It’s no secret that Ukraine is one of my favorite countries, if not my absolute favorite country. This is a post about how to spend 2 days in Lviv with the best things to do in Lviv, Ukraine for the first-time traveler.
The Lviv itinerary is written by Ukrainian sisters, Inessa and Natalie, and it shows you how to make the most of a Lviv weekend. If you’re trying to maximize your time in Lviv, consider one of these awesome tours that will help you easily see fantastic parts of the city:
- Lviv: 3-Hour Between the Sky and Earth Private Walking Tour
- 2-Hour Underground Tour of Lviv
- 3-Hour Lviv Street Art Walking Tour
- Ukrainian Food Gastro Tour of Lviv
- 2.5-Hour Lviv Small Group Walking Tour
- Lviv Private Walking Tour with a Knowledgeable Guide
TABLE OF CONTENTS
2 Days in Lviv: Make the Most of a Lviv Weekend
Located in the western part of Ukraine, Lviv is a whirlwind of cultures. In Lviv, everything is authentic and proudly Ukrainian as it meets the remains of Polish, Austro-Hungarian, and Soviet influences.
Out of this mix come cozy cobbled streets, old majestic cathedrals of all religions, wooden stairs in the buildings from the times of the empire, monumental architecture from the 1950s, and vibrant modern life.
Lviv is never boring.
We come here often since it is a relatively short five-hours drive from Kyiv. And every time we visit Lviv, there’s something new in the Ukrainian city. Where once was a dead-end at the end of an old street is now a hip and trendy coffee house.
And where we thought we knew every brick in the wall of the building by heart, we spot a small centuries-old statue that we never noticed before.
Lviv is a definite must-visit destination on the Ukraine travel itinerary, and we recommend staying at least two nights to get to know its Old Town. But if you have time, do stay longer.
Even if you manage to cover all the Lviv attractions within 48 hours, there are so many exciting day trips to take from Lviv. Off the top of our heads, there is small and surprising Uzhgorod, a hidden gem of Zakarpattya.
There are national parks and mountain lakes. And don’t even get us started on all the castles around Lviv!
How to Get to Lviv
Lviv is a convenient entry point if you come from Europe. A lot of low-costs fly from Poland, Lithuania, and Germany. Lviv airport also accepts domestic flights, so if you’re flying in from Kyiv, it will cost you around $20 to get from the capital to the City of the Lion.
Ukraine also has a convenient railway system with regular train connections between major cities and small towns. The official website Ukrzaliznytsia is available in English and accepts online bookings.
Alternatively, you may opt-in for bus connections from either nearby European countries, or within Ukraine.
Finally, if looking for ways to get to Lviv from any other city in the country, you may use Bla Bla Car. For this, you will need a local SIM, which may be a good idea if you plan to stay in Ukraine for a while.
Each of these has convenient packages with unlimited data.
When is the Best Time to Visit Lviv?
We always strongly recommend coming either in late spring or early fall. May is probably the best choice when everything in the city is blooming and blossoming.
September is also a great time to travel to Lviv because the golden and red leaves of the trees frame Lviv’s old buildings in a very elegant way. There is always summer, of course, but then you will need to be ready for some serious heat.
Staying in Lviv and Getting Around
Avoid renting apartments and booking hotels anywhere too close to Plosha Rynok, the very heart of the Old Town, if you are looking for some peace and quietness. The main square is very crowded in the evenings and parties continue late into the night.
A good idea for those wanting to stay close to the center without being affected by its active nightlife is to book a hotel in any area adjacent to the Old Town.
The historic center is walkable and you will hardly need to use any transportation (for the sake of experience, though, do take a ride on the local red tram). The only attraction you will need to get a taxi or a bus ride to is the Lychakiv Cemetery.
Things to do in Lviv
Lviv is all about walking and exploring, as well as eating. We Ukrainians love food and will have freshly cooked borsch (beetroot soup with sour cabbage and potatoes) with pampushkas (bread in garlic sauce) at any time of the day.
The city has one of the best coffee and restaurant scenes in Europe, with over 1,000 places to stop by for food, delicious local liquors, or coffee and sweets.
But of course, eating is not solely what Lviv is about! So, if you do want to make the most out of your 2-day stay there, start early. The city’ is full of surprises.
Climb the tower of the city hall for the best panorama of Lviv
This is something that we recommend doing early in the morning. Located right in the center of Ploscha Rynok (the main square, translated as the market square), the tower of the city hall is a very popular landmark in Lviv.
So in order to have some peace and quiet at the top and be one on one with the city, go early. Also, it is much easier climbing those 300+ steps up in the morning when it’s not too hot.
Reward yourself with a cup of Lviv coffee at Centaurus
In Lviv, you must always make time for coffee. The locals drink it several times a day and there is even a quick method of making coffee, which is called zalyvana kava (poured-over coffee).
Pour boiling water into a cup, add a spoon of coffee (ground, not instant), and cover the cup with a saucer for 5 minutes.
In Centaurus, coffee is prepared the regular way. This is a cozy cafe in Lviv with a beautiful stylized interior and summer terrace right on Ploscha Rynok. There’s nothing better than sipping on a hot drink and watching the unhurried morning life.
During winter in Lviv, the square turns into the biggest city fair with a big ice-skating rink right near Centaurus.
Explore the old pharmacy
Not far from Centaurus, there is an old pharmacy museum. It dates back to 1735 and has numerous rooms of old wooden counters with mysterious vials and potions.
Back in the days, the owners of pharmacies invested a lot into interiors of their businesses, and here, you will be able to enjoy frescoes from Vienna painters, expensive furniture, and spacious basements.
Whenever inside this pharmacy, we can’t help it but imagine ourselves being the characters in one of the Harry Potter books trying to solve a mysterious story!
Climb the ladder to the sky
Hidden in the dead-end of the Armenian street, there is the legendary Dzyga – a literary and jazz cafe, as well as Lviv’s cultural center that supports jazz festivals and expositions. Located on the roof of the building is a peculiar monument. It is the ladder that leads straight into the sky.
Artists of Lviv made it to remind us that the sky is the limit. Admire the ladder during the daytime, and do come back to Dzyga in the evening. It is a cozy, crowded place loved by all the locals. If you are lucky, you’ll get to hear fantastic jazz musicians playing there!
Admire the Dominican Cathedral
Lviv is home to hundreds of churches and cathedrals, but the one of the Dominican order is particularly beautiful. This majestic shrine of stone with green domes dates back to the 1750s.
Visually, it has a lot in common with the legendary cathedrals of St. Peter in both Rome and Vienna. The building is as beautiful inside, as it is on the outside, with a high golden altar and richly decorated naves.
Today, the cathedral is a museum and there’s nothing better than catching an organ concert here.
Go treasure hunting at the local flea market
Right behind the Dominican Cathedral is a small flea market. Most of the locals sell old books, but from time to time, you will dig out some lovely old cutlery, or vintage vinyl records.
Find a car parked on the roof
The House of Legends (Dim Legend) was once one of the best cafes in Lviv. With its mysterious concept, an odd storyteller greeting the visitors, and secret maps and legends attached to the menus, the place stirred quite a buzz back in the days.
Don’t get us wrong, it is still good but it’s just that Lviv’s cafe scene has evolved and changed so quickly that it is hard for older eateries to keep up with the pace.
So, we would not recommend the House of Legends for food. But, we do recommend ascending onto its roof on the seventh floor. In addition to the lovely panorama of the city, you’ll get to wonder how on earth the owners managed to park a real car on the tiny roof!
Also, the locals love throwing pennies in an attempt to hit the hat of the statue of the chimney sweeper. This is a very tricky, but definitely an entertaining task.
Explore the old cemetery
To do this, you will need to leave the Old Town and take a taxi or tram #7 and hop off at Lychakiv Cemetery. Founded back in 1786, this is a burial site that is an adventure well within itself.
There are over 400,000 tombs and crypts where some of the most prominent Ukrainians found their resting place. Today, the necropolis is a museum with calm, quiet alleys that lead through numerous impressive sculptures. Plan at least two hours to visit this Lviv landmark.
Wander into the Armenian Cathedral
While the Dominican Cathedral mesmerizes with its sizes, the Armenian Cathedral welcomes with its coziness. On the narrow and small streets of this area, we always feel as if we are being led into the heart of the 13th-century, away from the hustle and bustle of the modern city.
Back in the times of the Soviet Union, this was the beloved set for filming among many directors. Today, there’s nothing better than to wander into the small and inviting courtyards near the shrine and to admire architecture that dates back to Medieval Ages.
Some of the frescoes are almost 600 years old! Visiting the Armenian Cathedral is definitely one of the best things to do in Lviv.
Find the courtyard of the lost toys
People in Lviv are seriously invested in making each street, shop, cafe, and even a simple courtyard an experience to remember. As you are making your way across town, turn to Knyaza Leo Street 3, and you will see one of the most unusual open-air museums in Lviv.
Carefully displayed on the tables, shelves of the old sideboards, and even on the windowsills of the apartments on the first floor, hundreds of abandoned toys wait for their owners to find them.
This fun and sweet exhibition started by accident when one of the residents found two lost toys. He then left them on a windowsill hoping that whoever lost them will be able to find them.
Well, that didn’t happen. Instead, residents of nearby houses started bringing more toys. Eventually, the spontaneous initiative turned into an open-air museum.
Catch a free walking tour
Every day, at 10:30 am and at 3 pm, you can catch a free walking tour of Lviv. It starts at the fountain on Plosha Rynok- just look for someone with the white umbrella.
The tours are in English and the guides do a really good job of showing both popular attractions in Lviv, as well as some of the neat and cozy hidden spots of the city.
Climb the ruins of the High Castle
Just a short walk away from the city center, there is a hill with the ruins of the castle. It was once the heart of the Medieval Lviv.
Time was ruthless to this fortification. It was damaged in the wars of the 1670s, and then the locals finished the job by stealing the stones from the castle walls to use them elsewhere. But, the climb is well worth the effort for the beautiful panorama of the city.
This is a relatively simple hike up but we’d still recommend sticking to comfortable shoes and going up either early in the morning or in the evening to avoid the heat.
Haggle at the Jewish restaurant
Pid Rozou may be a challenge for those who never haggled at the Middle Eastern or Asian markets. This Jewish Lviv restaurant serves delicious food… but there are no prices on the menu.
So, after the meal, the waiter sends regards from Auntie Rose from the kitchen together with the receipt. The process can be quite ruthless. No worries, though, a few good jokes, as well as masterful haggling, will help lower the price significantly.
The experience is somewhat similar in concept of the Most Expensive Restaurant of Halychyna (this is the real name of the restaurant).
To save you the surprise, we will just say that this is a hidden place with a mason welcoming everyone who finds it and there is a fun twist to the menu and the prices. When visiting Lviv, be ready for anything!
Descend into the coffee mines
Lviv Kopalnya Kavy (the Lviv Coffee Mine) is simultaneously a cafe, a store, and a museum. Simply approach any of the Kopalnya’s employees and ask for a tour (free) of the mines.
The tour will lead to the basements of the store, where you’ll get a chance to see how the coffee is being mined. The performance is so well-staged and believable that for a second we even forgot that this is a show!
Time to meet the locals over a glass of cherry liquor
Back to the heart of the city, Plosha Rynok, and to its most noticeable evening attraction, the Drunken Cherry. This is a small bar near the city hall. It is hard to miss as it will inevitably have the longest line.
We love this place and we never miss it! While waiting to order a glass of cherry liquor (the only drink they serve here), it is always fun meeting locals and other travelers. Since there are not many tables, everyone prefers to simply sit on the porches of the nearby stores, or even on the pavements, whilst drinking and chatting.
The bar became so popular that with time, its owners opened franchises in Kyiv and Odesa.
Get Acquainted with the Lviv Region
Among some of the most popular out-of-town activities and day trips, there is the Golden Horseshoe Castle Tour. This is a trip around three beautiful Medieval and Renaissance castles near the city.
The first one, the Olesko Castle, is visible from the road. The other two are hidden in rural areas.
Alternatively, venture into the Carpathians and either hike Mount Parashka or explore the Kamenka Waterfall and the Dead Lake.
Where to Stay in Lviv
There are several options for where to stay in Lviv. The following Lviv accommodations are giving options regardless of what your budget is. We hope you will find a great hotel there that will start your Ukraine itinerary off right!
- Hotel N10 (mid-range city center accommodation)
- Apart18 (apartment accommodation near the main square)
- DREAM Hostel Lviv (best hostel in the city!)
- BANKHOTEL (luxury living in Lviv)
- Grand Hotel Lviv Luxury & Spa (5-star)
About the Authors
Inessa and Natalie are sisters and storytellers based in Kyiv, Ukraine. With one being a screenwriter, and the other one a photographer, they believe there are lots of untold stories about their country.
This is why together they started Through a Travel Lens blog to encourage everyone to travel to Ukraine and to do so with a heart and mind open to adventures. You can follow their travels on Instagram and Facebook.