Yaroslavl is a UNESCO World Heritage Site scattered with churches and surrounded by a beautiful Russian countryside that’s located just 260 kilometres (162 miles) north of Moscow. These are the eight must-do’s that will make the four-hour train ride from Moscow to Yaroslavl worth your while.
Take a stroll along the embankment of the Volga (Europe’s longest river), and take in the beautiful views both across the water and of the city. The walk will take you past a number of cafés and restaurants, which you can stop at if you find yourself in need of a refreshment, or you can take a rest at one of the nearby pavilions. The most picturesque part of this walk is at the end, where the Volga and Kotorosl rivers merge. Once you’ve captured the perfect panoramic shot, be sure to turn your back on the river and appreciate the view of the beautiful, gold-domed Assumption Cathedral.
If your time in Yaroslavl is limited, place this at the top of your list. Founded in the 13th century, this monastery (whose name translates to ‘The Holy Transfiguration Monastery’) is the oldest architectural landmark of Yaroslavl. The domes of the Transfiguration Cathedral sparkle on a sunny day and every hour you can hear the ringing of the 12 bells in the tower. A ticket just for the grounds will set you back a mere 40 roubles ($0.70 USD), although it is worth paying to go up the bell tower for the bird’s-eye-view of Yaroslavl. Be sure to watch out for Masha, the monastery’s bear, who now resides there after having been rescued as a cub.
With its bright blue art nouveau exterior, this place is hard to miss and is located in the centre of town, just down the road from the Transfiguration Monastery. It is one of the oldest shops in Yaroslavl and now has a lovely self-serve restaurant attached to it. The pleasant interior and delicious array of dishes make it a perfect place to stop for lunch and do some souvenir shopping.
This museum has a number of different branches, but the main one is in the centre of town, on the Volga Embankment in the former residence of the Yaroslavl governors. Here you can find an impressive collection of Russian art from the 18th to the 20th century, and the Governor’s Garden is also open in the summer months. Entrance to all the exhibitions, along with an English audio guide, will cost you just 300 roubles ($4.80 USD).
If you’re staying in Yaroslavl for more than a day, be sure to spend a couple of hours at the Izgib Sports Park. Located at the edge of the city, it is inaccessible by public transport but worth the 300-rouble ($4.80 USD) taxi ride. Although it’s best to visit it in winter when you can ski, snowboard and toboggan, this sports park has something to offer the adventure seeker all year round. In the summer months, you can hire bikes, play volleyball by the pool or take a ride on a quad bike across the fields. Refuel after your activities with lunch in a wooden cabin and enjoy a break from sightseeing.
A trip to Russia would not be complete without experiencing a banya (bath house). With temperatures often exceeding 90°C (194°F), it is considered to be one of the best ways to cleanse your body of toxins. In the banya, people massage each other with birch leaves to improve circulation and it is then customary to splash yourself with very cold water or jump into a pond outside. There are a number of public banyas in Yaroslavl’s city centre, including Popovskie Bani, which is highly rated. It’s guaranteed to be a more authentic (and considerably cheaper) experience than those in Moscow.
Situated just outside the old centre, this beautiful old park with five ponds has a stunning blue church that was built to mimic the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral in St Petersburg. This area is beautiful to explore all year round and in the summer months, the bright church is stunningly reflected in the clear waters of the pond just next to it. The park makes an idyllic setting for a picnic away from the town centre.
Great prices and a fun and welcoming atmosphere make this a popular venue among Yaroslavl locals and students. The restaurant has a great selection of drinks as well as a tasty food menu to ensure you don’t go hungry. There is often live music, especially on Friday nights and weekends, so be sure to swing by for a drink or two.