Lviv is the 7th largest city in Ukraine so it’s not exactly a big city but it’s a city with a significant importance as it’s a major Ukrainian cultural center. The city was part of Poland until 1939. Before that, it was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. After 1939, it became part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic and therefore, part of the USSR and today it’s part of independent Ukraine. The historic city center of Lviv is on UNESCO world heritage list.
In August 2021, I spent 9 days in Ukraine and I wanted to visit a new city so I had to choose one between Lviv and Odessa; They’re completely different cities as Odessa is a summer tourist destination while Lviv is a cultural center that is famous of its European architecture, restaurants, cafes, and chocolate. It was difficult to choose but in the end, I chose Lviv hoping to get the chance to visit Odessa another time in the future.
I spent a bit more than 24 hours in Lviv and in this blog I’m going to share with you my experience in this beautiful Ukrainian city.
I flew to Lviv from Kyiv
There are 3 options to travel from Kyiv to Lviv; bus, train, and plane. I decided to fly from Kyiv to Lviv and returned back to Kyiv next day by train. I was looking forward for my flight; I chose to fly with a domestic airlines called MotorSich. This company is one of the largest manufacturer of airplane and helicopters engines in the world so their fleet is well-maintained despite its old age. They fly from Zhuliany airport in Kyiv that is located in the center of the city, which is very convenient as the airport was exactly 10 minutes by car from my apartment in the center of Kyiv. I paid around $60 USD ($75 CAD) for this 1-way domestic flight.
The main reason why I chose to fly to Lviv was my desire to fly on a 49 years old Antonov An-24 Soviet built plane. I thought that I was going to fly on this plane as everything indicated that the flight to Lviv which I would be taking would be on the An-24. However, sadly, they decided to swap planes in the last minute so my beloved Antonov An-24 ended up flying to Odessa while I flew to Lviv on a 19 years old Ukrainian built Antonov An-140. Even though it was a nice flight but honestly, it was a major disappointment as the main reason why I booked a plane ticket -it was slightly more expensive than train ticket- was to fly on the 49 years old Soviet built plane. Sadly, that didn’t happen.
The lounge at Zhuliany domestic terminal
I arrived at the airport 2 hours before the flight. This was too early for a domestic flight in a tiny Ukrainian airport but I just don’t like long queues and those who know me know that I often show up in airports early as I prefer to be amongst the first ones to check-in. I already selected a window seat online and I was traveling with a backpack only so the check-in process in the airport was like a breeze. The security was also smooth and a bit casual and then I had to practice my same old hobby at airports which is to look for an airport lounge that would let me in using my “LoungeKey” bank card which grants me an unlimited access to selected airport lounges around the world. For more information about my lounge access, click here; for more information on travel credit cards and perks like free airport lounge use, click here.
I arrived at the lounge (looks like it was the only lounge in the terminal) and the friendly lounge attendant granted me an access right after showing my bank card and boarding pass. The lounge in the domestic terminal at Zhuliany airport is one of the smallest I’ve ever seen. I sent a photo of it to my Ukrainian friend and she responded with “Looks like you’re at someone’s kitchen”.
However, I truly loved that lounge and I spent about 45 minutes there drinking coffee and eating some pastries for breakfast. It was small yet it had everything someone would need for a short stay; coffee, tea, soft drinks, power outlets, snacks, pastries, sandwiches, and even alcohol! Honestly, I was impressed and felt good about the whole experience despite the tiny size of it. At least it was open, unlike how airport lounges were still closed in Pearson airport in Toronto when I flew from there on July 30th, 2021. However, I don’t want to open a new subject about a comparison between Canadian airports and European and Middle Eastern airports now, let’s leave this for another blog maybe.
The Motor Sich flight from Kyiv to Lviv
I went to the gate to board the plane. I was still hoping that we will be boarding the Antonov An-24. The bus took us to where the 2 planes were parked but it parked closer to the Antonov An-140 so I realized that the other old Antonov would fly to Odessa, not to Lviv…
We boarded the plane from the back of it. The flight was full and on-time. The plane is in a very good conditions; Seats are leather, beautiful and comfortable. Legroom was alright and I loved seeing the propellers. The last time I flew on a propeller engine plane was probably in 2005 so it felt good to re-connect with a propeller engine plane.
A few minutes after take-off in this 1 hour 15 minutes domestic flight, service started and the flight attendant served passengers a bottle of water, pack of biscuits, and sweets. I must admit that this is not the best service I’ve ever had but I must say that it actually exceeded my expectations. Those who follow me on instagram saw what Austrian Airlines served us on a 2-hour international flight between Kiev and Vienna; a tiny piece of chocolate! At least the Ukrainians served me a pack of tasty biscuits and some sweets! The taste of this Maria biscuit reminded me of my childhood in Kuwait so I just loved every bite of it. This domestic Ukrainian airline MotorSich truly exceeded my expectations so I would highly recommend them if you want to fly domestically in Ukraine.
The arrival at the beautiful city of Lviv
I landed in Lviv airport at arond 11.15 am. A few minutes later, I was outside the terminal waiting for my uber to drive me to city center. My uber driver was a nice young guy (he’s probably in his early 20s and he’s an engineer too). He spoke good English and was very friendly and he even narrated some stories to me about Lviv and he later mentioned that he would love to move to Canada someday. My destination was Lviv opera house as this is where I agreed to meet my good friend.
One of my best friends is a Ukrainian living in Toronto. We’ve been friends for more than 6 years. She’s originally from Kiev but she was visiting her grandmother in a town called Novovolynsk that is about 2 hours drive from Lviv. However, because she’s a great friend, she decided to come to Lviv to meet me for few hours. It felt different to meet with her in Lviv as we’ve never met anywhere outside Toronto. We were both in a great touristic mood so I believe it was one of our best meetings. We often argue about so many things as we normally have opposite opinions about different things in life. However, this time when we met in Lviv, it was like magic and the time we spent there was just perfect; We enjoyed every moment and because of her, I got to try an elegant restaurant that is probably the best in the city.
After meeting my friend Yulia, I went to my Airbnb apartment to quickly shower and change (I managed to do that in less than 20 minutes). I stayed in a nice Airbnb apartment that was located only 5 minutes by car away from the historic city center. My stay for 1 night in this beautiful Airbnb apartment costed me $32 USD (40 CAD) so I guess it was a very good deal.
My friend told me that she would be waiting for me in the center and she would choose a nice place to have lunch at together. I’m so glad that she ended up choosing one of the best restaurants in Lviv for lunch.
Lunch at Baczewski Restaurant
The experience at this restaurant Baczewski was out of this world. If I have to describe this restaurant with one word, I would call it “elegant”. The service was one of the most professional and most attentive I’ve ever seen and the taste of the food was simply outstanding and delectable. Not only the food was amazing but also the decoration and the atmosphere inside the restaurant. Everything we ordered looked great and tasted even greater. I had a Lviv-style coffee, Lviv-style salad called Miseria salad, and Turkey with spinach and mushroom sauce for main dish while Yulia had 2 vegetarian dishes as she’s a vegetarian. We were so delighted of the experience. We were lucky to eat in this restaurant as lines are often long throughout the day and I must admit that without her, I wouldn’t have been able to discover this charming place.
After this terrific meal, we had a walk in the city and took some photos while admiring the beautiful European architecture of the city. Lviv doesn’t look like any Ukrainian or any Russian or Belarusian city I visited and trust me, I visited many of them. Lviv has it’s unique charming style. Everything here is different, even the culture is quite different. In Kyiv, most of the people speak Russian while in Lviv, the absolute majority of people speak Ukrainian and also, people in Lviv are a bit known of being more reserved and probably more shy than people in the Ukrainian capital, generally speaking.
After a few hours of great time, my friend had to leave Lviv to head back to her grandmother’s city Novovolynsk. We spent an exceptional time together; had a fantastic meal, great city tour, tried some strange Lviv-style drinks, and talked about so many things and so many people and most importantly, we didn’t argue, not even once. I enjoyed her company and of course, her sense of humour.
Dinner at a fabulous restaurant
After saying goodbye to my friend, I returned back to my apartment to relax for a couple of hours before heading out again to explore the city and to have dinner at a place which my friend highly recommended. The name of the restaurant is “Pretty High Kitchen”. After another tour in the center, and after feeling that it’s time for dinner, I started to walk towards that restaurant. There was no sign outside, I had to enter an old building and to climb the stairs up to the last floor (5th) of the building.
I entered the restaurant, was seated by the waitress who explained to me the interesting concept of this restaurant. They only had a menu for drinks. However, for food, the chef himself would approach the table and ask “What do you want to eat?”. A few minutes later, the chef came to my table and first thing he said “Tell me what you can’t eat”. I paused for a second and was about to answer but he was quicker than me and said “I think you don’t eat pork, correct?” I smiled and told him “Let’s try to avoid pork as much as possible”. So I asked him, what do you have and he said “I can cook anything for you. Tell me what do you want; chicken, duck, lamb, beef, rabbit, turkey, fish?” So I ended up ordering salmon and another fish for appetizer and duck fillet for main dish. The food tasted really good but it wasn’t as excellent as in the other restaurant Baczewski. It was still a fabulous dining experience, without any doubt. You won’t believe if I tell you that this fancy meal costed me only $18 USD ($23 CAD). I guess I would have to pay at least 4 times this amount for such a dining experience in a city like Toronto.
I had a few hours to spend in the city before heading back to Kyiv so I decided to walk around the city center to enjoy the beautiful architecture of the city along with the fresh morning breeze.
I chose to have breakfast in a phenomenal cafe called Grand Cafe Leopolis. I read some great positive reviews about this place so I decided to give it a try and I am so glad that I did. I ordered “Tower breakfast” which consisted of 3 dishes; 2 appetizers and 1 main dishes which is salmon, eggs, and salad on toast along along with a lemonade drink. I ordered coffee as an extra. It was definitely a memorable breakfast and a truly fancy and delicious one. The meal along with the coffee costed me only $7.7 USD ($9.85 CAD)
Leaving Lviv back to Kyiv
I started to make my way back to my apartment to pick up my back pack and to take an uber from there to the train station. I made a stop at the beautiful opera house building to take a photo of it and I realized that this is where my trip in the city started when I met my friend exactly 24 hours ago.
I arrived at the station about 20 minutes before the train departure. I was lucky to get a nice bed seat in a 4 people compartment. They usually provide bed sheets and pillow cases if it’s an overnight train ride but since it was a day-time train ride, they didn’t really provide anything but at least, I was able to stretch and to relax during this 6-hour train ride. This 1-way train ticket costed me $30 USD (37 CAD).
When I arrived in Kyiv station, and while exiting the station, I saw this massive sign for McDonald’s. I was starving and I couldn’t resist the temptation and I ended up doing exactly what I did when I arrived to Kyiv from Kharkiv in October, 2020 after a 5 hours train ride. After all the gourmet food I had in Lviv and before that in Kyiv, I had to try some fast food even once in this trip. The good news is, from my previous experiences, I noticed that fast food in Ukraine and Russia tastes much better than in North America and this time wasn’t an exception as I truly enjoyed a very good meal at McDonald’s while having all these sweet memories about Lviv in my head and all thoughts about what I’m going to do in Kyiv in the next coming few days before heading back to Toronto.
I highly recommend Lviv to visit but make sure to spend more time there. I had a short vacation and my schedule was very busy so I couldn’t give Lviv more than 1 day but I am sure that this city is worth a longer visit. It’s a special city and beautiful city and it truly earns it’s famous title “The city of restaurants, cafes, and chocolate”.
That’s all I can say about my short trip to Lviv for now.
I hope it was a pleasant read.