Outside of Russia, we generally think of kremlin as the most famous one, the Moscow Kremlin. But as we learned on our trip to Russia, a kremlin is a major fortified complex found in the heart of all Russian settlements. So it’s no surprise that the heart of Suzdal is the Suzdal Kremlin. Though the Suzdal Museum of Wooden Architecture was fascinating, my attention was distracted by the deep blue onion domes festooned with gold stars dominating the whole town just across the Kamenka River.
Those captivating blue domes belong to the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Virgin, the oldest cathedral of Suzdal and one of the oldest in Russia. It was built around 1225 under the orders of Yuri II of Vladimir of white limestone and is one of the eight White Monuments of Vladimir and Suzdal.
Aside from the blue domes, one of the most striking features are the 13th century intricate gold laid doors. The Golden Gates, as they are called, were made in very intricate technique by fusing gold onto a black background of bronze. The door are covered in a series of reliefs, each telling their own story.
The interior is covered in bright frescoes and contains the the remains of a son of Yuri Dolgoruki and knyazes of the Shuisky family, amongst others. There’s a lot to take in on the inside, but be sure to also take a moment to admire the chandeliers. Some have glass bulb-like ornaments hanging from them that contain models of the buildings within the Suzdal Kremlin.
The kremlin is quite small in comparison to Moscow, where it felt like a mini city. There’s not much else to see aside from the cathedral. But the Suzdal Kremlin also contains a secret; it houses a restaurant in the former refectory and we were told it was the best in all of Suzdal. The menu features traditional Russian food and after feasting on mostly international fare in Moscow, we were ready for our first proper meal of Russian cuisine. We had it all – Borscht and solyanka soups, pelmeni filled with wild boar, a casserole baked with meat and vegetables under cheese, and potatoes baked in sour cream and cheese. We finished it all off with blini with apricot jam.
We needed a stroll around town after that meal and were delighted to see that the gray skies that had been threatening to burst all day had dissipated into the most spectacular sunset of our trip. We walked along the grassy river embankment and watched the light completely transform the town.
The Cathedral was now closed and the day tour buses had departed back for Moscow, so we took some time just to sit on the steps inside the walls of the Kremlin enjoying a bit of quiet as the sunset bathed the white monuments in a curtain of gold.
Know Before You Go
- The Cathedral of Nativity of the Virgin is open daily from 10am – 6pm (closed the last Friday of the month) and tickets are 80 rubles.
- There are no trains that run to Suzdal, so options for visiting are on an organized tour like G Adventures Golden Ring of Russia or a day tour from Moscow.
- You can also visit independently by taking the train from Moscow to Vladimir. Buses run every 30 minutes from Vladimir to Suzdal and the Vladimir Bus Terminal is about 50 meters from the train station. Tickets cost 260 rubles each way for the train and 60 rubles each way for the bus.
Our trip to Russia was sponsored in part by G Adventures. As always, all opinions are entirely our own.