Grodno is a city in Belarus, located on the Nemunas. Interestingly, despite the fact that the country itself is one of the least visited in Europe, Grodno is its most frequently chosen destination by tourists. In 2016, Belarusian President Lukashenko signed a regulation on visa-free travel in Grodno, which makes traveling easier.
Grodno is a city of contrasts in which clear Soviet influence can still be seen, but it does not stand out from other European places. Grodno is one of the most important historical and cultural centers of Belarus. For many years it was a city of several religions, as can be seen from the numerous churches and synagogue. In addition, there are plenty of other attractions in Grodno. The city is ideal for a weekend getaway, especially since most of the interesting places and monuments are located quite close together. Grodno can be visited on foot or thanks to public transport (buses, trolley buses and private buses). The terrain is mountainous, so sometimes it is worth using it.
What attractions await us in Grodno?
Map of Grodno
Tourist attractions in Grodno
The oldest monument in Grodno is Kalozha church of Sts. Boris and Gleb from the 12th century. Located on a hill above the Nemunas, it is an example of Grodno’s architects’ work. The church has one detail, part of the wall collapsed in the nineteenth century, and in its place a new one was rebuilt, made of wood. At first glance, this weird construction has its own unique charm. It is also worth going inside to feel the harsh climate that prevails there.
Another important monument on the tourist map of Grodno is the cathedral basilica of St. Franciszek Ksawery, whose construction was commissioned by King István Báthory. The temple was to be the place of his burial, but the ruler died sooner than it was completed. The basilica is an example of Baroque architecture, and what impresses most is its interior. Inside, it is worth paying attention to the richly decorated altar, with figures of apostles and saints placed on two levels and two side altars – St. Casimir and St. Stanislaus.
Sights of Grodno
One of the more popular monuments in Grodno is the Old Castle from the 14th century. The castle is located on a hill and a stone bridge leads to it, built during the tsarist times. Currently, the Old Castle houses a museum with an exhibition related to the history of the city. The exhibits are very diverse, from prehistoric times to the period of the Soviet Union.
Right next to the neighboring hill is the New Castle in Grodno from the 18th century. Its original character has been quite heavily transformed and now, along with the columnar facade, resembles one of the Soviet buildings rather than a castle. Even just above the entrance you can see the famous symbol of the sickle and hammer. There is a small museum inside, but it is above all a place where the second partition of Poland was signed, and then the last king of Poland Stanisław August Poniatowski signed his abdication. From this place there is a nice panorama of the Nemunas and the surrounding area.
Another monument in Grodno that is worth visiting is the Cathedral of the Protection of the Mother of God. In this eye-catching Orthodox temple, built in the Neo-Russian style, you can see some interesting icons. Among other things, surrounded by a special cult: the icon of the Kazan Mother of God and the icon of Gabriel Zabłudowski, the controversial Orthodox patron of children and youth. The cathedral was founded in honor of the fallen soldiers in the Russian-Japanese war in 1907.
Another amazing sacred building is the Great Synagogue in Grodno. This is the first stone synagogue in the city from the 16th century. Repeatedly destroyed, burned, but renewed each time. Its current eclectic-Moorish appearance is the result of reconstruction from 1902. It has been recently restored and looks good in photos.
An important monument in Grodno is also the Bernardine church of the Finding of the Holy Cross. Its construction was completed in 1618, and it was financially supported by Sigismund III Vasa himself. The Church of the Finding of the Holy Cross was built on the plan of a three-nave basilica and a semi-circular presbytery. Inside, you can admire, among others a set of stone altars, a picture of the Virgin of Messina and pulpit and confessionals from 1800. An interesting fact is that the church has a plaque commemorating Eliza Orzeszkowa, a nineteenth-century Polish writer who was getting married here.
While visiting Grodno, the Monastery of the Nativity of the Mother of God, which is an Orthodox female basilica monastery built in 1720, will definitely catch your attention. Although the object has the status of a monument, it did not protect it from embellishment such as placing gold stars on the black dome. Baroque architects seeing this would probably get a heart attack, elegantly speaking.
Another religious attraction of Grodno is the Church of Our Lady of the Angels and the Franciscan monastery. This monastery complex is currently a beautiful example of 17th-century urban construction. Inside, you can admire the main altar from the 17th century and a Rococo pulpit.
Another example of a 17th-century style of construction is the Church of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the monastery of the Brigidine Sisters in Grodno. You can admire the main altar from 1646 and baroque benches, balustrades and chandelier as well as three early Baroque portals. An interesting object located next to the church is a wooden lamouse (utility room) from 1769.
It is also impossible to bypass the building of the Grodno Regional Dramatic Theater. It is a relatively modern crown-shaped building that has become one of the landmarks of Grodno and its symbols. Right next door we have a second relish in the form of a monument to the Soviet tank! The city’s praised liberators, of course with the barrel pointing west 😉
Among all the museums in Grodno it is definitely worth visiting the Museum of Religions located in the Chreptowicz Palace. Interestingly, the object, which was founded as a museum of Atheism, collected icons and liturgical items taken from the church. Thanks to this, paradoxically, all these priceless antique objects survived the period of persecution. Inside, there is also a separate room dedicated to the fight against religion and god during the Soviet Union.
What is worth seeing in Grodno?
When visiting Grodno, you can visit the private museum of Janusz Parulis. There is a collection of everyday items that his grandfather has already begun collecting. Today, all these exhibits look a bit like a compulsive collector collection. However, there is a method in this madness. You can see, for example, an old fireman’s uniform or an old gramophone. The owner himself shows the museum. The peculiar museum is located at 25 Lermontowa Street.
An interesting point on the map of Grodno is also a Jesuit pharmacy. This is the oldest facility of its kind in Belarus. Inside is the tiny Museum of Medicine, where you can see documents, prescriptions, old medicines, as well as pharmacy equipment.
Another curiosity is the fire tower. Built in the second half of the nineteenth century, because of the fires that troubled the city. The tower is 8 floors high and you have to make an appointment here. No less interesting is the painting, adorning the adjacent building, which depicts firefighters from different eras, including one woman who has the face of the world-famous Mona Lisa.
When it comes to parks, two are noteworthy: the Swiss Valley and Zhilibera Park. The river Haradnichanka flows through the first and is a place for walks and rest on the bench. The second park is distinguished by such details as the monument to the fallen Soviet soldier, at which the eternal fire is burning, as well as the bench of lovers and the bridge of love.