The Cafe Culture of Lviv

Lviv is often referred to as the coffee capital of Ukraine. Three centuries of European influence in the city have left a stamp in the Old Town in the form of unique, atmospheric cafes, with coffee dominating the scene.

Because I was staying in Old Town, I enjoyed visiting many of them frequently. In Rynok Square (Market Square) the street level of historic tenement houses, which are protected by UNESCO, are occupied mostly by commercial establishments – but what delightful commercial establishments some of them are!

The coffee complex

Lvivska Kopalnya Kava, for example, is a popular coffee complex in Rynok Square. It consists of a coffee-themed souvenir shop, a section where you can purchase recently mined and milled beans, plus two cafes. One cafe was a charming, light-filled, covered courtyard located deep inside the complex behind the shop. On weekend nights live music packed the place. I first discovered the inviting courtyard cafe when I was looking for the Lviv Ethnographic Museum. I finally found the stairway access to he museum in the back of the shop next to the cafe. The displays of traditional dress and way of life in the Lviv area was interesting and well done. I found the diversity of this complex intriguing, considering coffee was at its core.

The gingerbread shop

The young staff at the Lvivska Maysternya Pryanykiv (gingerbread shop) got used to me dropping by daily for a couple of their freshly-baked gingerbread cookies. One day as I entered the back of the shop where the cafe was, I noticed two staff persons behind the counter focusing intently on some writing material. They said they were learning French in order to better serve their customers. Another time when I came in, a staff person was patiently teaching children from the community, at a table full of colorful frosting, how to decorate cookies, while their Mothers looked on. I loved dropping in frequently, not necessarily for the delicious cookies, but more because there was always something interesting going on there.

Atlas Cafe

One evening was girl’s night out for myself and my four roommates from my hostel. Our place of choice was the historic, candle-lit Atlas Cafe which was tucked in a corner of Rynok Square. Its dark, carved wood interior with high hand-painted ceilings, brass chandeliers, and oil paintings on the walls, all added drama and mystique to the place. It was the favorite gathering place of bohemians before WWII*.   The interior was badly damaged during the war and is now completely restored.

Honey” restaurant/cafe

Honey” (translated), was a delightful, little cafe/restaurant on one of Old Town’s cobblestone streets near Rynok Square. On weekend evenings Dennis, a Ukrainian guitar player, could be found perched on a stool in front of a widow of the cafe while singing romantic ballads in English, French, and Ukrainian.  He never used any sheet music.  His music, the charming staff, and traditional desserts offered by the cafe, always combined to make a delightful evening for me.  Once I expressed my appreciation to Dennis for his multilingual talents.  He commented that he will not sing any songs in Russian as it is not popular to do so at this time, due to the current political situation between Ukraine and Russia.  

The strudel shop

Whenever I wanted an inviting place to work on my blog, I often visited Lvivska Plyatsky, a cafe in Rynok Square that sells fresh hot apple strudel with several choices of sauces. On arrival I would order some tea and apple strudel at the counter, find a cozy table, open up my computer, and make myself at home. Inspiration flowed, as long as I wasn’t too distracted by the beautiful people around me.

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*Atlas Cafe is included in “Jewish Lviv: 100 Addresses”  https://lia.lvivcenter.org/en/storymaps/100-addresses/

(Move your cursor over each photo for caption/description.  Android, iPhone, and iPad users – hold a finger on each photo for a few seconds for caption/description)

 

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2 thoughts on “The Cafe Culture of Lviv

  1. For a country that has been labelled as one of the poorest in Europe, Ukraine and its city of Lviv seems to be full of educated and cultured people, great cafes and great culture. I guess in the old days, as part of the multi-ethnic and thriving Austro-Hungarian Empire, it was not considered Eastern Europe, but an integral part of a commercially vibrant European mainstream. The people from your hostel look great, Merrilee!

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    1. I think you’re right. The rich European heritage of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that is a part of Lviv is revealed in a multitude of ways.
      Regarding your comments abut the people I socialized with in my hostel – delightful people from many countries. I always find it delightful socializing with the international travelers I find in hostels around the world.

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