Through the centuries Hrodna (also spelled as Grodno) has preserved its legacy and identity with pride. The city is one of the few places in Belarus that has maintained its architectural heritage intact. In Hrodna, every street is overflowing with the atmosphere of the past. In autumn 1793 the New Castle received the last Sejm (the parliament) of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and it was there that Stanislaw August Poniatowski signed the act of abdication from the throne. Peter I and August II paid personal visits on the consecration of St. Francis Xavier Cathedral. The latter, by the way, is home to an altar as high as a 7-storey house, and in the floor plates you can see the fossil mollusc shells dating back 450 million years. It was in Hrodna that the first professional theatre of Belarus was founded.
Only in this city you can hear a mini solo concert of the trumpeter signalling from the viewing platform of a fire tower. Here, the oldest synagogue and the only functioning Lutheran church in the country are still open. Some famous people were born or lived in Hrodna, such as the Polish-Belarusian writer Eliza Orzeszkowa and the Jewish artist Léon Bakst.
For you we have prepared a detailed city guide with all its must-sees!
Walking around Hrodna, pay attention to its well-preserved Old Town. This small area contains a blend of different eras and styles. Hrodna Old Castle (22 Zamkavaja vulica / Zamkovaya St.) withstood the crusades of the Teutons, was the residence of the Grand Duke of Lithuania Vytautas the Great, and in the 16 century it was rebuilt in the Renaissance style by the initiative of King Stephen Báthory. Alas, during the Northern war the Swedish army burnt the castle down, and it was never restored in its former splendour. Polish king and Grand Duke of Lithuania Augustus III built the New Royal Palace (22 Zamkavaja vulica / Zamkovaya St.) in front of the Old Castle. The new royal residence also held the General Sejm of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The agreement on the partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was signed here in 1793, and two years later King Stanislaw August Poniatowski signed the act of abdication from the throne. Today part of the collection of Hrodna State Historical and Archeological Museum is on display here.
Not far from the castles you will see the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin (3 Navazamkavaja vulica / Novozamkovaya St.). It was built in 1726 by the Swiss-Italian architect Giuseppe Fontana (Józef Fontana). During the restoration works in this area, the remains of the 12th century Theotokos Church were discovered. This proves that as early as during the period of feudal fragmentation an original school of architecture existed and developed here.
Hrodna has always been a town of many nations and confessions. In the town centre you will see the Great Choral Synagogue (59A Balšaja Troickaja vulica / Bolshaya Troitskaya St.) which dates back to the 16th century and is still functioning. And the organ of the Lutheran Church (7a Akademičeskaja vulica / Akademicheskaya St.) could be a gem of any concert hall. The church often hosts charity musical concerts. From the height of the Castle Hill you can feel all the charm of the town and see all its authentic streets at once. Make sure you see one of the most unusual buildings of the Soviet era, the Drama Theatre (35 Mastavaja vulica / Mostovaya St.).
St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, the main Roman Catholic church in Hrodna, spectacularly sits in the main square of the town (4 Savieckaja plošča / Sovetskaya Sq.). The cathedral was granted the title of a minor basilica and was originally constructed by the Jesuits as a college building in the 17th century. Splendidly decorated with multiple sculptures, paintings and frescoes, it used to be one of the most famous cathedrals of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
Take a walk along the high steep banks of the River Nieman. Here you can enjoy the panoramic views and visit the ancient St. Boris and Gleb Church, also known as the Kalozha Church (6 Kaloža vulica / Kolozha St.). It is a unique example of architecture of the second half of the 12th century created by the masters of the local school. The church was partially destroyed, as its southern and part of western wall collapsed into the river due to a landslide in 1853. Ceramic vase-like indentations are built into the church walls, the laying is made of thin plinth brick, the wall surface is decorated with filling pieces of multi-coloured boulders and majolica tiles.
When in the city, you cannot but notice the Church of the Discovery of the Holy Cross (1 Paryžskaj Kamuny vulica / Parizhskoi Kommuny St.). As many as three styles – Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque – influenced the architecture of the church. It also preserves a unique 17th century organ. The Catholic Church of Virgin Mary of the Angels (2 Aharodnaja vulica / Ogorodnaya St.) is another remarkable religious building. The oldest pipe organ of Belarus (for 12 voices) is located here. The main relic of the monastery is the miraculous icon of Virgin Mary of the Angels which dates back to the 17th century. The church and the Franciscan monastery are associated with the name of St. Maximilian Kolbe, which attracts pilgrims from around the world.
The easiest, most convenient and fastest way to get to Hrodna from Minsk is by minibuses that depart from the Central Bus Station (6 Babrujskaja vulica / Bobruiskaya St.) and will take you to Hrodna in 3.5 hours. A single ticket costs €5-6. You can also get there by train. Travel time is from 4 to 7 hours. Travel fee is €4-6 depending on the class of the train.
The best burgers in the city are made at ParKing (1 Ažeška vulica / Ozheshko St.). Delicious pancakes are available at Kolobok, and you can enjoy a tasty sandwich at Starlight (11 Zamkavaja vulica / Zamkavaya St.). If you are a fan of the old-school 1990s atmosphere, then pop into Cheburechnaya (11 Ažeška vulica / Ozheshko St.). Another good street food spot is U Starogo Mlyna (25 Cimirazieva vulica / Timiryazeva St.), along with Batoriya (10 Batoryja vulica / Batoriya St.). You can grab a quick bite at Nasha Kava (11 Zamkavaja vulica / Zamkovaya St.), Raskosha (7 Savieckaja vulica / Sovetskaya St.), Bolshoi Bufet (18 Savieckaja vulica / Sovetskaya St.), Werden gastrobar (31 Mastavaja vulica / Mostovaya St.) or Bakst (21 Zamkavaja vulica / Zamkovaya St.).
If you choose to stay at a hotel, we recommend Kronon Park Hotel (19 Pyški uročyšča / Pyshki Woodland), Slavia Hotel (1 Maladziožnaja vulica / Molodezhnaya St.), Semashko Hotel (10 Antonava vulica / Antonova St.), Omega Hotel (40 Vasilka vulica / Vasilka St.).
Many tourists prefer to rent apartments, which are easy to find online. Hostels are another popular accommodation option. There are several in the city: Hello Grodno (30 Haradničanskaja vulica / Gorodnichanskaya St.), Old Bridge (34 Razanava vulica / Rozanova St.).
Hurry up – Hrodna is waiting!