Your guide: Iryna Bilynska: Creative English teacher and qualified tourist guide in Lviv.
Do you believe in love at first sight?
It does exist... Welcome to Lviv and you will be convinced of it, because it is love, and everyone who has been here at least once will look for opportunities to return. Lviv is called differently: a city with the smell of coffee or chocolate, a city of rains, a little Paris, a city of IT technologies, festivals, museums, and churches.
Lviv is not just the White Tower of City Hall, the High Castle, or Rynok Square, but friendly and hospitable residents, pastel houses, cobbled streets in the light of lanterns, grand palaces and townhouses, melodies that sound from all corners of Rynok Square, it is an old book where a new story opens with each page.
There are many reasons to visit Lviv and everyone will find different ones to fall in love with this marvelous city. Lviv conquers not only with its luxurious architecture, amazing history, the number of picturesque and interesting places, and new trends but also with its cuisine.
The Latin Cathedral in Lviv’s city centre
In Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling novel Eat, Pray, Love, the heroine finds joy where she does not wait and enjoys life. She discovers herself in new gastronomic sensations, prayer, and love, traveling through Italy, India, and Indonesia. Undoubtedly, everyone will find food for every taste in Lviv: both spiritual and physical.
Even though the Lviv cuisine belongs to the Ukrainian Galician genre [tk-link], still it owes unique features connected with the fact that the City of the Lion has always been the biggest in the region, and merchants, travelers, and cooks from all over the world found interest in it. Representatives of different nationalities have lived in the city for centuries – Ruthenians, Armenians, Austrians, Poles, Italians, French, Jews.
Therefore, the menu of Lviv cuisine is very rich, formed under the influence of different cultures. Here you can enjoy Italian, Latin American, French, Oriental, Georgian, Turkish, Irish, and even exotic cuisines – Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, or Thai. Here you will find halal and kosher food too. Respecting the traditions and culture of different peoples, Lviv residents still do not betray Ukrainian traditions: They develop and improve the national cuisine.
So here you will find snacks and drinks for every taste and budget and you will be satisfied. I bet you will spend a lot of time hanging out in cafes, bars, or restaurants. Nevertheless, following the plot of the above-mentioned novel, the heroine finds peace when she establishes a connection with God, finds herself, and fills the inner emptiness.
[Read more: «Finding the Fantastic in District 13«]
The verses from the Holy Scriptures are relevant here (Matthew 4: 1-4): «Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.» And so I will dwell in more detail on the «spiritual» food, and in fact – the churches of Lviv, places where you can draw grace, strength, and more resource, which is so lacking in the whirlpool of life’s difficulties, especially in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.
In Lviv there are many churches, also called the equivalent of temples in the Ukrainian language, and they deserve a separate article, and not only one, so today I mention only cathedrals (собор / sobor, in Ukrainian).
The main Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) is the Cathedral of St. George-tk (Yurii). Greek Catholicism is a hybrid of east and west: eastern in style, ritual, discipline, and calendar--two weeks behind the West, but western in that it is aligned with the Roman Catholic Church rather than the Orthodox in Constantinople.
St. Yura (George) Cathedral in Lviv. Source: By Fed4ev – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28354484
This cathedral is a temple that is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The cathedral itself is part of the architectural complex on St. George’s Hill, which also includes the bell tower of St. George’s Cathedral, the Metropolitan Palace, and the gardens of St. George’s Cathedral. It can be seen, at certain points in the city such as between the Dominican church and the Rynok Square, or at the Heavenly Hundred memorial, hovering like a mirage.
In the underground part of the cathedral, the crypt, there are the sarcophagi of the hierarchs of the Greek Catholic Church among them Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky, who in the history of the UGCC was not just a prominent figure who stood up to the Nazis and Soviet Communists, but also its builder. The majestic figure of Metropolitan Andrew in the square in front of the cathedral seems to invite us to enter and feel the peace that floats here.
The Latin Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is Lviv’s main Roman Catholic church, almost the only monument of Gothic Lviv, consecrated in 1481 and which survived the fire of 1527. At Christmas, you can time travel in Lviv: celebrate Christmas here on 25 December and then at a Greek Catholic church once again 7 January.
In June 2001, Pope John Paul II prayed at the Latin Cathedral during a visit to Ukraine. In memory of this event on the facade on the left near the main entrance is a memorial plaque with the inscription in Ukrainian, Polish, and Latin.
When exploring the Armenian quarter, just a few blocks from the Latin Cathedral, be sure to visit the Armenian cathedral. The first Armenian church was built here at the end of the 14th century but the current building comes from the 16th-17th century. The interior of the cathedral is just stunning, with rich decorations and paintings. The Armenian Cathedral, also known as the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, is an Armenian sanctuary and a unique monument with original architecture that has been appreciated nationally.
[Read about the Armenian Cathedral’s murals here: «Lviv Top Ten Attractions: Like Paris in the 1920s»]
Also in the central part of the city, on Hrushevskoho Street, there is the Cathedral of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (PCU), an architectural monument of the 18th century in Lviv – the Church of the Intercession of the Blessed Virgin, which passed a difficult way from the church to the main building of a university, thennn a book depository, and sacral functions were restored only after the fall of Soviet power in the early 1990s. In the current page of history it’s now the Holy Intercession Cathedral of the PCU.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Intercession of the Blessed Virgin
[In December 2018, at Ukraine’s spiritual heart, St. Sophia’s in Kyiv, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church declared its independence from the Moscow patriarchy and aligned solely with the Orthodox patriarch in Constantinople. Those churches that stayed aligned with Moscow are called UOC-MP.]
Lviv is the city of churches – you will find so many of them also in the Old Town and each one is just stunning. Be sure to go inside to be amazed by the incredible interiors, rich in details. Even if you are not a religious person you should visit them.
I would also like to mention that we have a center for Jews – The Tsori Gilod Synagogue, also known as «Bais Aaron ve Israel» («The House of Aaron and Israel»), is the only functioning Jewish Orthodox synagogue in Lviv (Brativ Mikhnovskykh street-tk). The building was not damaged during World War II but was used as storage during the Soviet occupation.
The building was returned to the Jewish community «Bais Aaron ve Israel» in 1989. Before World War II, Lviv had the largest population of Jews of any city in Europe.
The remains of the Golden Rose synagogue, destroyed by the Nazis
The Muhammad Assad Islamic Cultural Center is a mosque and cultural organization in Lviv and it is also worth mentioning.
The Lviv Islamic Cultural Center is named after Muhammad Assad, a world-renowned Muslim figure, who was born as a Jew named Leopold Weiss in 1900 in Lviv – then called Lemburg, in the Austro-Hungarian empire. His birth name, Leopold, comes from the Latin for «lion,» just as is Lviv in Ukrainian means «lion.» When he became a Muslim in 1926, he took the surnname Assad, also meaning lion.
He made a significant contribution to the development of Islamic culture, was the author of many books, including the translation of the Koran into English. He was Pakistan’s representative to the United Nations, an adviser to the King of Saudi Arabia, and a professor at the famous Al-Azhar University. In Lviv, everyone will find «their temple» where they can feel a special connection with God. You just have to try!
There is no need to travel to three different countries to «eat, pray, love» because Lviv has everything. I’m sure that you will enjoy visiting Lviv, it’s hard not to like this city. And about love at first sight… Lviv will not leave you indifferent: It will enchant and you will definitely fall in love! Who knows, maybe not only with the city?
Iryna Bilynska is an English teacher at a Lviv secondary school, a qualified tour guide, and mother of three kids. Her hobbies are singing and dancing. You can follow her on Facebook.
Lviv Now is an English-language website for Lviv, Ukraine’s «tech-friendly cultural hub.» It is produced by Tvoe Misto («Your City») media-hub, which also hosts regular problem-solving public forums to benefit the city and its people.