Lviv Tourist Basics
Lviv was founded more than 750 years ago and is home to more than 55% of Ukraine’s
historical landmarks. Lviv boasts a stunning collection of Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance buildings, that UNESCO placed Lviv’s Old Town on the UNESCO World Heritage List as one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe. See more reasons to visit Lviv.
Lviv, Ukraine is about 70 kilometers from the European Union border with Poland. Of all major cities from the former Soviet Union, Lviv is the closest city to the European Union. In fact, Lviv is much closer to many EU cities than it is to Moscow (see below). Lviv is 544 kilometers from Ukraine’s capital city Kyiv. During medieval times Lviv was an important East-West trading point; being located midway between Venice and the Crimean port Kaffa (or Theodosia).
Distances from Lviv:
- Krakow 290 km
- Warsaw 335 km
- Budapest 450 km
- Kyiv (Kiev) 544 km
- Vienna 590 km
- Prague 690 km
- Berlin 800 km
- Moscow 1120 km
With over 700,000 inhabitants Lviv is the largest major city in Western Ukraine. Lviv is the most populous city in a large stretch of land that extends from Ukraine’s border with Poland all the way to the capital city of Kyiv (544 km away) making it the de facto regional capital for the Western half of the country. For much of the year university students represent nearly 10% of Lviv’s population (about 60,000).
Most of Lviv’s top sights can be seen in 3 days or less. You may want to include a tour of nearby Castles or the Carpathian Mountains in Lviv Region.
Over its history Lviv has had many names depending on its ruler. Lvov is the city’s Russian name, Lwów its Polish name and Lviv was known as Lemberg during the city’s Austro-Hungarian period. Lviv’s airport code is: LWO.
The primary spoken language in Lviv is Ukrainian (among about 90% of its inhabitants). The remaining 10% use Russian as their main language. Russian and Polish are widely understood among all Lviv inhabitants. Ukrainian is the official state language of Ukraine and the language of instruction in universities and most schools.
English is not widely spoken in Lviv especially among those older than 30. Not all service people speak English, especially in less expensive restaurants, cafes and shops. Many restaurants in central Lviv have English menus, but not all places have them. Central Lviv now has bi-lingual street signs and visitor info maps that indicate sights and museums. However, many businesses are often poorly marked with signs only in Ukrainian Cyrillic letters. Finding an English-speaking taxi driver in Lviv is almost impossible. If you urgently need to find an English speaker, we recommend that you approach a large group of university-age girls; chances are that one of them will speak some English.
Average temperatures are 18 °C (64°F) in June and -4°C (25°F) in January. The climate is quite humid (“cloudy with a chance of sun”); so pack your umbrella. Summer temperatures can be refreshingly cooler than in Central and Western Europe.
The national currency of Ukraine is the hryvnia (abbreviated as “Hr” or “UAH”). As a rule, payment in EURO or $USD is not possible in Ukraine; however some cabbies may accept these currencies. Currency exchange points are plentiful in Lviv; but be sure to change large amounts of currency only at banks and to keep the official receipt to ensure that you can exchange excess hryvnia before your departure.
Many Lviv businesses still do not accept credit card payments; so carry some local currency on hand just in case. Multi-lingual ATM’s are widespread in downtown Lviv and a great option for getting local currency when you need it. To avoid any possible problems using your bank card at ATMs in Ukraine, make sure you notify your bank of your plans to visit Ukraine prior to your departure.
Getting to Lviv – Plan Your Trip
No, if you’re from the U.S., Canada, an EU country or several other countries and plan to stay for less than 90 days. Many people may still associate Ukraine with the Soviet Union or even Russia, but did you know that today (unlike for Russia) citizens from many countries do NOT require a visa for stays of up to 90 days in Ukraine? This includes citizens from the European Union, Canada, USA, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Japan, Korea, Norway, Iceland, Russia and Belarus. Citizens of other countries must apply for a visa at the Ukrainian consulate in their home countries. On average the visa process requires up to 10 days from the application date. For specific visa info for your country, please visit website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine.
When searching for flights, trains, buses, you may have to use different spellings for Lviv. Try Lvov, Lwow, or Lemberg if “Lviv” doesn’t work. LWO is the airport code for Lviv.
Compared with cities of similar size in nearby Central Europe, Lviv does not have many direct flights to Europe’s major cities. Lviv's new airport terminal opened in April 2012. Many hope that flights to Lviv will increase, especially budget airline connections. So far budget carrier Wizz Air has re-instated flights to Dortmund (Germany) and Venice Treviso (Italy). Due to the current shortage of budget flights to Lviv, cost-conscious travelers may want to consider flying to neighboring Central European cities or Kyiv and taking a train to Lviv.
Direct Flights to Lviv (LWO) from Major Cities (December 2011)*:
- Munich, Germany (MUC), Lufthansa
- Warsaw, Poland (WAW), LOT Polish Airlines
- Vienna, Austria (VIE), Austrian Airlines
- Prague, Czech Republic (PRG), Czech Airlines
- Kyiv (Kiev), Ukraine (KBP), AeroSvit
- Istanbul, Turkey (IST) Turkish Airlines
- Timisoara, Romania (TSR), Carpatair
*Check with airlines or your travel agent to confirm available flights for Lviv.
Due to the current shortage of budget flights to Lviv, cost-conscious travelers may want to consider flying to neighboring Central European cities, or to Kyiv, and taking a train to Lviv.
Lviv has train connections with Warsaw, Krakow, and Budapest and many other European cities. It is possible, but not practical to buy train tickets for Ukrainian railways (UZ) online; UZ’s website is not in English. For train schedule info see the German site www.bahn.de, but make sure that you use “Lemberg (UA)” instead of “Lviv” for the city name.
As of 4 September 2011, the Lviv-Krakow train will only run every 2nd day, from Lviv on odd dates (1st, 3rd, 5th etc), due to a shortage of serviceable sleeping cars on the part of UZ Ukrainian railways.
Visitors to Lviv flying through Kyiv should keep in mind that Kyiv’s Borispol Airport is almost an hour from its train station; ground transportation options can be difficult for travelers who don’t speak Ukrainian or Russian. Do your research and plan ahead.
We do not recommend traveling to Lviv by bus or car if your time is limited or you do not want to endure long delays crossing the Polish-Ukrainian border. These delays are understandable as this border separates the EU customs union from the former Soviet Union.
Most international buses arrive at Stryis'kyi Bus Station (Stryiskyi Avtovokzal / Стрийський Автовокзал), which is outside the center of Lviv. Charter buses will frequently take tour groups directly to their hotel.
Taxis to the center can be difficult to find and/or expensive if you don’t know Ukrainian or Russian and aren’t good at bargaining. We recommend having a printout with name of your hotel in Ukrainian to show taxi drivers.
Getting to Lviv in your own car can be an adventure. We urge you to keep in mind the following:
- To enter Ukraine with a car you must sign a customs document that obligates you to remove your car by a certain date.
- Your departure date should not exceed the entry date by more than two months.
- You must keep this customs document with your driving license and provide it upon request.
- You must have a green card insurance to get an entry permit; you can buy it in your home country or get it at the Ukrainian border.
- Be advised that English is not always well-spoken by Ukrainian border authorities and police.
Getting Around Lviv – Tourist Tips and Transportation
You can find Lviv’s Tourist Information Center on Rynok Square on the left-side of City Hall (Ratusha) when facing the front of the building. This entrance can be hidden during warmer weather by a temporary summer terrace.
Currently public transportation in Lviv is not “tourist-friendly” if one doesn’t speak Ukrainian, Russian or Polish. Buses and trams can also be overcrowded. You’re best bet is to arrange accommodations in the city center, walk to most top sights, and use the concierge at your hotel to order taxis. If you’re on a tight budget and want to practice your survival Ukrainian, then see our Getting Around Lviv Guide.
Lviv’s roads, especially the narrow streets downtown, are frequently clogged with traffic during the day. There are no secure parking garages in the city center. There is paid street parking, but many drivers will “improvise” and park on curbsides. Because most sights are within walking distance from the city center and parking is not convenient, having a car may not be worth the trouble for many short-term visitors to Lviv.
A 10% tip for good service is a rule of thumb, if you want to leave something. Few places add a surcharge for service.
Personal Safety and Comfort
No, it isn’t safe to drink tap water in Lviv. Most restaurants in the downtown Lviv use filtered water. Bottled water is widely available and not expensive. Cautious travelers may want to use bottled water to brush their teeth just to be safe. Locals often use boiled water to prepare coffee or tea; something we don’t advise for travelers making short visits with no time for adjustment.
Lviv is much safer than many major European and North American cities. Take the usual traveler’s precautions with your money and documents, especially if using public transportation, and you should be fine.
You can find a few 24-hour pharmacies Lviv’s city center.
No – clean public restrooms are in short supply. We recommend keeping this in mind before leaving your hotel or when dining at restaurants. Restrooms are usually marked “Ч” or (men’s) and “Ж” or (women’s), or with the “WC” (unisex).
Most, but not all, restaurants and cafés have designated non-smoking areas. Businesses are required by law to have designated non-smoking areas, but not all businesses comply. Smoking is much more common than in North America or Western Europe.
Not really. Few businesses in Lviv provide disabled access. Curbs and sidewalks can be difficult to navigate with a wheelchair; and public transportation provides no accessibility.
The good news is that alcohol in Lviv is plentiful, delicious and quite inexpensive by Western standards. A few words of caution: in Ukraine it’s no longer legal to carry open containers of alcohol in public; there is a ZERO tolerance policy for drunk driving (any evidence of alcohol in your blood can expose you to high fines); and loud public drunkenness can attract the unwelcome attention of police and lead to arrest. Also, supermarkets and kiosks in Lviv do not sell alcohol after 10 p.m.
Communication and Internet
You can use any GSM standard phone in Lviv. Roaming services are supported by all 3 major operators. Visitors looking to save a lot of money on roaming may want to purchase a prepaid SIM and packet of minutes from one of Ukraine’s major operators listed below (or at a mobile services dealer). Depending on the operator and plan, a prepaid SIM card will usually cost around €2; which can be activated instantly and ID is not required for this operation.
You can top off your phone using scratch cards, which are available at kiosks and mobile phone distributors, or you can use a payment terminal available at some businesses and shopping centers.
There are also a number of Internet cafés in downtown Lviv for those who wish to use a computer. To find an Internet café, see our Business Directory.
You will need a Type C (continental Europe) adapter. Electricity in Ukraine is 220V 50Hz.
More Helpful Info
To help you plan your visit to Lviv, make sure you check out all of our guides.
- Accommodations Guide
- Dining Guide
- Culture and Sightseeing Guide
- Nightlife Guide
- Getting Around Lviv Guide
- Survival Ukrainian