Lviv has always been more attached to Europe than Russia. For most of its history it was either part of Poland or the Austro-Hungarian empire, until finally being cut off after the Second World War and becoming a Soviet province.

And this history is visible. Walking around its UNESCO–listed old town it definitely feels more like the cities across the border in Poland, than the cities further on in Ukraine. The people do consider themselves Ukrainian though, but at the same time lack any warm feelings toward Russia as they tend to do in the eastern parts of the country.

Lviv lies somewhat off the tourist trail, with no other major cities in its vicinity and lacking good transport connections to further away destinations. Which is a shame, as Lviv has a lot to offer in terms of beauty. Some might say it can even compete with Polish cities such as Krakow and Wroclaw, though the city (still) lacks the shininess that renovations brought to those cities at the other side of the border.

In contrast, Lviv feels a bit greyish, mysterious, which however does give the city a special character. The surrounding green rolling hills add to that sentiment.

Lviv is no small city, but there is little reason to venture far out of the old town. Your orientation point is Prospekt Svobody, a large boulevard and square lined with shops, bars, and restaurants, and where the old men of the city meet on its park benches. Its most noticeable landmarks are the Opera House on the north side, and the Shevchenko monument in the middle.

Prospekt Svobody is also the place where Lviv’s Fan Zone will be located.

The old town, consisting of the market square, several churches, and many small cobblestone alleys, stretches out on its eastern side. The university area (Ivan Franko) and adjacent park, which lie west of Prospekt Svobody, are other noticeable areas, as are the city centre parts toward the south.

The stadium

Arena Lviv – 34,915 seats

The Arena Lviv is Euro 2012’s smallest stadium. It is newly built and opened in October 2011. Since then, the stadium has also been the new home of FC Karpaty Lviv.

It is the typical modern arena, bowl-shaped, steep stands that go close to the pitch, no running tracks, and most seats covered.

Unfortunately, the stadium is located far away from the old town, about 8 kilometres south, just outside the city limits. There is not much reason to go there apart from the football (assuming no further activities are organised), though there is a massive new shopping centre across the road if you may arrive early and have some time to spare.

Trolleybus 5 brings you from the city centre to the stadium (more details in the section on how to get in and around).

Who’s coming?

The Arena Lviv will be shared between the Danish, Germans, and Portuguese, who will all play two of their three matches in group B at the stadium. Germany vs Portugal will be the opener.

All three teams play their fourth match against Holland at the Metalist Stadium in Kharkiv, which is located in the far east of Ukraine and a considerable train ride away from Lviv.

How to get in and around

Lviv is not the easiest city to reach. If you don’t arrive by charter flight, there are limited options. Low-cost airline Wizz Air flies on Dortmund and Venice. LOT Airlines has a decently priced connection with Warsaw, and of particular interest for the Germans is the Lufthansa flight between Munich and Lviv. National airlines Aerosvit and UIA have a decent international network, though a transfer at Kiev will likely be necessary.

Lviv airport is located on the south-western edge of the city, a good 6 kilometres from the old town. It used to be a small airport with a characteristic frontal façade and a terminal that looked like a train station (and very friendly laid-back handling of all procedures).

A new terminal has recently been built though, so standards have probably been upgraded to international level.

From the airport one can take trolleybus 9 into the city. You can buy a ticket from the driver. The alternative will be a taxi, which are also quite affordable (40 to 50 UAH). You can take the bus back to the airport from in front of the university and Ivan Franko park.

If you want to go directly from the airport to the stadium, you can catch trolleybus 3.

The train station is located closer to the old town, about 2.5 kilometres south-west. Again, it is a building with a splendid façade. There is one direct overnight train coming in from Krakow, as well as more frequent service from Kiev (day and night).

The walk from the station to the old town is manageable, and takes about half an hour. Alternatively there are quite a few trams going into the city centre, for example tram 1, 6, 9, or 9a (basically every tram that leaves from the station). Buy the ticket from the driver or at a kiosk.

There are also long-distance buses serving Lviv, for example overnight buses from Warsaw and Krakow. And local buses serve the city from the Polish border. Most buses go to the central bus station, but some may choose the train station or city centre instead.

Trolleybus 5 connects the central bus station with the city centre. The bus station is actually located almost next to the Arena Lviv, which means that you also take trolleybus 5 to get from the centre to the stadium. The bus leaves from Shota Rustaveli Street, which is in the southern part of the city centre.

The fare for all urban trams and buses is UAH 1.25. A ticket can be bought from the driver or at a kiosk.

You can also get around with smaller, cheaper buses called Marshootkas, but it can be hard to orientate yourself and there is little reason to use them if you are not from the city.

Where to eat and drink

If it comes to eating and drinking, there is no reason to leave the centre of Lviv. There is little outside, and the centre has likely all you wish for.

Lviv has a real coffee culture, with little cafés on practically every corner of the old town, ranging from the traditional classic cafés to small trendy coffee shops.

The old town has also plenty of terraces to sit outside and enjoy the weather, not only on the main squares, but also tucked away in the many little alleys. The city also seems to have a knack for thematic bars, with the Masoch Café the possible stand-out (it’s theme is in the name). Many bars have roof terraces too.

And of course, beer is generally cheap.

If you are more of a nightclub person, you will not get bored either with clubs such as Metro, Millennium, and Pozitiff. They tend to be located just outside the old town, but definitely at walking distance from any central place. The Ukrainians do tend to dress up for clubbing.

Lviv has furthermore all the standard options of eating establishments, up to the obligatory McDonalds if you feel homesick.

But try also the Puzata Hata chain restaurant, especially the one on Sichovykh Striltsiv Street (with a medieval castle theme). After entering you will find yourself in front of a mega-buffet manned by Ukrainian women. Get yourself a tray and walk past the typical Ukrainian dishes, and point to your choices (assuming you don’t speak Ukrainian). The lady will then serve you a (small) plate of your dish, and after you’ve collected all your choices, you head to the cash register where they tell you how much to pay. Once you’ve been to a Puzata Hata, you probably won’t go anywhere else.

What else to see and do

If you like views, climb the Vysokyi Zamok hill that lies north of the old town (or the bell tower of the city hall).

There are many shops around the centre, but an alternative is the massive King Cross Leopolis mall next to the Arena Lviv. You pay Western-European prices, but it also has a bowling alley, ice rink, and cinema.

Even if you’re not into cultural stuff, you might want to make an exception for the beautiful Lviv opera and attend a performance. The price of a ticket won’t set you back too much.

If the tension of the tournament has gotten too much, you could check out a traditional Russian-style sauna, the Bania.

There is also the Lychakiv cemetery, which could be worth the small walk outside the centre, or go to Ivana Franka park opposite the main university building to sit around and look at people.

As a football fan you may want to check out FC Karpaty’s old Ukrainia Stadium, which is the typical traditional Eastern-European-style stadium. It lies about 3 kilometres away from the centre, quite a walk, but you can also take tram 11 or 24 from the intersection of Shota Rustaveli and Zelena Street.

Unfortunately, there is not much to do or see outside the city of Lviv. If you like nature, walking, and have a car, you’ll be happy going into the Carpathian mountains which lie south of the city. There are also a few monasteries that may be worth a small drive, but that’s about it.