Moscow to Vladimir: a day trip guide
Vladimir is one of the most interesting day trips from Moscow. Getting from Moscow to Vladimir should not take more than 2 hours and it is very easy to arrange this day trip on your own without the need for an expensive tour.
Why visit Vladimir?
Vladimir 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.
Vladimir is one of the oldest towns in Russia’s golden ring and was founded by prince Vladimir in the 12th century. It soon became the capital of Russia and enjoyed great wealth and prosperity. It was a golden age in which most of Vladimirs white stone cathedrals, monasteries and palaces were built. That was until the Mongols destroyed Vladimir in 1238.
The city never recovered and the capital moved to Moscow. It wasn’t completely forgotten though as the princes of Moscow still built a few churches in Vladimir in the 16th century. Nowadays it serves as the administrative center of the Vladimir Oblast and is a popular tourist destination because of its historic sights that are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
I really liked the small town feel of Vladimir and, most of all, its stunning views on the Klyzma river and the forests beyond. Even more beautiful was nearby Suzdal. It might be because I visited in winter, but it was the picture perfect fairytale like landscape that you imagine Russia to be.
How much time do I need in Vladimir
Most things to do in Vladimir are in the compact historic center and are easy to explore on foot. It’s possible to see everything in around 3 – 4 hours making Vladimir a perfect day trip from Moscow.
However, nearby Suzdal is also definitely worth a visit and therefore I do recommend to stay at least one night in Vladimir. Otherwise you would be rushing things too much. Suzdal is very easy to get to by bus from Vladimir and there is enough to see for a full morning there. You can then return to Vladimir and Moscow on the same day.
Things to do in Vladimir
Vladimir’s golden gate is one of the few medieval gates that still exist in Russia. It’s also one of the oldest structures in Vladimir built when it became Russia’s capital in the early 12th century. The 15 meter tall arch was topped with a fortified church that is now a museum about the Mongol invasions in Russia.
The current structure saw lots of renovations, especially in the 18th century by Catherine the Great.
Right next to the Golden Gate is the old vladimir museum that is in the former water tower. The museum has a small collection about daily life in Vladimir in the 19th century.
The main reason to visit the water tower though are the wonderful views over Vladimir on the top.
From the water tower you can walk throughVladimirs renovated old center. This scenic, but very touristic part of Vladimir has several quirky things to do such as a gingerbread masterclass, the private museum of spoons and the Borodin blacksmith workshop.
Most museums here are more for local tourists and you’d be lucky if anyone speaks english. Still it can be a fun experience. I went to the Borodin blacksmith workshop and learned to make my own nail.
The Assumption cathedral was the first church to be built in Vladimir in 1160. At that time it was the largest church in Russia. It was also the mother church of the medieval Russian orthodox church until this title went to the holy trinity lavra of St Sergius in Sergiev Posad in the 15th century.
The large white cathedral has beautiful interior frescoes that date from the 13th century and the large bell tower was added in 1810.
The Saint Demetrius cathedral is another 12th century church in Vladimir that is interesting for its exterior relief carvings. They include plants, animals, figures and ornamental patterns believed to come from traditional Russian folk stories and pagan beliefs.
The church used to be the personal church for the Princes of Vladimir and was connected to the palace. Unfortunately, the palace was destroyed by the Mongols and the church saw many renovations as well.
If you want to learn more about Vladimirs history from its very first settlements in the Stone age up until now I can recommend the history museum near Demetrius cathedral. It’s probably one of the best museums in Vladimir, but this says more about the quality of the other museums around. Therefore, it’s not a must visit, but nice if you have some extra time.
Things to do near Vladimir
Vladimir was closely linked to Suzdal and at the UNESCO World Heritage list they are put together as the White Monuments of Vladimir and Suzdal. 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.
Suzdal is like a big open air museum. However, something needs to be noted here. It’s partly a Soviet creation. As they wanted to focus on Suzdal’s tourist potential they did not allow the construction of new or high rise buildings. The Soviets 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.
Where to eat in Vladimir
My favorite restaurant in Vladimir was Mint owl. This cute cafe bar serves excellent food including healthy salads and delicious soups for very reasonable prices.
I also tried Pelmenj. A restaurant that specializes in the famous russian dumplings called pelmeni. They also had delicious piroshki (stuffed bread buns).
How to get from Moscow to Vladimir
Moscow to Vladimir by train
The quickest and most efficient way to get from Moscow to Vladimir is by high speed train. This option 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 for you, 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 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.
Moscow to Vladimir by bus
To travel from Moscow to Vladimir by bus takes between 3 to 4 hours depending on traffic. Private buses leave every 30 minutes from the Kurskaya bus station while ‘official’ buses leave every hour from the Shelkovskaya metro station.
Where to stay from Moscow to Vladimir
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 is another hostel with good reviews near the train and bus station. It has both dormitories and private rooms for reasonable prices.
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 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 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 has great budget dormitories with lots of privacy. It has a central location within walking distance of Kitay Gorod.
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