I have received quite some puzzled looks when I told my friends that I will go to Ukraine for vacation: “Why?” – “Again?”. But before I crossed the border to Ukraine I used the opportunity to see beautiful Przemyśl.
There are two reasons why I decided to spend my summer holidays in Ukraine.
- It is super cheap! Probably the cheapest country for tourists I have been to so far. Thanks to currency devaluation against the US Dollar, the Euro and (for me most important) the Polish Zloty.
- I am not fit for flying and I rather spend a night in the rusty Ukrainian night trains where even in the lowest category you have something which resembles a bed over expensive night trains or uncomfortable long bus trips in Western Europe just to get to a sunny beach with warm water.
On the other hand I was also not looking forward to to the night bus or night train in Poland to the Ukrainian border, which led me to make a stop-over in Przemyśl (say: Pshemishl), a Polish town about 10 km (6 miles) away from the border. I can tell you now already: It was totally worth it. But let’s start from the beginning.
On the way to Przemyśl
I started my journey on an early morning in Wroclaw. The train ride took about 8 hours, which is already pretty long by European standards. It gives you enough time to get acquainted with the cyrrilic alphabet which is being used in Ukraine. If in addition you manage to learn some basic key words and phrases in Ukrainian or Russian: Great! If not: well at least you can read their languages without understanding any single word (in fact not really true. There are also words in Russian and Ukrainian which have been adopted from English and transformed into cyrillic script).
During the trip I noticed a few things:
- After Krakow the train was considerably emptier
- The further east the train went, the slower was the ride. On the last stretch somewhere between Rzeszów and Przemyśl it crouched with just 40-50 km/h (25-31 mi/h) towards its destination.
- Many passengers apparently have a problem to open the small trash bin under the table in the compartments. I was so kind and helped them. (Please don’t call me Trash Man now).
I got off the train one stop before the final destination as it was the closest stop to my hostel.
The Youth Hostel in Przemyśl
Hostel in Przemyśl
If you are a backpacker or low on money (which usually goes together) you likely prefer hostels over hotels. In bigger cities you have a wide choice of hostels. Not so in Przemyśl. There are only two hostels, and the one I stayed in is part of the not-for-profit Hostelling International association (the other one is a hostel for hikers of the Polish tourist association PTTK). These are usually the kind of hostels whole school classes have to spend their school trip in, with all that comes with it: noise, curfew, pupils constantly disrespecting the curfew, no 24/7 reception desk and in general a very basic accomodation. Luckily schools currently have their summer break and this hostel I stayed in was very quiet. I was even lucky to have a whole room with 4 single beds for myself while paying only 32 zl (calculate into your currency here) for one bed (warning: only use as many beds as you want to pay for).
My hostel room in Przemyśl
Still I had to obey to the rules and conditions of the hostel: quiet night from 10 pm to 6 am, check-in from 5 pm till 10 pm, check-out until 10 am. No locker for each single guest to store valuable items, no breakfast offered, no towels. But at least free and password protected Wi-fi which is reasonably fast and reliable (presumably thanks to lack of guests during my stay). The receptionists were friendly and even delighted when they saw that I am from Germany. And they proved to handle their own house rules a bit more flexible. So if you arrive before 5 pm you might still be able to check-in immediately and they don’t take the check-out time so precisely.
Of course the reception is always the first address for questions about the town. So I asked for recommendations where to eat. I didn’t get any clear recommdenation because “any restaurant and bar here is good”. With this helpful information I then moved on to explore the town. Within 20 minutes leisurely walk you are on the main square, the Rynek.
Rynek of Przemyśl
Impressions of Przemyśl
Przemyśl is a perfect little town: located at a gentle river embedded in gentle hills, with a castle overseeing the old town and lots of churches and monasteries – really, LOOOTS of them! In fact this is one of those towns where one could get the impression that it has more churches than inhabitants. With all these churches I don’t know if it would be heaven or hell for practicing christians to walk in this town.
Around virtually every corner
Greek catholic church in Przemyśl
is yet another church
One of the monasteries in Przemyśl
or even a huge cross which invites for another short prayer.
Monument near the Zniesienie Fort
If you are not getting too distracted by the churches then check out the castle and the adjacent park.
Follow the blue walking trail which leads you also to the highest viewing point in the area.
View from Tatar Mound towards Ukraine
Time for dinner
As mentioned above according to the hostel reception any restaurant is good. Well, I soon found out that about half them are Pizzerias and most of the remaining ones looked like rather low-quality, run-of-the-mill beer bars which also happen to sell some meals. I decided to try the “Restauracja Dominikańska” at the Dominikański square just a stone throw away from the Rynek (heck, even restaurants are named after monasteries here!). One thing what set them apart from the rest for me was the fact that they offer draft Belgian beer. The price for this beer also set them apart from the rest, so I settled for a red beer from the bottle which accompanied my selected this well: chicken filet in a lemon-thymian marinade accompanied by green peas, roasted potatoes and cherry tomatoes. It sounded good on the menu, but left something to wish for when served.
Dinner in Przemyśl
Don’t get me wrong. It tasted well and was enough to fill my stomach. It was just not that special as I hoped. At least the price was very reasonable: 31,50 zl for both the beer and the meal.
How to get to Przemyśl from Poland and other EU countries
By plane: The nearest international airport is in Rzeszów, however you will find more flights to Krakow. Then take the train or bus from there.
By train: Regional trains from Rzeszów, direct Intercity trains to Krakow, Poznan, Wroclaw, Szczecin. International night train from Lviv.
By bus: The nearest Polskibus stop is Rzeszów. From there take regional busses which are usually named “PKS (insert city name here)”. Some PKS busses also drive through the whole country to Przemyśl and Sindbad as well as Eurolines offer international connections, but they are usually too uncomfortable for such long distances.
By car: via the A4 highway. The last stretch from Rzeszów to the Ukrainian border has been recently opened to traffic.
How to get to Przemyśl from Ukraine
Take a bus or taxi from Lviv to the border at Medyka, then cross it by foot. If you have an EU, Swiss or Norwegian passport you might be allowed to skip the long waiting line and will be through the border in 15-30 minutes (You might also try it with your US passport or when you are from Australia or Canada). If it doesn’t work out, you will have to wait in the line for several hours – and that is likely still faster than crossing the border by car or bus.
You can also take the international night train from Lviv, however you would arrive in Przemyśl at 2-3 am.
Accomodation in Przemyśl
If you don’t fancy the hostel above and are willing to spend more money on accomodation, there are a few hotels to chose from. However the few ones in the center have not been that well rated. Overall within 3 kilometers (1.9 miles – that is the absolute maximum I would be willing to walk to the center) there are only a few 3-star hotels, one 2-star hotel, a few B&Bs and a few guestrooms. Here are my picks, based on a cross-review of available accomodations on booking.com, hrs.com, hotels.com and tripadvisor.com:
If you are by car or bicycle, maybe the 3-star hotel in the Krasiczyn Castle might be an interesting option. How often do you have the opportunity to sleep in a castle with proper hotel amenities anyway?
- The Tourist Office is located in Grodza Street at the upper part of the Rynek. It is open from 9 am till 7 pm.
- Two well marked walking trails make it easy to explore the town and its surroundings. Most of the photos you see in this post have been done while I followed the blue walking trail, which covers most of the sights.
- There is free Wi-Fi in the Rynek area, but it is veeery slow.
- one-way train ticket from Wroclaw (with 20% discount for booking in advance): 60 zl
- one night in the hostel: 32 zl
- dinner in the restaurant: 31,50 zl
- souvenir: 7 zl
- shuttle bus to the border: 2 zl
- one self-organised breakfast: 7 zl
All costs together which I count for the Przemyśl part of my trip: 139,50 zl
Urbispedes on summer holidays in Ukraine
Read my other posts about my trip in Ukraine.
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