Situated at the meeting point of the Kotorosl and Volga Rivers, the Golden Ring city of Yaroslavl boasts a long and rich history.
According to legend, the city was founded in its current form in 1010 AD, when Prince Yaroslav passed through along the Volga River. Apparently he saw the residents of a local town attacking merchant ships in an attempt to plunder them. When the prince came to the merchants' defence, the attackers unleashed a bear on him. Yaroslav killed it single-handedly using only a spear. He then ordered the shocked bystanders to establish a fortress "in his own name" as well as a church to the Holy Prophet Elijah at that spot.
Whilst the exact events of 1010 have never been proved or disproved, it is known that Yaroslavl was first settled in that year. With its favourable location on a number of trade routes, the city had become a major centre by the beginning of the 13th century. It was easily the largest of the Golden Ring cities, and even today is the only one that has much of an urban feel.
By the 15th century the city had enjoyed a long period of prosperity, and it became the second richest city in Russia, after Moscow. During the 'Times of Trouble' Yaroslavl was briefly declared the capital of Russia, with the government and army both being directed from here for a few years.
With its impressive wealth, the city built a number of celebrated religious buildings, and today the centre is home to some truly magnificent architecture. Surprisingly for a trading city, much of Yaroslavl's historic core has remained intact, and today this beautiful city is a popular UNESCO World Heritage site.