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Lutsk: A recommended tour to introduce the city's pleasures

Lutsk: A recommended tour to introduce the city's pleasures
Address:st. Maydan Teatralnyy, 2
Phone: +38 (0332) 72-34-19
+38 (099) 644 77 79
Duration:1:00-2:00
Група до 5 осіб - 200 грн.(польською, англійською - 300 грн.); 5 - 10 осіб - 300 грн.(польською, англійською - 400 грн.); 10-20 осіб - 400 грн.(польською, англійською - 500 грн.)

Welcome to our self-guided walking tour of Lutsk. We hope this program will help you enjoy the historical highlights of our city – a city that has experienced nearly every influence that has affected Ukraine over the last 1000 years.

But before we start, remember, the tour may take 1 ½ to 2 hours – if you need food, liquid refreshment or a caffeine boost during your tour, the route will take you past, or near, numerous restaurants, cafes, coffee houses and bars.  Any of them will be happy to help you solve your problem.  And if you need advice or help, the multi-lingual staff at the Lutsk Tourist Information Center at Lesya Ukrainka Street, #21 is eager to offer their assistance.

OK, let’s go!  We suggest you start your tour at the Theater Square (the Maydan Teatralnyy) often referred to as “the center”.  Starting here will allow you to walk back in time from modern days to the beginnings of Lutsk, more than 900 years ago.  Stand in the square looking down Lesya Ukrainka Street – the long pedestrian street to the south.  Behind you, across Voli (Freedom) Boulevard, is the Tsum department store called "Lutsk".  It along with many of the buildings beyond it are examples of typical construction during the Soviet era in Lutsk.

sobor.jpgTo your right is the statue of Lesya Ukrainka, one of Ukraine’s most beloved authors.  Behind Lesya is the Taras Shevchenko Regional Drama and Music Theater.  Both of these are relatively recent additions to Lutsk, the theater having been completed in the 1930’s and the statue appearing in the 1970’s.  Do you see and hear the people walking through the square?  Two hundred years ago, the sound was different, as this area served as a parade ground for Russian troops, who occupied Lutsk beginning in 1795, when the city became part of the Russian Empire.  This area was the limit to northern expansion of the city until the 20th century, and much of the land around you was occupied by public parks.

Finally, to your left is the Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral, one of the landmarks of Lutsk.  It was built in the period from 1752 – 1755, and was originally a Catholic Church and Bernardine monastery complex.  In the ebb and flow of religious influences in Lutsk, the latter half of the 19th century saw the complex pass to the control of the Orthodox Church.  With the construction of the bell tower and dome in 1880, the cathedral became the center for the Orthodox community.  The cathedral is a two-story building in a horseshoe shape, with two towers in the central portion of the façade. This composition is rare for a monastery and is more like the architecture of a palace.    The interior cathedral décor, still preserved today with a two-level carved and gilt iconostasis created by Ukrainian masters, dates back to the 19th century. The cathedral is the dominant architectural feature of the Theater Square and today belongs to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The monastery of St. Vasyl the Great and the St. Catherine Church now occupy buildings of the complex. 

Start to walk now towards Lesya Ukrainka Street, and notice first the building in front of you just to the right – it once housed a Soviet-era restaurant and now offers the time/date/ temperature display known affectionately to locals as “Big Ben”.  As you walk down LesyaЛуцькЛесі_Українки.jpg Ukrainka, you are traveling back into the earlier 20th and the 19th centuries.  The current name of the street is one of the 13 names applied to it over several hundred years, including Main Street (twice, not so original), Emperor Nicholas II, Stalin (again, twice), Shevchenka (for 1 ½ months) and Soviet.  Although the city extended up the street, at least to Kryvyy Val Street as far back as medieval times, the buildings you see today date from the early 1800’s through modern times.  Some things to notice as you stroll:

- On the Big Ben building you might notice the sign for the Abbey Road (Monastyrska Doroha) restaurant. The name symbolizes the five different churches that stood along the street at various times. The only remaining one is the Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral.

- If you look to your right down Pushkin Street (the second street on your right), you can see the house where Peter the Great stayed on a journey to Poland in 1709.

- Once you get to Kryvyy Val (Curvy Hill Street) begin to pay special attention to the varied architectural styles.  You can easily identify buildings from the pre-Soviet era, with strong 19th century Polish influence, reflecting the Polish empire’s dominance in Lutsk in the 17th and 18th centuries. In addition, buildings from Soviet times blend into the scene, and more modern buildings attempt to re-capture the mood of the earlier structures.  Three of the buildings are marked with plaques designating them as historic monuments, including the oldest building on the street - a yellow brick building (early 19th century) on the right near the end of the street.

- At the intersection with Senator Levchanivska Street, with two small parks on either side of Lesya Ukrainka, you will find the Lutsk Tourist Information Center, with its helpful staff and information.  If you look to your left, down the hill you can see the Old Market (Staryy Rynok), typical of markets in Ukrainian cities – a maze of buildings and stands offering everything local citizens might need, from food to clothing to auto parts to plumbing supplies. 

- A little further down Lesya Urkainka Street, on the left, you will notice another small park, with a statue of Stepan Boyko, Secretary of the Communist Party in Volyn.  This park was the location of one of the street’s churches, one that was destroyed during Soviet times.  Behind the park stands the former Trinitarian monastery (1729) which now serves as a military hospital.

When you come to the end of Lesya Ukrainka Street, cross over Kovelska Street, using the crosswalk to your left, then go back to the right to stand on the Brotherhood Bridge (Bratskovyy Bridge).  300 years ago, you would have been standing at the edge of the city, looking down at the Glushets River.  The Glushets, along with the River Styr, created a defensive island that protected the city and its castle from enemies over the years.  Eventually, the river was re-channeled into underground pipes and Glushets Street, the longest street in Lutsk, enabled easier movement in the city.

Resist the temptation to turn left on the cobbled street toward the castle (we’ll get there soon) and instead walk up Dragomanova Street.  Almost immediately, on your right, you will see the Exaltation of the Cross Orthodox Church, which held monastery cells and the buildings of the ancient public religious and cultural educational organization – Lutsk Orthodox Brotherhood.  The Brotherhood was allowed to exist, even though it represented resistance to the Catholic influence of the Polish Empire.  The complex was built in the early 17th century, replacing the old hospital and church that had been built by Lazar, son of Lithuanian Prince Lubart.  A school and a Russian hospital were also located in the complex. Many Ukrainian elders were interred in the caves of the Exaltation of the Cross Orthodox Church, including poet Danylo Bratkovskyi, buried there in 1702.  Across the street, on the wall of the library (biblioteka), you can see evidence of the conflict between influences in western Ukraine.  There is a plaque memorializing Bratkovskyi, who was executed for his nationalistic beliefs. A fire in 1803 damaged the church and the stone walls were demolished, leaving only the altar, around which the church was reconstructed.  Today the church belongs to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Where the street divides, you can see a small square with a monument commemorating the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Christ.  Our tour follows the branch to the right, although you can take a short side trip to look at the 19th century Pharmacy Museum, at Dragomanova Street 11, just a few doors up the left branch. Then come back to the tour route on Galyts’koho Street.

As you walk along Galyts’koho Street you can’t help but notice the bright yellow church to your right. This is the Protection of Virgin Orthodox Church, the oldest of the existing Orthodox churches in Lutsk that is still in its original form. Built in the first half of the 17th century, it replaced a more ancient church, which was mentioned in a document in 1583 as already old and needing repair. Minor external changes were completed in the 19th century, including the construction of the bell tower that remains today.  The church is known for an icon of the Virgin of Volyn, painted in the 14th century.  In 1970 the church presented the icon to the National Museum of Fine Arts in Kiev.  As with other Orthodox churches we’ve identified, the Protection of the Virgin Church represents the continuing persistence of the Orthodox faith in the face of the Polish Catholic influence.

Continuing to walk on Galyts’koho Street, look to your right to see the former Lutheran Church, built by German colonists in Lutsk at the beginning of the 20th century.  The church looms over the western end of Kafedralna Street.  The well-proportioned neo-gothic building with its steep spire is crowned by a large gold cross which completes the architectural spatial axis. In 1940, most of the colonists returned to Germany and their church began to decay.  During Soviet times, it was used as a document archive, but in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, the local Evangelical Baptist community restored the church and began using it as their house of worship.  For another interesting side trip, walk down to the church, then walk down the street which passes on the left side of the church complex.  As you come to the River Styr, you will see, on your left, the fascinating home of Lutsk sculptor Mykola Golovan.

Walk back on Kafedralna Street to Galyts’koho Street, and as you cross Galyts’koho, stop (although not in the middle of the street) and look to your right to see the Jewish Synagogue. It is a premier architectural monument of the 17th century, located in the southwestern area of Old Lutsk, an area which was inhabited primarily by Jewish citizens at the time. The building consists of a square hall, which was used for prayer, and a five-level defensive tower. The defensive characteristics of the synagogue explain its second name – the Small Castle.  Lutsk was home to a large Jewish population until the German occupation in World War II, when Jewish citizens of Lutsk suffered the same fate as those in other cities in those tragic times.  The Synagogue building now serves as the home to a local sports club.

Continue now on Kafedralna Street toward the large cathedral in the distance and the Lutsk Castle. As you walk, you will pass the home where the Kosach family, the family of Lesya Ukrainka, lived in the late 1800’s. It was here where Lesya wrote her first known poem, “Nadia” (“Hope”).  A short distance further on Kafedralna Street brings you to the St. Peter and St. Paul Catholic Church, located near the Castle Square. This imposing church, together with the ancient collegium of the Jesuit Monastery, was built in 1616-1639 in a Baroque style according to the design of Italian architect Giacomo Briano. When the Jesuit Order was abolished in the 1770’s, the building was transferred to the Catholic Church. After repairs and restructuring, the church took on its classical appearance and is now the center of the local Roman Catholic community. You can enter the church to enjoy a view of its lavishly decorated interior. Also, next to the Church, on the right as you face the building, is the entrance to the Caves of the Monastery – an ancient network of tunnels that served to protect the citizens in times of danger. 

Several other monuments are located near the St. Peter and St. Paul Church.  Immediately across Kafedralna Street are bell towers built in 1539.  Next to those is the former Sharits monastery, which now serves as a center for emergency medical services provided by the International Red Cross.  Walking on the street immediately to the left of the Church, looking to your right just past the church buildings, you will see the distinctive tower roof of the Chartorysky Tower.  This tower is the only one of the eight towers of the Okolnyi, or Lower, Castle that has been preserved.  It is attached to the Jesuit collegium. The Okolnyi Castle and the Lutsk, or Upper, Castle together with defensive sacred buildings, made up the general defensive system of Lutsk. The nobility – civic authorities, servicemen, court representatives – lived in the Okolnyi Castle.  If you can visualize the area that would have been encompassed with the connected walls of the Okolnyi Castle and the Lutsk Castle in the distance, you can get a sense of the magnitude of the complex.  Unfortunately, today the Okolnyi Castle is just a memory, with the Chartorysky Tower standing as a constant reminder.

Continuing a bit furthe, you come to the former St. Brigid’s Convent, originally built in 1624.  In the 20th century, the building served as a prison, and was the scene of a tragedy during World War II, when more than 4000 prisoners were murdered by the Soviet NKVD, as German troops approached the city. The building is now a monastery.  Entering the monastery grounds through the gate to the right of the building, you can find a memorial to the prisoners.

Finally, backtrack to Castle Square and turn right to visit the city’s signature monument, the Lutsk Castle, also known as Lubart’s Castle or the Upper Castle.  It was built by the great prince of Volyn, Dmytryi Lubart in 1340-1383 and served as his home. In later years, the castle was the property of other great Lithuanian princes. For many years Lubart Castle served as a strong fortress and as the administrative, political and spiritual capital of the region.  It stands on the same ground as an earlier, wooden defensive fortress.  Within the area are the remains of the Church of St. John the Theologian, which was built within the walls of the original wooden structure; a museum of bells; a book museum housed in the former Treasury; and an art museum.  In 2011, the castle was voted as the best castle in Ukraine, a selection with which the people of Lutsk proudly agree.  The castle hosts various activities during the year, including arts and crafts fairs, concert events and knight’s battles.  Not surprisingly, it is the most popular site for wedding photographs for couples from Lutsk and surrounding towns. For a small entrance fee, you can wander on the castle grounds, and imagine yourself attending the famous meeting of European leaders in 1429, a meeting to discuss how to deal with threats from the east.

Of course, this tour cannot cover all the detail of the history of Lutsk – the city’s success and growth under Lithuanian and Polish control; its growth to nearly 50,000 citizens before the Khmelnytsky Uprising of the mid-17th century drove tens of thousands away; its struggles in the 18th and 19th centuries when fires and disease limited its recovery; its resurgence in the early 20th century, again as part of Poland; the setbacks suffered during World War II; and finally its emergence as a major center of western Ukraine to become the modern city of today. But we hope you have been able to get a taste of our rich history.

Remember, if your tour has left you hungry or thirsty, you can head back toward the center to enjoy the hospitality of the various establishments waiting to serve you. And at the Tourist Information Center you can get guidance to enjoy other museums in Lutsk – the famous Icon Museum, the Volyn Ethnography Museum and the Military Museum, for example – or you can learn about the many festivals and events occurring in the city throughout the year.

Download the audio tour here.

Thank you for visiting Lutsk.

Developed by Terry Mattison

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2 Comments

  • hayley morris27-05-2015 14:44reply

    I have 3 original photos from WW2 of a building adorned with pictures of Lenin and Stalin guarded by German soldiers. The soldier has written Luck on the back which I believe is German for Lutsk. I can't find out more about this building. If I could e-mail you a photo perhaps you could help please? Thanks, Hayley - e-mail st004j1874@blueyonder.co.uk

  • Admin05-06-2015 14:41reply

    You can send us those photos on our e-mail address: info@visitlutsk.com

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