There’s nothing more that I love than travelling to destinations that is often not visited by tourists. The Golden Ring of Russia is one of the most popular tourist destination in this country, yet it doesn’t seem as popular as Moscow and St. Petersburg. I think this is a shame because these destinations are very much iconic and is a solid third place after seeing the Kremlin and Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, and the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg. So, while travelling in Russia, I decided to make the Golden Ring one of my first go-to place to explore.
What is the Golden Ring of Russia
The Golden Ring of Russia are eight Russian cities that is arranged in a ring-like formation. The eight most popular Golden Ring cities are:
Actually, there are more cities in the Golden Ring of Russia but those eight above are the “main ones”.
Because I was only able to secure a 4-day Visa in Russia, I ended going to Vladamir and Suzdal due to their relative proximity to Moscow where I was staying.
Visiting the Golden Ring of Russia starting from Moscow
During my time in Moscow, I travelled with a friend of mine named Allen who moved from Vancouver and is now living in Helsinki Finland. I promised the guy I would visit him and we ended up travelling to Russia together.
We started our journey by going to the Moskva Kurskaya central train station and purchasing a ticket from there to Vladamir. The cost of the train ticket was 1,180 Rubles ($24.58 CAD).
The train ride from Moscow to Vladamir was going to take about 2 hours long to take.
Arriving at Vladamir definitely felt like what Russia would feel like. The train station here looks pretty beat up and the city looks very industrialized. This is exactly what I envisioned Russia to be like.
My first feeling upon exiting the train station is how freezing cold it was. It was around 3 degrees Celsius during late September. “This is ridiculous!”, I thought to myself. I wonder how cold it gets in Winter? Well, at least I definitely know I am in Russia.
Museums, landmarks, and churches in Vladamir
Allen and myself made our way to the central area of the city to figure out which tourist spots we’re going to check out first. It turns out that Vladamir is a city full of museums and cathedrals.
The problem with exploring Vladamir, besides the awful weather, is that there’s nothing in English in this city. Everything is in Russian so even if the place looks really neat, you have no idea what it is! I think this is why people join tour groups to get an explanation of what happened in this city; otherwise, you’d have to make an intelligent guess based on what you see in the pictures and paintings in the museums and cathedrals.
Here are some of the places Allen and myself visited (we visited more than these places, I just couldn’t remember the names of the other locations):
- Palaty Museum Centre – 250 Rubles ($5.21 CAD)
- Cathedral of St. Demetrius – 150 Rubles ($3.13 CAD)
- Golden gate – 150 Rubles ($3.13 CAD)
We also checked out some outdoor landmarks before grabbing a bite to eat at a nearby restaurant.
Accidentally buying an expensive steak
The menus in the restaurant is in Russian and I had no clue what I was ordering. I ended up ordering a steak and upon receiving the bill, it turns out it cost $46+ CAD!
Holy shit, I just murdered buying this pricey steak.
I suddenly lost my appetite and decided not to eat anything for the remainder of the day. The lesson here is to use some kind of translation app the next time you order something in a foreign country to avoid this from happening.
Travelling from Vladamir to Suzdal
At first, Allen opted to skip Suzdal and said we should just head back to Moscow. However, upon returning back to the train station, turns out that the trains were completely sold out. Upon closer inspection, turns out we can take a local train (costing 935 Rubles / $19.48 CAD) but not until much later in the night. This means we’d have tons of time to continue exploring.
We decided we check out Suzdal and took a Yandex there (Russian version of Uber). The car ride from Vladamir was relatively cheap, it was only 350 Rubles ($7.29 CAD). Thank god because I already got murdered buying that steak from earlier.
The driver dropped us off near a bell tower which was our first stop in Suzdal.
The Prepodobenskaya Bell Tower (also called Venerable bell tower) was really cool in my opinion. After you pay the entrance fee to enter the building (100 Rubles / $2.08 CAD), you get to climb all the way to the top of it. This is a must if you ever visit Suzdal. When you reach the top of the tower, you’ll get a scenic view of the city of Suzdal.
After exploring the bell tower, we were off to our next destination in Suzdal which is the Museum complex of the Monastery of the Saviour and St. Euthymius.
Museum complex of the Monastery of the Saviour and St. Euthymius
Hands down my favourite place I visited in perhaps my entire trip in Russia is the Museum complex of the Monastery of the Saviour and St. Euthymius.
This museum looks like a big fort and even contains a prison that held religious dissidents around the year 1764 onwards. I used to love learning about big European fortifications when I was studying social studies when I was a teenager. And this museum brings back fond memories from my teenage days.
The ticket price to enter this museum is 400 Rubles ($8.56 CAD) and was definitely worth it compared to the other places I’ve seen in Vladamir.
Allen and myself must have spent at least 3 hours exploring the place. I had a lot of fun checking out the prison, the exhibits, the different rooms, and architecture.
Before long, we got kicked out by the Russians guarding the monastery because it was closing time.
Back to Vladamir and train back to Moscow
We went back to Vladamir by going on another Yandex ride.(costing 430 rubles / $8.96 CAD). Once we were in Vladamir, we waited for quite some time in the train station until it was time to depart back to Moscow. My friend and I were so dead exhausted that we passed out in the train as soon as we boarded.
Before long, we arrived back in Moscow and went straight to sleep to get ready to explore Moscow the next morning.
Suzdal was definitely my favourite of the two golden ring of Russia cities we visited. Vladamir was neat but I would never go back there again. I’m not a big fan of big industrialized cities. It was good for a one time visit but I think the low-key nature of Suzdal suited my personality better.
It would have been nice to have gotten a longer Russia Visa so I can see the other Golden Ring cities. Regardless, I have no regrets; though, I will probably not go out of my way to see the other Golden Ring cities during my lifetime. At the end of the day, I’m not a city person and prefer smaller towns and nature for a more enjoyable travel experience.