The Golden Ring is one of Russia’s true treasures and an absolute must-see for anyone wanting a more traditional, and arguably more authentic, Russian experience than that offered by Moscow or St Petersburg. A collection of ancient settlements situated in a loop to the North East of Moscow, the Golden Ring boasts an impressive array of opulent, centuries-old Russian architecture; each building, village, town and city providing an in-depth glimpse into the country’s fascinating history.
Other than some rampant 20th-century industrialisation within the Golden Ring’s larger cities, much of it was developed between the 12th and 18th centuries and the plethora of churches, monasteries, cathedrals, kremlin citadels and museums built within this period are as gleaming and grandiose as they have ever been. The ring was once Russia’s capital and cultural heart, and much of what you see here is where that quintessential Russian style of colourful, onion-shaped domes contrasting with golden spires and dazzling, intricately carved, white walls was first established.
The small town of Suzdal is perhaps the jewel in the Golden Ring’s crown. Magnificently preserved and protected against industrial development, it is known as a "museum under the stars" and is a testament to the old Russian way of life. With its kremlin and numerous churches and monasteries nestled within a picturesque, pastoral and peaceful town, Suzdal makes for a thoroughly charming and interesting visit.
Think you know all there is to know about the cucumber? Well, think again, because the people of this small town on the Golden Ring revere this humble vegetable and hold the riotous and revelatory Suzdal Cucumber Festival every July in its honour. Learn how to grow the best cucumbers, eat everything from cucumber soup to cucumber cake, buy cucumber-shaped souvenirs made of clay and wood, watch a play dedicated to the history of the cucumber, and, if you've got any energy left, take part in the cucumber eating contest. A truly unique celebration for a truly unique part of the world.
Consider a stop en route from Moscow to St Petersburg at the Golden Ring town of Novgorod. There are overnight trains from Moscow to Novgorod and day trains from Novgorod to St Petersburg. Situated halfway between Moscow and St Petersburg where the Volkhov River takes its waters from Lake Ilmen, Novgorod is one of Russia’s most ancient and beautiful cities. The town’s full name is Veliki Novgorod (Veliki means “great” and Novgorod means “new town”). One of the highlights of a visit here is the impressive Kremlin and the Cathedral of St Sophia. Built in 1050, the cathedral is a symbol of the city and one of the oldest stone built buildings in Russia.