If you are touring Russia, apart from the obvious Moscow and St Petersburg, it is almost a sacrilege to not visit atleast one of the towns from the Golden Ring – a collection of historic Russian cities/towns/villages northeast of Moscow. The closest of these towns is Sergiev Posad also dubbed as the Russian Vatican. And probably the most important amongst these is Suzdal and often recommended as the only city you visit if you have time not enough for more. The beauty of Suzdal lies in the fact that it has remained untouched by modernisation with no factories setup and strict rules around height of buildings. The entire city is like an ‘open air museum’ although you will find a real ‘Open Air’ museum in Suzdal which displays a typical Russian village.
We took a day trip from Moscow for Vladimir-Suzdal with an additional visit to the Bogolyubovo Church. We booked the tour with Rusmania Travels and would highly recommend its services. Sergey, who organised the entire trip for us was a thorough professional and booked us the trip at a very short notice. The guide, Natasha, who was with us the entire trip was excellent and very knowledgeable. She along with our tour driver also suggested a traditional 3 course Russian meal at a local house in Vladimir which for me was the highlight of the trip.
If you have one more day to spare in Moscow, I would suggest to also include the Sergiev Posad trip. Revered as the Russian Vatican and just 75 kms outside of Moscow it can be a treat to your senses.
- Depart Moscow by the 09.30 hrs train to Vladimir
- Arrive at Vladimir at 11.17 hrs and proceed to city tour
- After lunch proceed to Suzdal and city tour
- On the way back slight detour for Bogolyubovo church
- Depart Vladimir by the 20:14 hrs train and arrive at Moscow at 22:00 hrs
The entire trip was co-ordinated by Rusmania, including pick up and drop from/to our hotel. Some agencies provide an option to do this trip by road by I would suggest the train as it saves a lot of time in exiting and entering Moscow which can be a real pain given the awful traffic.
Also, unless you are a Russian or extremely familiar with the Russian territory and its language I would always suggest to take this as a guided tour as doing it on your own might be quite difficult given that I almost did not see any local transport between these towns and also you will hardly find locals speak or instructions written in English.
What to see in Vladimir
Vladimir was established in the early 12th century overlooking the Klyazma River, and etched its name in Russian history when Prince Andrei Bogolyubsky moved his capital there from Kyiv in 1169. Vladimir is dotted with many beautifully carved white-stone buildings built by Bogolyubsky (Andrew the Pious) and his brother, Prince Vsevolod the Big Nest. However after the Mongol invasion devastated the town in 1238, power shifted some 200km west to the then minor settlement of Moscow.
Here is a quick photo guide of the places to see in Vladimir.
What to see in Suzdal
Suzdal is the undisputed diamond of Russia’s Golden ring. Often referred to as an open-air museum due to its beautiful architecture and rustic landscapes, I am at times thankful to the people who decided to keep it that ways and not include it in the milieu of 20th century humdrum. Apart from the many churches and monasteries that it houses, Suzdal also has a unique Wooden architecture museum which displays wooden houses and churches from across Russia through its various centuries.
A quick photo guide to the places to see in Suzdal, though clearly a photo does no justice to what your naked eyes will behold.
The Church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin on the Nerl River or popularly known as the Bogolyubovo Church is 13 kms outside of Vladimir, a slight detour on your way from Suzdal back to Vladimir. It was built in 1158 by Prince Andrei Bogolyubsky and as legend goes the Prince saw a vision of the Virgin Mary who ordered him to found a temple at the mouth of the rivers Nerl and Klyazma. You have to walk a mile through swaying green fields to reach the church, crossing the Trans Siberian train line. As you walk through the green fields slowly the blue dome of the church appears in the horizon and at that point you can only thank the creator for the sublime beauty that has been bestowed all around us.
There is a souvenir shop inside the Vodonapornaya Bashnya Museum which was quite reasonable. You could choose from crystal ware ornaments to decorative bells and laquer boxes. And ofcourse the ubiquitous fridge magnet may not be left behind. We also shopped at a souvenir store within the Wooden Architecture museum complex and found most items reasonably priced. If you have forgotten to pick anything up from these towns, then the Vladimir train station may still come to your rescue as it has atleast one shop selling souevnirs and had a good variety of fridge magnets too.
For tips on getting a tourist visa for Russia, read my blog here: Russian Tourist Visa procedure
Updated: 28th July 2018