Rostov-Veliky’s main attraction is unashamedly photogenic. Though founded in the 12th century, most of the buildings date to the 1670s and 1680s.
The five magnificent domes of the Assumption Cathedral (Успенский собор) dominate the kremlin from just outside its north wall. The oldest structure in Rostov-Veliky, it was completed in 1512; the belfry (Звонница; donation adult/child R100/50) was added in 1682. Each of its 15 bells has a name; the largest, weighing 32 tonnes, is called 'Sysoy'.
The west gate (the main entrance) and the north gate are straddled by the Gate-Church of St John the Divine (Надвратная церковь Иоанна Богослова) and the Gate-Church of the Resurrection (Надвратная церковь Воскресения), both of which are richly decorated with 17th-century frescoes. Enter these churches from the kremlin walls, which you can access from the stairs next to the north gate.
The metropolitan’s private chapel, the Church of the Saviour-over-the-Galleries (Церковь Спаса-на-Сенях), contained within the metropolitan’s house (Покои митрополита), has the most beautiful interior of all, covered in colourful frescoes. Other rooms in the house are filled with exhibits: the White Chamber (Белая палата) displays religious antiquities, while the Red Chamber (Красная палата) shows off beautiful, luminous pieces of finift (painted enamel miniatures), a Rostov artistic speciality.
If you don't want to buy the joint ticket, you can simply pay for individual exhibitions, which range from R50 to R200; to walk around the grounds only costs R50 (children get in free). Outside service hours, you can access the cathedral through the church shop on ul Karla Marksa.