Lviv region: from ancient Rus’ to a state-of-the-art IT cluster.

Lviv Region (Ukr. oblast) is located in the west of Ukraine and is one of the main cultural centers of the country. The status perfectly suits the region and reflects its role in the history shared with the world. This land is one continuous wall that continues to protect, inspire, unite, and sustain. What kind of wall is this, and who is behind it?

After the decline of Kyiv as a result of the Mongol invasion, the Galicia-Volhynia principality became a new center of political and economic life and an important stage in the history of Ukrainian statehood. At this time, Danylo Halytskyi, the king of Rus’, enters the arena. With the support of the Pope, he tried to create a European coalition to protect the European borders and prevent the Mongol horde from advancing to the West. 

Almost 800 years have passed since then, and Lviv now guards the eastern borders of the EU and NATO—this time against another invader.

Walls of Lviv Region

Here is the Olesko Castle, standing on a hill and visible even from the Kyiv-Chop highway. It was built by Yurii I Lvovych, son of Galicia-Volhynia prince Yurii I Lvovych, and was first mentioned in 1327. The castle was often attacked, changed, and rebuilt as they tried to capture it or give it a Renaissance charm.

Another castle is Zolochiv. Do not confuse the Chinese pavilion with the palace because it is only an additional decorative structure—it is now the Museum of Oriental Cultures. The castle itself is two stories, standing next to it. Built like a fortress, fortified with ramparts, ramparts, and bastions, it has a moat in front and a bridge over it. The castle itself has portals, a secret passage, and toilets with an ancient sewage system. And in the yard there is a large stone block with a cryptogram and a hole—if you twist your finger, they say, the stone will make your wish come true.

And the castle itself was built in the 17th century by the Italian architect Andrea del Acqua, and the bastion fortifications were added by the French engineer Guillaume de Beauplan. Formerly, all the rooms were divided thematically and by color: gold, green, mosaic, and crimson halls. The original marble portals are still preserved.

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The first building in the city after the castle

What could it be? The church, of course. The Church of St. George was built immediately after the castle. It was built on the initiative of Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky and under the leadership of the German architect Bernard Meretyn. See the entire ensemble: the cathedral, the metropolitan palace in the Rococo style, the metropolitan gardens, the belfry with the oldest bell in Ukraine from 1341, and a fence with two gates.

At the same time, the Dominican Cathedral was also built. The cathedral managed to serve as a palace, a museum of atheism, and a warehouse. Nearby, in the Museum of the History of Religion, there is a large collection of Bibles—in particular, the Ostroh Bible of 1581.

And what about representatives of other faiths?

There is a church of the Armenian Church in Lviv, the only church of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Western Ukraine. The temple belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, it has a unique dome design—it rests on hollow ribs made of clay jugs. In the yard are the transferred remains of the Armenian cemetery, the oldest tombstones are about 600 years old.

The Polish Cathedral is the only surviving Gothic architectural monument after the fire of 1527, and it is also depicted on the logo of Lviv. St. Andrew’s Church is an outpost. The Garrison Temple conducts nighttime tours of the dungeons.

As before, with the beginning of a full-scale war, the temples again became a hiding place for people. A volunteer headquarters, a temporary shelter, a place where you can find a moment of peace.

It’s about people

Excuse me, sir, didn’t Nicolaus Copernicus study with you? Yes, he has. Meet Yurii Drohobych, Renaissance scientist, educationalist, poet, philosopher, astronomer, and astrologer. Doctor of Medicine and Philosophy, Rector of the University of Bologna, and teacher of Nicolaus Copernicus. And this is only 1478.

What has changed since then? At the beginning of 2023, doctors in Lviv performed a unique 16-hour lung transplant operation. And this is at a time when the country regularly experiences massive missile attacks aimed at destroying the Ukrainian energy system.

Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, the Nezlamni National Rehabilitation Center has been operating in Lviv, where more than 11,000 wounded Ukrainians, including 350 children, have been assisted.

And now the people of Lviv have something to learn. Before the war, about 30,000 IT specialists worked in Lviv. This is the third place in Ukraine, after Kyiv and Kharkiv. SoftServe, Intellias, ELEKS were born here and have their main staff here. About 4,000 people attend the IT Arena international technical conference organized by the Lviv cluster every year. We will win, and there will be more. Will you visit?

Lviv is a city where many people and ideas meet. And there is a place in Lviv where these ideas live very well. The Collegium of the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) is located near Stryi Park, a large-scale training space for students designed according to the living-learning community model—a community that lives and studies together. UCU inherited and continues the scientific activity of the Greek Catholic Theological Academy, which was created by Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky in 1928–1929.

Also, despite Russian shelling and other obstacles to education, Lviv became the European Youth Capital in 2025.

Museum of the Dead

At the main entrance to the necropolis, a stone man stands with two dogs next to him. According to legend, after his death, the dogs of doctor Joseph Ivanovich followed the procession, stayed at the grave, and died themselves. And this is not the only story of the Lychakiv Necropolis.

The Lychakiv necropolis is one of the oldest in Europe. About 400,000 people are buried here, and the oldest tombstone dates back to 1675. Many outstanding figures of the past in various spheres — culture, science, politics — found their resting place here.

Paths and alleys were paved in the cemetery, and trees were planted. The sculptors’ workshops were located opposite the cemetery. It is not surprising that gradually Lychakivskyi became a kind of museum of tombstone sculpture and architecture, a monument of garden and park art, and a peaceful place for walks.

Volodymyr Ivasyuk is buried here — a Ukrainian composer and poet, the author of the famous songs “Chervona Ruta” and “Vodohrai.” One of the founders of Ukrainian pop music Ivasiuk was killed by the Soviet special services, his death became a turning point for the entire Ukrainian pop scene.

Heroic Ukrainians who died on the battlefield defending Ukraine from Russian terror since 2014 are now buried on the Marsove Pole (Field of Mars), adjacent to the Lychakiv Cemetery. The inhabitants of the city, which received its name in honor of Leo, inherited the character of a lion.

A coffee legend

Coffee did not appear in Lviv by accident, thanks to Yurii-Franz Kulchytskyi. He taught coffee-making not only to Lviv but also to the whole of Europe.

When Kulchytskyi distinguished himself in the Battle of Vienna and saved the townspeople from the Turkish invasion, he chose 300 bags of coffee beans as his reward. Then he walked around Vienna and treated passersby to coffee from a Turkish coffee shop. The Viennese did not like black coffee, so Kulchytskyi came up with the idea of adding sugar and milk to itthis is how the recipe for “Vienna-style coffee” appeared.

For Lviv residents, coffee has become a ritual, and coffee shops are a place where you can chat about intellectual, artistic, or political topics. And there are many of them in Lvivmore than 800 cafés and restaurants. And after the full-scale invasion, establishments from Kherson, Kyiv, Odesa, Kharkiv, and other cities moved here and found their place.

The most famous developer of Lviv in the 20th century

From the city’s key buildings to entire districts: an architect who designed the entire complex—what is on the territory, how to get there, what to landscape—as well as the transportation system. 

Ivan Levynskyi is a very interesting figure in the history of architecture and urban planning in Lviv at the beginning of the 20th century.

And he started with a small design and technical office.

His factory produced everything necessary for construction: artificial stone, tile stoves and majolica, gypsum products, carpentry and metalwork products, roof tiles, and sand that was mined. A system of wholesale warehouses, shops, sawmills, and even residential buildings for workers functioned. Levynskyi closed the production chain, from the architectural project to the delivery of the object. And, of course, he became the owner of an entire construction holding.

The main railway station, George Hotel, Lviv Chamber of Commerce and Industry (prosecutor’s office), and Opera House. Over 200 other objects appeared at the same time as the opera house. During the construction of the theater, Levinskyi was one of the first in Europe to use reinforced concrete structures for the construction of the foundation.

How to recognize Levinskyi’s works? Look for decorative ceramics with Hutsul motifs. This is his way of demonstrating how art deco or modern art is organically combined with the national Ukrainian color.

Natural “walls” and an inexhaustible resource

The ancient Rus’ defense complex, Tustan, was a natural monument and the pinnacle of the skill of the builders of that time. The fortress was a defense, customs, and administrative center. The salt route that led from Drohobych to Transcarpathia and Western Europe passed here.

As for the salt road and Drohobych, salt deposits were formed here 15 million years ago. The first written mention of the Drohobych saltworks dates back to 1390, and since then, the production technology has practically not changed.

In fact, the Drohobych Saltworks is the oldest industrial enterprise in Ukraine. And it still works, because it produces about 700 kg of salt every day. Such is the support of the eastern friend “Artemsil” which you can read about in the text about the Donetsk region.

Lviv is a city of literature

Ivan Fedorov-Fedorovych founded the first printing house directly on Ukrainian lands — in Lviv. All the conditions for this were met here, in the 16th century, it was one of the largest economic and cultural centers in this part of Europe. And the fact that the city was at the crossroads of trade routes also allowed it to “grow” in international cultural relationships.

Ivan Franko is also an interesting guy he started wearing an embroidered shirt with an elegant suit. He was the first in the history of Ukrainian literature to declare the idea of the unity of the Ukrainian state.

“A glorious Ukraine will rise from the Kuban to the Syan” this is him, as well as the first political parties in Ukraine. Franko wrote in Ukrainian, German, Polish, Russian, and Bulgarian, and he spoke a total of 19 languages. Therefore, he translated many of his works himself. By the way, there were a lot of them more than 6,000. Franko was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature but died prematurely.

BookForum is one of the largest Ukrainian book fairs and the most massive event of this type in Eastern Europe. It takes place every year in Lviv for publishers to communicate with bookstores, authors with translators, artists, and editors. For 23 years, the festival has covered more than 2,500 authors from 43 countries and 15,000 specialists in the book industry. We did not want to stop in 2022, due to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the event took place on other dates and in a different format, but it did take place.

And every year, Lviv chooses who will be awarded the UNESCO City of Literature Prize for an original or translated work of art in the Ukrainian language. 

Lviv has always been happy to welcome guests.

In peacetime, tourists or UEFA Euro 2012 football fans, now — foreign journalists and soldiers of the International Legion. Lviv Region welcomed everyone at a time when many people needed a new, safe, cozy, or simply different home.

In the first months since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, the Lviv railway station passed through it a record number of passengers — we are talking about 80–110 thousand people per day. Yes, here, too, sirens sound, enemy rockets reach here. Despite this, people find the right words, the immovable architecture’s beauty inspires them to fight, and strength emerges from their very presence on this land.

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Last updated 24.02.2023

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