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Lviv & Western Ukraine/Ukraine

Introducing Lviv & Western Ukraine

The west is a special case in Ukraine. It likes to think itself more quintessentially Ukrainian than the rest of the country; at the same time it considers itself more European. Thanks to its different history it manages to be both.

Having kept the nationalist fires burning during centuries of Polish, Lithuanian and Austrian rule, people here speak Ukrainian (rather than Russian) and still show greater pride in Ukrainian traditions than elsewhere in the country. Yet overseas visitors will find this one of the most familiar-feeling and friendly regions of Ukraine – poorer than, but not so different from, its central European neighbours. Here, where the Soviets ruled for only 50 years, there’s less of that surly ‘no-can-do’ bureaucracy that still permeates eastern regions of Ukraine. Attitudes are more relaxed and there’s a greater willingness and ability to speak English, at least in the cities.

The region’s largest city, the Galician capital of Lviv, has long been one of Ukraine’s great hopes for tourism and seems to be slotting into that role beautifully. It boasts rich historic architecture and an indulgent coffee-house culture so it’s almost obliged to become a popular city-break destination soon. Happily it still displays a shabby authenticity.

A gateway to the equally beguiling Carpathian Mountains, Lviv is also surrounded by destinations offering something a bit unusual. The golden domes of the Pochayiv Monastery might stand as a far-west outpost of Ukraine’s Slavic Orthodoxy, but the historic quarter of split-personality Lutsk, the old-fashioned ways of Truskavets’ spa and Drohobych’s literary resonance all reveal the contrary pull of mainstream Europe.