Moscow to Suzdal: a day trip guide
This post is about how to get from Moscow to Suzdal on a day trip or weekend trip. Suzdal is one of the most scenic city getaways from Moscow. It’s a fairytale-like village with an easygoing atmosphere where nothing has changed much. It’s like an open air museum where you can not only see some very old churches and monasteries, but also get an idea of what Russian village life was like.
Why visit Suzdal?
Suzdal is part of Russia’s golden ring. A circle of ancient Russian villages and towns near Moscow that played an important role in the development of the Russian state and the Russian Orthodox church. They are home to some of Russia’s oldest monasteries, churches and picturesque kremlins.
Suzdal is one of the smallest villages in Russia’s Golden Ring and also one of its oldest. It developed as early as the 11th century and Moscow was once its subordinate. However, as Moscow grew in the 13th century Suzdals political importance declined.
Suzdal remained an important religious center though with more monasteries and churches than any other town near Moscow. Nowadays there are still over 40 of them and several are on the UNESCO World Heritage list as the white monuments of Suzdal and Vladimir.
Personally, I found it to be one of the most picturesque places in Russia’s Golden Ring and there is a rural rustic atmosphere that makes it feel like you are travelling back in time. It’s a perfect place to get a sense of Russia’s village life in the countryside.
However, something needs to be noted here. It’s partly a Soviet creation. As they wanted to focus on Suzdal’s tourist potential the Soviets did not allow the construction of new or high rise buildings. They even moved wooden structures from other parts of Russia to Suzdal.
The result is that Suzdal is very touristic, but also very pretty. Furthermore, the historical significance of its 11th century Kremlin and 16th century churches is no less. Suzdal’s Kremlin is even older than the Moscow kremlin.
How much time from Moscow to Suzdal?
Suzdal is a cute and small village and it’s easy to explore everything on foot. You would need a full day to explore its kremlin and monasteries.
If you have limited time you can visit Suzdal as a daytrip from Moscow, but I would not recommend it. There is so much to see and do that I would suggest you stay at least one night in either Suzdal or Vladimir. Combined with nearby Vladimir it makes a great weekend trip away from Moscow.
Things to do in Suzdal
Most of the things to do in Suzdal are concentrated around the Kremlin or the Monastery of Saint Euthymius. It is a 2 kilometer walk along the main street (Ulitsa Lenina) or a slightly longer, but more scenic walk along the Kamenka river.
What I suggest is to walk along Ulitsa Lenina first from the Kremlin to the Saint Euthymius monastery and then back to the Kremlin taking the scenic back route along the river.
Deposition of the Robe convent
When you walk from the Kremlin to the St Euthymius monastery following Lenin street you will pass by the deposition of the robe convent. This was the very first monastery in Suzdal.
It was a nunnery and legend goes that one of the nuns prayers averted the monasery being destroyed by the Mongol Tatars in the 13th century. However, the wooden structures have all been replaced by stone churches in later time periods. The 72 meter belfry tower is the tallest building in Suzdal.
Opposite the deposition of the robe convent is Suzdal’s red square where Lenin is still standing strong.
St Alexander male monastery
The St Alexander monastery is located in between the Kremlin and the Saint Euthymius monastery. It’s on a side street from Ulitsa Lenina and worth a quick visit.
This monastery was founded in 1240 by Alexander Nevski. In its history it had different purposes, but since 2006 it is a functioning male monastery. A curious fact, because the monastery was originally for women whose husbands were killed by the Tatars and the burial place for the Suzdal princesses
Monastery of Saint Euthymius
The monastery of Saint Euthymius was founded in 1352 as a fortress to protect the city. A big battle took place just outside its walls in 1445 between the Russians and the Tatars of the Golden horde. The Tatars won and captured the prince of Moscow.
The monastery truly developed in the 16th century when the wooden structures were replaced by stone walls and several buildings were added such as the transfiguration cathedral, the annunciation church and the nikolski church.
Notorious is the monastery prison that was built by Catherine the great. First it was used for religious dissidents, during communism for political prisoners and later as a youth detention center for boys. Nowadays it’s a museum.
The beautiful intercession monastery has a not so delightful past. What do you do when you are a Russian Prince of Moscow and you want to get rid of your wife who hasn’t given birth to any children yet, even after twenty years?
Prince Basil III donated generously to the intercession monastery for ten years after which he divorced his wife with the support of the church and forced her to become a nun. Since then the Intercession monastery became a place for the disgraced and exiled women of the royal and noble families in Moscow.
Among them was also the first wife of Peter the Great who was accused of plotting against him and of having an affair with another man. While most women weren’t there voluntarily, their celebrity status attracted lots of pilgrims and donations. It developed into one of the richest monasteries in Suzdal in the 16th century.
The Suzdal Kremlin is among the oldest parts of Suzdal and was the religious and administrative center of the town. Most noteworthy is the Cathedral of the nativity with its blue domes that was the first church in Suzdal.
The Kamenka river is the lifeline in Suzdal. In summer it’s possible to take a boat ride on the river and in winter you can go sleigh riding. Both are quite fun. In winter you can also see men sitting patiently on small chairs on the ice. They are ice fishing.
Museum of Wooden architecture
The Museum of Wooden architecture and peasant life is all about showcasing traditional Russian village life from the 18th century. It’s like an open air village with traditional wooden houses that were moved from elsewhere in the area. They include not only peasant homes, but also windmills, water wells and churches.
The trade square near the Kremlin has a very touristic souvenir market. All the regular items like shawls and matryoshka dolls are there, but it also has some interesting souvenirs that you might not find elsewhere.
The region is famous for its delicious honey, cucumbers as well as berries and mushrooms from the forest. The people here sell their own home made jams from cucumber jam to pine cone jam. You will also see lots of jars with preserved mushrooms and vegetables for sale.
In summer you can try the Suzdal cucumbers, in autumn wild mushrooms and in winter a variety of drinks to warm you up.
Try Medovukha and Sbiten
Suzdal is one of the best places to try Medovukha. A mildly alcoholic mead made with the local honey. Either try some homemade brews at the bazaar or a full tasting at Gostiny Dvor.
In winter you can also buy sbiten in the market. This drink is a honey based spiced tea that is available in alcoholic and non – alcoholic versions.
Wooden houses of Suzdal
The tourism industry has done well for the Suzdal residents and with strict building codes to keep Suzdal a rural gem it has some of Russia’s most interesting and elaborate wooden homes.
Most tourists stick to the Kremlin and the monasteries and don’t consider the wooden homes a tourist attraction, but I loved them. Walking around in some of the quiet neighborhoods I was soon the only foreigner around.
Things to do near Suzdal
Suzdal was closely linked to nearby Vladimir. This Golden Ring town was once the capital of Russia in the 12th century until it was destroyed by the Mongols in 1238. Luckily some of its important monuments survived.
It is not as scenic as Suzdal and it lacks the rural atmosphere, but it is definitely worth a visit. Its historic center is relatively compact and you can easily combine Suzdal with a visit to Vladimir.
Where to eat in Suzdal
Suzdal has lots of places to eat. I had an afternoon snack with a medovukha tasting at Gostiny dvor, which I really liked. Some of the people speak a bit of english and they were quite helpful in explaining the menu.
I had lunch at Chaynaya. A delicious mushroom soup in a pot and other russian delicacies. Recommended for the good food and cozy interior decorations.
Travel tips from Moscow to Suzdal
With all the tourism it is easy to forget that Suzdal is a religious town, almost as important as Sergiev Posad.
Therefore it is important for women to dress modestly. In winter this is obviously not a problem, but take note in summer.
Women are supposed to wear a headscarf once they enter an orthodox church. Although most of them have some at the entrance that you can use, it’s best to bring your own.
How to get from Moscow to Suzdal
Moscow to Suzdal by train
Suzdal is not connected by train. Yet, this is the quickest and most efficient way to get from Moscow to Suzdal. First you need to get to Vladimir and from Vladimir there are frequent buses (every 30 minutes) to Suzdal.
There is a high speed train to Vladimir that takes less than 2 hours. You need to book tickets in advance online.
It’s easy to book your train tickets online through the Russian Railways. If this doesn’t work out you can also use a travel agency like tutu travel or Realrussia, but the fares might be slightly higher.
If you go for a daytrip I recommend the Lastochka that leaves Moscow at 07:07 AM or if you stay one night in Suzdal or Vladimir you could also take the Strizh at 11:00 AM (as of 2020, check current times at the Russian Railways site). They leave from Kurskaya station and go in the direction of Nizhny Novgorod. The cost is between $15 USD and 20 USD.
You can also take local suburban trains or long distance trains on the Trans Siberian route that stop in Vladimir. They will be much cheaper, but the travel time will be between 3 to 4 hours so this is not suitable for a day trip option.
Once in Vladimir you can go to the bus station that is conveniently located across the train station. There is a bus to Suzdal every 30 minutes and the journey is little less than an hour.
Moscow to Suzdal by bus
To travel from Moscow to Suzdal by bus takes between 4.5 to 5 hours depending on traffic. A few buses a day leave from the Shchyolkovsky bus terminal. The buses to Ivanovo also stop in Suzdal.
Alternatively you could take a bus to Vladimir and change there for the bus to Suzdal. From Moscow Private buses to Vladimir leave every 30 minutes from the Kurskaya bus station while ‘official’ buses leave every hour from the Shelkovskaya metro station.
Accomodation from Moscow to Suzdal
Where to stay in Suzdal
Suzdal has lots of accommodation options. There are no real backpacker hostels, but you will find some budget guesthouses.
Patchwork guesthouse: Patchwork guesthouse is a simple guesthouse with a couple of small, but clean double rooms. It is within walking distance of the main sights and has a very friendly and helpful owner
Viktoria Guest house : Viktoria guesthouse is a good budget option not far from the center with clean rooms
Where to stay in Vladimir
Hostel Belyy Topol: I stayed in hostel Belyy topol. Although the staff didn’t really speak english, they were very helpful. The rooms were clean and the location was very convenient near the train station and in walking distance of the historic sights.
Hostel Vishnya: Hostel Vishnya is another hostel with good reviews near the train and bus station. It has both dormitories and private rooms for reasonable prices.
Samovar hostel: Samovar hostel has a scenic location within Vladimirs historic center. It has good reviews because of their clean and spacious dorms and private rooms.
Where to stay in Moscow
Hostels Rus: Hostels Rus stand for clean and professional hostels with a mix of dormitories and a limited number of double rooms for good prices. They are often located close to one of the Moscow metro stations making travel in Moscow easy. There is one near Kurskaya and one near Paveletskaya (dorms only).
Vinegret hostel: Vinegret hostel is a clean and nice budget hostel with an excellent location in the heart of Moscow. It is right near Arbatskaya metro station on the famous arbat street. From there you can walk to the red square in only 30 minutes.
Axel hostel: Axel hostel has great budget dormitories with lots of privacy. It has a central location within walking distance of Kitay Gorod.
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