Yaroslavl has a very storied history, beginning with an apocryphal founding. It's said that local inhabitants set loose a bear to chase away Prince Yaroslav the Wise (978-1054). Yaroslav wrestled and killed the bear and founded the town on the spot. If true, these events happened early in the 11th century; Yaroslav decreed the town's founding as a fortress on the Volga in 1010. About 600 years later, in 1612, during the Time of Troubles, the town was the center of national resistance against the invading Poles, under the leadership of Kuzma Minin and Dmitri Pozharsky.
The town rests at the confluence of the Volga and Kotorosl rivers, which made it a major commercial center from the 13th century until 1937, when the Moscow-Volga canal was completed, allowing river traffic to proceed directly to the capital. This commercial heritage bequeathed the city a rich legacy that offers a glimpse of some of the finest church architecture in Russia.
In the town center, proceed northwest along Pervomaiskaya ulitsa, a favorite pedestrian area for locals that follows the semicircular path of the town's former earthen ramparts. Peruse the impressive, colonnaded trade rows and walk on to the Znamenskaya watchtower, which in the middle of the 17th century marked the western edge of the town—another watchtower stands on the Volga embankment. The yellow building directly across the square is the Volkov Theater. The theater and square are named for Fyodor Volkov, who founded Russia's first professional drama theater here in 1750—the theater was the first to stage Hamlet in Russia. Continue along Pervomaiskaya and it will take you to the banks of the Volga, which is 1 km (½ mi) wide at this point. Look for the monument to the great Russian poet Nikolai Nekrasov, who came from nearby Karabikha.
Yaroslavl at a Glance
- "candle of Yaroslavl"
- Church of Elijah the Prophet (Tserkov Ilyi Proroka)
- Church of St. John the Baptist (Tserkov Ioanna Predtechi)
Elsewhere in Moscow Environs
- Abramtsevo Estate Museum
- Leo Tolstoy's Museum in Yasnaya Polyana
- New Jerusalem Monastery
Free Fodor's Newsletter
Subscribe today for weekly travel inspiration, tips, and special offers.
Fodor's Trip Planning Ideas
- Weekend Getaways: Fodor's Recommends the Best Weekend Escapes in the US
- Great American Vacation: Find Your Next U.S. Trip with Fodor's
- 80 Degrees: Fodor's Helps You Find Your Best Beach Vacation Spots
- Go List: Fodor's Top 25 Places to Go in 2013
- Hotel Awards 2012: Fodor's 100 Top Hotels
- Best of Europe: Fodor's Picks the Best Places to Visit in Europe
- Russia Experience IExplore
- Resplendent Russia IExplore
- Russia: MiG 29 Flight Programs — $16,600 IExplore
- Legend of the Russian Czars — $4,995 IExplore
- Resplendent Russia — $8,695 IExplore