Veliky Novgorod Travel Guide

Veliky Novgorod Travel Guide

photo of the city view in Veliky Novgorod


Veliky Novgorod is one of the oldest cities in Russia, located in the north-west near the Volkhov River and Lake Ilmen. Its history is inextricably linked with all the most important stages of the life of the Russian state. Veliky Novgorod is the birthplace of Russian democratic and republican traditions, and an important spiritual stronghold of Orthodox Russia.

Historical Overview

The first people to settle on the Novgorod area were the Finno-Ugric tribes. In the 6 th century, a few tribes of the Slavic Krivichi came to the Novgorod region, and in the 8th century, a tribe of Slovenes came here as part of the process of Slavic settling of the East European Plain.

Economic life and political interaction helped the tribes to connect with a powerful international Baltic-Volga trade route, passing through the Volkhov, Ilmen and Msta. The struggle against the Scandinavian merchant warriors who dominated international trade helped speed up the process of forming state relations. By the middle of the 9th century, relations between the tribes developed thanks to the numerous rivers flowing into Lake Ilmen, and a system of military interaction was born. In 862, for the execution of judicial and law enforcement functions by the tribal chiefs, a Scandinavian prince initiated the princely dynasty of the Ruriks who ruled all the Russian lands for more than seven-and-a-half centuries.
At the beginning of the 10 th century, the Novgorod tribes of Slovenes and Krivichi, along with Prince Igor, began to march to the south to ensure equal trade with Byzantium. Smolensk and
Kiev were conquered, on the border of the dangerous Wild Field (the prairie), and a stronghold was laid for further movement to Constantinople. The first Kiev princes became full owners of the South Russian lands and continued to serve in the Novgorod region. The established tradition was violated by Prince Svyatoslav Igorevich, who concentrated his political interests on the lower reaches of the Danube. In the middle of the 10 th century, the lack of full state power in the Novgorod region accelerated the migration of tribal chiefs to the political centre at the Volkhov River. The formation of Novgorod as a city began at that time. The adoption of Christianity gradually transformed Novgorod into a powerful spiritual centre of Russia. The city became the most important for the Russian Orthodox Church. The life and work of Yaroslav the Wise, one of the outstanding figures of the Russian Middle Ages, is connected with Novgorod. For ten years, Novgorod was the seat of the Grand Duke, the actual capital of the Russian lands that belonged to Yaroslav.
In the middle of the 13 th century, the Tatar-Mongol invasion that fell upon Russia in many respects affected Novgorod as well. The Horde's expedition to Novgorod in 1238 ended in failure for the conquerors. The heroism and courage of the defenders of the new Torg stood in the way of the Horde and detained the Tatar cavalry for almost a month. The spring mudslide forced the invaders to turn back. Nevertheless, at the behest of Grand Duke Alexander Nevsky, Novgorod fully shared the economic burden imposed on the Horde by Russia. The huge and fairly densely populated Novgorod region paid most of the Tatar withdrawal due from Russia, thereby reducing the threat of new destructive raids on the South Russian lands.
The accession of Novgorod to Moscow marked the beginning of a single Russian state and opened a new page in Russian history.
The 15 th century marked a new page in the history of Novgorod. All Novgorod landowners were evicted to other lands, their possessions distributed to Moscow nobles. Craft, culture and trade
continued to develop.
The preservation of Novgorod’s traditions caused particular irritation to the unhealthy, hypocritical Tsar Ivan Vasilyevich Grozny. In 1570, thousands of people were tortured and killed, churches and monasteries were plundered, and villages were ruined.

The 17 th century began with new misfortunes for Novgorod. In 1611-1617, the land was occupied by the Swedes who plundered and destroyed the city. After the Swedish devastation,
the Novgorod region could no longer restore its former power. Even though throughout the century, Novgorod was an important fortress on the north-western borders of Russia, the construction of St Petersburg in the early 18 th century and the transfer of the capital of the empire to the banks of the Neva led to the loss of its value. Today, Veliky Novgorod is an important spiritual centre of Russian Orthodoxy. It attracts tourists and pilgrims with its numerous churches, monasteries and the special atmosphere of the ancient city.

Where to Stay

The number of hotels and hostels grows every year, providing all the necessary facilities for the city’s guests. The location of the following is convenient for visiting the historical centre and the lovely embankment of the Volkhov River – choose the Inturist Hotel, Park Inn, Sofia Hotel or Rakhmaninov Hotel next to Nikolsky Cathedral.

Bars and Restaurants

Veliky Novgorod is a modern city which offers various cuisine in addition to Russian. Derzhavny is a popular spot decorated with frescoes where they serve pancakes with caviar, pelmeni and traditional soups. If you want a nice view over the Kremlin, book a table at Na Korme. In additional to classic dishes, you can try pizza and even sushi. To try caloric Russian salads (Olivier, Mimoza, Seld pod Shuboy) and fresh pastries, visit Kolobok. Mycroft Pub, My Kitchen and Tri Tolstyaka are also recommended.

What to See


  • Visitors usually start their sightseeing tour with the Kremlin from the 11 th century, which stands on the bank of the Volkhov River.
  • Veliky Novgorod is famous not only for its centuries-old history and role in the formation of the Russian state, but also for monuments that attract tourists’ attention. One of these monuments is the Millennium of Russia, built in 1862 in honour of the millennium since the proclamation of Rurik as Prince of Russia.
  • The white-stone Cathedral of St Sophia is the symbol of this ancient city. It has five domes, and its interiors are rich with icons and precious utensils.
  • Located on the picturesque bank of the wide Volkhov, the Yuriev Monastery is a spiritual centre of the ancient Novgorod land, a popular pilgrimage site and a tourist attraction of Veliky Novgorod. The monastery dates back to the 11 th century. According to legend, it was founded by Prince Yaroslav the Wise.

Today, you can visit three magnificent cathedrals, listen to the ringing of bells, feel the charm of the small church of Archangel Michael and admire the panoramic views of Novgorod from the walls of the monastery.




You can easily get to the city by commercial minibus, train or bus. Take a boat trip along the River Volkhov or rent a bicycle on Pskovskaya Street to enjoy the wonderful views of the ancient city. To get to the Kremlin from the central station, use buses No. 7, 20, 101 and 4. The historical centre is quite small, so the best way to explore it is on foot.

Other Destinations in Northwestern Russia