Just once in a while everything will come together for a city. Lviv in the western Ukraine feels like just such a city where the blend of low-costs, culture, and coolness is making it one of Europe’s must-go destinations.
Some refer to Lviv as the “mini Vienna,” others, the “Florence of the East” but the truth is, the edginess and even eeriness of the place make it very much its own destination. Chaotic architecture sees baroque facades rubbing shoulders with gothic, rococo and renaissance styles and it’s polyglot past only adds to the surreal magic feel of the place. Cooped-up for 50 years under Russian Communist rule, Lviv is now ready to come out and play.
Lviv’s coffee shops are quaint and cozy and the café culture is deeply rooted in everyday life. Bookworms can head to Kabinet, which doubles up as a library. There are nationalist scribbles across the wall and a Soviet feel still lingers.
Since the oppressive Soviet rule came to an end in 1991, Lviv has re-established its cultural scene. Galleries, museums and music venues are scattered all across town and diverse enough to suit all styles. The Lviv Art Gallery is Europe’s biggest art museum, displaying works by Rubens and Goya. The quirky Pharmacy Museum is where you can taste medicinal iron wine and the Dzyga Art Cultural Centre has all sorts of antiques and modern art.
Repeated invasions have left Lviv with an open mind towards all faiths. Although bombed by the Nazis in 1941, the Golden Rose Synagogue is worth a visit, if only for the mosaic rosette adorning the floor. Or do Sunday mass at the Rococo St George Cathedral.