop here and a few isles with dozens of various gingerbread cookies to choose from. Just look around, buy one or sign up to paint a cookie.
You will get the most memories if you actually paint the gingerbread yourself and bring it as a gift to your friends. But if you don’t feel like it, just savor the cookie with delicious herbal tea or aromatic Lviv coffee in the same cozy workshop.
TIP: Sign up in advance for a workshop where you learn how to bake the cookies.
Go to Lviv Beer Cultural Experience Center & Beer House
Beer lovers, this place to see in Lviv is for ya. And before you go, here are a few quick facts.
The three hundred year history of Lviv brewing, no doubt, makes Lviv the beer capital of Ukraine. 300 years ago, Jesuit monks built the first brewery in the city. And very quickly, the fame of Lviv beer spread far beyond the city that it laid the foundation for beer export to many countries in Europe.
The Beer Cultural Experience Center offers you a closer look at the past city brewery and provides a brief history of Lviv too. At the end of a tour, there is an offer to try freshly brewed Lviv beer.
However, if you are not really into the museum but want to get a tasting, there is another option.
Mark and I, during the time when we lived in Kentucky, went to many breweries, so we were not interested in this museum. Yet, we wanted to try craft beer. One lady in the center suggested to skip the museum and go to a nearby restaurant, called a Robert Doms Hop House, which had on menu a few tastings. Besides beer, there is also traditional Ukrainian food, live music, and performances.
The restaurant looks more like a pub in the cellar and feels very authentic.
Explore Garden-Neighborhood Kastelivka
First of all, to help you understand where this neighborhood in Lviv is and why I recommend to visit it, allow me to tell you a bit of history.
In the 80s of the 19th century, the leading architects of Lviv had the idea to create a neighborhood on the outskirts of the city which would correspond to the concept of a “garden city”, where the villas would be surrounded by lush greenery. So the elite district of Kastelivka was born. The name came from the family of Italian builders Kastelli, enthusiasts who arrived at the end of the 16th century to rebuild Lviv destroyed by numerous fires.
Today Kastelivka neighborhood is no longer a place for rich and famous. Today it is the Frankivsk district of Lviv, connected to the city center by a tram line. Many years have passed but it is still beautiful and retains the spirit of aristocracy and sophistication.
You can easily walk there from the Old Town or take a tram to make it faster. The streets to walk are of General Chuprinka, Konovalets, Kotlyarevsky. You will not find two similar buildings, each is unique and beautiful in its own way. Take a look at all the details – balconies, sculptures, frescoes, look into the courtyards and front doors, they are often open.
Interesting houses to check out are the house on Kotlyarevsky St, 27 which in the pre-war period was a Soviet consulate; an impressive house-castle on General Chuprinka 50, erected in a pseudo-Gothic style that outwardly really looks like an old castle.
On one of our visits, we rented an apartment in this neighborhood and thought it was a wonderful location. If you are thinking to stay in this district too, make sure to book a flat away from the tram line (check on the map) because at night and early morning you can hear the tram.
Get a Night Tour to Lychakiv Cemetery
Those who are looking for truly unique places to visit in Lviv and want to visit somewhat spooky spots should book a tour to Lychakiv Cemetery at night. You can go there during the day too but with daylight and too many people around it’s not the same experience. If you like spooky experiences at all. With private tours, a guide can go at any time during the day.
Lychakiv Cemetery is not just a burial place. It is a real cemetery-museum because every crypt there is a work of art. It contains 23 tomb chapels, 2,000 tombs, 500 reliefs and many sculptures that were made by world artists and sculptors. A lot of famous Ukrainian and Polish writers are buried there as well as some soldiers in the Ukraine-Russia war.
Going on the excursion at night is a whole artistic adventure. At night, when the crypts are illuminated by lamps, the guide’s stories about their owners are simply fascinating.
Go to One of the Lviv Museum-Restaurants
Oh yes, restaurants on its own deserve a title of the most unique places to visit in Lviv. Seriously. Some of them are more simple, others are fancy while others are extraordinary. I have a post about a few fancy restaurants in Lviv. But for the most unique experience, I recommend a trip to a quirky restaurant-museum.
There are a few of them around the city. The most striking ones are:
– Meat and Justice (Valova St, 20).
If you are a meat lover and don’t mind a torture based theme, this restaurant will come as a surprise. There, it constantly smells of fried meat, a cage car is parked in front of the entrance, there are a medieval tavern concept and baroque music in the background. You can come to this unique restaurant to have a tasty meal, relax with a glass of beer in the company of friends or if the weather is good to sit outside under the trees.
– Gas Lamp (Virmens’ka St, 20).
Another unique restaurant-museum in Lviv, even just for visiting. It has more than a thousand kerosene lamps. They are tiny and huge, some of them are rare and some not so much. You can even purchase one as a gift or souvenir. Besides cool lamps and atmosphere, the restaurant offers a decent choice of snacks, drinks, and food.
– Lviv Handmade Chocolate
This is a chocolate museum, cafe, and shop at the same time. These guys have some of the best hot chocolate and can offer you hundreds of different types of chocolate products. Come here to learn about the process or simply savor their goods in a beautiful cafe.
– Lviv Galician Cheese Cake & Strudel Bakery
A uniquely designed bakery with delicious cheesecakes and strudel surrounded by corollas, boards and rolling pins for dough. It is a very cozy place to do some work on your laptop or relax with a cup of coffee in the company of your friend.
– Masoch Cafe
An interesting and adventurous cafe, probably not for everyone but a lot of visitors love it. The cafe gained fame as the most scandalous catering establishment in Lviv. The waitresses are here… hmm… no, they are not rude and don’t add to your bill. They constantly whip you when pass you by. Yep, sounds strange, I know but you are unlikely to find a free table here. The cafe is always full of lovers of certain piquant sensations, haha. You can give it a try too or read more reviews at first.
– Art Museum-Restaurant “SALO” (LARD)
Ice cream from lard, chocolate-covered in lard, sushi from lard, paintings and sculptures from lard, a toilet with elements of lard – you can find all of this in the museum-restaurant “Salo”. No joke. Do you like lard? Probably not but it shouldn’t scare you away. The menu is long and there are many other dishes to choose from. But honestly, you should try that pig fat. In this restaurant, it is done right and tastes delicate.
Explore Dungeons & Tunnels of Old Lviv
Lviv has a lot of places that many people have no idea about. The reason for that is their location – they are mysteriously hidden underground.
Undoubtedly, the dungeons and tunnels are unique and interesting places to visit in Old Lviv today.
Local people built multiple underground passages and tunnels several centuries ago. Here residents were hiding from attacks of enemies, monks secluded themselves for prayers, and even alchemists built their own laboratories for experiments.
Interestingly, most of these dungeons have retained their appearance and are ready to share their secrets with everyone who is curious enough.
Some ideas for you what to visit are Lviv Coffee Manufacture, Secret Pharmacy, Kryivka (historical place and restaurant), Caves under the Dominican Cathedral and more.
If you would like to see more ancient cellars, ancient crypts and secret corridors hidden under the foundations of the city’s architectural monuments as well as get a tour from locals, then get in touch! We’ll help you learn all the secrets.
Recently we started to offer a few various tours of Lviv and want to invite you to join us! If you are interested to find out details, leave a comment or send a message through this form.
Have Night Out in Pravda Beer Theater
Here is another interesting place to visit in Lviv for beer lovers. As I mentioned earlier, Lviv is the capital of beer in Ukraine. When people visit Prague – they drink beer. When you travel to Lviv, you simply have to try beer too.
The Pravda Beer Theater has its own brewery, a mini beer museum, and a restaurant. But the feature of this spot is that besides delicious beer and dishes, there is also live music and concerts.
Every visitor additionally to drinking real craft beer can also see live brewing processes – from the pouring of malt to the maturing of bottled beer. Also, there is a chance to see the work of a brewer brewing beer on the stage and the cooking process in the open kitchen.
As for the center, prices in this establishment are rather cheap. Therefore, the place gets packed very fast. Try to get in before 6 to have a table.
Visit ‘Shevchenkovskiy Hai’ Historic Village & Open Air Museum
Another unique Lviv attraction is one of the seven Ukrainian open-air museums.
Here all tourists from all over Ukraine and especially from abroad are welcome because the museum is of great interest. It presents the authentic architecture, life, and customs of different parts of Ukraine.
This historic village is only a 20-minute walk from the downtown of Lviv, so you can easily add it to your itinerary. Also, a large area often (especially in the warm season) becomes a venue for various ethnic festivals, concerts, and exhibitions. Do not miss the opportunity to see the beauty of Ukrainian traditions!
Address: Chernecha Hora Street, 1.
Walk in the Stryiskyi Park
Alright, going to this park is probably not the most unique thing to do in Lviv but I wanted to add it on the list because it is quieter and tourists don’t go there. It is one of the most famous parks among residents of Lviv, not visitors (at least international).
This cozy and beautiful spot is perfect for walks, jogs, and distraction. Your kids should love it too. The park has a unique narrow-gauge children’s railway which runs in the green zone under the guidance of young railway workers. For adults, there is the first skate park in Ukraine, a picturesque pond with swans and many places for recreation and walks.
If you are a nature person, check this place out in the southern part of the city.
To visit all or even the most basic attractions of the city as well as these unique places of Lviv, two days is probably not enough. Therefore, in order to enjoy Lviv’s unique atmosphere, I recommend coming for several days (at least). If you are planning to visit in the summer or during Christmas and New Year time, I strongly suggest booking accommodation ahead of time.
Best Places to Stay in Lviv – My Favorite Choices
I visited Lviv so many times that I can’t even remember the exact number. I visited this city before my move to the US and after we left the US with Mark. Also, I saw Lviv during each season and stayed in every neighborhood. Among all the places (not to overwhelm you), I would love to highlight a few that are my favorite ones:
Market Square Apartment – Beautiful apartment where we stayed and amazing hosts who made our stay very special!
Lviv Central Jam Hotel – nice, freshly renovated rooms for $45 per night. Hearty breakfast included in the price (but book it at the hotel the day before!), wide beds and a jar of jam to all guests as a gift.
Astoria Hotel – a gorgeous luxury option in a historic building in the city center at a very reasonable price. There are rooms with excellent views of the city.
Danylo Hotel – a hotel with a nice design and a view of the Danilo Galitsky monument in the heart of the city. The building was built in the eighteenth century but is in brilliant shape. Rooms go for less than $40 a night, are clean and very cozy. But because of the location, it may be noisy. It’s living in Barcelona on La Rambla street.
Kavalier Boutique Hotel – a beautiful boutique hotel on the outskirts of the city with a panoramic view, pool, lawn, mini zoo, and a few walking trails.
More Ukraine Travel Resources
If this will be your first time in Ukraine, I have some resources to help you get the best of your trip. Check out my guides to facts on Ukraine, living in Ukraine and revisiting Ukraine which give you an idea of what to expect, how much it costs to travel in Ukraine and more.
Don’t forget to check out my Ukraine Travel Tips guide which goes over everything from visa, ground transportation to famous scams and more. And, if you are traveling to Ukraine from Poland, take a look at my Krakow to Lviv transportation guide.
If you will also be spending time in Kyiv, check out things to do in Kyiv in winter (you can really apply it to any other season), breakfast places in Kyiv, day trips from Kyiv posts to help guide your way through the city I called home for many years.
But Lviv, Kyiv and Odessa are not the only places to visit. Read my guide to Chernihiv and get inspired to visit this city too!
And finally, sign up for the newsletter to know when the next post about Ukraine is up.