1. Lviv – A Hidden Gem, But Not the New Prague
Many people trying to describe Lviv, Ukraine have used clichés like “a hidden gem” or the “the new Prague.” The first description is accurate–Lviv currently lacks the hordes of tourists one finds in Central European cities like Prague, Krakow, and Budapest. However, Lviv’s anonymity won’t last for long–after serving as a host city for EURO 2012 football matches between Germany, Denmark and Portugal–the word is starting to get out. It’s true that Lviv’s historical setting, café culture, and student vibe are attracting an increasing number of expat slackers and backpackers like Prague did 15 to 20 years ago. Unlike present-day Prague, Lviv still has more traditional ideals and values giving it a unique experience and the city offers a slower pace of life not found in neighboring Central Europe.
2. You’re Already Planning To Be Nearby
Did you know that Lviv is located only 70 kilometers from Poland? Already planning a trip Krakow? Lviv is only a six-hour night train from Krakow. Direct flights to Lviv are available from many cities including Warsaw, Munich, Vienna, Rome, Venice, and Istanbul; a Lviv-Prague flight recently began in the spring of 2011, with more flights to come with Lviv’s new terminal set to open in spring 2012. So why not add a trip to Lviv to your European holiday?
3. No Soviet Union, No Visa Necessary
Many people may still associate Ukraine with the Soviet Union or even Russia, but did you know that today (unlike Russia) citizens of the European Union, Canada, USA, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Andorra, Japan, Korea, Norway, Monaco or The Vatican City DO NOT require a visa for stays of up to 90 days in Ukraine?
4. Lviv, an Open Air Architectural Museum
Lviv boasts such 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.
Nearly every building in Lviv’s city center boasts an ornate façade or architectural flourish. It is no exaggeration to say that visitors to Lviv quickly run down the batteries in their cameras.
5. Lviv, Lwów, Lemberg, Lvov – Means Lots of History
Lviv was founded over 750 years ago in 1256 by Danilo Halytskyi, who named it after his son Lev. Lviv has been occupied by Poland, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Soviet Union with the city’s name changing each time. Warfare, occupation, armed uprisings, and forced population migrations imbue Lviv’s history with sadness, animate it with controversy but also give Lviv its richness. There’s a well-known parable of Western Ukraine about a man who was born in Austria, educated in Poland, who went to war in Ukraine, fled to Germany and was executed in the Soviet Union, and he did it all without ever leaving his village. And more than 55% of Ukraine’s historical landmarks are located in Lviv, many of them in the city’s beautiful and pedestrian-friendly Old Town.
Unlike many European cities, Lviv’s more than 100 beautiful old churches are full of worshipers, especially during the Christmas season in early-mid January and around Easter. In January, school children go from house to house ringing doorbells and singing Christmas carols for their neighbors, collecting small tips, like American children trick-or-treating, and that’s only one of the many religious traditions you can find here.
7. Ukrainian Arts & Culture
Whether you have Ukrainian roots or are just curious, Lviv is the cultural center of Ukraine. Singing, dancing, drinking, costumes and local artisans hocking their wares are part of daily life. We cannot guarantee that you’ll be invited to a Ukrainian wedding, unless of course if you’re a single guy and stay long enough and then it could very well be your own.
8. You’re searching for an IT outsourcing location
A 2009 KPMG study listed Lviv as a “destination to watch” to the next BPO/IT outsourcing boom. Many would argue that the IT outsourcing boom has already arrived in Lviv, which is one of Ukraine’s top 3 outsourcing centers. With its strong tradition of excellence in mathematics and science and numerous graduates, this IT outsourcing boom continues as more and more companies seek to work with Lviv’s more than 50 software development companies or set up their own captive offshore development centers.
9. Lviv is an Ancient City Full of Young People
Lviv is home to 2 large universities and a seminary and several other higher education institutions. Young people are everywhere (50,000+ students) in this compact city of 700,000; at times a thirty-something can feel old. Each year more than 15,000 students graduate from Lviv’s universities and many choose to stay in town. These young people populate Lviv’s numerous cafés creating a vibrant coffee house culture full of youthful energy and creativity.
10. Pretty Girls Everywhere (sorry, but we had to mention this…)
While it is hardly news that Ukraine is home to some of the world’s most beautiful women, the mail-order bride cliché doesn’t exactly apply to Lviv girls, who tend to be more traditional than in central and eastern Ukrainian cities. However, when comes to female beauty, the men in Lviv don’t really have much to complain about and when you visit, you’ll immediately understand why.