Lviv dates back around 760 years as an important trade centre of medieval Europe, developing over the centuries into a multicultural focus of science, education and culture. Today, the city is a flourishing home to around 700,000 residents, with visitors drawn to the area for many reasons, including its achievements in the arts, outstanding architecture and the historic city centre which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The city has been taking part in European Heritage Days - Дні європейської спадщини - for the past 11 years, launching in 2010 with a small programme of 13 excursions and growing in scale ever since. Throughout the events, tourists are encouraged to explore Lviv, with places which are not usually open to the public taking part, and experts from a variety of fields such as science, literature and music showcasing their knowledge and sharing their experiences. The events also encourage locals to learn about the monuments, parks and history of the city where they live. “Often people say ‘I love Lviv’; to love it, you need to know it”, Mayor Andrii Sadovyi says of the city, with Head of the Tourism Office of Lviv City Council, Halyna Hrynyk adding “we attract attention to objects that are not part of the traditional tourist routes, but their cultural and architectural value is essential for the city.” An important aspect of the programme additionally highlighted by the organisers is that is helps to co-finance the renovation of historic places, with visitors inspired and encouraged to donate to the sites they see, helping to preserve them for the future.

Last year, the city adapted its programme to the covid-19 pandemic and 92 events were able to go ahead across a three-day programme. The festivities attracted almost 1,500 people to a variety of workshops, tours and talks with the theme looking at the knowledge, traditions and skills that define the area, and how education has helped form the local identity. To mark the 10th anniversary of European Heritage Days in the city, a short film was created to give a feel of the atmosphere of the events. The film features interviews with many of the organisers, as well as footage of events and the city itself, and it can be watched on YouTube with English subtitles.

This year, the city once again took part, and was inspired by the Heritage: All Inclusive overall shared theme across Europe to create a ‘City for Everyone’ - Місто для всіх. “Centuries of coexistence of different national communities have created a unique atmosphere of a multicultural city. Not only people of different nationalities and beliefs lived in Lviv, but also people of different views, needs and abilities”, emphasized the organisers. The theme aimed to explore inclusiveness, share and celebrate the diversity of stories in the city and highlight the role of cultural heritage in the development of modern society.

European Heritage Days Lviv 2021
Lviv EHD 2021 Cover image (credit, Lviv Travel)

Organised by the Lviv Tourism Office with the support of dozens of volunteers as well as around 100 participants helping to organise the events, places such as schools, religious centres, museums and libraries took part, with events uncovering the secret histories of topics such as medicine, entertainment, sports, industry, transport and parks and buildings. Events were assessed in the context of accessibility in order to make them as open and welcoming to as many people as possible. Organisers, speakers and volunteers all attended a workshop on working with disabled people, and the event brochure highlighted physically accessible venues, events tailored for people with visual or hearing impairments, as well as those suitable for children. 77 events were planned across the weekend of the 10th-12th September. Events were free to attend, but required pre-registration and adherence to covid-safety protocols. Details of all activities were promoted via a brochure on Lviv’s tourism website.

Events for children included ‘Everyone can Quest!’ – an autism-friendly hunt through the streets and buildings of the city centre to discover its secrets and uncover medieval mysteries. Special activities at the Lviv Historical Museum looked at the history of clothing in the Middle Ages, with an interactive game designed to engage children aged 6-10. And at the Puppet Theatre, actors performed an interactive play, encouraging children with Down’s syndrome to immerse themselves in a fairy-tale work of sound and colour.

Lviv’s history of diversity and inclusion was highlighted throughout many events. A special tour at Lviv Brewery discussed the significant role its multicultural workers have had on its development, a talk called ‘Lviv is a city of different denominations: restrictions and equality’ looked at the history of religious tolerance in the area, while performances of traditional Jewish and Ukrainian dances in the Town Hall courtyard showcased the interaction of music and dance traditions. Other events included a talk looking at the architectural evolution of the hospital complex in Kulpark as a space for mental health care, and a storytelling tour discussing the struggle for identity within the area’s hippie movement.

Accessibility was also a key part of the plans for the year with many events looking at how to improve physical and other barriers to participation and discuss process made. The Natural History Museum held a behind-the-scenes tour to showcase not only its collections but to highlight its early approach wheelchair accessibility with a look at the unique mechanism of one of the oldest elevators in Europe, while a talk based on interviews with civic activists from the 1980-90s at the University of Lviv, discussed the development of rights for disabled people through the perspective of personal stories. Other events offered sensory activities such as at Lviv National Literary and Memorial Museum of Ivan Franko which offered a tactile tour where participants were able to touch the collections to understand their size and fragility accompanied by an atmospheric soundscape, as well as a guided tour focused on aromas and smells.

The variety of events during the city’s European Heritage Days 2021 showcased how Lviv is a ‘City for Everyone’. Details of next year’s programme will be displayed at, the city’s programme can also be followed on Facebook @EHDsLviv or Instagram @ehd.lviv and using the hashtags #EHDLVIV or #ДЄС2021.