Suzdal (Russian: Су́здаль) — the main historic town of Central Russia, about 25 km north of Vladimir, Vladimir Oblast. It was once the capital of several Russian principalities. Later during Soviet times it earned a federally protected status, which officially limited the development in the area. Thus the place remains largely the same as ages ago. It was able to preserve a great number of stunning examples of the Russian architecture of the XIII-XIX century: the Kremlin, several monasteries, countless white-stone temples, complemented by a Museum of wooden architecture.
Although having just under ten thousand residents, Suzdal still retains a rural look with streams and meadows everywhere and chicken and livestock a common sight on the streets, some of which remain unpaved. This juxtaposition of stunning medieval architecture with its pastoral setting lends Suzdal a picturesque charm.
The town was founded in the 10th century and was subordinate to Rostov Veliky. Later in 1125 Grand Prince Yury Dolgoruky made Suzdal the capital of the Rostov-Suzdal principality. His son Andrey Bogolyubsky subsequently built new capital Vladimir, and principality began to be known as Vladimir-Suzdal. Suzdal's political influence started to fade away. Although it was for a short time the centre of Suzdal-Nizhny Novgorod Principality in the fourteenth century. It finally was annexed by Moscow in 1392.
Stone construction in Suzdal was started at the beginning of the thirteenth century before the Mongol invasion. A single Church was built — the Nativity Cathedral of Suzdal Kremlin. Once the Tatar-Mongol invasion ended and the political situation stabilized, stone construction started again in sixteenth century. It was just slightly inferior to the construction held in Moscow, it continued to prosper until the end of the eighteenth century. At this time Suzdal was an important trading city, located in the heart of a rich agricultural region. Since the nineteenth century Suzdal stopped developing due to the Trans-Siberian Railway bypassed it and due to the absence of factories in town. Which made possible for town's appearance to remain unchanged.
During the time of the Soviet Union, nearly all of Suzdal's economy was planned around its tourist potential. As a result, very few modern buildings were constructed in Suzdal (by law there are no structures more than 2 stories high except cathedrals). Also, a number of wooden structures from other parts of Russia were transported here, and the whole city was converted into an 'open-air museum'.
Tourist high season is summer and mid-winter, with numbers of visitors peaking at weekends and holidays. During off season the city is quiet even on weekends without losing much of its charm.
There are no trains to Suzdal, so aside from organized bus tours, the only way to reach the city is by bus or car.
Vladimir's bus station is 50 meters away from the train station (across the parking lot).
Buses from Vladimir depart every 20-30 min, 6:30 — 21:40. Besides, there are buses from Ivanovo, Kostroma, Yaroslavl, Moscow (once daily from Moscow's Shelkovskaya bus station and couple more from Moscow's Kursky Train Station, travel time 4 h).
Suzdal Bus station, 44 Vasilyevskaya str., ☎ , fax: . 04:30-20:00. It's located 1 km east of the center, which is a 20 minute walk along Vasilievsky street or a short taxi ride. But, if you are coming by bus from Vladimir, do not get off there. You can stay seated and pay an extra 14 RUB to go to the center with the same bus. Bus station itself is rather primitive, with minimal snack and toilet facilities available.
Local buses operates on a four routes. However, most likely, you won't gonna need them as the town is quite small.
Taxis can be found in abundance in front of shopping arcade. They can be useful for a trip to Kideksha.
Suzdal is a small town with a population of ten thousand people, predominantly wooden buildings and a huge number of stone churches and monasteries. No matter how hard you push to see everything in one single day, it will be extremely difficult. The following sights are the must on any trip to Suzdal:
- Majority of Suzdal's churches and monasteries are of the 17-18 centuries. With only one building being of the pre-Mongol period, though seriously remodeled, — Cathedral of the Nativity in the Kremlin.
- Additionally, be sure to check Kideksha village featuring real pre-Mongolian Church, futhermore it is on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
- The most interesting architectural sights — the main cathedrals and towers of St. Euthymius Monastery and Pokrovsky Monastery. Also holy gates of the Rizopolozhensky Monastery.
- The most unusual churches - churches with concave tents which can't be found anywhere else except of Suzdal. There are a few of them located outside of town's center.
- Museum of wooden architecture — possibly, the best in Central Russia
- Bells listening. For this go to the Monastery of Saint Euthymius.
However, there is another way to see Suzdal: just walk around slowly, try to get away from the crowds, get to the churches on the outskirts. This walk can turn into a totally unforgettable experience.
The oldest preserved part of the city is Suzdal Kremlin. It is protected on three its sides by river Kamenka, and on the last one - by erected in eleventh century earthen rampart, which still can clearly be seen near Assumption, summer St. Nicholas and winter Nativity churches.
- Cathedral of the Nativity Theotokos ( Рождественский собор). 1222 year. It was rebuilt several times during its long history. Inside of the cathedral one can find preserved painting of 13-17 centuries, 13th century Golden Gate. Cathedral's necropolis contains buries of the members of princely and boyar families of 12-17 centuries. Belfry was built in 1635 opposite the cathedral. 100 rub.
- Archbishop's chambers ( Архиерейские палаты). 15-18 centuries. Consists of three buildings – the "old Archbishop's chambers" (15 century), the refectory "Church of the Annunciation" (16 century) and "bell tower" (1635) – connected by a system of passages and galleries. At the end of the 17th century a huge cross chamber was built, which now hosts a museum. Museum exhibits a model of ancient city of Suzdal and also features interior, recreated by the descriptions of the 18 century.
- Wooden Church of St. Nicholas ( Деревянная Никольская церковь). 1766 year. This church was built in Glotovo in 1766 and was moved to Suzdal in 1960 to be part of a museum of wooden architecture. The church is elevated off the ground about a story high from when it was moved across the country. This church is made out of all wood and represents the close relationship between wood and stone architecture and how precise the Russians were while building this back in 1766.
- Church of the Assumption ( Успенская церковь), Kremlyovskaya str.. 17 century. Built in Naryshkin Baroque style. Current appearance has acquired as a result of reconstruction after a fire in 1719. Used to have a belfry and a fence with a small gate, destroyed in 1920s.
- Church of St. Nicholas ( Никольская церковь). 1729-1739 years. One of the first churches built in the city after the great fire of 1719 and one of the five churches in Suzdal with a bell tower in the form of a concave tent, the so-called "Suzdal tune".
- Church of the Сhrist Nativity ( Церковь Рождества Христова). 1775 year. A small winter church of the 18 centuryб located next door to the summer St. Nicholas one. If there won't be a cupola, one could confuse it with a regular residential house.
Monastery of St. Euthymius
- Saviour Monastery of St. Euthymius ( Spaso-Evfimiev Monastery), Ul. Lenina, ~135. 09:00-18:00. The Spaso-Evfimiev Monastery is one of the largest and best preserved monasteries in Suzdal. It is very large and houses more than 10 separate museums, including a museum commemorating the GULAG and Russian historical museums. It is just as impressive (perhaps more) than the Moscow Kremlin. One can spend an entire day touring the museums and churches. It is strongly recommended to purchases a single ticket for all of the constituent museums as the guards strongly enforce admission tickets. 350 RUB for an all-inclusive ticket.
- Savior Cathedral ( Transfiguration Cathedral, Спасо-Преображенский собор). - 1594
- Annunciation Gatechurch ( Благовещенская надвратная церковь). Around 1600's
- Assumption refectory church ( Успенская трапезная церковь).
- Bell Tower ( Звонница).
- Archimandrite Chambers ( Дом архимандрита).
- St.Nicholas Church ( Никольская церковь с корпусом больничных покоев). -1669
- Monk Cells ( Братский келейный корпус).
- Monastery Prison ( Здание бывшей тюрьмы).
- St. John the Baptist Church, ulitsa Lenina, 53. This church was built in 1720, at the same time that the St. Nicholas church was built, although the difference between the types of architecture of the two churches is quite remarkable. Whereas the St. Nicholas Church is all wooden, the St. John Church is made out of white plastered walls with wooden supports.
- St. Alexander Convent ( Holy Gate of Alexander's monastery, Святые ворота Александровского монастыря), Ulitsa Gasteva (ул. Гастева), ~21. This church was built in 1240 by an unknown architect. It is said that the princesses of Suzdal, Mariya and Agrippina, were buried here in the 14th century. Parts: Church of the Ascension of Jesus.
- Holy Gate ( Святые ворота), Ulitsa Gasteva (South Wall of the Convent). 1695
- Convent of Intercession ( Intercession of the Theotokos convent), Pokrovskaya ulitsa. The convent was founded in 1364. In its center stands the cathedral of the Intercession; it was an add-on built in 1518 financed by Moscow knaz (king) Basil The Third. The interior of the cathedral has no paintings or stained glass, it is simply plain white stone walls all around. The church was and still is one of the richest convents in Russia. The convent is the home of many nuns and is also the burial vault for twenty nuns of noble birth. Connected to the white stoned wall cathedral is an art museum which can be toured. There are many paintings but none in the cathedral itself. This building is filled with arches and art created in the 16th and 17th century.
- Cathedral of the Intercession, Pokrovskaya ulitsa, 50.
- Saints Peter and Paul church, Pokrovskaya ulitsa,48.
- St. Nicholas church, Pokrovskaya ulitsa, 46.
- Rizopolozhensky Monastery ( Ризоположенский монастырь), Ulitsa Lenina (ул. Ленина), ~79. The Rizpolozhensky nunnery was founded in 1207. It was the first monastery in the town.
- Cathedral of Rizopolozhensky ( Ризоположенский собор).
- Monastery Belltower ( Преподобенская колокольня). 1813-1819
- Remains of Sretenskoi Refectory Church ( Остатки Сретенской трапезной церкви). 1882
- Holy Gate ( Святые ворота), Ulitsa Kropskoi. 1688
- Church of Feast of the Cross ( Holy Cross Church, Храм Воздвижения Креста Господня), 3-ya Internatsionalnala ulitsa, ~62 (- Next to the Church of Saints Cosmas and Damian). Found in 1696.
- Church of Saints Cosmas and Damian, ulitsa Korovniki,~39.
- Friday Church ( Пятницкая церковь), Kremlyovskaya ulitsa, 1.
- Сhurch of Nativity of St. John the Baptist ( Церковь Рождества Иоанна Предтечи, Предтеченская церковь), ulitsa Shmidta,~5. Founded in 1739
- Church of St. Lazarus of Bethany resurrection ( Лазаревская церковь), Staraya ulitsa.
July 16 - Cucumber Day. A funny holiday, based on the fact that Suzdal's cucumbers have a reputation as the best cucumbers in central Russia. This holiday is celebrated with a folk music festival.
- Walk on Kamenka River. In winter months, when the river is frozen, do walk the length of the river. This is the lifeline of the city and you will see sleighs being pulled and men ice-fishing in the river. It is a beautiful way to see the city.
- Carriage/Sleigh Ride. A carriage or sleigh ride through Suzdal is a memorable (though expensive) experience. The young men offering the rides may be found everywhere, and they start their negotiations with very steep prices (RUR 3,000 / .5 hr). You should be able to negotiate down to RUR 500 or thereabouts, depending on the season. Also, shorter rides can be negotiated.
- Merchant Yard ( Gostiny Dvor, Торговые ряды), ulitsa Lenina, 63а (Center). Locals selling vegetables to each other and souvenirs to tourists.
You will not find any McDonalds restaurants or any trace of Western chain shops or hotels here.
- Trapeznaya restaurant ( Located in a room of the refectory of Suzdal's Kremlin). , this restaurant features a traditional Russian menu of bliny (pancakes) with caviar, priced much lower than in Moscow. Try their marinated forest mushrooms - they are beautiful and tasty, whether eaten plain or alongside a serving of cold vodka.
- Korchma (in the city center). this is a nice restaurant, featuring high-quality, traditional Russian food. The local cranberry and groundberry vodka-based liquer -- Susdalskaya Nastoika -- is worth a try.
- Bistro Samovarnaya ( Закусочная «Самоварная»), Ul. Lenina (ул. Ленина), 84. 9-22.
- Cafe Blinnaya ( Кафе «Блинная»), (Спасо-Евфимиев монастырь).
- Cafe Landysh ( Кафе «Ландыш»), Ul. Neteka (ул. Нетека), 1. 24/7.
- Cafe Privratnitskaya ( Кафе «привратницкая»), (Спасо-Евфимиев монастырь).
- Dining room of the city administration ( Столовая городской администрации), Krasnaya ploschad (Красная пл.) 1 (At back door of the building). M-F 9-16. Dinner RUB120 (2012).
The beverage of choice in Russia is vodka, by far. Suzdal, however, is famous for another drink, medovukha, a Russian type of cider made from honey. Tourists should be wary of purchasing this drink on the streets, though, for counterfeits are common. Ask your guide where you can buy real medovukha.
Suzdal has a wide variety of offerings. There are many small hotels with 5-20 rooms. Advance booking is crucial for those who intend to visit during the New Year holiday season, Independence Day, and during the summer high season.
- Vasilyevsky Monastery ( Гостиница в Васильевском монастыре.), Vasilyevsky Street (From the monastery to the town centre is a very pleasant 10 minute walk. The main road leading from the Suzdal bus station to the town centre), ☎ . For those interested in a monastic type of stay. The rooms are comfortable, warm, and clean, but are fairly bare-bones, as guests live alongside resident monks. No telephone, TV, or shared kitchen is provided. Two shared bathrooms are available. It is best to exit at Suzdal Bus Station and walk to the monastery. Pay for the room inside the church. dorm RUR400, room RUR900 (2013).
- Godzillas Suzdal, Ul. Naberezhnaya (ул. Набережная) 32, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. From 700 RUB.
- Guesthouse Na Tsvetochnoy ( Гостевой дом «На Цветочной»,), Ul. Tsvetochnaya (ул. Цветочная), 5а (go to the Pokrovskiy Monastery and after the crossing of Stromynka and Pokrovskaya streets, move down the street to the house Stromynka number 26 (on the right side of the street) and the shop "Auto Parts" (on the left side of the street), turn left into the lane, the second gate on the right.), ☎ , e-mail: , firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-out: 12:00. free WI-FI sgl/dbl working days-weekends RUB1000-1500/1500-2000, in 'Autumn' all rooms extra RUB500, all incl. breakfast.
- Hotel Pushkarskaya Sloboda ( ГК «Пушкарская Слобода»), ul. Lenina (улица Ленина), 41, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Prices start at RUR 2,500 for a double or twin room.
- Tourist hotel ( туристического комплекса "Суздаль"), Korovniki (ул. Коровники), 45, ☎ . is the largest hotel, with a 3-star rating. It is ideal for backpackers, and features "cottages" with attached garages. Camping. Spa. Restaurant. hotel rooms: "Standard" RUR3000, "Studio" RUR3500, "Lux" RUR3900, "Luxury modern" RUR5000, "Family" RUR3900; - 'Town Houses'?: triple RUR3900, apt's RUR7600, HUNTING Lodge dbl RUR4200, Camp ? (2014.apr.).
- Goryachie klyuchi (Bashenki), ul. Korovniki 14, ☎ , , fax: . A complex of hotels with big wooden rooms and a sauna, situated in a very quiet locale. From here, it takes 20 minutes to walk to the town center, and nearly 40 minutes to walk to the Kremlin. Dbl. 300USD.
- Sokol hotel, ulitsa Lenina, 50А,( Торговая площадь). A large hotel currently under renovation after a fire. 67 rooms in two buildings. From €110.
- Kovrov — the second largest city in the region with a major defense industry presence
- Murom — a large ancient city (9th century) with enormous history and cultural importance to Russia; home to the 11th century Saviour Monastery and several cathedrals
- Vladimir — 900 years old city and home to numerous Russian cultural monuments on the UNESCO World Heritage list, which attract hordes of tourists each summer on the Golden Ring circuit
- Yuryev-Polsky — a town notable for its 13th century Cathedral of Saint George and the Monastery of Michael the Archangel