Travel Guide to Suzdal: 2019 Map and Tourist Information
We often call Suzdal the main ancient city of Central Russia. Suzdal is a picturesque Golden Ring town. It is an open-air museum, where unique monuments of antiquity combine with natural splendor. Suzdal one of the oldest towns in Russia. Suzdal will celebrate its 1000 years anniversary in 2024! Suzdal is famous worldwide with many monuments included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Tourists from all over the world come here to feel the Russian flavor and admire its architecture.
As we already know, Suzdal is located near the city of Vladimir. Vladimir, in turn, is named in honor of its founder Vladimir Svyatoslavich, the very one who baptized Russia. In turn, the city of Vladimir in the XVIII century had the status of the capital of North-Eastern Russia.
It should be borne in mind that Russia in those days, had, to put it in modern language, a confederative structure. Each principality of ancient Russia had a solid autonomy and was in a state of conflict with neighboring principalities in the struggle for spheres of influence. From the 16th century in Suzdal they built the monasteries, expanded the old ones, and built new ones. By the 16th century, there were 11 monasteries (by the beginning of the 19th century, 5 monastic complexes had been preserved). Suzdal became one of the religious centers in Russia.
Once Suzdal was surrounded by a ring of monasteries. Some of them did not survive the Time of Troubles, others have abolished. Suzdal and the turbulent Soviet years were not spared, when many architectural monuments were lost. To date, only five monasteries are left in Suzdal.
Back in Time
Suzdal is one of the ancient Russian settlements, which has preserved its unique appearance to the present day. The boundaries of the city remain unchanged from the 18th century. Its traditional wooden houses are decorated with rich carvings. Before the revolution, they belonged to merchants and burghers. There are more recent, modern buildings that are well written in the historical landscape.
There are no industrial areas; the air is clean and fresh. In Suzdal, Russian nature is in harmony with ancient architecture.
Typical Suzdal Look
How does Suzdal look like? Just imagine! White-stone Kremlin walls stretching along the river bank with many the domes of churches glittering in the sun surrounded by green meadows with cows and goats… What a beauty!
To feel the charm of Suzdal, you need to walk through the narrow streets, built-up wooden houses of the XIX century, to see reflections of the snow-white belfry walls, gold domes, and the blue sky and enjoy the bell chime in the calm Kamenka waters...
Suzdal is interesting because of an incredible number of churches and monasteries. Now it’s one church for every eighth city dwellers! Here are the surprising number of ancient buildings, including the pre-Mongol ones.
You should understand, that Suzdal and the Golden Ring is all about churches, monasteries and medieval monuments with few fortifications and manors. One of our tourists once said that he almost got an overchurching!
This is true for any journey through Central Russia. Pay attention to choose the right guide or you will be obliged to hear dates of foundation of every single church :)
How to get Suzdal by train
The fastest way to get from Moscow to Vladimir is to use the high-speed trains “Strizh” and “Lastochka”, which follow the route Moscow-Nizhny Novgorod.They really fly at lightning speed - in just 1 hour and 40 minutes, compared to the usual 3.5 hours on the Vladimir train.
Ticket price does not exceed 780 RUB.Very cheap, just for 680 RUB, you can get in a seated carriage of the Moscow-Vladimir train.The trains of this direction depart from the Yaroslavl and Kursk stations of Moscow.
How to get Suzdal by car
The road to Suzdal passes along the M7 Volga highway. The distance from Moscow is about 170 km, you can overcome it in 3 hours of unhurried ride. Motorists traveling on the eve of the weekend, will certainly face traffic jams in the area of Reutov, Balashikha and Noginsk.
Transport within the town
The best way to feel the fabulous atmosphere of Suzdal and see all of its hidden corners is a leisurely walk. Moreover, urban public transport is poorly developed. Buses ride only 4 city routes. The fare is 17 RUB.
Move freely around the city and visit more places in a day by using a bicycle. This vehicle is offered for rent in almost every guest house or hotel. Rental price - from 150 RUB per hour. And especially for lovers of the old provincial spirit came up with another way to explore the city - sightseeing tours in horse-drawn carriages. You can order a walk on the Market Square, the price - from 1000 RUB.
There are many hotels and private guest houses in Suzdal. Almost every family is somehow connected to the hotel business. Standard double room in the hotel costs 3000-3500 RUB (about 50 USD). Deluxe rooms cost about 5000-7000 RUB (70-100 USD). In guest houses, you can spend the night just for 1000 RUB / day / person (20 USD). Renting a whole house cost from 8000 RUB (100 USD).
There are also hostels in the city that cost from 700 RUB per person (15 USD) for the shared room. Hotels and guesthouses are scattered all over the city. You may find options in the center, and in the remote quiet areas. What about us, we love Dacha Beliy Bereg Hotel and Patchwork hostel.
There are a lot of good restaurants and cafes in Suzdal. Russian Restaurant is one of the best to taste national cuisine within the authentic interior. You may enjoy traditional dishes and try unusual snacks as fried pickled cucumbers and soaked rowan.
Visit Russian Tea Room if you want to try sweets and tea from the samovar. The cafe looks like a tiny village. It has boardwalks, fences. Walls are decorated by gramophones, shawls, and painted samovars.
We also love the restaurant “Tavern”. It’s one of the best in Suzdal. Its cuisine is simple and traditional. You may order a soup, hodgepodge, pancakes with caviar, potatoes with mushrooms and meat.
Suzdal Main Attractions
Suzdal Walking Routes
There are several main attractions in Suzdal: the Kremlin, the Museum of Wooden Architecture, Trade Square and monasteries. Suzdal itself is a huge open-air museum. Its medieval architecture and wooden houses are perfectly written to natural landscape.
Picturesque Kamenka river flows around Suzdal main attractions. It is especially good in June when water lilies bloom.
There are many walking routes in Suzdal. We made a simple map with a route from one attraction to another (see picture). We recommend starting from the Kremlin. Then you may visit the Museum of Wooden Architecture to see traditional life. After, follow the broad walk through the Il’insky meadow to visit monasteries. Don’t forget to take amazing photos at viewpoints.
There are 5 monasteries in the town that are located next to each other within walking distance. The Pokrovsky Monastery is known as the final resting place for women of aristocratic families.
Trade Square is the main square of the city. It’s near the Kremlin, just behind the ramparts. Many years ago, this is the center of the so-called “Posad”. This word meant a place where people lived, built houses and did their crafts. The place with bustling everyday life.
In the 18th century, people built there a church. The bell tower has a high spire rare for Suzdal. At first, the bell tower was low, but people made it higher.
Trading went in the colorful shopping galleries built in the 19th century. Today, you may see such galleries in many Russian cities.
In contrast to the old times, people sell souvenirs: towels with city views, handmade plates, and decorated jewelry boxes. And still one of the most common purchases is the Suzdal mead produced according to special old recipes. This is one of the city’s specialties.
Don‘t forget to look under your feet! There’s ancient pavement that is rare in modern Russia.
The millennial white-stone Suzdal Kremlin is located in the most ancient part of the city. It was built in the 11th century to protect the city from enemies.
The Cathedral of the Nativity of the Virgin is the oldest building of the Suzdal Kremlin. People built it in the XIII century. Golden Gate inside the Christmas Church is considered as an apogee of Suzdal-Vladimir applied art.
In the 17th century, stone buildings of the Bishops’ Chambers were built nearby. They included residential and farm buildings. Until the end of the 18th century, the Suzdal Kremlin served as the residence of the Vladimir-Suzdal bishops.
Today it is a museum complex, a monument of ancient Russian art and architecture.
Suzdal Kremlin Map
1. The Cathedral of the Nativity of the Theotokos (the late 11th century.)
2. Archbishop's Chambers and Museums
3. The Church
4. Chambers of the 17th century (restaurant, exhibition and souvenirs)
5. The bell tower
6. St Nicholas' Church
7. Kremlin Walls
8. Boat Trip starting point (about 1 hour)
9. Road to Museum of the Wooden Architecture
The Bishops' Chambers
The Bishops’ Chambers Bishops’ Chambers are located to the west of the cathedral. They were built as a residence for the church heads of Suzdal. This was the first stone building in the Kremlin. They also include a refectory, a bishop’s refectory church, and residential buildings with rooms for the household.
At the end of the 17th century, all the buildings of the Bishops’ Chambers were combined into a single complex. It has the richly decorated galleries, secret passages, stairs, and halls.
On the north side of Suzdal, the Kamenka River protected the town. The Kremlin was surrounded by ramparts over a kilometer with gates, towers, and log walls. In the 15th century, fortifications were strengthened and filled up. In the 17th century, a chopped pine wall with 15 towers and gates was raised.
Suzdal earthen berm, an ancient monument of Russian defensive architecture, surround the Kremlin. It was built at the end of the 11th century and has not changed over the past centuries. According to researchers, it consists mainly of clay with a wooden frame. The height reaches almost 9 meters in some places.
All wooden fortifications were burned down in the 18th century.
Old wooden buildings, which survived in the vicinity of Suzdal, are gathered in the Museum of Wooden Architecture and Peasant Life. This complex of architectural monuments is located near the Kremlin under the open sky.
The museum exposition reproduces a small village with huts, churches, outbuildings, and windmills of the 17-19th centuries, which were brought here from different parts of the Vladimir region.
Two wooden churched built with no single nail rise over the museum village. You may go inside houses of a simple farmer, a wealthy peasant, and a merchant. The interiors of houses contain samovars and furniture, dishes and toys, wooden spinning wheels and weaving looms.
The Savior-Evfimiev Monastery is situated on a high bank of the Kamenka River. It was established in 1352 to protect Suzdal from enemies. The first wooden buildings burnt down during the 17th century. After the monastery was rebuilt and defensive towers were added.
By the end of the 17th century, the Monastery became one of the largest in Russia. In 1766, a political prison was established in the monastery. In the 20th century, a political isolator was located here. During USSR times, more than 8,000 people passed the filtration camp. Until the 1960s, a labor camp for juvenile offenders was located on the territory of the monastery. Only in 1968, the Spaso-Evfimiev monastery became a museum.
The Pokrovsky Convent
The Pokrovsky Convent is located in the low bank of the Kamenka River. You may easily get there from Savior-Evfimiev Monastery crossing the river by a wooden bridge.
The monastery was founded in the 14th century. Its current appearance is dated by the 16th century. That times the monastery was the prison for disgraced queens and women of noble families. In the 16-17th centuries, the monastery was one of the largest in Russia.
Pokrovsky Cathedral of the 16th century is the central monument of the ensemble. It is surrounded by an open gallery. The portals of the cathedral are richly decorated.
In 1923, the monastery was closed and ravaged. In the 1950s-1960s, the monastery buildings were restored, and museum expositions opened there. In the 1980s, a tourist-hotel complex with a restaurant and a bar was located. The cathedral became a concert hall.
Since 1992, monastic life was revived in the ancient monastery. At present, the monastery is active. The hut cells were rebuilt from old hotel houses of the Suzdal tourist complex.
The Rizopolozhensky monastery is one of the oldest monasteries of Russia. It was founded in 1207 even before the Mongol invasion. A new monastery was raised outside the city fortifications.
During the hard times of the Mongol invasion, the Rizopolozhensky monastery was not taken. Now it is a quiet, relaxing and slightly abandoned place. Of course, there are no buildings of the 13th century in the monastery, but the place is very atmospheric.
The famous two-tent Holy Gates of the 17th century is the main entrance to the monastery. They are painted in red and white. This picturesque gate is almost the most photographed place in Suzdal.
Venerable bell tower is the highest building of Suzdal. It rises for 72 meters. You may see it from almost everywhere. It was built to memorize the glory of the Russian people in the Patriotic War of 1812. You can climb the bell tower to see the panoramic pictures of the town.
The monastery has badly suffered from the Communist ideology. After the revolution, it was closed. All 12 bells were dropped from the bell tower and melted down. Guards of a Suzdal political isolator stayed in the monastery itself. A power station was established inside the cathedral. What’s more, the Holy Gates were used as a place for rabbits. Then it was a fuel depot.
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Vladimir and Suzdal tour
Perhaps you already know, but there is a great difference between Moscow, St. Petersburg, and all other towns and cities in Russia. Visiting the countryside is a great opportunity to travel the real Russia and to see the common life of ordinary people. The best choice for a one-day Russian countryside experience is the Vladimir and Suzdal tour.
Vladimir and Suzdal are small towns that are famous worldwide because of their great history and picturesque architecture with numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the 12th century. Aside from golden cupolas of stunning churches and monasteries, you will experience a very rural real Russian outlook with bubbling streams and grassy meadows, chickens and livestock, and interesting and authentic local residents. All are a common sight on the streets, some of which remain unpaved. Be ready for a full-day trip and many unforgettable experiences during your Russian holidays!
Duration: 14-16 hours Transportation: Soviet van or VW Multivan
During the tour you can choose the most interesting routes and subjects: >>> Moscow city tour Spend your first day in Moscow walking its historical and cultural center. You will experience the city walking through main attractions in good company!
>>> Back in USSR tour Discover the Soviet Heritage and its impact on modern Russia: Stalin’s repressions, the Cold War, “perestroika”... We will travel around the KGB headquarters, the famous grocery store "Eliseevsky" and the Moscow University. >>> Metro and city tour Moscow metro is not only the best method of transportation in Moscow, but also one of the most picturesque subway systems in the world. Spend your Russian holidays moving between sightseens via the metro while enjoying its dramatic and historic interior!