What to See Along Lviv’s Main Street?
We will start our walk along Svobody Avenue near the fountain with the statue of the Virgin Mary. Looking south of the fountain, your eye catch the monument to the great Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz. Come up for a closer look to see the sculptural composition called Inspiration – an angel handing a Lyra to the great poet. Further away and to the right stands the famous Hotel George, named after its original owner George Hoffman. At the top of the George Hotel, over its main entrance, you can see St.George the Dragon Fighter on a horse. Now let’s go back to the Virgin Mary fountain and look to the left where the first Lviv skyscraper from the early 20th century dominates the view. Most of its offices were occupied by oil companies when Lviv was an important center for the Carpathian oil fields, which accounted for about five percent of the world’s oil output at the beginning of the 20th century.
Visible from the Virgin Mary Fountain, Copernicus Street branches off Svobody Avenue at the intersection with the traffic lights. Look for a pharmacy on the left side of the street at #1 where in 1853 the pharmacist Ignacy Lukasiewicz, one of the pioneers of the world oil industry, devised a method of distilling kerosene and constructed the first kerosene lamp in the world.
Looking north from the fountain towards the Opera House, it is hard to believe that a river flows in a tunnel below the street. The Poltva River was put below ground in the late 19th century mostly because of its pollution by the town sewer system. The next monument on the way to the Opera House is to the Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko. Look more closely at the vertical structure next to the figure of the poet, and you can distinguish characters from his poems.
Take a look at the nicely restored Grand Hotel across the street from the Shevchenko Monument. In the 19th century the city police had a building here. Here, in the residential quarters of the Lviv police director, Leopold Masoch was born. He gained renown for his stories of Galician life and his romantic novels, including Venus in Furs. The term masochism is derived from his name.
On the opposite side of the street from the Grand Hotel your eye will catch the massive Jesuit Church. The short square belfry adjacent to the church was once the tallest tower in the Lviv before its dismantling as a safety measure after the collapse of the town hall tower. On the left side of the street at the corner is the brown brick building of the Ethnography Museum, originally built as a bank. The Museum stands at the corner and, with a bit of imagination, resembles an exotic bird with the middle part as the body and the two flanks as wings. Look to the top of the building over the main entrance at the corner where a stone figure resembling the Statue of Liberty symbolizes economic progress of Galicia as a province of Austria-Hungary.
Since independence, the open space around the statue of Shevchenko and the alleyway leading towards the Opera House has been the place for political discussions and sparked the Orange Revolution of 2004. Approaching the Opera House on the walkway where romantic couples sit in the shade of the chestnut trees in the summer, look to your right where the only original remnant of the Lviv’s town wall remains next to the recently restored brick tower. The National Museum further on your right reveals a busy open air souvenir market behind it.
But let us go straight to the imposing building of the Lviv Opera House in the middle of Svobody Avenue. Take a few minutes to marvel at the richly decorated facade with the winged statues of Glory in the center, Genius of Drama and Comedy on the left, and Genius of Music on the right. Below, the two statues in niches represent Comedy on the left and Tragedy on the right.