Moscow — Vladimir (М-7, 185 kilometers)
Vladimir — Bogolyubovo (М-7, 15 kilometers)
Vladimir — Suzdal (А-113, 35 kilometers)
Vladimir was conceived as a fortress to protect the borders of the Rostov-Suzdal principality, and today remains one of the most beautiful Russian cities, with a rich history and many ancient sites listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Program. Vladimir is widely known for its souvenirs — products made fr om birch bark and jewelry made fr om stones, enamel and crystal. Its temples and churches are no less beautiful or significant than Moscow’s.
To get to Vladimir, move away fr om the Moscow Ring Road on Gorkovskoye Shosse (M-7). Don’t forget your sunglasses: As you go directly east, the morning sun will shine right in your eyes. When planning a trip, keep in mind that at weekends there is heavy traffic on the 50 kilometers of the route closest to the capital.
74 Ulitsa Bolshaya Moskovskaya
tel. +7 (4922) 32 3042
U Zolotykh Vorot
15 Ulitsa Bolshaya Moskovskaya
tel. +7 (4922) 32 3116
20 Ulitsa Gogolya
tel. +7 (4922) 44 0444
Vladimir’s history began in 1108, when Prince Vladimir Monomakh built a strong fortress and named it after himself. Fr om the south, the town was protected by the River Klyazma, fr om the north the River Lybed, and from the east and west by deep ravines.
Monomakh’s heir, Prince Yury Dolgoruky, initially paid little attention to the northern fief, but when he realized the futility of the struggle for the Kiev throne, he decided to build a new fortress in the region of Suzdal. This is how Moscow, Pereslavl-Zalesski, Dmitrov, Yuryev-Polsky and Zvenigorod appeared. His son, Prince Andrei Bogolyubsky moved the capital from Kiev to Vladimir.
The main attractions of the capital of ancient Rus are located along the length of Bolshaya Moskovskaya Ulitsa — you find yourself on it after entering the town and following the main road. The center is Sobornaya Ploshchad with the Dmitrievsky and Assumption Cathedrals and the Zolotiye Vorota (Golden Gates) just to the west. Further east, Bolshaya Moskovskaya Ulitsa leads to the Nativity Monastery, and to the north are preserved neighborhoods of wooden houses.
When entering the city, at 46 Prospekt Lenina is one of eight ATMs of Trust Bank, wh ere you can top up your mobile phone balance, as well as withdraw cash — you’ll need it for souvenirs.
First look round the Assumption Cathedral. It was founded in 1158 at the same time as the start of construction of a defensive ring around the city. The church was supposed to become the main seat of the church of all Rus. The cathedral holds the largest collection of frescoes by the brilliant medieval artist Andrei Rublyov.
Vladimir-Suzdal History, Architecture and Art Museum Reserve
43 Ulitsa Bolshaya Moskovskaya, Vladimir
tel. +7 (4922) 32 4263
for excursions tel. +7 (4922) 42 0680
Open daily roughly 10:00 to 16:00 or 17:00, but call ahead to check
3 Ulitsa Kremlyovskaya, Suzdal, Vladimir region
tel. +7 (49231) 2 0937
Posadsky House Museum
Ulitsa Lenina, Suzdal, Vladimir region
Open Saturday to Tuesday 10.00 to 17.00 Wednesday to Friday 10.00 to 16.00
Nearby is the white stone Cathedral of Saint Dmitry (1194), dedicated to the holy warrior Demetrios of Thessaloniki. The church seems to be made of openwork tracery — the first time in Russian architecture that such abundant decoration was applied. At the center of the composition on each facade stands King Solomon, and around him are grouped images of plants, animals, birds and griffins. Inside part of the mural from the 12th century is preserved.
Have a look at the Princess’ Assumption Convent, founded in 1200 by Prince Vsevolod III at the request of his wife Mary Shvarnovna, and in the southeastern part of the Kremlin you can see the Nativity Monastery (1191), which today is the residence of the bishop of Vladimir and Suzdal.
Today in the building of the Zolotiye Vorota there is one of the exhibits of Vladimir-Suzdal History and Architecture Museum and Reserve — a diorama of “The Storm of Vladimir by Baty's troops,” as well as weapons and uniforms.
In the building of the Assumption Cathedral you can see frescoes, and in the building of the former Archive Commission (46 Bolshaya Moskovskaya Ulitsa) there is a historical exhibition. In the building of the water tower you can learn many interesting things about the daily life of the provincial capital of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. At the cultural and educational center “Chambers” (58 Bolshaya Moskovskaya Ulitsa) you can learn about the culture of a nobleman's estate.
You just can’t visit Vladimir and not see one of the most famous and respected Russian churches, on a par with the Cathedral of Christ the Savior and St. Basil's Cathedral. Come out onto Gorkovskoye Shosse (M-7) and head in the direction of Nizhny Novgorod, to Bogolyubovo — the ancient princely residence of Andrei Bogolyubsky.
The Church of the Intercession on the Nerl (1165) was built in memory of the lost son of Grand Duke Izyaslav Andreevich. According to legend, a white stone for the temple was taken from the Bulgar kingdom conquered by Andrei Bogolyubsky. The church is situated in an extremely beautiful place, on a hill at the confluence of the Klyazma and Nerl rivers in the middle of water meadows. You can reach it only by foot, covering a kilometer of picturesque countryside. Travel by car is prohibited, and the nearest parking is at the railway station.
After the Mongol conquest of the city, Bogolyubovo lost its significance and some time later became a village. There are partially preserved earthworks, ditches and the lower parts of walls and pillars of white stone fortifications, the remains of the castle, as well as the base of the Nativity of the Virgin church (1158), on which was built a tiered baroque church (1751). The barbican Church of the Assumption, belltower and the cells were built in the 19th century. At the site of the former princely palace is the St. Bogolyubsky Convent. Most of the buildings are from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Return to Vladimir, spend the night and set off early the next morning.
From the center of Vladimir leave to the east along Ulitsa Dobroselskaya up to the intersection with Suzdalsky Prospekt. Follow signs to Ivanovo, at the regulated intersection turn left and head along the highway (A-113). Do not break the speed lim it because the traffic police will get you here for sure!
Suzdal is a real town-museum, wh ere quiet cozy lanes, wooden houses and an incredible number of monasteries and churches await you, and medovukha and delicious pickles are on sale on every corner. This is a city which is impossible to visit only once: Suzdal is always waiting to be rediscovered.
Make a stop at Poklonnaya Hill. From here there is an excellent view of Suzdal: The city is only two by four kilometers in size, but it manages to fit in more than 300 monuments that are assets not only to Russian, but also to world culture. You can see that the long sweep of Ulitsa Lenina runs through the whole of Suzdal, and that the small winding river Kamenka divides the city into two parts. Most of the sights are concentrated in the eastern part. In Suzdal it is forbidden to build houses higher than three floors, and there are no plants or factories.
The history of the city began in the 12th century in the place that is now the museum of the Suzdal Kremlin, with the first earth fortifications and the city council. It is worth starting Suzdal from here. There are bishops' chambers, St. Nicholas Church, the cathedral bell tower and Nativity Cathedral, the oldest building in the city (the exact date of its erection is unknown but it is from somewhere between the 12th and 14th centuries). The six-pillared giant of thin brick, painted by the best Byzantine masters, stood for only 50 years — the foundation began to crumble, and it was decided to disassemble the cathedral. But soon a new one was erected in the same place. In the 15th century Nativity Cathedral burned down, and only 100 years later the church was dismantled, leaving only the arch and column frame, and was built anew. Inside the Nativity Cathedral is no less majestic than the outside: The crowning glory — Zlatiye Vrata — are a shining example of the original decorative and applied art of the Suzdal masters.
45 Ulitsa Korovniki
tel. +7 (49231) 2 0908
Ulitsa Pokrovskaya, Pokrovsky Monastery
(exact copies of Russian 19th-century log houses)
43 Ulitsa Lenina
tel. +7 (49231) 2 3303
At the end of the 17th century a clock appeared on the bell tower that strikes the hour and every quarter of an hour.
Nearby are the Bishops’ Chambers — a complex of stone buildings allegedly from the 15th to 18th centuries.
Between the Bishops' chambers and the earthen ramparts stands St. Nicholas Church, built in 1766 and relocated to the Suzdal Kremlin from the village of Glotovo. This is a unique example of the “kletsky” church style, reminiscent of a village hut. Before you continue sightseeing, you can fortify yourself at the lower refectory of the Bishops’ Chambers. There is a restaurant called Refectory — one of the most prestigious and expensive in the town.
Cross over the trading area and set off for Rizpolozhensky Monastery. It’s founding (1207) is associated with a beautiful but sad story: Prince Michael of Chernigov betrothed his daughter Yevfrosinia to Prince Fedor Yaroslavovich, brother of Alexander Nevsky. But the betrothed died on his wedding day, and the girl decided to take the veil, and after death was accepted into the canon of saints. The monastery is a three-domed building with three apses, which is quite unusual for the architectural style of that era.
The Holy Virgin diocesan monastery, built in 1364, was known in the remote 14th century as a place of banishment for disgraced Russian tsaritsas and representatives of noble families.
You could now cross the river Kamenka and visit the Monastery of Saint Yevfymy, founded in 1352. Originally made of wood, it was almost completely destroyed by fire. Later new walls with defensive towers were erected. The central building of the monastery is the five-domed Transfiguration Cathedral. The walls of the church are separated by pilasters with zakomari that were adorned with painting as far back as the 17th century.
Posadsky house, situated nearby, is notable for being the only surviving example of residential stone architecture in Suzdal. In the 17th century it belonged to a tailor called Koska Dobrynka, the father of the famous Old Believer Nikita Pustosvyata. In 1970, Vladimir-Suzdal Museum purchased Posadsky house from its previous owner and restored the 17th-18th century interior.
In the evening you could have a stroll along the quiet streets, admire the domes of the churches against the sunset and gather strength for the return journey.