The Golden Ring of Russia:
A tour through the heart of Mother Russia
These ancient towns played a major role in the Russian history. Their history is also the history of the formation of the Russian Orthodox Church. They are called “open-air museums”. They feature unique monuments of Russian architecture of the 12th–18th centuries, including kremlins, monasteries, cathedrals, and churches. These towns are among the most picturesque in Russia and prominently feature Russia’s onion domes.
The best way to visit the cities is with an organized tour. Fortunately, there are many tour operators offering 2-3 days packages to visit the Golden Ring departing from Moscow. The most visited cities are Sergiev Posad, Suzdal, and Vladimir,
Sergiyev Posad is located at 75km to the northeast of Moscow. The city grew around one of the greatest of Russian monasteries, The Trinity Monastery of St. Sergius.
The monastery is equivalent of the Vatican for the Russian Orthodox Church and has been a place of pilgrimage for Russian Orthodox believers for centuries.
To get there you can go by train from Moscow but the best way is to go with a private tour.
The Trinity Monastery of St. Sergius
The Trinity Monastery of St. Sergius is the most important Russian monastery and the spiritual center of the Russian Orthodox Church. The monastery was founded by St. Sergius of Radonezh in 1345. As a young man, Sergius decided to live his life as an ascetic monk in the forests outside Moscow. He and his brother built a small wooden church, which they dedicated to the Life-giving Trinity. Sergius was soon joined by others inspired by his pious lifestyle and eventually, a community began to grow and later a monastery was formed.
St. Sergius of Radonezh was canonized as a Saint in the early 14th Century. His tomb is located at the Trinity Cathedral and a memorial service for him takes place every day.
Kvass is a traditional cold drink made by the Russians since medieval times. In summer you can see many yellow tanks in the streets selling this drink in plastic glasses or in bottles. It’s made by natural fermentation of bread and flavored with fruit, berries or raisins. The kvas sold in the monastery is considered the best brand.
Outside the monastery is a good place to buy the Russian nesting dolls or Matryoshka dolls for a good price. The town of Sergiyev Posad is famous for being the birthplace of these dolls. It has its own doll factory and is the best place to buy authentic high-quality matryoshki.
Suzdal is a little village located 219 km east of Moscow. During early medieval times, the town had great political importance being the capital of several Russian principalities. As its political importance declined the town rose as a religious center with many monasteries. Today Suzdal rural atmosphere and ancient architecture attract many tourists.
Museum Of Wooden Architecture & Peasant Life
This open-air museum shows what life was open for the average Russian peasant in the 18th and 19th centuries. It has about 20 reconstructed wooden buildings, including wooden churches, peasant’s houses, mills, a barn and a well brought here from all over Vladimir region’s villages.
The Suzdal Kremlin is the oldest part of the city, dating from the 10th century. Like in many other cities in Russia, the Kremlin was originally a fortress and it’s the heart of the city. In the center of the Kremlin, there’s The Cathedral of the Nativity dating from the 13th century.
Monastery of Saint Euthymius
This monastery was founded in the 14th century. It reflects the might of the Russian Orthodox church in medieval times. In the interior of the seven-domed Cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Saviour, there are beautifully restored frescoes, dating from 1689.
Vladimir endured a Mongol invasion in the 12th century from which it never fully recovered. When the power shifted to Moscow many princes still commissioned churches in Vladimir.