Veliky Novgorod, once one of Europe’s most important cities, remains a noteworthy historical sites. The small city is a great place to explore real Russia, with enough sights to keep you occupied for an afternoon but without the mobs of international tourists. Although Lonely Planet says the city is worth a couple of days, I wouldn’t spend much more than a short afternoon here, especially if you are visiting outside of the summer months.
Very little English is spoken here and you’ll need either a smattering of Russian or some ingenuity to negotiate more than the simplest of transactions.
Sights of Veliky Novgorod
The main sights are in the city’s Kremlin and across the river at the former market. There are also a number of wooded parks in the city and around the outside of the Kremlin wall.
Cathedral of St Sophia
Situated in the Kremlin, a pleasant walled fortress complex, the 11th century Cathedral of St Sophia is beautifully proportioned on the outside and boasts stunning painted panels and frescos on the inside. Technically no photos are allowed but I shot a few before I noticed the sign.
Of special interest is the 12th century Our Lady of the Sign and the bronze doors on the west side exterior, also dating from the 12 century.
Novgorod State United Museum
The museum houses an extensive collection of early wood and metal works as well as a chronology of over 250 Russian icons. It’s interesting to note the progression of Russian painting, or rather the painfully slow progression compared to what was happening in Europe during the same time period. For example, at the end of the 15th century, the peak of the renaissance, the Russians were still painting flat stylized figures while Da Vinci created the Mona Lisa. Most of the works in the collection date from the 15 century or later.
Millennium of Russia Monument
The gigantic bronze sculpture commemorating the 1000th anniversary of the arrival of Prince Rurik to Novgorod was dismantled by the Germans during WWII to be taken back to Germany. However, at the last moment, the Russians recaptured their city and saved the monument. There is a film in the museum that shows its reconstruction.
Chamber of Facets
The Chamber of Facets, recommended in Lonely Planet, is closed on Mondays, so we did not see it.
Across the River
Across the river is the former 18th century market arcade with a number of churches and monuments, generally of lesser interest than those within the Kremlin walls.
October 7, 2019
For links to all the posts in this series see the Russia page.