On the tranquil Sosna River, sleepy Yelets stands out as one of the early Rus settlements to have retained some of its traditional character. The town centre is a visual delight, littered with large and small churches in various stages of disrepair and lined with pastel-coloured buildings and wooden cottages.
Founded in 1146 as a fortification against the Turkic invaders from the east, Yelets became a punching bag for the Mongol Tatars, who devastated it half a dozen times during the Middle Ages. The town became famous for its intricate lacemaking from the 18th century.
Yelets’ centre is laid out in a grid, with ul Kommunarov connecting Hotel Yelets in the east with Ascension Cathedral in the west. Further west (downhill) lies the Sosna River. The train station and long-distance bus stop are about 3km southeast of the centre. Ul Mira, the main shopping street, runs into pl Lenina. The Knizhni Klub bookstore sells maps.