Lviv: A well-kept secret that deserves to be discovered
Tourism authorities in the Ukrainian city of Lviv want to lift what they say is something of a shroud of secrecy that has prevented them from getting word about their destination out to international travellers.
Lviv, home to some 757,000 people, has a large number of tourism attributes that have often gone unnoticed outside of Ukraine.
“We’re the last hidden gem (in Europe),” says Vitaliy Kulyk, director of the Lviv Tourism Development Centre.
Kulik reports the city has a huge number of historical monuments, along with many “thematic restaurants.”
The city is also home to over 50 festivals, including ones devoted to literature, sports, jazz and classical music, with the latter including a Mozart festival, with one of the composer’s sons having been a long-time Lviv resident.
Lviv’s carefully preserved and well-kept old quarter features such impressive structures as the imposing Lviv National Opera House, which began hosting performances in 1900.
Recognized by UNESCO
The old quarter has UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
“UNESCO usually recognizes an object, like a building or a monument, but here in Lviv, it’s the entire city centre,” says local tour guide Diana Borysenko.
The name Lviv comes from a monarch naming his son Lev, which means Lion, with the city having 4,500 lion images. “We are the city of lions,” says Borysenko, who says Lviv’s geographical location makes it “the first city in the West and the last city in the East.”
Visitors can see such varied architectural forms as Baroque, Renaissance, Gothic, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco in a city in which the first written record appeared in 1256.
Tourism authorities say visitors will find influences that may remind them of such Austrian cities as Vienna and Innsbruck, unsurprising since Kiev was once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
“It’s a completely European city with a short period of Soviet ties,” says Borysenko.
GreGG Truman, who oversees Ukraine International Airlines’ North American office and has visited Lviv, labels it “one of the most beautiful cities in the world.”
Centre of tradition
“Lviv was always the centre of Ukrainian traditions. Ukrainian culture would have died in Soviet times if there was no Lviv,” Kulyk adds.
Among existing Lviv hotels is The Vintage, found in the heart of the city. The hotel shuns the likes of electronic keys, opting instead for traditional ones. “We do everything in vintage style,” a hotel employee says of the 26-room, four-star hotel that has a wine bar and a cafe and is comprised of two historic buildings. More information can be found at https://vintagehotel.com.ua/en/.
Tourism authorities add that the surrounding area will appeal to visitors, who can find spas in the region and even ski in the Carpathian Mountains.
Tour companies that can arrange Lviv tours include Kyiv-based JC Travel (enjoy-ukraine.com).
Ukraine International Airlines has non-stop Toronto-Kyiv service.