6 things to do in Yaroslavl Russia
After exploring the small historical town of Uglich, we cruised alond the river until we reached Yaroslavl, an industrial town of approx. 600,000 inhabitants.
Yaroslavl is situated 250 km Northeast of Moscow which is a 4-hour car drive but we stopped there on a cruise so it took us way longer to reach.
18 things to know about Yaroslavl:
1. the town was founded in 1010 by the Prince Yaroslavl the Wise who was the Grand Prince of Kiev.
2. it’s located on the bank of two rivers – the Volga and the Kotorosl
3. it’s one of the oldest cities we visited on our Russia cruise trip.
4. Since 2005 it’s a UNESCO site. Only two Russian cities – St. Petersburg and Yaroslavl have historical city centers as UNESCO sites (vs. other cities have just some UNESCO monuments, not the whole city centre.)
5. Yaroslavl is sometimes called the Russian Venice.
6. Yar pivo = local beer is well known.
7. town is famous for a real food provincial market. Less than 20% of Russians work in agriculture and prefer to grow their own fruit and veggies at home. At private farms they produce mostly cabbage and potatoes. At the market, you can try dried fruits and nuts from foreign sellers who come here to earn living.
8. 18th and 19th century very well preserved houses remained in the city centre.
9. Tiles are made in town and for centuries many churches have been decorated with them.
10. The 1,000 ruble bill is the most expensive postcard from Yaroslav as it shows Yaroslavl.
11. The factories are in the suburbs, some produce oil, diesel engines or car parts.
12. Unemployment in Yaroslavl is around 1% while the average in Russia is 6%.
13. A bear bronze statue in town has a polished nose and hands as people rub them for good luck.
14. Among other churches in Yaroslavl, there’s a very pretty red brick cathedral and an orange Orthodox church from the 17th century.
15. Beautiful yellow buildings, former schools, are now a hospital with a medical school attached.
16. The WWII War Memorial from 21.6.1941 stands where the original kremlin wall was burnt.
17. The town has a small functioning convent with 20 nuns.
18. Approx. 50 churches were built in town during the golden age of the 17th century.
6 things to do in Yaroslavl Russia
1. The Transfiguration Monastery
We entered the town through the 16th century gate which is the oldest one in town and then visited the UNESCO historical area of the city.
The Transfiguration Monastery was our first stop in Yaroslavl. There we started with the History Museum and the Church decorated with original frescos from the 17th century.
- The new chapel from 1997 commemorates the year 1612 when Yaroslavl was the capital of Russia.
- The metal circle with arrows now hanging out on the wall by the entrance was discovered here in the library.
- First the Transfiguration Monastery was founded in the 13th century but was burnt in fire.
- Then the city was prosperous during the 16th and 17th century when even famous people visited, such as Peter the Great.
- Then the monastery was a seat of archbishop and thus closed for a century.
- Since it was restored, it’s a combination of 16th, 17th, 19th ad 20th century styles.
- The oldest cathedral in the monastery complex was built in 1516 by a Moscow architect. Unlikely to many other Russian churches, its 3 domes are not onion-shaped domes looking like candles because there’s not so much snow in this area.
- There’s a number of bells at the square which are used only for concerts in August during the Transfiguration festival when a young very talented man plays bells. He performed for us, too.
- Now all the buildings in the Transfiguration Monstery complex form the History Museum. The red building with decaying facade used to be a nunnery.
- The Transfiguration Monstery served also as a fortress which played a special role in the beginning of the 17th century. We can still see some towers and walls nowadays. When Poland invaded Russia, they occupied Moscow but couldn’t capture this monastery so this city was chosen by the Russian Army and they made it the capital for 4 months.
- New memorial was built here just 5 years ago to commemorate 2 important people in the history of Yaroslavl – the Prince Pozharsky from 1612 army together with a money-collector. The memorial stone is decorated with a bear coat of arms because people here worshipped bears for centuries. When Yaroslav came to the region, he had to fight with bears. It’s supposed there’s still around 500 bears living in this area nowadays.
2. Cathedral of the Assumption
- Many buildings were destroyed during the communist area. The original Cathedral of the Assumption was blown up, too.
- The new one was rebuilt on the same place with money from a Moscow businessman who donated 70 million euros only 5 years ago.
- Virgin Mary located under a dome is the one protecting Yaroslavl. It was done in the summer of 2014 with a belt of tiles.
- The archaeological excavations lasted for 4 years so longer than it took to build the Cathedral itself.
- The golden domes are not made of real gold but of cheaper golden titanum which lasts longer.
- The Cathedral of the Assumption main entrance faces to the West and shows the assumption image.
- Mostly 19th century bells and one new bell are used 4 times a day.
- This is already the 5th cathedral built on the same place as all those before were destroyed.
- The metal sculpture outside representing the Holy Trinity dates back to 1995. Usually Orthodox churches do not permit statues but this one got a special permission.
- Here I learned there should always be an oak tree outside of Orthodox churches.
3. Volga promenade
- Two rivers, the Volga and the Kotorosl meet in Yaroslavl.
- A new park with mural fountains was built here between the rivers to celebrate the foundation of the city.
- A decorative pavilion overlooks the rivers from upper part of the promenade. On its railings, newly married couples try to lock their love forever with padlocks. Unfortunately, the saying goes that over 50% of the couples come back looking for the thrown key :)
- At night the musical fountains are lit in different colours.
- From the Volga promenade you can walk to the Cathedral of Assumption and see a stone memorial on the way. It’s where young married couples come to kiss for good luck.
4. Church of Elijah the Prophet
- Then we parked outside of the Church of Elijah the Prophet finished in 1650 just after 3 years.
- It’s said to be the most beautiful building in town where you need to pay 100 rubles to take photos inside.
- It’s really cold inside so the church closes in winter.
- Its donors were very rich.
- 15 people painted the frescos which have never been restored but only washed with water twice to clear from dust. The frescos are like Bible in pictures as many people were illiterate at that time and that was the only way to spread a message to them via images.
- It has an old Russian Church slavonic description on the wall like many other churches in the country. Only religious images inside, except one where a small boy dies and behind him we can see harvesting.
- People stand here for 1 to 4 hours during the service nowadays as it’s still an active church.
- We can find original 17th century fresco icons on all the walls inside the church. The most important fresco is the one with Elijah in the left corner.
- The church has three smaller churches attached to it as there was no heating inside. In those ones the frescos were over painted at least 8 times.
- In the hall the frescos are from both the 17th and the 18th century. What makes it interesting is the fact that black devils with sins look like white angels on the fresco. It also shows two Othodox women accompanied by people from other religions (they are wearing different clothes.)
- Just outside the church across the big square we can find a typical Soviet building from 1980’s which is the Government seat now.
5. city centre with the Yaroslavl market
It’s very charming to walk around Yaroslavl. The 2 main streets in the city centre are full of restaurants and bars where you can chill out, but also banks and shops with liquor and chocolate.
A must stop is definitely the market where you can buy anything from clothes (reminded me of Ukrainian markets where the Slovaks go shopping to) to fruit and seeds, or even flowers.
When we visited in May the fruit sold here was mostly from the surrounding countries and then since June also local fruit is on offer, such as very tasty strawberries.
6. Artist Cooperative
- Our last stop in Yaroslavl was the Artist Cooperative at the Central Exhibition Hall, a 1950’s two-storey building where only professionals can exhibit their work.
- That was the first time I saw chocolate tasting at an art exhibition. A few different Russian chocolate packs were opened there to try and buy.
- 4 lacquer schools are located in the area so Yaroslavl is considered to be the centre of lacquer boxes in Russia. We could check for example the Kholui lacquer boxes.
- Each lacquer box has a name of the subject painted, name of the school where it was created and the third name on the right is the signed name of the artist.
Yaroslavl might sound like yet another Russian town with many churches. And yes, no doubt that’s true. But in my opinion, it’s way more. It’s a very picturesque town where the breeze on a sunny day will play with your hair in such a delicate way it will leave a mark in your heart forever.
Check out also my post about 20 things I learned about Russia on a 2-week cruise.