Let us decide on the route that we wish to take to pass our life, and attempt to sow that route with flowers.
-Émilie du Châtelet, French philosopher
Coming from Spain, a country where tourists seem to outnumber residents, visiting Ukraine was a breath of fresh air as a traveler. Not only could I see all of the beautiful historic attractions I wanted to for a fraction of the cost, but each site felt authentic, a bit unkempt, and welcoming instead of an expensive tourist trap that left me a little disappointed and that much poorer. In Lviv, with its abundance of architectural treasures and astoundingly low prices, I left no tourist stone unturned when it came to visiting attractions. Here are ten of Lviv's most beautiful places to visit, places whose value far exceeds their measly entrance fees. Art galleries that go on for days, a front row seat to an opera performance, a day trip to nearby castles, exquisitely decorated palace rooms in drool-worthy colors? That can all be had for less than $47, even $25 if you cut a few corners. Don't believe me? Read on.
1. Potacki Palace
Potacki Palace is an elegant estate built in the 1880s that has served a variety of purposes, from an apartment building to the Women's World Chess Championship to its current use as an art gallery. Building entrance: $2.40
2. Lviv's Market Square
In the heart of Lviv's UNESCO-listed city center is a row of buildings that includes Bandinelli Palace ($2.00) and Korniakt Palace with its breathtaking Italian courtyard ($2.20).
3. Pharmacy Museum
Since 1735, this small corner pharmacy has been in continual operation and now includes a museum, entered through a small door behind the cash register. The building itself is an interesting maze of Gothic rooms and cellars, and vintage pharmacy packaging is worth a close inspection. Museum entrance: $1.00.
4. Boim chapel
This elegant little chapel in Lviv's old town was built in the early 1600s as a burial place for the wealthy Boim family. The architectural detail inside is breathtaking, and one can stand in the tiny space for ten minutes just taking it all in. Entrance: $1.20.
I've only recently started to do free walking tours in the places I visit, and can't say enough good things about them. Tour cost: free (but I tipped her $4.00).
6. Lychakiv Cemetery
This lovely resting place for city elite and intelligentsia since the late 1700s is perfect for a quiet meander or picnic. Entrance: $1.60.
7. University of Lviv & park
The beautiful Ivan Franko National University of Lviv has been in operation since the mid-1660s and is Ukraine's oldest university. The grand main building is just as breathtaking on the inside as it is on the outside, and Ivan Franko park also historic and graceful. Entrance: free.
8. St. George's Cathedral
St. George's is a scrumptious baroque-rococo cluster of buildings constructed in the mid-1770s, mixing western and Ukranian styles. Entrance: free.
9. Tour of three nearby castles
If you want to see nearby castles and feel like a Russian tourist in the process, go on a day trip tour from Lviv. This tour packed what felt like two thousand tourists into a motor coach (not a single seat unoccupied!) and took us to Olesko, Pidhirtsi and Zolochiv. The tour guide didn't speak a word of English and neither did my fellow tourists, so I spent most of the day wandering the castles on my own while doing my best to stay close to the herd (I missed lunch on account of the language barrier, but I was saved by a bag of cheese puffs). Overall, while it was nice to see the beautiful castles, I'd be okay if I had skipped the experience. Trip cost: $10.00 to the tour company and $4.80 for entrance to castle (I tipped the driver and guide $3.60).
10. Opera house
Ah, the pièce de résistance: the Lviv Theatre of Opera and Ballet. This gorgeous building opened in 1900 and anchors the lively plaza along Freedom Avenue. The building interior is rich with historic details, from narrow rows of original wooden folding seats to delicate glass and crystal chandeliers. I was lucky enough to attend an opera performance one Saturday night and was treated to spectacular views from the third row for just $13.98 (the most expensive seat available, compared to the cheapest one at $2.00). Later, I returned to the opera house for self-guided tour for just $1.60.