Step back in time in lovely Lviv

Lviv National Opera dates back to the 19th century. (Shutterstock)
Updated 13 March 2019

Step back in time in lovely Lviv

  • Lviv is seen as the heart of the Ukrainian national resistance
  • The city used to be part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire

DUBAI: The brutalist Soviet architecture that dominates Ukrainian cities is almost entirely absent in Lviv (or Lvov in Russian). Instead, this city’s cobblestone streets and historic buildings look like they could have been lifted from the heart of medieval Europe — transporting visitors into the heart of a fairytale.

Lviv has a rich and diverse history. It was the heart of the Ukrainian national resistance movement, and previously the Kingdom of Galicia-Volhynia — part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. King Daniel named the city Leopolis, in honor of his oldest son Leo.




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Naturally, then, Ukrainians call Lviv the Lion City. Statues of the animal can be seen throughout the city, but there are also depictions in unexpected places — on benches, walls, and even manholes.




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Lviv’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, described by the organization as “an outstanding example of the fusion of the architectural and artistic traditions of eastern Europe with those of Italy and Germany.” At its heart sits Rynok Square, the city’s central market, which is surrounded by old pastel-colored buildings, separated by narrow streets.




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The Black House stands out among the rest of the buildings in the square. The formidable structure belonged to an Italian tax collector during the Renaissance. Today, it houses the Lviv Historical Museum, which comprehensively covers the storied history of Ukraine.

Nearby is the Apteka Museum, located in a still-functioning chemists. The pharmacy dates back to the 18th century, and displays a number of antique machines used by chemists in that era.




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The largest art museum in Ukraine, the National Art Gallery, is a must-see for art lovers, housing a wide variety of works by German, Dutch, Spanish, and Flemish artists. The gallery is also home to the biggest collection of Polish art outside of Poland.

Don’t forget to pass by the magnificent Lviv National Opera, constructed by Zygmunt Gorgolowski in the neo-Renaissance style at the end of the 19th century. Three sculptures sit at the top of the building, representing Glory, Poetry and Music.




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Myths and mysteries run deep through the walls and buildings of Lviv. From a lovers’ bench that can make dreams come true, to the golden nose of a statue that can make you rich, the fables of the city are fascinating. And it is the labyrinthine tunnels underneath the city — stretching over 100 kilometers — that hold the most stories; tales of love, faith and torture.

House of Legends restaurant plays on the city’s reputation for myth. The building is adorned with a dragon and a watch that purports to show the “true time of Lviv.” It was, so the story goes, the home of a chimney cleaner and his family who still watch over the mythical creatures in the city.




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Lviv is rightly renowned for its coffee culture, and you should definitely try some local brews while you’re there. Head to the Lviv Coffee Mining Manufacture in Rynok Square. The ground floor is a fairly generic café, but head downstairs into the ‘coffee mine’ and you’ll be given a hard hat and invited to wander the tunnels and pick a table. If you order the ‘flaming coffee,’ be prepared. A waiter will appear armed with a blowtorch.




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The city is home to hundreds of other cafés and restaurants, too. All tailored to a variety of tastes. Enjoy handmade truffles in the Lviv Handmade Chocolate Café, where we’d also recommend the local hot chocolate. And if you are interested in sampling some traditional Ukrainian fare, then visit Kryivka. The restaurant is modeled on the underground bunkers used by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, and offers a variety of traditional dishes, like varenyki (the local take on ravioli) and borsche (classic beetroot soup). You’ll need to know the patriotic password to gain entry, though.




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For some great views, climb to the highest point in the city; Castle Hill — on which stand the ruins of, yes, a castle, but also an observation platform.

For accommodation, Lviv offers a wide range of places from luxury hotels to bargain hostels. On The Square Guesthouse is an affordable option in a great location right in the heart of Rynok Square. If you want something a bit more upmarket, then the George Hotel, built in 1901, is a luxurious (though still well-priced) choice, just a few minutes walk from the city center.




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Lviv is a fascinating blend of eastern and western Europe that offers mesmerizing views, historical insight and delicious food, all at very reasonable prices. And it’s well worth considering for your next European trip.


Safe Eid staycations in the UAE

The UAE extended the curfew to start at 8 p.m. as of May 20. (Shutterstock)
Updated 22 May 2020

Safe Eid staycations in the UAE

DUBAI: If you have been repeatedly pinching yourself to wake up from a bad dream, you are not alone. In the midst of the all-consuming coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the world has been forced to reconcile with a new order.

After several stages of grief for what was, and disbelief for what lies ahead, I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and realized that summer is just around the corner, the same corner I had been walking to and from to stretch my legs since the UAE announced in March new measures to implement social distancing.

With this in mind, I decided not to stifle the ever-potent wanderlust that has powered me throughout the years. After all, there are places in the world with safe enough infrastructures to navigate the aggressive motorways of intercity traveling. So, I pumped my car with enough gas and hit the road.

Here are some tried and true (safe and in line with the directives of the Ministry of Health and Prevention) day trips and staycation destinations to keep you hanging in there:

Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach

The UAE Residents Key package starts from 1,100 Emirati dirhams ($300). (Fourseasons.com)

If you want to lose yourself in a micro-universe of (US filmmaker) Wes Anderson-esque opulence, look no further than the Four Seasons Resort on Dubai’s Jumeirah Road.

The UAE Residents Key package starts from 1,100 Emirati dirhams ($300) and is inclusive of a 20 percent discount on all in-house food and beverage outlets with early check-in and late check-out.

Upon arrival, guests are instantly beckoned by the tantalizing waters of the Arabian Gulf glistening through the panoramic windows of the lobby like a Henri Matisse painting.

Before heading out though, visit the Shai Salon near the check-in counter and bask underneath the lattice ceiling which resembles a starlit sky. While the kitchen is currently closed for dine-in, you may order from a selection of aromatic teas and nibble on finger foods on the terrace of your room.

After ample relaxation, it is time to soak up the sun. All beach beds are 2 meters apart, and if you forget sunscreen, worry not, as staff will come to the rescue.

The soft waves of this beachfront oasis, coupled with the tranquil, grainy white sand make for a dreamscape. Interspersing your cheeky dips in the water is a friendly ecosystem of shoals of bream, shellfish, and exotic birds.

Now that you are properly sun-kissed, head over to the SeaWake counter for some watersport playtime. Guaranteed to awaken the child within, you may choose a 45-minute wakeboarding session, a boat cruise to the canal, or a simple donut or banana ride into the sunset.

To answer the growling call of hunger, do not forget to claim the meal that comes with the UAE Residents Key package which offers a signature dish and dessert at Nammos by the sea.

Al-Qudra Lake, Al-Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve

It is the perfect spot to read that book you have been putting off all year. (Shutterstock)

A pleasant 30-minute drive takes you to this man-made wonder on the southern outskirts of Dubai as you bid farewell to the city’s skyline through the rearview mirror.

It is a habitat for flora and fauna, jaw-dropping migratory birds as well as local wildlife. You can spot deer, swans, flamingos, and some 200 bird species that have taken up refuge by the lake, some of which are endangered such as the Asian Houbara.

Catch the sunrise with a flask of hot tea as the birds announce the day or let the night sweep in as you stargaze under the silky skies. It is the perfect spot to read that book you have been putting off all year.

There are no on-site facilities at Al-Qudra, so be sure to stock up on food and drink. If you find yourself in a bind, head to nearby Bab Al Shams.

Ras Al-Khaimah Public Beach

The beach is on the same stretch as the famed Hilton Ras Al-Khaimah Resort and Spa. (Shutterstock)

This is not a de facto public beach but rather a serene strip of water that I stumbled upon while searching for a gas station.

On the same stretch as the famed Hilton Ras Al-Khaimah Resort and Spa and opposite the ADNOC station by the fish market, it is a little off the beaten track, which only adds to the mysticism.

The barren land surrounding it juxtaposed against the turquoise waves is a sight to behold. The boulders lined up on the side make for a nice little hiking challenge or a seat to prop you up for a sunset-tinted journaling session.

Just when you think you have the place to yourself, jellyfish swim up the shore. Do not forget to head back to the city before the curfew and grab an invigorating fresh pomegranate juice from Eat & Drink.