Veliky Novgorod was founded in 859, so you can consider it the oldest Russian city. Kiev is the only city that was founded earlier than Novgorod, in 854. But today Kiev is on the territory of independent Ukraine.
The other date, 862 is at least as significant. This year the Varangian prince Ruyrik and his men came to the lands of Russia, married the daughter of Novgorod`s elder statesman and took the lead of Novgorod lands. This year is assumed to be the foundation date of the first Russian dynasty and Russian statehood. This important event also took place in Veliky Novgorod.
There have survived a lot of ancient monuments of architecture, both within the Kremlin and beyond its walls, including the Cathedral of Sophia – the oldest stone temple on the territory of today Russia, which was built during 1045-1050.
Novgorod was the key city in the northern section of the famous trade route from Byzantine Empire to Scandinavia, so-called «route from the Varangians to the Greeks». Thanks to reasonable administration the city quickly grew rich. In spite of the presence of princes, most state issues were discussed at the popular assembly (veche), which was a prototype of today parliament. That was the first democratic institution in Russia, and in the period of 1136-1478 Veche was the only authority.
Novgorod Kremlin. Novgorod Kremlin is the most interesting place in the city. It is located in the center of the city on the river Volkhov. The first records of the Kremlin date back to 11th century. Inside the Kremlin there located the oldest church of (Kievan) Rus – Sophia`s Cathedral with belfry, as well as the monument «The Millennium of Russia».
You must have a stroll on the walls. All wall sections and towers of the Kremlin were preserved perfectly. They reach the length of 1.3 kilometers, so you can easily go round it for an hour, and enjoy the views of the Kremlin and the river Volkhov. Each tower has its own name, for example, Dvortsovaya, Spasskaya, Knyazhaya, etc. The most famous towers are Kokui Tower and Metropolitan Tower, with adjoining Clock Tower.
In 1862 in the center of the Kremlin the monument «The Millennium of Russia» was opened in the presence of Alexander II. It was erected here thousand years after 862 when the Russian state was formed under the Prince Ruyrik.
In 1045 the Cathedral of Sancta Sophia, the Divine Wisdom, or simple St. Sophia`s Cathedral, the oldest stone temple in the Rus, was laid down by Yaroslav the Wise after a fa-shion of Sophia`s Cathedral in Kiev. The temples of Northern Rus were different from those that were built in the southern lands. Northern temples are low, and have thick walls and narrow windows. This is due to severe northern climate. However, in spite of this, ancient architects created a monumental temple reaching the height of 38 meters.
The front of the temple is adorned with the bronze gate made by German craftsmen, which was installed there in 1187. It was called the Magdeburg Gate. In 12th century all the internal walls of the cathedral were covered with frescoes of which only a small part has survived until nowadays. Five-tier iconostasis with more than 70 icons is one of the oldest and most beautiful in Russia.
On the other bank of the river Volkhov, opposite the Kremlin, you can see not the least interesting sites – Yaroslav Dvorische (Court) and Ancient Torg (Market). This was the place where trading deals were concluded and popular assemblies (veche) were held in 11th century. Today there are 8 ancient churches and cathedrals on this small territory. The main architecture monument of the Torg is St. Nicolas (Nicolsky) Cathedral built by the Prince Mstislav in 1113. The rest of temples, such as the Church of St. Parasceva the Friday, the Church of the Myrrhbearers, the Church of St. Prokopius, the Assumption Church on the Market, the Church of St. Georges on the Market, the Church of St. John the Baptist on Opoki, date back to 12-13 centuries.
After you have seen the central sites both inside and outside the Kremlin, you may start off on a tour of churches and monasteries located outside of Novgorod the Great. Also, it would be very interesting to visit the Museum of Wood Architecture ‘Vitoslavici’. This is one of the biggest, and probably the most interesting museum where you can see wood churches and houses brought there from different villages. There are also similar museums in Suzdal and Kolomenskoye National Park in Moscow.
Historically, it would be interesting to go on a excursion to the Ruyrik Town (Gorodische) and the Church of Our Saviour at Nereditsa. Ruyrik Town is the ruins of the for-mer residence of the Prince Ruyrik located near the place where the river Volkhov falls into Ilmen Lake. Nearby the famous one-domed Church of Our Saviour at Nereditsa is located, built by Yaroslav the Wise in 1198. This is a small church but its simplicity and grace have a peculiar charm, similar to that of the Church of the Intercession on the Nerl near Vladimir.
If you will have enough time, you may embark on the pleasure boat tour of Ilmen Lake, as well as look around northern churches. About that region, on the bank of the river Volkhov, the Monastery of St. Yuri is located where churches of 12th century have survived.