20 Jun Smolensk Travel Guide
If you already visited Red Square and Peterhof, and you think that there is nothing else to see in Russia, we want to offer to travel to Smolensk, one more jewel in the Russian treasure chest.
History of Smolensk
Probably there is no one city in Russia that had to suffer from such a number of wars in its history. It is situated almost 400 km. from Moscow on the way to Belorus, on the upper banks of the Dnieper river. Smolensk was first mentioned in the chronicles under the year 863, and in 863 it was already a large and fortified city.
The city more than once passed from the Russian state to the principality of Lithuania and back. From the XVII century, the city finally became a Russian one, becoming its frontier western fortress. Smolensk battle with Napoleon’s troops in 1812 led to the defeat and the entire burning of the city. It took many years to restore the city.
Thanks to the creation of large railway roads, the city became a prominent industrial center. After the revolution of 1917, the city was attributed to Belarus, then to the Russian land again.
The First World War brought more destruction. However, the battle of Smolensk managed to withhold the Nazis attack on the way to Moscow for a long time. The city survived the occupation, was almost destroyed, many people died. However, after the war it was restored. For resistance to the Nazis Smolensk received the “hero city” title.
Travel to Smolensk to see how beautiful it is as a cultural, industrial and administrative center of Russia, a major railway junction connecting Russia with many foreign countries. It is birthplace to many famous cultural and art figures, including Mikhail Glinka, the world’s famous composer and Yuri Gagarin the first man to fly into outer space.
What to do in Smolensk?
Walking along Bolshaya Sovetskaya street you will get to the Uspensky Cathedral. Built in XII century the original construction didn’t live to see nowadays. What is now the true pearl of Smolensk was built in memory of heroic defense of 1609-1611 but has a resemblance with the previous grand cathedral. Not only the external decorum is splendid, but the interior is overwhelmingly stunning. First thing you will encounter is massive metal gates that used to secure exit and make the Cathedral great shelter for people. Currently, it secures the ancient icons that were saved by soldiers and locals from foreign intruders. They are framed with gold and silver, and in general, everything that inside makes a grand ensemble. If you look to the ceiling you will be amazed by the marvelous frescos. No weather can spoil the view from the hill Uspensky Cathedral stands on. Smolensk is surprisingly green so you will see roofs of the buildings here and there stick out of the rich bushes.
Smolensk always was a shield taking the first blow from the invaders. Taking into account its severe and cruel past it is not too surprising that downtown features numerous memorials and monuments honoring the bravery and strengths of those who protected their land. People in Smolensk are proud of their past and cherish their heritage. Smolensk is more than 1000 years and you can easily see that if you travel to Smolensk. Some memorial plaque and signboards are written in old Russian language (if you spot letter “ъ” at the end of the word most likely this word is written in old Rus).
One of the most famous sights of Smolensk is Kremlin wall. Still in good condition though not securely round anymore. Many years ago it served as protection to the city. Nowadays you can climb up the tower, feel history under your feet and imagine the view guardians of Smolensk used to see every day.
You can move from one park to another in the city center. One of the oldest ones is Lopatiskyi Sad. Recently it celebrated 140 years. Beautiful bridges, swans, “love bench” or “reconciliation bench”, numerous street lights made in a form of sculptors, pirates, waiters, and other professionals. A lot of events are held here but even on the calm day it is nice to have a promenade there. Be sure to see the Tree of Happiness not long ago planted near the pond.
And this is far from being the full list of fascinating landmarks of Smolensk. We’ve already seen it and now invite you to get acquainted with it! Leave a request now and we will organize your travel to Smolensk!
Where to eat?
Smolensk has its own chain of restaurants and cafes. There are Domino (with pizza and quite original beef Caesar roll), tavern Tangerin goose (Chinese cuisine), Donna Clara café (with delicious dessert, unusual beverages and affordable prices), pie shop Samovar (our personal favorite! Be sure to try mushroom soup there!), retro-bar Kilka and Domino Burger Diner. The chain covers the whole city so you will always be able to grab a bite. Moreover, each of the places mentioned above gives out the tourist maps of Smolensk for free.
Where to stay?
Smolensk has numerous guest houses where you can stay with all the comfort. Some of them are located in suburbs, but you can reach city centre on the bus in 15 minutes. For example, guest house Valentina on Gagarina street 41a. Actually it is a complex of cottages , each of which has a barbeque place and inventory. Russian banya and swimming pool are at your service. The territory is beautifully done by landscape designers, and features various berries’ bushes, flowers, green arch, stone gardens. There is even a squirrel, who gets significant nuts’ ratio every day. The great advantage of such guest houses would be an affordable price.
For those who love to stay in the heart of the city we can recommend any hotel situated on Bolshaya Sovetskaya street. For example, Pilgrimage House Cathedral Yard which is two minutes away from Uspensky Cathedral. We also heard great reviews about hotel Medved (hotel Bear) and Apartments in Centre.
How to get there?
To get to Smolensk from Moscow you can take a train or go by car. The trip will take around 5-7 hours in dependence of the traffic.
It is more convenient to travel to Smolensk at night or leave Moscow early morning. The trip doesn’t have to be long. Smolensk is a very compact city suitable for walking. Even if you will make solid stops at parks for ice-cream or ride around the pond in catamaran, you still will be able to visit all must-see sights in one day.