Set in pretty rolling dales 25km southeast of Arkhangelsk’s centre, this well-presented open-air museum is Arkhangelsk’s foremost attraction. Featuring dozens of 16th- to 19th-century wooden buildings relocated here from rural villages during the 1970s – churches, windmills, peasant houses and barns – it's a lovely place for a stroll, especially if you possess even a passing interest in architecture. The museum is divided into four sectors, with buildings grouped according to their geographical origin.
You enter the Kargolopsko-Onezhsky sector past a series of boxy windmills, in the largest of which you can admire the complete interior workings. Cut across to the impressive 1669 Ascension Church (Вознесенская церковь) with its top-knot of wooden domes and forest-scented, icon-plastered interior. The 19th-century Tretyakov House displays curious furnishings of the era, while the quaint little Miracle Worker’s Chapel (Часовня Макария Унженского, Chasovnya Makariya Unzhenskogo) has retained intact its eight-panelled octagonal ceiling icons ('skies').
To reach the other sectors, take the path heading north from the bell tower by the Ascension Church, descend the steep steps, cross the river and walk up another flight of stairs; you'll have to return the same way.
The village-like Dvinskoy sector consists of a smattering of wealthy peasant houses. Notice the curious Rusinova house, former Old Believers' home, with a tiny chapel hidden in a back room. Unlike other Russian peasants, each family member had his or her own eating utensils and a guest's utensils were thrown out. The sector’s centrepiece is the enormous 1672 St George’s Church (Георгиевская церковь), displaying a small but valuable selection of remarkable wayside crosses including one gigantic example that virtually fills the nave.
In both Pinezhsky sector and Mezensky sector, check out the chyornye izby (black cottages), so-called because their lack of a chimney resulted in smoke-stained walls. Mezensky sector's 19th-century Elkino House has an exhibition on Pomor fishing and boat-building and there's a great view over the river below.
Just 200m from the museum entrance is the holiday-hotel complex Turisticheskaya Derevnya Malye Karely that consists of modern timber cottages and apartments. The excellent restaurant has an olde-Russia theme, serving anything from grilled meats and poached fish to vareniki.
Every 20 to 30 minutes, little bus 104 from Troitsky pr in central Arkhangelsk runs all the way to Malye Karely (R70, 45 minutes), while bus 108 runs directly from Arkhangelsk's bus station, both terminating opposite the hotel complex. A taxi from Arkhangelsk costs around R600.