Europe’s Hidden Gem

meeetingsclub Mark recently visited a beautiful, undiscovered European gem -Lviv! Dubbed The Heart of Europe-The Soul of Ukraine, Lviv is an ideal destination for a weekend away or a unique location for your next event. Mark takes a look at why you should go NOW, before the crowds descend.

You may have been impressed by the fairy tale historic buildings of Prague. Thought that the vibrant market square in Krakow was beautiful and are now in search of somewhere similar, a little off the beaten track and where know stag has been before.

Lviv! Just two hours from London and now with direct flights, this World Heritage UNESCO Status city won’t remain undiscovered for long. A stunning historical centre, the city has thankfully escaped the ravages of war and is quite literally a world away from the present unrest of Ukraine’s Eastern border.

If you love coffee and cakes, like to meander through traffic free cobbled streets, have a passion for renaissance architecture or simply want to impress your conference delegates with somewhere a little bit different Lviv won’t disappoint.

Check out my six reasons why this wonderful city should be high on your list of European must sees.

MARK’S 6 OF THE BEST

ATMOSPHERIC OLD TOWN A SURPRISE AT EVERY TURN

Probably the best time to see Lviv is first thing in the morning. The streaming sun highlighting the stunning renaissance architecture and Habsburg splendour. The only noise is the hiss of a coffee machine and the occasional clickety click of suitcase wheels on cobbled streets as passengers from the overnight Kviv train head wearily to their hotels.

The Unesco preserved old town, is dominated by the town hall tower where you can get a bird’s eye view of the city layout. Plan your visit to beautiful churches, Renaissance and Baroque monasteries and take in the colours of the roof top skyline.

Down at ground level, buskers entertain, newly married wedding couples pose for the best shot and cats sleep everywhere!

Coffee, Beer and Cherry Wine, but not all at the same time!

But don’t expect Viennese chic. Instead think more “informal sophistication” where the aroma of ground beans wafts through homely coffee houses with the temptation of waist busting cakes never far away. Quirkiness abounds on every street corner and if random location caffeine fixes are more your thing, look no further than the Lviv Coffee Mine, where you will enter a subterranean world complete with hard hat and enjoy an array of coffee whilst seated in red lit cellars.

(http://www.fest.lviv.ua/en/restaurants/coffeemanufacture/)

Tired of coffee? Well there’s always a bar selling local beer never more than just a few paces away. Many hostelries brew their own in small micro-breweries. And if you visit the Beer Theatre, on the corner of the main market square you will be blown away with the choice – including “political” Obahma beer. Vesna gets my vote a truly “special brew”, but at 7.5% VOL beware is of the effects and other heady drinks, particularly as prices for a half litre are only around £1.

Steer away from very sweet local red and white wines made in the Odessa region, their sugary taste a throwback to Soviet wine making time is not a particularly pleasant experience. But do check out “Sabo” a Ukranian sparking which is dry and a cross between CAVA and Prosseco. At just over £2 a bottle this is a real booze bargain.

But if you had to sample just one alcoholic drink during your stay then without doubt it must be the Cherry Wine. Walk down Rynok Street and join locals and tourists at Dunken Cherry to sample a red cherry nectar an ideal pre-dinner aperitif. The liquid “red gold” is a more of a fortified wine/liquor with a little kick at the end and cherries at the bottom of the glass.

CABBAGE ANYONE?

Go to Lviv expecting just a menu of stuffed cabbage rolls and cured bacon (throw salo) and you’ll actually be pleasantly surprised by the high quality of food on offer. Sure, you must try the local Galician specialities of cabbage and beetroot soup or dark bread, pickle and pork. But Lviv old town offers much much more, with not a fast food joint in sight.

Visit the Beer Theatre for a non-tacky treat of ribs, sausages and steak, washed down surprisingly with a home brewed beer. If you’ve a sweet tooth enjoy the chocolate and vanilla ice cream topped with a secret recipe of – well that’s a secret at CBIT KABA! Watch the world go by from the outside tables of Shevska and enjoy Ukranian viener snitzel. Splash out and dine in style at 36PO and enjoy New Ukraine Cuisine whilst surveying superb rooftop views over the Old Town. Or for that real special occasion make sure Amadeus is on your list – the Chicken Kiev is to die for.

DO NOT MISS

This has been a difficult one to write. Where to start? My top tips are:

The Jesuit Church – located in the old town, this beautiful garrison church has photo after photo of brave young men who have fallen in the name of independence. A shrine, of shrapnel, shells, bullet holed personal possessions a stark reminder of ongoing problems in the east.

The Town Hall Tower – Get a bird’s eye view of Lviv after climbing 408 steps to the top and plan where you’re going to explore.

Cherry Dunken – stop by at one of many (this is one of the best) open air street bars that serve liquid cherry nectar that is a cross between a wine/liquor/fortified wine

Lviv Buddy Tours – a Free Walking Tour that leaves at 1000/1500 from the fountain near the Town Hall and is packed full of historical and social things you need to know. Hope you get Bhodan

The Beer Theatre – pure theatre in terms of an evening experience which feels traditional without being tacky. Beer brewed onsite, a fine selection of local sausage and entertainment from live bands that will get you on your feet

Holocaust Memorial – a stark reminder of the atrocities inflicted on Lviv’s Jewish community by the Nazis. Thought provoking and very emotional

Festival City – Over 50 festivals are held each year celebrating everything from coffee to film, beer to doughnuts. Dance in the streets, check out the Leopolis Jazz Fest or get for a real local experience make sure you in town on August 24th to celebrate Ukrainian Independence Day.

Baczewski Restaurant – book early or get there early. One of Lviv’s finest old restaurants where you can have breakfast with a glass of sparkling wine for under £5, sample superb Broscht at lunchtime, or eat like a king in the deep cellars where secrets hide behind every wall! The liquor collection something to behold.

EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED

Friendly faces all around!

Meet the “real” masochist - Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch

Macaroons with your name on!

Gingerbread in the shape of everything you can imagine

MEET IN THE HEART OF EUROPE AND SHARE THIS HIDDEN GEM

There are many reasons why you should head to Lviv for a weekend break or short holiday. There’s also just as many why you should hold your next event in this magical place.

The centre of Lviv has so far been largely untouched by major hotel groups who have been unable to find sufficiently large sites to convert or build in the Old Town Area. Instead, the City has a multitude of private and smaller family/independent run hotels. That’s why in my opinion it’s an ideal location to hold smaller events for under 50 people such as senior managers courses, incentive breaks and training courses.

Six venues to check out:

Hotel Leopolishttp://www.leopolishotel.com/meetings-events/conference-rooms/ – luxurious boutique hotel located in the heart of the Lviv with excellent small meeting facilities

Citadelhttp://www.lvivconvention.com.ua/en/citadel-inn-hotel-resort-2/ – resort venue with range of meeting and reception rooms

Arenahttp://www.lvivconvention.com.ua/en/stadion-arena-lviv/ – for large scale events for up to 1000 people

Hotel Riushttps://www.rius-hotel.lviv.ua/en/conference-service/ – multifunctional meeting and training facilities with excellent technical facilities

University of Lvivhttp://www.lvivconvention.com.ua/en/lnu-veterinarnoyi-meditsini-ta-biotehn/ – a range of academic meeting facilities bookable by the Convention bureau

Rudolfo https://rudolfo.com.ua/?lang=en – superb four-star standard hotel – bedrooms only, located in the old town

HOW TO GET THERE – direct from the UK
Lviv is now connected directly by flights to the UK. Wizz Air flys from Luton in just over two hours. Ryanair will operate from October 2018 direct from Stansted with prices starting at around £150. If you are looking to organise a European event then there are daily scheduled connections from hubs such as Vienna, Warsaw, Istanbul and Munich.