Must see attractions in Golden Ring

  • Top ChoiceSights in Suzdal

    Saviour Monastery of St Euthymius

    Founded in the 14th century to protect the town’s northern entrance, Suzdal’s biggest monastery grew mighty in the 16th and 17th centuries after Vasily III, Ivan the Terrible and the noble Pozharsky family funded impressive new stone buildings and made large land and property acquisitions. It was girded with its great brick walls and towers in the 17th century. Right at the entrance, the Annunciation Gate Church (Благовещенская надвратная церковь) houses an interesting exhibit on Dmitry Pozharsky (1578–1642), leader of the Russian army that drove the Polish invaders from Moscow in 1612. A tall 16th- to 17th-century cathedral bell tower (Звонница) stands before the seven-domed Cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Saviour (Спасо-Преображенский собор); every hour on the hour from 11am to 5pm a short concert of chimes is played on its bells. The cathedral was built in the 1590s in 12th- to 13th-century Vladimir–Suzdal style. Inside, restoration has uncovered some bright 1689 frescoes by the school of Gury Nikitin from Kostroma. The tomb of Prince Dmitry Pozharsky is by the cathedral’s east wall. The 1525 Assumption Refectory Church (Успенская церковь), facing the bell tower, adjoins the old Father Superior’s chambers (Палаты отца-игумена), which house a display of Russian icons and an excellent naive-art exhibition showcasing works by local amateur painters from the Soviet era. The old Monastery Dungeon (Монастырская тюрьма), set up in 1764 for religious dissidents, is at the north end of the complex. It now houses a fascinating exhibit on the monastery’s prison history, including displays of some of the better-known prisoners who stayed here. The Bolsheviks used the monastery as a concentration camp after the 1917 revolution. During WWII, German and Italian officers captured in the Battle of Stalingrad were kept here. To the northeast of the main cathedral group, the combined Hospital Chambers & St Nicholas Church (Больничные кельи и Никольская церковь) feature a rich collection of gold church treasures.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Suzdal

    Kremlin

    The grandfather of the Moscow Kremlin, this citadel was the 12th-century base of Prince Yury Dolgoruky, who ruled the vast northeastern part of Kyivan Rus (and, among other things, founded a small outpost that would eventually become the Russian capital). The 1.4km-long earthen ramparts of Suzdal’s kremlin enclose a few streets of houses and a handful of churches, as well as the main cathedral group on ul Kremlyovskaya. The Unesco-listed Nativity of the Virgin Cathedral, its deep blue domes spangled with gold stars, was built in 1225 (only its richly carved lower section is original white stone, though, the rest being 16th-century brick). The inside is sumptuous, with 13th- and 17th-century frescoes and 13th-century damascene (gold on copper) west and south doors. Within the kremlin, the Archbishop’s Chambers (Архиерейские палаты) house the Suzdal History Exhibition, which includes the original 13th-century door from the cathedral, photos of its interior and a visit to the 18th-century Cross Hall (Крестовая палата), which was used for receptions. The tent-roofed 1635 kremlin bell tower (Звонница), directly across the yard from the cathedral, contains additional exhibits, including the 17th-century Jordan Canopy (Иорданская сень), the only one of its kind left in Russia; every January on Epiphany Day, this 28m-tall painted wooden structure would be placed over a cross-shaped hole in the ice on the Kamenka for the annual rite of blessing the river water. To the southwest, between the cathedral and the river, is the 1766 Nikolskaya Wooden Church (Никольская деревянная церковь), which was moved to Suzdal from a nearby village in 1960. Other rural wooden buildings were subsequently moved for preservation to the excellent Museum of Wooden Architecture & Peasant Life, across the river. If you don't want to see all of the exhibitions, you can pay for admission to the cathedral separately; to walk around the grounds only costs R50 (children get in free).

  • Top ChoiceSights in Sergiev Posad

    Trinity Monastery of St Sergius

    In 1340 St Sergius of Radonezh founded this lavra (senior monastery), which soon became the spiritual centre of Russian Orthodoxy. St Sergius was credited with providing mystic support to Prince Dmitry Donskoy in his improbable victory over the Tatars in the Battle of Kulikovo in 1380. Soon after his death at the age of 78, Sergius was named Russia’s patron saint. Spruced up on the occasion of St Sergius' 700-year anniversary in 2014, the monastery is an active religious centre with a visible population of monks in residence. This mystical place is a window into the age-old belief system that has provided Russia with centuries of spiritual sustenance. Built in 1423, the squat, gold-domed Trinity Cathedral (Троицкий собор) is the heart of the monastery, as well as its oldest surviving building. The tomb of St Sergius stands in the church's southeastern corner, where a memorial service for him goes on all day, every day. The icon-festooned interior, lit by oil lamps, is largely the work of the great medieval painter Andrei Rublyov and his students. The star-spangled Cathedral of the Assumption (Успенский собор) was modelled on the cathedral of the same name in the Moscow Kremlin. It was finished in 1585 with money left by Ivan the Terrible in a fit of remorse for killing his son. To the left of the main entrance is the rectangular tomb of Boris Godunov, the only tsar not buried in the Moscow Kremlin or St Petersburg’s SS Peter & Paul Cathedral. Another notable grave is that of St Innokenty, known as the 'apostle of America' for founding the Russian Orthodox community in Alaska. Nearby, the resplendent Chapel-at-the-Well (Накладезная часовня) was built over a spring that is said to have appeared during the Polish siege of 1608–10, in the Time of Troubles. The five-tier baroque bell tower (колокольня) – at 88.5m, the highest in Russia – took nearly 30 years to build (from 1741 to 1770), and once had 42 bells, the largest of which weighed 65 tonnes. The sacristy (ризница), behind Trinity Cathedral, displays the monastery’s extraordinarily rich treasury, bulging with 600 years of donations by the rich and powerful – tapestries, jewel-encrusted vestments, solid-gold chalices and more. At the time of research it was unavailable for tours due to restoration works, with no set date to reopen. The huge block with the ‘wallpaper’ paint job is the Refectory Church of St Sergius (Трапезная церковь преподобного Сергия), so called because it was once a dining hall for pilgrims. Now it’s the Assumption Cathedral’s winter counterpart, holding morning services in cold weather. It's closed outside services, except for guided tours. The green building next door is the metropolitan’s residence.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Yaroslavl

    Monastery of the Transfiguration of the Saviour

    Founded in the 12th century, the Unesco-listed Monastery of the Transfiguration of the Saviour was one of Russia’s richest and best-fortified monasteries by the 16th century. The oldest surviving structures, dating from 1516, are the Holy Gate (святые ворота) near the main entrance by the river and the Cathedral of the Transfiguration. A bird's-eye view of Yaroslavl and its rivers can be had by climbing up to the top of the cathedral's bell tower. Other buildings house exhibitions on history, ethnography, icons and the Treasures of Yaroslavl Exhibition, featuring works of gold, silver and precious gems dating back to the 17th century. If you don't want to buy the joint ticket you can also pay for individual exhibits, which cost R70 to R250 for adults (R35 to R100 for kids). To visit the grounds only is R40 for adults (free for kids). Note that ticket sales cease 30 minutes before closing time.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Suzdal

    Museum of Wooden Architecture & Peasant Life

    This open-air museum across the river from Suzdal's kremlin offers a fascinating glimpse into the traditional lives of rural folk in this area. Besides log houses, windmills, a barn, and lots of tools and handicrafts, its highlights are the 1756 Transfiguration Church (Преображенская церковь) and the simpler 1776 Resurrection Church (Воскресенская церковь). A number of local artisans sell traditional crafts at a row of stalls set up on the left side of the site. They include Maria Frolova, whose beautiful pieces of filigree embroidery make lovely, unique gifts.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Yaroslavl

    Music & Time

    Every object has a voice in this little house containing the late magician John Mostoslavsky’s impressive collection of clocks, musical instruments (harmoniums, a loud hurdy-gurdy), bells and gramophones – one of the most eclectic museum experiences in the Golden Ring. Guides (some of whom speak English) turn each tour into a concert by playing many of these items, which have been preserved in working condition. Downstairs is a huge collection of hot irons from centuries past and other antique artefacts.

  • Sights in Yaroslavl

    John the Baptist Church at Tolchkovo

    It’s a shame that dingy industrial surroundings discourage most people from visiting Yaroslavl’s largest and most unique church – you may recognise it from the 1000-rouble currency note. Protected by Unesco, the red-brick structure (built 1671–87) boasts a staggering 15 green-coloured cupolas and some of the most extensive series of frescoes in the Orthodox world. It's located on the southern bank of the Kotorosl, by the second bridge. The church is a 3km (10-minute) car or taxi ride from the centre. By public transport from Bogoyavlenskaya pl, take a southbound marshrutka (fixed-route minibus) 87 or bus 19k for four stops, disembarking at the ul Karabulina stop. Walk back towards the bridge and turn left at the corner; walk north towards the river and then west to the church (about 500m). Note that the church is closed on rainy days to protect the frescoes from moisture.

  • Sights in Yaroslavl

    Cathedral of the Transfiguration

    This 16th-century cathedral (built 1516) is the oldest free-standing building in Yaroslavl; inside are beautiful frescoes from the time of its construction. Designed by an Italian architect, the church combines traditional Russian with Italianate styles, such as its arched loggia. You can get a good view of Yaroslavl from its bell tower. Note that the cathedral is closed to the public on rainy days to protect its delicate frescoes from moisture.

  • Sights in Yaroslavl

    Yaroslavl Art Museum (Governor's House)

    The main branch of the city's art museum, housed in the restored former governors' mansion (built 1823), showcases two permanent exhibits on 18th- to 20th-century Russian art (individual or joint ticket available), with a large hall dedicated to Impressionist Konstantin Korovin; audio guides (R50) are available in English. Temporary exhibits – recent ones included art of the post-revolutionary 20th century – have their own admission prices.

  • Sights in Suzdal

    Nativity of the Virgin Cathedral

    The Nativity of the Virgin Cathedral, whose blue domes spangled with gold dominate the front courtyard of the Suzdal kremlin, was founded in the 1220s. Only its richly carved lower section is original white stone, however; the rest is 16th-century brick. The inside is sumptuous, with 13th- and 17th-century frescoes and 13th-century damascene (gold on copper) west and south doors.

  • Sights in Yaroslavl

    Church of Elijah the Prophet

    The exquisite church that dominates Sovetskaya pl was built by some prominent local fur dealers in 1650. It has some of the Golden Ring’s brightest frescoes, done by the ubiquitous painter Gury Nikitin of Kostroma and his school, and detailed exterior tiles. The church is closed on rainy days to protect the frescoes from moisture.

  • Sights in Yaroslavl

    Yaroslavl Art Museum (Metropolitan Palace)

    The 17th-century former chambers of the metropolitan showcase icons and other religious art from the 13th to 18th centuries. Temporary exhibits have separate admission prices; a recent one featured women's fashion from 1890 to 1910.

  • Sights in Yaroslavl

    Bell Tower

    Climb to the top of the bell tower of the Cathedral of the Transfiguration for excellent views over Yaroslavl and the confluence of its two rivers.

  • Sights in Suzdal

    Torgovaya Ploshchad

    Suzdal’s Torgovaya pl (Market Sq) is dominated by the pillared Trading Arcades (Торговые ряды; 1806–11) along its western side. There are several churches in the immediate vicinity, including the 1739 Kazan Church (Казанская церковь) and the 1720 Resurrection Church (Воскресенская церковь) right on the square; the latter's hours are irregular but if it's open you can take the precarious climb to the top of the bell tower to be rewarded with wonderful views of Suzdal’s gold-domed skyline. Across ul Lenina, the five-domed 1707 Tsar Constantine Church (Цареконстантиновская церковь) in the square’s northeastern corner is a working church with an ornate interior; next door is the 1750 Church of Our Lady of Sorrows (Скорбященская церковь).

  • Sights in Yaroslavl

    Annunciation Cathedral

    The city’s main cathedral originally dated from 1215, but was blown up by the Bolsheviks in 1937. What you see now is a modern replica erected for Yaroslav’s millennium celebrations in 2010. In front of it, a stone-slab monument marks the spot where Prince Yaroslav founded the city in 1010. Past the cathedral, the new Strelka Park stretches right onto the tip of land between the Volga and the Kotorosl Rivers, where the Yaroslavl Millennium Monument was opened in 2010.

  • Sights in Yaroslavl

    History of Yaroslavl Museum

    This museum is in a lovely house built in 1894 by a local merchant. The main exhibit recounts the history of Yaroslavl through many artefacts from the past 10 centuries; other rooms hold temporary exhibits, such as on the history of medicine in the city. A monument to victims of war and repression in the 20th century sits in the peaceful courtyard garden. If you don't want to buy the joint ticket you can also pay R80 each for individual exhibits (free for kids).

  • Sights in Suzdal

    Holy Intercession Convent

    It's a classic Suzdal picture: the whitewashed beauty of monastic walls surrounded by green meadows on the banks of the lazily meandering river. Inside are beds of brightly coloured flowers tended by the nuns, who live in wooden cottages left over from a rustic hotel built here when the convent was closed after the revolution (it was revived in 1992). Founded in 1364, this convent was originally a place of exile for the unwanted wives of tsars.

  • Sights in Yaroslavl

    Ploshchad Volkova

    The massive gate-shaped Vlasyevskaya Watchtower (1659) combined with the Church of the Sign loom over this square named after Fyodor Volkov, who founded Russia’s first professional theatre in 1750 in a Yaroslavl leather store. The beautiful neoclassical Volkov Theatre (1911) anchoring the north side of the square remains home to one of Russia’s most renowned theatrical troupes.

  • Sights in Sergiev Posad

    Toy Museum

    The multiple changing exhibits feature toys from throughout Russian history and around the world; recent exhibits have included toys from the royal children of two centuries of the Romanov dynasty and toys with a naval theme. The museum has a particularly good collection of nesting dolls, as Sergiev Posad was the centre of matryoshka production before the revolution. Children under 3 are admitted for free.

  • Sights in Suzdal

    Church of the Assumption of the Mother of God

    This small red church up the street from the kremlin features a beautiful icon of the Virgin Mary created by 16th-century artist Fyodor Zubov, as well as a large gold-and-glass coffin containing the relics of St Arseny (1550–1625), the Archbishop of Suzdal.