Assumption Cathedral at dawn, Smolensk, Russia.

© shushonok/Shutterstock

Assumption Cathedral

Top choice in Western European Russia

Dominating the skyline is this huge green-and-white working cathedral topped by five silver domes. A church has stood here since 1101; this one was built in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Even more splendid within, its spectacular gilded and icon-encrusted interior so impressed Napoleon that, according to legend, he set a guard to stop his own men from vandalising the cathedral.

Immediately on your left as you enter, look for a small framed icon of the Virgin, richly encrusted with pearls drawn from the Dnepr around Smolensk. Further on, a cluster of candles marks a supposedly wonder-working icon of the Virgin. This is a 16th-century copy of the original, said to be by St Luke, which had been on this site since 1103 and was stolen in 1923.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Western European Russia attractions

1. Trinity Monastery

0.17 MILES

Much restoration work has been done on this charming, pink-walled convent, which also runs a small orphanage for girls. Donations are welcome.

2. Dom Knigi

0.31 MILES

This bookshop only sells Russian-language titles, but if you don't read Russian it's still a worthwhile stop to admire the beautiful blue baroque building.

3. In the World of Fairytales Museum

0.42 MILES

One for the kids, where they've smashed the boring don't-touch rules. It's a small creative space with activities and interactive exhibits based on…

4. History Museum

0.46 MILES

This gorgeous mustard-coloured building is home to a range of different galleries over two floors, covering natural and local history. Displays include…

5. Konenkov Sculpture Museum

0.55 MILES

Contains playful woodworks by Smolensk Oblast native Sergei Konenkov, otherwise known as the 'Russian Rodin'. The museum also has works by other noted…

6. Glinka Garden

0.57 MILES

At the east end of this shady garden with fountains, an 1885 statue of the composer Glinka is surrounded by a fence with excerpts from his opera A Life…

7. Smolensk Flax Museum

0.62 MILES

Flax production developed from the Middle Ages as one of Smolensk’s main industries, as the moderate climate sustained soil ideal for growing the plant…

8. Art Gallery

0.67 MILES

Housed in a beautiful building with wrought-iron staircases, this splendid collection includes pieces by luminaries such as Valentin Serov, Ilya Repin and…