Lviv is the most touristy city in Ukraine – but most people I talked to there don’t speak English!
That was one of the first surprises of my trip to Ukraine. It was a 14-hour direct bus ride when I tried to sleep as much as I could. Since Ukraine is not part of the EU, we have to go through checkpoints on the Polish and Ukrainian borders (we were stuck there for 7 hours on the way back!) But I got my Ukraine stamp!
I frantically learned Cyrillic (Azbuka) on the bus ride in case I might need it, and it helped a lot with street signs. Usually when I spoke to people, I used a combination of Ukrainian, Czech and English, and they responded to me in Polish!
I learned a few basic phrases in Ukrainian too; like Czechs, they also use Dobrý den to say hello, but Do pobachenya means “goodbye.” The most important word in Ukrainian is varenyky, or pierogi in Polish, which are dumplings filled with ground meat, potatoes, sauerkraut, and/or mushrooms.
When I travel, I like to splurge on food. I wanted to try all the best coffee and all the best restaurants. But not only does Lviv have great food, it also won’t break your bank (it’s very cheap)! At Ukrainian chain restaurant Puzata Chata, where you can look at food in a “buffet-style” section of the restaurant and ask the servers for portions, my dinner (below) cost only 70 Czech crowns ($2.89).
It’s goulash soup, a chicken ball, rice pilaf, and pork varenyky with sour cream. Say it with me again: MMMMM.
Lviv is known specifically for its coffee culture! And it didn’t disappoint. I spent most of my four days doing my favorite thing: going from café to café drinking brain juice.
Tired on the first morning, I stopped on my way to my hostel at Cat Café, which is exactly what it sounds like. There were at least 10 cats prowling around. ❤
Left: My yummy caramel and melon cappuccino. Right: A kitty trying to steal the food in my backpack 😛
Halfway to the center of the city, a progressive little shop called Alternative Coffee allows you to choose from an array of beans and serves your joe with modern brewing methods, like Chemex and Aeropress.
The main square (Rynok) is all about beautiful old buildings and coffee, too!
Top left: Rynok Square 4, a Renaissance building sometimes called “The Black House,” was built in 1577 for an Italian tax collector. It’s now a museum. Bottom left: The block of buildings on one side of the square. Buildings with three windows were standard; buildings with more than that, like the 6-windowed building, means the owner was very rich. Right: Lviv Coffee Mining is a huge business, roasting the beans right in front of you.
One of the highest-level coffeehouses is Svit Kavy (Coffee World), so I had to make a visit. I stayed in style with an Americano and caramel macaron:
In Svit Kavy, there was beautiful old furniture and colorful paintings. It felt like a great relaxed place to meet friends or just to read a book and catch up on some journaling.
At Just café, I continued to treat myself with another Americano and pistachio macaron… and a vanilla eclair… because I miss those yummy ones from Paris. How could I not?!
Off the topic of coffee, one of my favorite meals in Lviv was a breakfast buffet (100 crowns or $4) at Baczewski. This is the brand name of one of the first authentic vodka and liqueur makers in the world. It has always been in Lviv and is the oldest Polish distillery.
I felt like I was in a 5-star restaurant, eating soft cheese and apple-filled pancakes, scrambled eggs, cinnamon rolls, and baked apples for breakfast while someone played piano and parakeets chirped in a cage!
On my last day, I treated myself to a delicious meal at Livy Bereh, a restaurant UNDERNEATH the Lviv Operahouse in Prospekt Svobody. A river actually runs through the restaurant, and it is decorated with opera-related posters and paintings.
It was *sorta* spooky in a Phantom of the Opera kind of way, and the waiters/waitresses wore red tailcoats.
But the most… let’s say interesting… part of my trip was the Salo Museum.
What’s salo, you ask?
Well, if you’re Czech, you already know. At this restaurant/art gallery, all meals were made with sadlo (pork fat/lard) or špek (bacon fat). I got the “Ukrainian meal” špek sushi. 😛
This is an actual, working, beating heart made with sadlo.
Here it is: špek “sushi,” with black bread, pickle, and pork inside and mustard on top. I ate it all because I didn’t want to take it home. And yeah, my stomach did not feel good the next day. 😛
Worth it – but I won’t be coming back!