Viciebsk (also spelled Vitebsk) is an important cultural centre in Belarus. For centuries in the past it used to keep safe the eastern border of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and then the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Some of the famous residents of the city are artist Kazimir Malevich and doctor Karl Gibental, one of the first to make a plaster bandage and offer innovative methods of treating cholera. Viciebsk city and region is also the birthplace of Marc Chagall, another world-famous artist, and avant-garde sculptor Ossip Zadkine as well as Nobel Prize winner Zhores Alferov and Anna-Ester Tamarkin, the first female philosophy professor in Europe. The streets of the city echoed the bells of the first tram in Belarus back in 1898.
During World War II, 93% of the city was destroyed, and only 118 people survived of the 150,000 population. The summary of the Expert Commission of the Red Cross was that the city was beyond repair. However, against all odds, Viciebsk was reborn and has been developing and expanding ever since. Today it hosts about 30 cultural events annually. Among them, the Slavianski Bazaar in Viciebsk International Festival of Arts is the most famous.
The city offers an infinity of ways to explore it. However, we have assembled a must-see short list to help the guests of the 2nd European Games 2019.
In Viciebsk all the major sights are within walking distance of each other. One of the main tourist attractions is the Annunciation Church (1 Zamkavaja vulica / Zamkovaya Street) which was quite literally revived from the ashes. The building was restored to its original 12th-century style and has preserved parts of its ancient walls with unique alternation of rows of dolomite blocks and Byzantine-style bricks.
Don't forget to visit the restored Church of the Holy Resurrection (2 Suvorava vulica / Suvorova Street). In January 1936 the church was destroyed by the Soviet authorities on the pretext that it stood in the way of public transport routes.
Get a bird's eye view of the city from the tower of the Town Hall (36 Lienina vulica / Lenina Street). It is also home to the Regional Museum of Local History. Be sure to check out its rich numismatics collection!
The Assumption Cathedral (9 Krylova vulica / Krylova Street) is another fine example of local architecture reconstructed according to the original designs of the 18th century.
St. Barbara Church (27 Lieninhradskaja vulica / Leningradskaya Street) was built based on the project by architect Victor Piotrovsky in the neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque styles.
At the Church of the Intercession of Virgin Mary (2 Šubina vulica/ Shubin Street), the relics of St. Euphrosyne of Polotsk once rested. The frescoes of the church were created by Russian painter Vladimir Sidelnikov.
If you look for the true spirit of the city, ask the locals. Many of them will probably suggest that you visit the 18th-century Governor's Palace (18 Savieckaja vulica/ Sovietskaya Street). Napoleon Bonaparte had his quarters here on the way to Moscow. In fact, the rumour has it that it was here that the French Emperor made up his mind to proceed for the Russian capital – and he also just happened to celebrate his birthday at the palace.
Yet the true cultural hub of the city is the Marc Chagall Art Centre (25 Savieckaja vulica / Sovietskaya Street). It is the youngest museum in the world dedicated to Marc Chagall. The museum offers a collection of the original graphic works by the famous artist. Marc Chagall House (11 Pakrouskaja vulica/ Pokrovskaya Street) displays the artists' childhood drawings, Chagalls' family portraits and a number of household items.
Don't miss the Summer Amphitheatre (13a Frunze praspiekt / Frunze Avenue). It is the main concert venue for the Slavianski Bazaar in Viciebsk. The amphitheatre was built in a record six months! Here Greek goddess Nike, a symbol of creative victories, greets the guests and residents alike.
Victory Square (plošča Pabedy) is the third largest in Europe and the largest square in Belarus. Its fountains symbolise both the tears shed and the eternal flow of life.
The former district court building (22 Lienina vulica / Lenin Street) now hosts the Art Museum. Its permanent collection features paintings by Russian artists and masters of Vitebsk art school, including Yehuda (Yuri) Pen, Chagall's first art teacher. You might wish to check out the former Diocesan Girls' School (6 Hohalja vulica / Gogol Street). It was one of the first diocesan schools in Belarus, and its patrons were Russian Empress Maria Alexandrovna and later Empress Maria Fyodorovna.
Just outside the city borders, you will find Ilya Repin's Zdravnevo estate, now a museum that displays watercolours, drawings, letters, books, photographs and other personal items of the famous artist. The estate park features a linden alley planted by Repin himself.
Come to Viciebsk to soak in the infinite creative energy of the city!
By direct train from Minsk: the trip will take from 3.5 to 9 hours depending on the type of the train; tickets are around €6.
By coaches or minibuses from the Central Bus Station (6 Babrujskaja vulica / Bobruiskaya street); tickets are around €6-10.
Thanks to the Slavianski Bazaar, the city now has an abundance of hotels: Profsoiuznaja Hotel (8A Praudy vulica / Pravda Street), Dvina (41/18 Iljinskaha vulica / Ilyinsky Street ), Gubernsky Hotel (11-5 Kamsamolskaja vulica / Komsomolskaya Street), Eridan (21-17 Savieckaja vulica / Sovietskaya Street), Luchesa (1 Budaunikou praspiekt / Stroiteley Avenue), Viciebsk (5/2A Zamkavaja vulica / Zamkovaya Street) and others.
Popular fast food spots are McDonald's (1 Cieraškovaj vulica / Tereshkovoy street) and Pchely (3 Bielabarodavaja vulica / Beloborodovaya street, 3 and 31A Maskouski praspiekt / Moskovsky Avenue).
For a cup of coffee and/or a quick bite, head to Biskvit (5/5 Suvorava vulica / Suvorova Street), Klyukva (3 Krylova vulica / Krylova Street),Kofeynya (2 Suvorava vulica / Suvorova Street), Smile Coffee (30 Maskouski praspiekt / Moskovsky Avenue; 8 Frunze vulica / Frunze Street; 1 Čarniahouskaha vulica / Chernyahovsky Street; 26A Lienina vulica / Lenin Street; 35 Čkalava vulica / Chkalova Street), Coffee Like (28 Lienina vulica / Lenin Street and 35 Čkalava vulica / Chkalova Street), Zadvinye(5 Čajkouskaha vulica / Tchaikovskogo street), Tiflis (7 Čapaeva vulica / Chapaeva Street).
If you feel like a substantial meal, check out Domino (7/8 Suvorava vulica / Suvorova Street) and Pelmennaya – the famous dumplings eatery (12/5 Janki Kupaly vulica / Yanki Kupaly Street), Ponchiki (23-2 Lienina vulica / Lenina Street and 39-4 Praudy vulica / Pravdy Street), Zhuravinka (7 Maskouski praspiekt / Moskovsky Avenue), Pit-Stop (3-1 Bešankovickaja saša / Beshenkovichi Road) and Ugol 90 (7 Maskouski praspiekt / Moskovsky Avenue).
Try the Belarusian cuisine at Lyamus (1 Pabedy praspiekt / Pobedy Avenue) and Vasilki (9 Pabedy plošča/ Pobedy Square and 9 Maskouski praspiekt / Moskovsky Avenue). The most popular restaurants are Zolotoy Drakon (10 Krylova vulica / Krylova Street), Eylat (16/3 Suvorava vulica / Suvorova Street), Viciebsky Traktir (2 Suvorava vulica / Suvorova Street), Brevis (11 Hohalja vulica / Gogolya Street).