The Novgorod Kremlin, also known as the Detinets, is located in the historic center of Veliky Novgorod, on the left bank of the river Volkhov, approximately 3 kilometres from its source in the lake Ilmen. This complex of structures, founded in the XI century, is a world famous site of international tourism, included in the UNESCO list of protected heritage. Travelers come here to immerse themselves in the atmosphere of Ancient Russia, climb the mighty walls and towers, visit beautiful temples, and look at the amazing works of art and artifacts stored in the Novgorod Museum-Reserve.
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Video: Novgorod Kremlin
The Novgorod Kremlin has an architectural ensemble of buildings that once housed the fortress’ administrative services, arsenals, warehouses, and barracks. Here are preserved several ancient churches, belfry and nine combat towers, having 5-6 tiers. The highest one has an observation deck. The defensive walls of the citadel were made of brick and stone, and surround the fortress with a 1487-meter ribbon. The fence has the outline of a slightly curved oval with the size of 565 by 220 meters, extending along the river from south-east to north-west. The total area of the complex is more than 12 hectares.
In the restored constructions there are expositions of the Novgorod reserve museum. Besides there are Regional Philharmonic Society, City Music College and Scientific History Library. In the citadel there is a monument “Millennium of Russia”, and at the walls of the Zlatoust Tower the eternal flame burns in memory of the city’s defenders who died during the Great Patriotic War.
You can see the Kremlin with a guide or use an audio guide. Gadgets are issued in the Assembly Hall – the main building of the reserve, as well as in the tourist information center “Red House” and at the entrance to the Faceted Chamber.
Along the river under the walls of the Kremlin there is a picturesque embankment of St. Sophia, where the city beach and a pier for pleasure boats are also located. Novgorod Kremlin is especially impressive from the opposite side of the Volkhov River, where you can make panoramic photos of the citadel.
History of the Novgorod Kremlin
The oldest chronicles about the Novgorod Kremlin go back to 1044. The fortress was founded by Prince Vladimir, son of Grand Duke Yaroslav the Wise of Kiev and Princess Ingigerda (Irina), daughter of Swedish King Olaf. Originally the buildings were made of wood. Archaeological research found that the fortress and residential buildings existed here in the tenth century. The large wooden Christian church that stood there was destroyed by fire in 989. To the north of its ruins Vladimir Yaroslavich ordered to build a stone St. Sophia cathedral, consecrated in 1052. Written sources tell us that in 1116, after a great fire, the citadel territory was expanded to its present size and protected by stone walls, towers and moats. This was the residence of Novgorod bishops.
In the 30-s of the 12th century a number of events in Veliky Novgorod led to the limitation of the princely power, and the Novgorod Republic was formed. Since that time the destiny of the city and its vast lands was decided in Veche, a meeting of the representatives of the people. Veche were held in front of a Sophia cathedral in the Kremlin. Novgorodians elected governors, military and spiritual leaders from among worthy citizens; here they solved problems of war and peace, asserted laws, tried and executed state criminals. Veche could be called by any citizen of the republic by striking the bell in the Novgorod kremlin. In 1155 the Patriarch of Constantinople gave Novgorod the right to decide church affairs on its own, and to elect and dismiss bishops at the will of the assembly.
In the spring of 1238 the Mongol hordes that enslaved Rus did not reach Novgorod for some reason, only 200 kilometers, and headed for other cities. Thus the capital of Novgorod land and its kremlin escaped ruin, but the conquerors levied tribute on the city. In April 1242 the Novgorodians and their allies led by Prince Alexander Yaroslavich defeated the army of the Teutonic Knights on Lake Chudskoe. This battle went down in history as the Battle of the Ice.
After a series of wars between Moscow and Novgorod in the second half of the 15th century, the troops of Grand Duke Ivan III of Moscow conquered the city. The Veche Bell was taken from the Novgorod Kremlin to Moscow. In January 1478 the Novgorod Republic ceased to exist and its lands were annexed to the Moscow principality.
By order of Ivan III the Novgorod Kremlin was raised from the ruins and rebuilt, in fact – rebuilt from scratch. The work had been completed by 1490. Now towers and walls were adapted to an artillery gun, the Kremlin became a powerful and well equipped fortress on the north-west borders of Russia. It is possible that Italian masters, invited for the construction of the Moscow Kremlin, took part in the design and construction of the stronghold. Over time the fortress lost its military purpose, and began to be used as an administrative and social center of Novgorod.
In May, 1862 high water on Volkhov washed away slopes of the hill, as a result of which two towers and a significant part of the fortress wall fell into water. The wall was rebuilt rather carelessly, without regard to historical outlines and forms. The Dytynets’ has lost much of its old-time charm.
Extensive reconstruction of the fortress and other buildings of the Novgorod Kremlin was carried out in the 50-60s of the last century. The dilapidated towers and walls were restored to their original 15th century look. In 1992 the architectural ensemble of the center of ancient Novgorod was put on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Among these are the structures of the Novgorod Kremlin.
A walk in the Novgorod Kremlin
Voskresenskaya Arch, located in the northern fortress wall facing the Kremlin Park, is the main entrance to the Novgorod Kremlin. From the right bank you can get to the citadel by a pedestrian bridge that crosses the Volkhov River and connects the historic districts of the city. The place for its erection was not chosen by chance. Chronicles tell us that already in 1133 there was a wooden bridge on log supports. This bridge, which was repeatedly destroyed and then restored to stone, was blown up during the Great Patriotic War. In 1987 a gracefully curved 225-meter prefabricated reinforced concrete half-arch crossing was erected there, spanning the river from Yaroslav’s Court to the arch of the southern entrance to the Kremlin.
The northwestern part of the citadel is the Vladychny Dvor. Here are the foundations of the oldest buildings of the Kremlin. They were erected in the late X century for the courtyard of the first Novgorod bishop Joachim. In the XV century by order of Bishop Euphimius II the Faceted Chamber was built here, along with several other structures that survived to this day. There are interesting museum collections, including a collection of famous medieval birch-bark manuscripts. The name of the complex was given to the state hall, made by German masters in the Gothic style, its vaults are dissected by characteristic facets. From 1433 the hall was used for receptions of ambassadors, sessions of the court and the council of boyars. The octagonal 40-meter clock tower towers above the courtyard, and on its top there are four clock faces facing opposite directions. The hands are moved by a common mechanism. The tower is surrounded by annexes. To the east its walls are adjoined by the church of Sergius of Radonezh (1459-1463), to the west by the two-story block of the Court Office, where the restoration studios are located. The chapel deviates noticeably to the north-west. Novgorod specialists work out plans of its alignment.
Above the Novgorod Kremlin six helmet-shaped domes of the St. Sophia Cathedral, the spiritual center of the ancient Novgorod. The snow-white building, erected in classic Byzantine style, is surrounded by a two-story gallery. On the cross, shadowing the gilded central dome, there is a metallic dove, symbolizing the Holy Spirit. A local legend claims that the city remains under his protection and will flourish until the dove flies into the sky. Another legend says that the bird petrified from the terrible sight of the massacre carried out in the citadel by the oprichniks of Tsar Ivan the Terrible.
In the brickwork of the inner vaults there are ceramic vessels – voice boxes, providing amazing acoustics during sermons and chants. Only a few fragments of XII century frescoes have survived. Wall paintings were made in the XIX century. The relics of saints, princes and prominent church figures are kept in the cathedral. Three iconostases show valuable icons dating from the 15th-16th centuries, while the older works of icon-painting are kept in museum collections. One of the cathedral’s relics is the bronze Magdeburg Gates, covered with high reliefs with biblical scenes. The Gates were made by West European masters in 1153. According to one of the versions, the gate was a trophy of Novgorod soldiers, captured during the maritime campaign against Sweden in 1187.
Instead of the traditional bell tower, an original arched bell tower was erected near St. Sophia Cathedral in the 15th century, rebuilt in the 17th century. There is an exhibition of ancient bells.
Near the cathedral, on the southeast side, in 1759 was built Church of the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem, which served as a chapel. In the 30s of the last century, its dome was demolished. Nowadays the lecture hall of the reserve is situated there. In 2009 archeologists found the foundations of a church of the XIV century near the southern wall. Excavations are still going on. In the center of the citadel on the square beside St. Sophia Cathedral, where Novgorod Councils used to meet, there is a multi-figured composition of the monument “Millennium of Russia” erected here in 1862. It was created by sculptors Ivan Schroeder and Mikhail Mikeshin. Victor Hartman, one of the founders of the pseudo-Russian style of architecture of the 19th century, worked on the architectural appearance of the monument. The huge ball crowned with a cross is decorated with bas-relief compositions depicting key historical events and is surrounded by numerous sculptures of prominent figures of Russia. Altogether 129 historical characters are depicted here, grouped in three thematic tiers.
The opening of the monument, attended by Emperor Alexander II and the entire royal family, was accompanied by three days of festivities with military parades, processions, fireworks and balls. Especially for this event were issued the first in the history of the city illustrated guides to the sights of Novgorod.
After the revolution in 1917 the monument was covered with shields made of planks, and was going to be torn down, as a legacy of the hated autocracy. Fortunately, this fate passed over the wonderful monument, it was reopened for viewing and stood until the beginning of the Great Patriotic War.
During the German occupation, the Nazis dismantled the monument, intending to take it to Germany. Some parts of the composition have disappeared without a trace. Soviet soldiers who liberated Novgorod in January 1944, found only a pile of damaged sculptures and decorative elements. The iconic monument was rebuilt in November of the same year.
In 1995 the monument was thoroughly repaired and restored, its bearing structures were reinforced or completely replaced. Some elements of the decoration, which had fallen into disrepair, had to be replaced by exact replicas made by master foundry workers.
Collections of icons, coins, weapons, birch-bark letters are represented in the historical museum. Separate halls are devoted to Novgorod crafts, archeological findings and the history of the Novgorod Kremlin.
Tourists climb the stairs of Kokuy tower to the viewing platform from which the entire Novgorod Kremlin can be seen at a glance. Here spyglasses are installed. From one of the levels of this tower is access to the fortress wall.
For young travelers in the southern part of the complex there is a special museum center. Its exposition is adapted for the perception of younger schoolchildren. Children can ride a pony, explore the territory of the citadel from the cars of the locomotive.
The cost of a visit
There is no charge for the entrance to the territory of the Novgorod Kremlin but the entrance to the museums is paid – from 200 to 250 rubles. It is possible to join a group tour for 240 rubles. Students and pensioners pay 180 rubles.
The cost of an individual tour – from 3300 rubles, the duration of the tour – up to two hours. Rental audio guide with headphones will cost 400 rubles for 4 hours. It includes a detailed map of the Kremlin sights.
The territory of the museum complex is open to visitors from 06:00 to 00:00. Exploring the interiors of St. Sophia Cathedral, the exposition of the Faceted Chamber and other museums is available from 09:00 to 18:00.
There are souvenir kiosks in the bell tower of St. Sophia, in the building of government offices, in the Vladyka palace, in the children’s museum center. There is also an art salon at the Museum of Fine Arts. Tourists are offered guides, illustrated catalogs of museum collections, paintings of Novgorod artists with views of the Novgorod Kremlin, birch bark products, decorative panels of carved wood, mugs and plates with symbols of the city and other souvenirs. Stores are open from 10:00 to 18:00.
Where to eat
On the protected territory of the citadel there are no eating places, but in a few minutes walk from the Novgorod Kremlin, in the Kremlin Park and the surrounding streets there are cafes and restaurants. You can grab a bite to eat at “Cafe on Sennaya” (Sennaya street, 2). The average bill will range from 800 to 1000 rubles per person. Working time is 10:00 – 01:00. There is about the same price level in the Telegraph Café on Ludogoschcha Street 2. The menu includes dishes of Russian and European cuisine. There is a children’s room with toys. The restaurant is open until midnight. If you want to have a hearty lunch, go to the restaurant “Skazka” on Bolshaya Vlasyevskaya Street 1. It offers Caucasian cuisine. The main courses cost between 490 and 985 rubles. The doors are open from 10:00 till 00:00.
On the opposite bank to the left from the pedestrian bridge there is a floating restaurant complex “Flagman Frigate” moored to the Alexander Nevskiy quay and made in a shape of an old three-deck sailing ship. It is one of the town’s stylish nightlife centers. Apart from three restaurant halls, there are three bars, a big dance floor and a summer restaurant on the deck with a good view over the Novgorod Kremlin. The price range is 495-2550 rubles. The restaurant is open daily from noon to midnight and on Fridays and Saturdays the guests party till 6 am.
It should be noted that in the historical center of Novgorod, spoiled by tourists, the cost of food and drinks in restaurants is clearly overpriced. But if you go a few blocks away, you will find a snackbar with quite democratic prices.
How to get there
Novgorod Kremlin is located in the historic center of the city, in the neighborhoods called “Sofia side”. Take public transport to the stop “Sennaya Square”. Here is an information center, where visitors of the reserve are provided with the necessary information and parking is available nearby.
From the railway station and the city bus station you can walk to the Kremlin along Voskresensky Boulevard, and then through the Kremlin Park along Ludogoscha Street or along the parallel Chudintsev Street. Ilyin street leads to the Novgorod Kremlin from the right bank to the pedestrian bridge over the Volkhov.
Novgorod Detinets – the heart of Veliky Novgorod
The Novgorod Kremlin or Detinets is the heart of Veliky Novgorod and the city’s number one tourist attraction. From the article you will learn how to walk in the territory of the Kremlin, where to look in and where not to look in. I will show a lot of photos of Novgorod citadel in summer and tell you what to combine your visit with.
History of the Novgorod Kremlin
The Novgorod Kremlin (or Dytynets’) is the main attraction of Veliky Novgorod, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The buildings covering an area of 12,1 hectares are situated on the left side of the Volkhov River. The first wooden fortification was built back in the X century by Vladimir Yaroslavich, son of Prince Yaroslav the Wise.
During the following years the buildings were repeatedly blazed in fires, were captured by polovtsy, were rebuilt and grew. After the big fire in 1333 a construction of stone fortress began, which was interrupted by Swedish raid in 1430s. That is why the buildings were rebuilt in 1478-1490 – the Novgorod Detinets acquired its modern look.
In the last decade of the XX century the Novgorod Kremlin began to literally collapse: the wall fragments were falling one by one. They were partially reconstructed, but a major reconstruction began only in 2020. It is still going on, so it is not possible to walk the walls of the Kremlin and climb its towers now.
The Novgorod Kremlin has an oval shape. It is built of red bricks with stone on lime mortar of unequal size. The height of the walls is from 8 to 15 m, they are decorated with dentils.
The Dytynets’ is on a hill, and a deep moat is dug around it from all sides. It used to be filled with water, and now you can walk along the bottom of the moat. Only 9 out of 12 towers, designed for defense and military purposes, have survived. Their height reaches 41 meters.
Nowadays expositions of Novgorod Museum Reserve and various cultural institutions are located in the buildings on the territory of the Kremlin. Employees of the museum periodically hold excursions to the citadel and its surroundings on various topics. See what will be on the dates of your trip. The sightseeing tour is called “Pearls of Veliky Novgorod” – an excellent option for exploring the Kremlin. You can buy a tour on the “Pushkin card”.
In addition to the tour there are theatrical programs. For example, guests are offered a walk in the company of the State Councilor and plunge into the life of Veliky Novgorod of the XIX century.
Sights of the Novgorod Kremlin
I suggest you our route to Novgorod Kremlin and its sights. Briefly it looks like this.
- Monument to the Millennium of Russia.
- City museum of antiquities (was not inside).
- Falconer’s Court and the children’s museum center, if you are with child.
- St. Sophia Bell Tower and St. Sophia Cathedral.
- The sovereign’s chamber and the bell tower.
- Museum of writing and Grekov restorers workshop.
Now you can read more in detail about each stop.
Monument “Millennium of Russia
Monument “Millennium of Russia” is a monument in the center of the Novgorod Kremlin, established under Emperor Alexander II in 1862. The height of the monument is almost 16 meters.
The monument depicts 128 figures – among them tsars and emperors, educators, military men, writers and artists. They tell about the events in the history of the Russian state from the IX to XIX centuries – from the call of Rurik to the formation of the Russian Empire. There is no place for Tsar Ivan the Terrible on the monument. Why is it so, told in the article about Veliky Novgorod in 1 day.
The main building of the museum
The main building of the Novgorod Museum is occupied by the building of the Court, built at the end of the XVIII century. At the beginning of the XIX century it burned down, but was restored. Nowadays it is occupied by the Novgorod Museum Reserve and the Regional Library. In the expositions of the museum there are ancient icons, wooden sculptures and crosses, birch-bark manuscripts, frescos.
The museum is open from 10:00 to 18:00 every day except Tuesday. The museum does not work on the last Thursday of the month – this is a sanitary day. Entrance ticket for adults costs 200 rubles. On a tour of exhibitions lay 2 hours. There is a paid audio guide.
Falconer’s Court and the children’s museum center
Novgorod Museum has a separate children’s exhibition center, which includes three halls. Here the most popular is the exposition “The City of the Boy Onfim”, which was based on the life of a child who actually lived here in the XIII century.
Not far from the Children’s Museum Center is the Falconer’s Yard, where children will learn the history of falconry as a traditional occupation in Russia. Daytime and nocturnal birds of prey live here.
Nearby is a small XVII century church – the Church of St. Andrew Stratilat.
St. Sophia Cathedral
Cross-domed St. Sophia Cathedral is the oldest religious building in Russia. It was built in 1045-1050 and illuminated between 1050 and 1052. Cathedral has five naves and three galleries.
Inside the ancient iconostasis, ancient paintings, the icon “Our Lady of the Sign” of the XII century.
Outside – the famous Korsun Gates, made of bronze in the XI century. Their second name is the Macdeburg Gates.
The St. Sophia Cathedral and the monument “Millennium of Russia” are depicted on the obverse of the 5 rubles banknote, which appeared in circulation in 1998. Now it’s almost impossible to find paper banknotes of 5 rubles, although they haven’t been officially withdrawn from circulation.
The bell tower of St. Sophia Cathedral appeared four centuries later. It has a wall form. Now bells are collected there, including those from other churches, and the upper tier became an observation deck. It operates only in the spring and summer. Admission is paid.
On Google maps, next to the Cathedral of St. Sophia, the building is signed as the Church of the Entry into Jerusalem. It is not a religious building for a long time and now works as a lecture hall of Novgorod museum.
Vladychnaya Palata or Faceted Chamber is the survived architectural monument of Ancient Russia of 1430-1440s. It is a three-storey brick building in the Western European Gothic style. It is decorated with frescoes.
There are two main exhibitions in the chamber:
- “Jewelry Art of the VI-XVII Centuries,” where you can see many precious shrines and jewelry.
- “The Chamber of Archbishop Euthymius II”, which allows you to learn the history of the development of the Kremlin.
This building of the museum also works from 10:00 to 18:00, Monday is the day off, the sanitary day is the first Wednesday of the month. The ticket costs 200 rubles and it takes an hour to see the exhibitions.
Adjacent to the Faceted Chamber is the Chapel of Chasozvonya – the gate church of Sergius of Radonezh built in the middle of the XV century. It is the tallest building of the Novgorod Kremlin.
Museum of writing and workshop of Grekov restorers
Museum of writing – you will see the inscriptions made by ancient Novgorod residents on everyday objects, ancient Russian coins, stone crosses and signed fragments of plaster. A separate hall is devoted to birch-bark writings. Admission is 140 rubles, Wednesday and Thursday are days off. If it is not interesting to go inside – go to the museum anyway. He has a photogenic porch.
The workshop of artist-restorers A. and V. Grekov – about the life of famous restorers and their work. Workshop active, you can see the restorers at work. Entrance – 120 rubles, does not work on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Walking along the walls of the Kremlin and its towers
The towers of the Novgorod Kremlin inside are divided into 5 or 6 tiers, connected by wooden stairs. Visitors are offered a guided tour of six of them: Spasskaya, Borisoglebskaya, Prechistenskaya, Kokuy, Knyazhaya and Dvortsovaya. In the latter is an installation titled “And there was a fierce siech”.
Inside the walls of Novgorod citadel is the architecture of different years: from the Old Russian style to the classicist era.
Nowadays the access to the towers is closed because of restoration works.
Towers of Novgorod Kremlin
List of preserved towers of Novgorod citadel clockwise, starting from the entrance to the Kremlin from the side of Volkhov through Prechistenskaya Arch. Earlier it was also a tower, but then it was rebuilt. Almost all the towers were built in the XV century.
- The palace tower is 20 meters high. It and the next two towers are also on the back side of the 5-ruble banknote.
- Spasskaya Tower – 19 meters high. The tower is passable, covered with a lattice, inside there are no overlaps.
- Princely Tower – originally a six-tiered structure, later two tiers were dismantled.
- Kokuy tower is also called Kalancha or Kalanchovskaya. The height of the tower with a dome is 38.5 meters. Inside there is an observation deck.
- Pokrovskaya tower is 18 meters high building with 55 embrasures. It was built on the site of the tower of the XIII century. Near the tower is the now defunct Church of the Intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
- Zlatoust’s tower was rebuilt several times, during five centuries it housed anything from a prison to a printing house.
- Metropolitan’s Tower is one of two cylindrical towers of Novgorod Kremlin. The height of the tower is 26,3 m.
- Fedorovsky Tower received its name from the church of the XIII century, and it was built after the death on the eve of the wedding of the 14-year-old brother of Alexander Nevsky – Fedor Yaroslavich. The northernmost tower of citadel.
- Vladimir tower is 27,8 meters high. It was destroyed during the Second World War, but later it was reconstructed in the 15th century forms.
What to see in the vicinity of the citadel
Veliky Novgorod is a small city and it is possible to walk around its center in half a day. What else is there to see in the city and its environs? There are articles about some of them, I will leave all the links.
- Catherine Hill and the White Tower – you can read more about them in the article What to see in Veliky Novgorod.
- Alexander Nevsky Quay
- Graffiti of Veliky Novgorod.
Optional: the Nativity of the Tithe Nunnery, Dostoevsky Drama Theater, and Znamensky Monastery.
Address: Novgorod Kremlin 4.
Working time: entrance to the territory of the Kremlin is open from 6 am till midnight.
How to get to the Novgorod Kremlin
By foot. You can get to the territory of the Kremlin through one of the arches – Voskresenskaya from the side of Victory Square and the Kremlin Park, Prechistenskaya from the side of the bridge and the Trade Side.
Novgorod Kremlin sights on the map
Text and photo by Igor Ozin
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