The 24 best sights of Polotsk – descriptions and photos

The 24 best sights of Polotsk – descriptions and photos

There are several unique monuments in Belarus, which are called the Borisov stones. These are large boulders with carved inscriptions and crosses. Most often the text is carved on the stone, “God help your servant, Boris son of Ginvilov…”.

Monument “Polotsk – the geographical center of Europe”.

The memorial sign is situated in Polotsk at 55 degrees 30 minutes northern latitude and 28 degrees 48 minutes eastern longitude. It indicates that the city is the geographical center of Europe. And the Belarusians do not agree to anything less.

St. Sophia Cathedral in Polotsk

The temple originally served as a fortress and was the embodiment of a powerful statehood. It was used to receive ambassadors, decide the fates of different countries and guard religious shrines. In the 18th century the temple was deliberately blown up, and a new one was built in its place.

Cathedral of the Epiphany in Polotsk

The Cathedral of the Epiphany in Polotsk shines with the whiteness of its walls and the gold of its domes on the green bank of the Western Dvina near the Museum of Printing. Both buildings once belonged to the monastery of St. Epiphany, founded in the 16th century.

Children’s Museum of Polotsk

The exhibits of the Children’s Museum of Polotsk are not only possible, but also necessary to touch, dismantle and try to reassemble. Everything here is designed to satisfy the healthy curiosity of children. The fashion for such “how things work” museums in recent years has conquered the whole world and finally made its way here.

House of Peter I in Polotsk

Emperor Peter I stayed in this small house at the beginning of the 18th century. At least that is what the plate on the building says. It is known that the house is more than 300 years old.

The Jesuit Collegium in Polotsk

Ancient Polotsk, as well as other ancient cities of Belarus, has one interesting feature – so historically it happened that these lands were part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and later – the Rzeczpospolita. This resulted in an original synthesis of Orthodox and Catholic cultures.

Regional Museum of Polotsk

A mammoth tusk, a knight’s sword, a cunning barn latch and a machine gun “Maxim” are on display in the Polotsk Museum of Regional History. Since 1930 it has occupied the brick Neo-Gothic building of the former St. Mary’s Lutheran Church on the bank of the Western Dvina River.

Red Bridge in Polotsk

This bridge across the river Polota is called red not because it’s beautiful. But because during the battles of the Patriotic War of 1812 it was completely covered in blood.

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Cathedral of the Exaltation of the Cross in Polotsk

The Cathedral of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in Polotsk is the youngest temple of the ancient Euphrosine monastery. The church of Transfiguration of the Savior could not house all the parishioners and needed a major overhaul, so a new church was built at the end of the 19th century.

The Barrow of immortality in Polotsk

Barrow of immortality in Polotsk was created by Polotsk citizens in memory of their fellow citizens and soldiers who died during the Great Patriotic War. It was built from the ashes of the burned villages and the earth from the mass graves and battlefields. It rests in the earth from the fortress-hero Brest and other areas of Belarus.

Museum of Printing in Polotsk

Museums dedicated to the book are not common. One of them is located in the ancient Slavic city of Polotsk. It is now the territory of Belarus. The reason is that a native of Polotsk was Francis Skorina, a philosopher, educator and physician, who was the first in the world to print a copy of the Bible in the old Belarusian language.

Museum of Medieval Chivalry in Polotsk

Polotsk is well aware of who the knights are, so it created a whole museum for these brave warriors. It is located on Engels Street and consists of three small rooms with armor and instruments of torture.

Monument to the letter “Y”.

Only Belarusians can pronounce this sound correctly. In other languages the letter “ў” does not exist. It is called “u short” or “u non-syllable” and came into use at the end of the 19th century.

Monument to Francisc Skorina

Francisc Scorina is one of the “universal geniuses” of the Renaissance. A contemporary of Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci, he was a philosopher, scientist, inventor, and physician. The native of Polotsk was not attracted to the family trading business; he was passionate about knowledge.

Spaso-Euphrosynyevsky Monastery

Polotsk is one of the oldest cities of Kievan Rus. The history of this principality is closely connected with the name of Euphrosyne of Polotsk, a princess canonized by the Orthodox Church. Exactly under her leadership and by her efforts in 1125 the monastery, which is nowadays called Spaso-Efrosinievsky, was established.

Church of the Transfiguration of the Savior in Polotsk

The Church of the Transfiguration of the Savior in Polotsk is the first church of the St. Euphrosyne Monastery built soon after its foundation in the 12th century. The architect’s name was John, and according to legend he was called to work by a divine voice. The church was erected in just 30 weeks, but there were not enough materials to complete it.

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In times immemorial, Polotsk was the capital of the first principality on the territory of Belarus. Amazing cathedrals and palaces, monasteries and collegia – in a word, everything that the capital is supposed to have – were erected here. Nowadays, they all have a very significant cultural heritage, showing the rich history of Kievan Rus.

St. Sophia Cathedral, nestled on the rocky bank of the Western Dvina River, literally sets the mood for the whole city. It is one of the oldest cathedrals of Kievan Rus, dating back to the 11th century AD. Architecturally, St. Sophia Cathedral is similar to cathedrals of the same name in Kiev and Novgorod, but the original fragments of the building have survived only in part. St. Sophia Cathedral also works as a museum, so the interior decoration of the building can also be admired. Inside there are various archeological findings and a hall with an organ.

Not far from the cathedral you can see (or rather impossible not to see) a huge boulder with a six-pointed cross carved on it and the initials of the Polotsk Prince Boris Vseslavovich. It is the so-called Borisov Stone, one of the four surviving stones of uncertain function and origin. The Borisov Stone dates back to the 12th century A.D. and is popular as an original monument of the Belarusian epigraphy.

The history of Polotsk since its foundation has been riddled with fierce battles, wars, and political strife. Many churches, temples and other historical monuments have not survived. Today the only things that testify to the lost heritage of Polotsk are commemorative stones and old archival maps.

To the east of St. Sophia Cathedral there are a number of architectural monuments, and in some historical buildings there are functioning museums. For example, there is an art gallery in the walls of the Jesuit Collegium, a local history museum in the building of the former Lutheran Church, a stationary exhibition “A Walk through Lower Pokrovsk” in the “House of Peter I”, the Museum of Belarusian Printing in the building of the brotherhood school of Polotsk Epiphany Monastery, etc.

Polotsk is also the cradle of Orthodoxy, the famous Monastery of Our Savior and St. Euphrosyne. It is a complex of historical buildings, the oldest of which was founded in the 12th century. At the monastery’s entrance is a huge bell tower, hiding behind its walls a number of ancient churches and cathedrals. It is a functioning women’s monastery and an important pilgrimage center. The territory of the monastery is very large and beautiful and here you can walk around a lot.

The Monastery of Our Savior and St. Euphrosyne bears the name of its founder, Princess Euphrosyne of Polotsk, the enlightener of Kievan Rus. She was the first woman to be canonized as a saint. Relics of St. Euphrosyne of Polotsk are kept in the walls of the monastery.

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By the way, in 2008 it was discovered that Polotsk is the geographical center of Europe. In honor of such a pleasant discovery, a memorable sign was installed in one of the town’s squares. Polotsk is such a wonderful place.

Polotsk sights

Polotsk sights

Polotsk is one of the oldest cities not only in Belarus, but also in the whole territory that used to be called Russia. You can find references to this city in chronicles dating back to 862, although in fact it was founded much earlier. Polotsk has undergone a long series of historical events – wars, destruction, prominent figures have worked and lived here, and the city now boasts some remarkable sights.

St. Sophia Cathedral

St. Sophia Cathedral

The most famous sight of Polotsk is St. Sophia Cathedral. It is one of the first Orthodox churches in Russia and the first built of stone in Belarus. It appeared almost immediately after the cathedrals in Kiev and Novgorod, becoming the third most important Orthodox church in Russia. The temple was built according to the canons of the Byzantine Church, but in the 18th century it was rebuilt by the architect Jan Glaubits in the late Russian (Vilnius) baroque style.

At one time the cathedral became the center of religious and cultural life of the whole region, and one of the best libraries was situated there. It should be said that despite all the twists and turns of fate, St Sophia Cathedral has survived almost intact until today. Of particular interest are the frescos of the Savior Not Made by hands and a copy of Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece “The Last Supper”. St. Sophia Cathedral will be interesting both from a religious point of view and as a museum and concert hall with excellent acoustics.

Polotsk Museum of Medieval Chivalry

Museum of Medieval Chivalry in Polotsk

Polotsk Museum of Medieval Chivalry is sort of the opposite of St. Sophia Cathedral. It is a small museum that is not very monumental, but is capable of giving the visitor a lot of interesting and informative minutes. There are just three rooms with samples of knight’s ammunition, medieval household items – and, for the most daring, there is an exposition of torture chamber. However, even the latter does not inspire horror, but tells how these or those devices were used in ancient, sometimes brutal times.

The Convent of the Savior and St. Euphrosyne

Convent of St. Euphrosyne

But if you are more attracted not by the secular but religious themes, be sure to visit the Spaso-Efrosinievsky Monastery. It is an ancient female monastery, founded in 1125 by princess Predslava. She took the name of Euphrosyne when she was a nun and is now considered a saint, the intercessor of the Belarusian land. She is equally revered by both Orthodox and Catholics. The monastery is active, so you can come to it as a pilgrim as part of a pilgrimage tour, as well as open for tourist viewing.

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Jesuit Collegium

Jesuit Collegium

The former Jesuit Collegium of Polotsk houses an art gallery. The collegium itself is an interesting architectural monument built in the 18th century, but the archaeological finds and paintings on display are also worth a visit. The archeological collection is constantly replenished, and among the paintings you can find examples of works by Salvator Rosa, Shimon Chekhovich, icon painting from the XVIII-XX centuries, secular portraiture from the XVIII to the present day.

Exhibitions of modern Belarusian artists are regularly held there. A gimmick has recently appeared there: a talking mechanical head, depicting a bearded “sage” who “speaks” several languages and answers questions. This “head” is a reconstruction of a curiosity from the 18th century and, like two hundred years ago, arouses curiosity and a desire to “talk”. Maybe about the meaning of life.

Natural and ecological museum

Nature and Environment Museum

Borisov Stone

Borisov Stone

Another interesting sight of Polotsk is the Borisov Stone. It is placed near the Cathedral of St. Sophia, so you can include its sightseeing in your tour of the cathedral. This stone is interesting because it supposedly was a pagan temple, but later it was “baptized” by order of Prince Boris, son of Vseslav the Magician, one of the characters in “The Tale of Igor’s Campaign”.

An interesting legend is connected to the Borisov Stone – allegedly after the Prince who adopted Orthodox Christianity “christened” a pagan altar, the “old gods” became enraged at him and caused a terrible famine. They say that its magical powers the stone has not lost to this day and by touching it, you can make a wish that is sure to come true.

Monument to Prince Vseslav the Magician

Monument to the Prince Vseslav the Magician

And once we mentioned the odious character of “The Tale of Igor’s Campaign”, who was the founder of Polotsk, Vseslav the Magician, then you can not ignore directly related to him landmark of Polotsk – the monument. Monument to Vseslav the Magician is a picture of a horseman. Certainly, no portraits of the prince, who founded the city, have been preserved, but the monument looks very picturesque and a little “fairy-tale-like” and is definitely worth a closer look.

Museum of Belarusian Printing

Museum of Belarusian Printing

Any educated person is interested in books. So, also interested in the history of book printing and the Polotsk Museum of Book-Publishing. It is worth noting that this is the only museum of its kind in Belarus. Even if you do not consider yourself a bibliomaniac, you should visit this museum, because it presents both ancient manuscripts and early printed books and modern editions. And also – to see how printing was changing over the centuries: to meet a monk copyist in the scriptorium, nervous typesetters with lead-stained fingers, and finally, a reconstruction of a modern printing house.

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Red Bridge

Red Bridge

A landmark from a time close to us, the Red Bridge, will bring back memories of the Patriotic War of 1812. Once wooden, this bridge in the war was drenched in blood, for which it received its frightening name. In the middle of XX century, the bridge became reinforced concrete, but has kept the memory of its history in the form of a plaque dedicated to the soldiers-liberators of the Belarusian land.

If you’re walking around the city, be sure to walk along the Nizhnepokrovskaya street – it is a favorite walking place for the locals, it can be called the central street and there are a lot of architectural monuments there. Many of the sights mentioned here belong to it.

Polotsk sightseeing map

Where to stay? Hotel in Polotsk

Hotels in Polotsk

Polotsk is a modern city with a great variety of modern hotels. If you want to stay in Polotsk for a long time, you will probably want to check out the Slavyanski Hotel Complex. It includes a full range of services – from a conference room to a hairdresser, from a restaurant with delicious national cuisine to a wedding salon.

There are agritourist farms nearby! See all the accommodation options in our catalog of farmsteads, cottages and recreation centers. Nature, hospitality and national cuisine!

Polotsk Gostiny Dvor

There are also more budget variants of residing, for example, a mini-hotel “Polotsk Gostiniy Dvor”. It is located in the center of the city and is notable for its comfort at a relatively low cost of services. Learn the prices

Duck LakeDuck Lake

Prefer the views of nature and silence? Then choose the Duck Lake Chalet. With its private beach, water sports facilities and of course unspoilt nature views, this is the ideal choice for those who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Check Rates


The hostel SofiaHostel is situated only a mile and a half from the street of Euphrosyne Polotskaya; here you will find cozy “home” rooms and everything you need for an inexpensive but pleasant stay. Check out prices

Polotsk has a lot of interesting sights. The main part of them is connected with the history and culture not only of the Republic of Belarus but of the whole Slavonic world so the sights of Polotsk will interest any visitor.

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