Off the beaten track Lviv – what there is to see and do …

Without question, the Old Town of Lviv, Ukraine’s premier tourist attraction, is one of the prettiest in Eastern Europe but if you’re looking for ornate churches, interesting museums and attractive market squares then, regrettably, you’ve come to the wrong blog post. This article is all about Lviv’s other attractions – its Soviet-era architecture, off-beat museums and unusual street art, etc. I use the term ‘attractions’ loosely as none of the places listed below are ‘must-sees’ but they are interesting nonetheless, either from a historical or architectural standpoint or, in some instances, both.

I doubt if the people in the Tourist Information Centre in Lviv would be best pleased with our efforts, although they were very helpful when it came to locating some of the places on our list, as we haven’t exactly made Lviv look attractive. But this was our second time in the city and we’ve seen all the nice stuff before and we wanted to explore beyond the Old Town and Lychakiv Cemetery, the city’s first and second most visited spots.

Having completed most of our research in advance, we spent four days traipsing around Lviv in August 2017 (but never really straying that far from the centre) and were surprised by how much we found. Admittedly, most of the things detailed below are of specialist interest but if like us, you have the time and/or the inclination to go beyond the main tourist sights,  you will hopefully appreciate some of the places on the list. Worse case, you will see a different side of the city and given there are no entrance fees, all it is going to cost is your time plus the price of a couple of bus fares, which are embarrassingly cheap throughout Ukraine!

The map below will help you locate everything but if you want a paper version then go to the Tourist Information Centre where they hand them out for free and ask the staff to help you mark it up accordingly.

Alternative Sightseeing North of Lviv Old Town

The Yard of Lost Toys

This quirky, makeshift museum in a small yard started because a local resident found a couple of lost toys and placed them on a small window ledge in case the owner(s) came back looking for them. They never did and over time more playthings have been added to the yard. The collection is neatly placed and almost shrine-like, plus it is forever changing as more lost toys are added and others are reclaimed by their owners. It is incredibly photogenic and Kirsty had a field day with the camera. The toys are left out in all weathers and, because it had rained the night previous, looked very sodden and forlorn when we visited.

Of all the places on this list, it is probably the most discovered attraction. We saw other visitors while we were there but the local residents don’t seem to mind as long as you are respectful and don’t touch anything.

Free entrance

No formal opening hours

The Yard of Lost Toys Lviv Ukraine-11

The Yard of Lost Toys

Update June 2020: The Yard of Lost Toys has, unfortunately, been cleared away and is no longer there.

Yard Museum of the USSR

Just around the corner from the Yard of Lost Toys is another courtyard converted into a museum. As the name would suggest, this yard is supposedly home to memorabilia dating back to the Soviet times and according to one website, there is a ‘grand collection, consisting of portraits of popular Soviet-era poets, artists, general secretaries of the Soviet Union, utensils, rag dolls and figurines’. Perhaps, like in the Yard of Lost Toys, the content is forever changing, as we saw very little of interest during our visit. Nonetheless, it is only a minute’s walk between the two locations so it’s worth taking a look if you are in the vicinity.

Free Entrance

No formal opening hours

The Yard Museum of the USSR

Chornomorska Street children’s playground

One more thing to check out on the way to/from the Yard of Lost Toys and the Yard Museum of the USSR is the colourful playground on Chornomorska Street. There used to be some houses on this spot but in 1956 Soviet tanks, on their way to Hungary to quell the revolution, rumbled past at such a rate that the houses shook and crumbled to the ground. This photo was taken a few years back but we walked past the same spot again during our recent visit and the play area looked more rundown and less appealing than it did previously.

Chornomorska Street Lviv UkraineChornomorska Street

Getting there and away: All three of the above are within easy walking distance from the Old Town.

Alternative Sightseeing West of Lviv Old Town

National Museum and Memorial to the Victims of Occupation

This foreboding building was used in turn as a prison by the Poles, the Germans, and the Soviets and remains in the state it was left in when the KGB finally vacated it in 1991. It is also known as the Lonsky Prison National Memorial Museum and inside there are exhibitions of atrocities, reconstructed cells and examples of propaganda posters. Not all explanations are in English but the museum is essential viewing for those interested in Ukraine’s more recent history.

Free entrance

Open daily from 10am to 7pm (Sunday 10am to 5pm). Closed for lunch from 1pm to 2pm

More information: National Museum and Memorial to the Victims of Occupation

National Museum and Memorial to the Victims of Occupation Lviv Ukraine (8)-2 (1)National Museum and Memorial to the Victims of Occupation 

Lviv State Circus

If you are into looking at Soviet circuses, this is a good one and easy to reach from the centre of Lviv.

Lviv State Circus Lviv Ukraine-1-2

Lviv State Circus 

Street Art close to Lviv State Circus

There is a wall of street art about 10 minutes’ walk from the circus. According to the Tourist Information Centre in Lviv, it is politically motivated and related to the Cossacks but that’s about all the information I can give you. It’s next to a busy bus stop and people relax up against the wall while waiting for their bus. You’ve either got to be patient in order to get a people-free photo or ask nicely for those in your way to move. We started out with the first option but eventually, we politely asked commuters if they would mind moving to one side so we could take our shots. Everyone laughed and obliged!

Lviv Ukraine-5-2

Lviv Ukraine-7Street art close to Lviv State Circus 

Territory of Terror Memorial Museum

Very close to the Forum Shopping Centre, the Territory of Terror Memorial Museum is a new addition to Lviv’s museum scene and is dedicated to the victims of the city’s Jewish ghetto during World War II. More a memorial than a museum at the moment (*), it packs a punch because of the large photos of ghetto survivors, each one accompanied by a short bio, which dominate the complex.

(*) As mentioned above, this is a new museum and the curator told us that additional exhibitions will be added in due course.

Free entrance

Open daily except Sunday from 9am to 6pm (Friday 9am to 5pm)

More information: Territory of Terror Museum

Territory of Terror Museum Lviv Ukraine-4Territory of Terror Museum 

Hnat Khotkevych Palace of Culture

The red brick Hnat Khotkevych Palace of Culture, which is just across the road from the Territory of Terror Memorial Museum, is architecturally worth a look if you are in the neighbourhood.

This striking modernist building was constructed between 1933 and 1938 when the city was part of Poland and known as Lwów. The blueprint was the work of Tadeusz Wróbel, a Polish-born architect and urban planner who was also responsible for several other prominent structures in the city. Wróbel was assisted by another well-known Polish architect named Leopold Karasiński.

The original purpose of the building was as the Club of the Union of Municipal Workers of the City of Lviv but before work started, 50,000 Polish zlotys were raised towards its costs by collecting 1% of employee’s salaries until the amount was reached. During the earlier years of the city’s Soviet period, the building became the Club of the Lviv Tram and Trolleybus Administration and in the late 1970s, early ‘80s it was expanded and renamed the Nikolai Kuznetsov Palace of Culture. The cultural centre is currently named after Hnat Khotkevych, a prolific Ukrainian writer and musicologist who was arrested, tortured and eventually executed by the NKVD during Stalin’s Great Purge, which lasted from 1936 until 1938.

Hnat Khotkevych Palace of Culture Lviv Ukraine-1-2Hnat Khotkevych Palace of Culture

Getting there and away: All the above are within walking distance from the Old Town. If you prefer, you can reach the National Museum and Memorial to the Victims of Occupation by tram #2 and any public transport going to the railway station (bus #31 for example) will pass by the Lviv State Circus.

Alternative Sightseeing East of Lviv Old Town

Centre for Culture and Creativity for Children and Youth

I’ve got myself terribly confused as to what is the correct name for this building. The article in which I found out about the place calls it both Pohulianka, which is the name of a nearby street, and Cosmodrome as well as the Centre for Culture and Creativity for Children and Youth. Ultimately though, the exact name is not so crucial as the building is easy to find. I’ve marked the location on the map but basically, it is within spitting distances from the southern end of Lychakiv Cemetery. In fact, you can see over the wall to the Defenders of Lwów section of the cemetery, although unfortunately combining both places would involve a bit of walking as the entrance to the graveyard is on the western side of the plot. The Botanical Gardens are also close by.

We didn’t try that hard to get inside the Centre for Culture and Creativity for Children and Youth but there is a reception area and if you speak some Ukrainian or Russian, you may be able to wangle your way in. Looking at the interior shots on the link below, it would certainly make for interesting viewing.

More information: An interesting article about the building can be found on LVIV.COM

Centre for Culture and Creativity for Children and Youth in Halychyna Lviv Ukraine-2-2

Centre for Culture and Creativity for Children and Youth

Ukrvino Wine Factory

This abandoned winery was just south of the Centre for Culture and Creativity for Children and Youth. Completely accessible, inside we found some old mosaics, some crumbling buildings to explore, and lots of street art/graffiti. It was a fun place to discover for an hour or so.

Note: Please read the warning from one of our readers in the comment section below before deciding whether to enter this abandoned factory or not.

Ukrvino Wine Factory Lviv Ukraine-3

Ukrvino Wine Factory 

Getting there and away: Both the Centre for Culture and Creativity for Children and Youth and Ukrvino Wine Factory are about 3km from the Old Town. Bus #46 heads in that direction but it doesn’t get you that close. Tram #7 will get you nearer if it is running but, when we visited the city (August 2017), many of the tram lines, including Tram #7, were disrupted due to maintenance work and so we ended up walking there.

Cemetery of Honour (Hill of Glory)

About 1km northwest of the Centre for Culture and Creativity for Children and Youth is the Cemetery of Honour. Located in Lychakiv Gardens, it was originally created to commemorate Russian soldiers who died in World War I, but after World War II, the graves of soldiers who were involved in that conflict were also added. Much of the cemetery was destroyed during World War II.

Free entrance

No formal opening hours

Cemetery of Honour (Hill of Glory) Lviv Ukraine-5-20Cemetery of Honour (Hill of Glory) 

Ivano Franko/Lviv University Sports Complex

This is another building of which I’m not 100% sure of the correct name but, if you decide to walk between the Centre for Culture and Creativity for Children and Youth and the Cemetery of Honour you can choose to do so via this rather fine brutalist-style sports complex.

Ivano Franko Sports Complex Lviv Ukraine-3Ivano Franko Sports Complex 

Getting there and away: After visiting the Cemetery of Honour, it is possible to walk to Lychakivska Street, from where bus #47a (among others) heads towards the Old Town.

Alternative Sightseeing South of Lviv Old Town

Stryiska Street

Stryiska Street links the Old Town of Lviv with the city’s new part. Winding its way up cobbled streets and skirting around the edge of Stryiska Park, it eventually widens and heads in an almost straight line south to the main bus station and beyond (*)

(*) Stryiska Street turns into the E471 B road and eventually terminates in Mukachevo, a pleasant city some 200km south of Lviv close to the Slovakian and Hungarian borders.

If you like unusual sights (read Socialist-era relics/Brutalism), there is a lot to see in the new part of the city. The bus station is definitely worth a look and my suggestion would be to jump on one of the numerous buses that head down Stryiska Street, get off at the bus station and then work your way back, still using the bus but getting off every time you see something that takes your fancy. You might rack up a few hryvnias (UAH) in bus fares doing it this way but there is quite a bit of walking between each place otherwise. Plus, when it only costs 4UAH per ride, it hardly going to break the bank jumping on and off the bus every five minutes! (*)

(*) There are currently 33.5 hryvnia to the British pound, 30.7 to the Euro and 26 to the US dollar.

This is exactly what we did and beginning at the bus station and working our way back north, this is what we saw:

Stryiska Bus Station

Lviv’s main bus station is the coolest (*) bus station we have seen since tracking down the UFO-shaped one in the Polish city of Kielce. Built between 1976 and 1980, its design reminded me of a fidget spinner, although it’s hard to capture that on camera unless you can find an elevated position nearby. The bus station is a gloomy place, especially when the sky above is threatening to unleash its fury (as it was when we were there), plus the interior isn’t much better but it’s an excellent example of Modernist architecture and very photogenic.

(*) Can you really use the word ‘cool’ to describe a bus station!

Striyskyi Bus Station

Street art opposite the bus station

Across the road from the bus station, you will see some interesting street art. Quite a bit of it seems to be related to health and safety on the roads. Good luck getting any Ukrainian driver to pay attention to that is all I can say!

Street Art opposite the bus station

‘Free Ukraine’ Publishing House

We got off the bus at this point because we liked the modernist design of this building, a 13-story office block that dates back to 1974.

'Free Ukraine' Publishing House Lviv Ukraine-1‘Free Ukraine’ Publishing House

Lviv Bus Factory (LAZ)

Next door to the ‘Free Ukraine’ Publishing House, on the left-hand side, is an interesting piece of Soviet-era bas relief attached to one of the numerous buildings belonging to the Lviv Bus Factory.

Lviv Bus Factory (LAZ) Lviv Ukraine--10Lviv Bus Factory

Taras Shevchenko Research Institute of the Printing Industry

Just beyond the bus factory, the Taras Shevchenko Research Institute of the printing industry is worth tracking down for its Soviet-style mosaic.

Taras Shevchenko Research Institute of the Printing Industry Lviv UkraineTaras Shevchenko Research Institute of the printing industry

Lviv Oblast State Tax Department

Marked as the Fiscal Service building on Google Maps, you can’t miss this resplendent high-rise when travelling along Stryiska Street. Although work started in the early 1980s, it took almost twenty years to complete and the building wasn’t finished until 1997. The reason was financial – a lack of funds to complete the work – no irony there then!

Lviv Oblast State Tax Department Lviv Ukraine-7

Lviv Oblast State Tax Department Lviv Ukraine-5Lviv Oblast State Tax Department 

Unfinished Auditorium

You’ll find this unfinished auditorium immediately around the back of the Lviv Oblast State Tax Department. Presumably, it was also a casualty of the financial crisis mentioned above but work on the building never re-commenced.

Unfinished Auditorium Lviv Oblast State Tax Department Lviv Ukraine-3-2Unfinished Auditorium behind the Lviv Oblast State Tax Department 

Monument to the War Glory of the Soviet Army

At the northern end of Stryiska Street, before it starts to head back downhill to the centre of Lviv, you will find the grandiose Monument to the War Glory of the Soviet Army. Dating back to 1970, the memorial commemorates the Soviet victory over Nazism during World War II. It is located in the upper section of Bohdan Khmelnytskyi Central Park of Culture, which offers an alternative (walking) route to/from the centre of Lviv if you don’t want to catch the bus.

Monument to the War Glory of the Soviet Army Lviv Ukraine-10-2-1

Monument to the War Glory of the Soviet Army Lviv Ukraine-7Monument to the War Glory of the Soviet Army 

Getting there and away: We used bus #3A for our exploration of Stryiska Street. Trolleybus #20 is also a good option.

Update July 2019: The Monument to the War Glory of the Soviet Army was demolished during the first part of 2019.




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