The low down:
Located in western Ukraine, a part of Europe that has changed hands too often to remember, Lviv reflects this mixed blend of cultures. Rare for the former USSR, the city was untouched by World War 2, leaving the ancient next to the socialist in one sweeping skyline of contrast. Lviv is certainly a city on the rise. Knighted as “next up on the list of hot new Eastern European destinations”, for those bored by the stag parties of Prague, this summer is the perfect time to visit. Three Euro 2012 group matches are due to be played here, so development money is flowing in, with new hostels and bars aplenty.
This is tricky. As yet, none of the no-frills airlines fly to the Ukraine. It’s therefore best to incorporate a visit as part of an Eastern European trek. The city is well connected to nearby urban areas, with regular cheap trains to Romania, Poland, etc. For the very brave, buses are cheaper, but roads are notoriously potholed.
Where to stay:
The Norwegian owner of Lviv Backpackers’ Hostel is excessively anal about noise and mess, and prone to having domestics with his Ukrainian wife in front of all the resident travellers. However this place offers a good location, the best shower I’ve ever seen in a hostel, and a chilled out garden for meeting fellow wanderers.
Three of the best:
>> Not for everyone, the above hostel runs trips to a local “sports” complex where you can practice your shooting skills with that symbolic tool of communists and revolutionaries the world over: the AK-47.
>> Be a student and indulge in some of the cheapest drinking this side of the Urals: buy large bottles of quality vodka and still get change from a fiver. Plus, the beer is cheaper than Coca-Cola. Seriously.
>> The Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a beguiling mishmash of cobbled alleys, church towers and wide, Parisian-style boulevardes. The rustic atmosphere makes the streets perfect for aimless wandering, camera in hand.