A city with a taste of coffee, beer, and wonderful architecture. This is my first article on my favorite city and where I lived.
Lviv, the capital of western Ukraine, is a cosmopolitan city. Having escaped the urban devastation of WWII, Lviv is a living museum of Western architecture from the Gothic era to the present. The old narrow cobbled streets and colourful historic core make it one of the best places in the country to visit. Its wonderful buildings and architecture compare and fare probably better than Florence and Prague.
Lviv is a little known city – a pity, because it is charming and boasts of churches, palaces, and museums equally interesting to those that thousands visit in Prague and Cracow. In fact, they were built and designed by many of the same architects.
A quick review of its history reveals the reason. Founded in the 13th century by Prince Danylo of Galicia (Halicz), a hundred years later, all Ruthenia came under the control of Polish kings. Lvov (Lwów), as it was then called, became one of the important cities of the Polish-Lithuanian Alliance. During this period, many of the churches, the Bernardine monastery and other graceful Baroque-style buildings were erected. In the first partition of Poland in 1772, all of Malopolska and Galicia were taken by Austria. Then the town was renamed ‘Lemberg’. After the Ausgleich of 1867, the city prospered as the semi-autonomous capital of Galicia with strong Polish presence, but also growing and expanding Ukrainian organizations. The city grew rapidly, and many of the downtown buildings, including the Town Hall, the University and the George Hotel, date back to this period.
The center of old Lviv is the eight block square area, east of the Boulevard with Rynok (Market Square) at its centre, surrounded by graceful 3 and 4 storey mansions from the 16th to 18th centuries, their facades decorated with sculptures – unfortunately most are in a poor state of repair. In the centre of the Market Square is the late 19th century Town Hall with its tower (the view from the top is well worth the climb!) At the corners of the Market Square, there are fountains decorated with statues of Greek gods and goddesses. Three of the largest mansions, on the east side of the square, together form the History Museum.
Lviv has almost as many beautiful churches as Cracow. A few steps from Neptune’s fountain on the south-west corner of the Rynok Square you come across to the Roman Catholic Cathedral (Katolitsky Sobor), an awesome building with huge decorated columns and dark frescoes. Just outside, on Staroyevreys’ka Vulytsia (Old Jewish Street), you must see Lviv’s most exquisite architectural masterpiece, the small Boim Chapel. Built in 1609 by a rich Hungarian merchant family, it is in Renaissance style with a richly sculpted facade and ornate interior.
The Prospekt Svobody (Freedom Boulevard) is an imposing avenue. It runs from the Viennese-style Opera House southward to Mitskevicha Square. Chess players occupy the tree-lined pedestrian mall, down its middle, which is the best place to watch people promenading at weekends and in the evenings. The buildings lining either side of Svobody Boulevard are all from the Austrian era. Two of the old palaces house important museums. The National Museum should be visited to see the collection of icons, and a fragment of the ancient city walls connects to it.
Our Lomographers shouldn’t miss out on a chance to visit and photograph this beautiful old city in film.