by Valentine Baldassari
Coffee may be Lviv’s favorite drink, but beer is a close second. Lvivske, Ukraine’s oldest beer, has been brewed in the city since at least 1715, and has been extremely popular since then. It’s only normal, then, for Lviv to have a vibrant bar and café culture, where – contrary to stereotypes – patrons don’t limit themselves to vodka. Here we’ve selected the top 10 bars in this historical and cultural city.
Many restaurants in Ukraine double as popular drinking spots. This is the case with Kryjivka, part of the Fest! group of restaurants, dedicated to providing unique experiences to patrons. It’s hidden away on Ploshcha Rynok, with no sign indicating its presence. Once there, a uniformed guard demands a password before visitors can enter a period-accurate recreation of a 20th century bunker, complete with grenades and rifles, unframed photographs and newspaper cuttings on the walls, and old electronics strewn about. Try a sip of horilka, the local vodka, or a good old pint of Lvivske beer. Kryjivka is always open, so it’s always a great place for a drink.
Price: Budget to mid-range
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday, 24 hours
Watch out for: the terrace, an open-air courtyard with a giant sculpture
Address: Ploshcha Rynok 14, Lviv, Ukraine, +380 50 430 6354
Robert Doms’s Beer House
Next to the Lvivske brewery and Beer Museum stands this unique underground beer hall with vaulted ceilings and a medieval gate, named after the brewery’s founder. Once used to store the neighboring brewery’s stocks, it now offers litre steins of fresh beer, German food, and live music every day. Beer unsurprisingly predominates here: Lvivske, of course, but also ‘menus’ with, for example, 4 different beers and a snack. Beer can also be bought in reservoirs of 3 or 6 liters. Robert Doms’s Beer House is often booked for private events so it’s worth checking in advance that they’re open.
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday 12pm-12am
Watch out for: the house beer, ‘Old Doms’
Address: Kleparivska 18, Lviv, Ukraine, +380 322 422 594
Fancy some whiskey? 4Friends boasts 150 brands from Ireland, Canada, USA, and Japan and a knowledgeable staff who speaks English well. Those who aren’t sure what to have or just can’t bring themselves to choose will be delighted by the range of tasting sets. The bar is quite popular but capacity is around 50 so make sure to come early to get a table. The interior is reminiscent of a typical pub in the UK: wooden tables, cosy leather sofas, and the odd book lying on a shelf here and there.
Opening hours: Monday-Thursday 11am-12am, Friday-Saturday 11am-3am, Sunday 11am-12am
Watch out for: the best whiskey selection in Lviv
Address: Dzhokhara Dudayeva 2, Lviv, Ukraine, +380 3222 56554
Sometimes in its tumultuous history, Lviv was part of the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria (also known as ‘Austrian Poland’) and called Lemberg. This is what this cozy pub is named after, and generally a good excuse to open a German-inspired establishment. Beer aficionados will have the opportunity to try 17 beers, most of them Ukrainian, and any visitor will delight in the quirky interior, with its burlesque posters and rustic furniture. The atmosphere is more dive bar than family-friendly tourist hotspot, but that’s also why we love it.
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday 12pm-10pm
Watch out for: sbyten, a traditional Eastern European drink
Address: Chaykovskoho 18, Lviv, Ukraine, +380 322 611 571
This charming neighborhood pub is the closest thing to a traditional Irish pub Lviv can offer. The beer is international, with Western favorites such as Paulaner, Murphy’s and Pilsner Urquell available on tap, but very few local brews. There’s always sports playing on the TV screen, making it feel even more like a traditional pub. Like every Ukrainian establishment, they also serve food, so don’t hesitate to order some of the hearty pub grub on the menu.
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday 12pm-12am
Watch out for: a selection of international beer
Address: Brativ Rohatyntsiv 10, Lviv, Ukraine, +380 3222 57092
Something a little more original for the Western visitor: a Czech-style pub. Praga, obviously named after the city of Prague, serves excellent draught beer from the Central European republic, like Budvar and Krušovice. The establishment is actually divided into three areas: a café with a terrace, a restaurant with great Czech fare, and a bar in the basement. The lovely Art Nouveau décor, inspired by Czech artist Alphonse Mucha, is a welcome change from the rustic atmosphere of many establishments in Lviv.
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday 11am-12am
Watch out for: Czech beer
Address: 8 Akademika Hnatyuka, Lviv, Ukraine,+380 32 274 12 20
A stone’s thrown from the central Ploshcha Rynok, Music Lab is the place to be for trendy young locals. The quirky interior has a well-established retro vibe, but nothing like the Soviet nostalgia or village-like rusticity of many Ukrainian establishments. Rather, this is the sort of place where vinyl records and photos of legendary musicians adorn the walls. The menu offers a couple of draught beers and a wide range of cocktails. It also holds popular club nights of all sorts, from witch house to hip hop, on weekends.
Price: Mid-range to expensive
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday 24 hours
Watch out for: the cool, trendy interior
Address: Brativ Rohatyntsiv 27, Lviv, Ukraine, +380 322 948 715
Masoch Café deserves a mention for being the strangest bar/café we’ve ever come across—yes, even stranger than Kryivka! It’s named after Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch, a Lviv native, more famous as the inspiration for the word ‘masochist’ because of his particular brand of erotica writing. The owners of Masoch Café have taken this theme and really run with it: dishes have suggestive names, the menu is full of even more suggestive drawings, and the décor abounds with whips and chains. Staff wears tight leather outfits. It’s all a bit bemusing, absolutely ridiculous, and great to laugh about with friends over drinks.
Watch out for: everything. It’s impossible to single out one thing.
Opening hours: Monday–Sunday 4pm-4am
Address: Serbska 7, Lviv, Ukraine, +380 50 371 0440
For great live music and a glimpse of Lviv’s icons, from singer Ruslana to soccer player Oleg Luzhny, head to Kult. This amazing venue, in the basement of the Philharmonic, welcomes live bands, generally jazz and blues but by no means limited to these genres, every day from 9pm. It bills itself as a club rather than a bar, but the atmosphere is closer to that of a rock bar: people dance but also sit down with their friends on the cozy white sofas, having drinks or watching whatever is on the large TV screens. Note that there’s a cover charge for concerts.
Price: Budget to mid-range
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday 12pm-2am
Watch out for: the best of local live music
Address: Chaykovskoho 7, Lviv, Ukraine, +380 32 242 2242
Gasova Lampa is both a bar and a museum of kerosene lamps. Lviv sure has a lot of very strange bars. The idea is not as random as it seems: the very first kerosene lamp was invented in Lviv in 1853. Visitors are greeted by statues of the ‘Fathers of the Lamp’, Jan Zeh and Ignacy Lukasiewic, originally two local pharmacists. Granted, that’s still fairly odd, but at least it makes for a great anecdote and a typically puzzling Lvivian experience. The interior decoration, unsurprisingly enough, consists of lamps, pictures of lamps, and mechanisms somehow related to lamps.
Opening hours: Check with bar
Watch out for: the slightly absurd décor
Address: Virmens’ka 20, Lviv, Ukraine, +380 50 371 0908
By Valentine Baldassari