Lviv has had as many names as it has had rulers. It took its first name from Lev, the son of King Danylo Halytsky, who founded a hilltop fort here on present-day Castle Hill in the 13th century. When the Poles took over 100 years later, the place became known as Lwów, as it still is in Poland. Austrians called it Lemberg between the 18th and 20th centuries, and still do. The Russians, who later christened it Lvov, continue to use this historical name. Most of its names – apart from Lemberg, which has many competing origins – can be traced back to 'lion', and the city has always taken the big cat as its symbol.

Lviv had another set of unwelcome occupiers who also called the place Lemberg – the Nazis. They invaded in 1941 and weren't driven back by the Soviets until 1944. During these three years, 136,000 people are reported to have died in Lviv's Jewish ghetto and nearly 350,000 in nearby concentration camps. The city was then swallowed up by Stalin's Soviet Union and didn't re-emerge until 1991.

The Galician capital played a major role in the movement that led to Ukrainian independence. Ukrainian nationalism and the Greek Catholic Church re-emerged here in the late 1980s, and in the early 1990s its people unanimously elected nationalist politicians and staged mass demonstrations. Lvivites played a big part in the Maydan revolution and the city now has its eyes focused firmly on Europe.