Lviv as an International Tourist Destination

Ukraine’s tourist offerings once consisted of mail-order brides and visits to the remains of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Missing the tourism boat that cities like Prague, Krakow, and Budapest hopped on years ago, Ukraine was a country without potential. Oh, what a difference a few years of independence and a rich history makes, however.

The European Union has recognized a good bet and has issued a $1 million grant to develop tourism opportunities in Ukraine. The EU grant will be used to provide bilingual Ukrainian and English road signs, establish information centers, and post a series of multilingual plaques describing key points in the city’s history.

European residents have discovered another jewel in their region travelling to Lviv and Kiev on “short breaks” over long weekends. Current local government statistics estimate that around 180,000 tourists have visited Lviv in the past year originating from Poland, Germany, Austria, and France. The lifting of visa restrictions for EU citizens in early 2005 has played a major role in helping Ukraine climb the ladder of a lucrative international tourist trade.

With the US dollar plummeting against nearly every international currency, travel by Americans is being viewed with a sceptical eye especially if the destination is Western Europe. Eastern Europe is another story altogether though. Infrastructure improvements are on the move as is the construction of new hotels in many price ranges to accommodate newcomers. Lviv’s café society mirrors that of other destinations in western Europe providing travellers used to sipping coffee along the Seine with a fresh perspective offering everything from bohemian retreats and artsy coffee shops to western-style Irish pubs.

Lviv benefits from geography, located over the European Union’s eastern border. The city also benefits from a historical tone with remains of ancient castles and churches of many religious persuasions. Most of Lviv’s original gothic architecture was destroyed by fire in the 16th century, but a commitment to preserving the renaissance and baroque styles is a cultural priority.

Stone lions figure prominently in the city – lions on the city’s crest and shield, sleeping lions, nasty guard lions, and mysterious, distant lions – because the city was named for a 13th century prince of Galacia names Lev or lion in the Slavonic language.

Cultured and confident, Lviv has managed to retain its European charm through centuries of rulers. Why not experience a city that has earned the respect and the financial investment of the European Union before the crowds arrive?