A weekend to Sergiev Posad: architecture, Rublev icons, caves and snowboarding
Sergiev Posad is a city, located 70 km from Moscow in the north-east of the Moscow region. It has everything for a short and eventful trip: architectural and historical monuments, excursions to the bell tower and caves, a ski trail and a park with camels.
I regularly go to Sergiev Posad on weekends. I’ll tell you what you must see, where the tastiest dinners are and how to find the best locations for photos.
What to see in Sergiev Posad
Sergiev Posad is part of the Golden Ring of Russia and was created by decree of Catherine the Great in 1782 from the villages and slobodas that surrounded the Trinity Sergius Lavra. It is the largest monastery in Russia, which was founded in the XIV century by St. Sergius of Radonezh, and is now protected by UNESCO. It is best to start from here, and plan your route on the map.
The Trinity Sergius Lavra
Here, Dmitry Donskoy took a blessing from Sergius of Radonezh before the Battle of Kulikovo, and Andrei Rublev wrote his “Trinity”. During the Time of Troubles, the walls of the monastery withstood a 16-month siege by the Polish-Lithuanian army. The monastery twice served as a refuge for Peter I. The future emperor hid in the monastery during the Strelets riot and seven years later, escaping an assassination attempt.
In the architectural ensemble of the Lavra more than fifty buildings: temples, museums, cafes, stores.
It is better to start your self-excursion with the Trinity Cathedral, the oldest building of the lavra. On weekends and on church holidays, long lines line up to see the relics of St. Sergius of Radonezh. There is no need to queue just to come in and see.
The cathedral was built in 1423, for its iconostasis Andrei Rublev wrote the famous icon of the Holy Trinity, which is stored in the Tretyakov Gallery. Its place is taken by the Godunov’s List, ordered by the tsar at the end of the 16th century. Hold your gaze on the iconostasis – the three rows above the royal gates were painted by Rublev and his artel. He also worked on painting the walls of the cathedral, but the frescoes have been lost.
Also, notice the big chandelier with the figures of saints, a panikhonel of the XV century, the work of German craftsmen. How did it get here? It was a war trophy of Ivan the Terrible. The tsar brought it from Poland as a gift to the monastery.
After the modest church of the Holy Trinity, I recommend evaluating the most majestic building of the monastery, the Dormition Cathedral, built in the 16th century.
It is better to see it on a clear day, to appreciate the play of light on the bright frescoes.
When there is a service, in these churches are gathered a lot of people, so I recommend to specify the schedule in advance. But during the service you can listen to the Lavra choir, which gives concerts in Russia and abroad.
One of the most beautiful buildings of Lavra is the Church of St. Sergius with a refectory which was built in the XVII century in the style of Moscow Baroque. I advise to come here for three reasons. First, the gallery offers the best views for photos. Second, to see the details of the facade: colorful paintings on the walls, portals and carved columns.
The third is what’s inside. The temple looks more like a palace, and for good reason: Catherine II had a hand in its decoration a hundred years after its construction. The empress ordered to “decently enliven” the interior of the temple with colors. Atypical seems royally luxurious decor, an abundance of stucco and carved gilt iconostasis.
The church is active, so it’s best to check the schedule beforehand.
The bell tower in Sergiev Posad is one of the highest in Russia (88 meters). The lower floor is a souvenir store, where jewelry and gifts are presented. It is possible to go up to the third tier, which offers a view of the city. The visit takes 40 minutes and you can go up only if accompanied by a guide. The price for a group of up to 8 people is ₽2,000. If you come alone or in pairs, the visit will cost the same ₽2,000. Tickets are best booked on the lavra’s website.
The Lavra has two museums – the Riznitsa and the Church and Archaeological Study.
The core of the Riznitsa exhibition is gifts to the monastery from kings, princes and other dignitaries. In the treasury of the monastery there are icons, precious covers and vessels, embroidery. The museum is open from 08:00 to 18:00 from Wednesday to Sunday, except for the last Thursday of the month. To arrange a tour, please call +7 (496) 540-53-56. The cost of the ticket is 140 ₽.
The church and archeological cabinet contains 20 thousand exhibits, among which are Old Russian and Byzantine icons and ancient books. For more details, call +7 (496) 541-55-01. The ticket costs 300 ₽.
Walk along the walls, by the water and to the observation deck
In the warm season, you can walk along the fortress walls of the Lavra. They were built during the reign of Ivan the Terrible and preserved the elements of fortification – a moat and two ponds.
The fortress wall has nine towers. Try to find the two with the most interesting names – Beer (in the ancient times there was a beerhall here) and Duck (the head of the tower is crowned with a spire, on which sits an iron duck).
You can take a walk by the water along Skete ponds or feed the ducks at the pier of the river Kopninky. Visit the Pafnutyevsky garden and walk along the picturesque old fence in the Russian baroque style.
For the best pictures go to the viewing platform on the Pancake Hill. The place owes its name to the popular before-the-revolution hotel and restaurant complex “Pancake Yard”.
There is a sculpture “Miracle of the Birds”, timed to coincide with the 700th anniversary of Sergius of Radonezh. It depicts the saint and doves flying to him. According to legend, during the evening prayer the birds appeared to the Saint, who symbolized his future disciples.
Let me tell you a secret that all frequent visitors to Sergiev Posad know – take with you a cake or a bun. On Krasnogorsk square near the monument to the saint in winter and summer, thousands of birds gather, they are used to being fed by kind tourists.
Matryoshka museum, a merchant’s tea party and a cave monastery
Until the end of 2022 you can visit the exhibition “Russian Matryoshka”. Sergiev Posad is considered the birthplace of the world famous souvenir. The first doll was created in 1890 by the lathe operator Vasily Zvezdochkin from a sketch by the artist Sergey Malyutin, who saw the idea from the Japanese craftsmen.
The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, except the last Wednesday of the month. Every two hours there is a sanitization, it is better to buy a ticket for the exhibition in advance on the website.
In the museum “Sergievská kukmisterka” you can visit a merchant’s tea party, learn what landrinis are and how to make them. You can book a tour no later than one day in advance, the duration – 55 minutes, the cost of 600 ₽, working hours from 10:00 to 18:00.
Cave lovers will be interested in the Gethsemane Chernigov hermitage . It’s also a monastery that was founded in the XIX century. It was founded on the model of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. You can walk through the narrow underground corridors and imagine the hermit monks’ way of life only with a tour guide.
Tours are available every day from 10:00am to 4:00pm, and from 11:00am on Sundays, cost ₽ 1000 for groups of up to 10 people. You can take minibus 18, buses 30, 36 and 7 to get here from the center and it won’t take you more than half an hour. You can also take a cab for 10 minutes and 260 ₽.
What to see on the outskirts of Sergiev Posad
A half-hour drive from the city center is the largest waterfall near Moscow – Gremyachy Klyuch . Its height is 20 meters, and the water temperature – 6 ° C does not change all year round. You can get there by cab (850 ₽).
In the memorial and literary museum Muranovo collected personal belongings and manuscripts of F.I. Tyutchev. Tours are held every day except Mondays and the last Friday of the month. You can take a train to Sofrino station from the city and change to the bus №34. The trip will take about an hour. A cab will take you 35 minutes and ₽ 850.
Abramtsevo estate is a landmark place for Russian culture. At the turn of the XIX-XX centuries Repin, Vrubel, Korovin, Levitan and others worked here. Now it is a complex of museums, detailed information about ticket prices can be found on the site. I recommend to visit the Church of the Savior Not Made by hands, built according to a sketch by Vasnetsov, and the manor house, in the living room of which Serov painted his “Girl with Peaches”.
To come to Abramtsevo you can take a minibus № 76 or 55k. The train goes to the station with the same name, the trip takes 16 minutes, you have to walk to the estate for 17 minutes. Cab ride takes half an hour and costs 600 ₽.
You can get acquainted with the life and traditions of nomadic peoples, have lunch in a real yurt in the Kochevnik Ethnopark. From 11:00 to 17:00 there are entertaining, musical and educational programs. You can also ride a camel. Adult ticket costs 500 ₽, children under 5 years old are free, it is better to bring cash.
You can get there by train or by bus №76 and 55 to Khotkovo station, then change to the bus №43. Or you can get there in half an hour and 500 ₽ by cab.
In winter, fans of outdoor activities can go skiing or snowboarding. The ski resort “Loza” is located 16 km from Sergiev Posad. You can get there in 20 minutes by cab (about 400 ₽), and the bus number 36 or minibus number 76 will take a little longer. I advise you to bring cash, the terminals may not work.
Where to eat in Sergiev Posad
The most popular cuisine in the institutions of the city – Russian, which means that the menu will include pancakes, soups and porridge according to a slightly modernized classic recipes.
Inexpensive and quick lunch can be had at the Kelarski Dvorik on the territory of the Lavra. It is a cafe in a historical building of the chambers of Master Yelisey. Here you will be offered pancakes, dumplings, soups, salads. Average bill: 100-500 ₽.
For the atmosphere of Russian antiquity go to the Guest House. The menu includes fish soup from two kinds of fish, duck porridge, porridge with porcini mushrooms. Stroganina deserves special attention. You can order dishes from fresh cheeses from monastery’s farmstead. The place is not very big, so it’s better to reserve the table at least a day in advance. Average bill: in the range of 800-1500 ₽.
Russky Dvorik is a restaurant in a wooden terem with a view of the monastery. Russian cuisine and a wide variety of seafood dishes form the menu. The average bill will be 1200 ₽.
You’ll find a whole cluster of cafes and eateries on Karl Marx Street – several coffee houses, small restaurants with European cuisine, and a brewery and Kraft bar.
When to go to Sergiev Posad
From June to August, the temperature is comfortable up to +25°C, and don’t forget an umbrella, the summers in the Moscow region are rainy. Winters are not frosty, within 10-13 ° C below zero.
Before you travel, I recommend checking with the Orthodox calendar. During Christmas and Easter, as well as the days associated with Sergius of Radonezh – July 18 and October 8, there are many pilgrims in the city.
How to get to Sergiev Posad
In Sergiev Posad there is a railway station, from which trains and electric trains go in the direction of Moscow and Yaroslavl, and a bus station.
They are a 15-minute walk from the center and a five-minute cab ride away. The trip will cost 200 ₽, but this route is almost all buses. The ticket price is ₽40.
Since Moscow is not far, you can go to Sergiev Posad by car. It takes up to two hours to get there by Yaroslavskoye Highway, but on weekends and holidays there is a risk of getting caught in traffic. Another option is to take a cab directly from the city, it will cost from 2,300 ₽.
Where to stay in Sergiev Posad
It is better to choose accommodation within walking distance to the central entrance of the Lavra within the boundaries of Red Army Avenue, Karl Marx Street and Voznesenskaya Street. It is a historical and geographical center, from here you can walk to the attractions and restaurants.
What to bring as a present
From Sergiev Posad traditionally bring icons and other religious items. They are sold directly in the monastery.
Be sure to stop by the Sergiev Kanon shop to buy signature lemonades. They are made of natural ingredients, and you will not find complicated or obscure words on the label.
Don’t pass by the lollipops – they are a Lenten dessert and contain only natural products. They are sold in three varieties: honey, with apricots and with prunes and walnuts.
Tips for tourists
1. Before your trip, check the Orthodox calendar – during the days of church holidays there are a lot of pilgrims in the city.
2. If you come to the church service in the Lavra church, you can listen to the choir. In the Cathedral of the Assumption the morning service usually begins at 08:00 and the evening service at 17:00. The schedule may change, better check the day before.
What to see in Sergiev Posad in one day
Sergiev Posad is one of the most interesting cities in Moscow region. You can come to it by car from Moscow, by M 2 highway, or by train from Yaroslavl station. If you come by car, it is more convenient to leave your vehicle at the parking lot nearest to the Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra, and walk around the historic center of this small and cozy town.
Sights of Sergiev Posad: 1 day itinerary
Walking route: from the railway station to the observation deck – sightseeing tour of the Lavra – visit Sergiev Posad Museum Reserve – walk along the Red Army Avenue and near the Kelarsky pond – return to the railway station square.
Sergiev Posad city
Those who used the railroad and arrived at the Sergiev Posad railway station, we advise first to go along Sergievskaya Street to the platform, which is called observation area, to take great pictures of the monastery surroundings, and then along the Red Army Avenue move to Sergiev Lavra.
The square, in which Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra is located, is one of the oldest in the city, the same age as the monastery itself. In old times there was a brisk trade and news exchange between inhabitants of posadtsy villages.
Trading rows in Krasnogorsk square in the 19th century
At the beginning of the 19th century there was the only hotel in the center of the square, naturally a wooden one, where once the injured Bagration stayed on his way home. In “War and Peace” Leo Tolstoy put the Rostovs family and Prince Andrey Volkonsky in this hotel.
Former Market Rows
Before you enter the territory of the Lavra, you can go and admire the walls and the onions and domes of the churches of the monastery looking out from behind them, and decide for yourself how you want to view it.
The square in front of the entrance to Trinity-Sergius Lavra
If you want, during your independent journey, just to walk around the territory of the monastery, to admire the beauty of its temples and to collect holy water, it is quite possible to do without buying excursions. It’s good if you prepare a little bit of information beforehand.
And if you want to see more details about the life of Sergius of Radonezh, the history of Lavra and its architectural objects, then you definitely need to take a guide, which is easy to do – the tour desk is opposite to the entrance to Lavra. In any case you will need from 1 till 3 hours to visit the Trinity-Sergius Monastery. And, of course, one should not forget about the dress code – no shorts, mini, shirts and tops. All in an orderly and modest manner, women with covered heads.
Holy Trinity Sergius Lavra.
So your way to the famous Holy Trinity Laura (144, Krasnaya Armiya pr.). You pass under the arched arches of the main gate, the walls of which depict scenes from the life of St. Sergius of Radonezh, and immediately plunge into the atmosphere of far, full of unusual adventures of the ages.
Walking around the territory of the monastery, you will see the oldest Trinity cathedral and the biggest Assumption cathedral; the round Smolensk church and the hipped Church of the Hospital; architectural constructions built during the reign of Anna Ioannovna and Peter the Great; the highest bell tower of the 18th century, etc.
And, of course, enjoy the harmony of the coexistence of buildings of different epochs and styles, the well-kept monastic yard, the silence and peacefulness of this world-famous male monastery.
Historical and artistic reserve
After visiting the church ensemble of the monastery, to strengthen the impression, you can get acquainted with the collections, which are stored in the Sergiev Posad State Historical and Art Museum Reserve . Its opening happened in 1920 with the purpose of saving the most valuable treasures of Sergiev Monastery. Subsequently, the museum was constantly replenished with new exhibits, and now it has the most complete collection of various kinds of Old Russian and folk-decorative art, starting from the 14th century.
These are ancient handwritten and printed books and wonderful icon paintings, unique gold embroidery and rare photographs, preserved details of interiors, etc. The collection treasures are dispersed in four rooms, which are within walking distance of each other.
In the Regional Studies Building of the Historical Museum-Reserve
The main building (144, Krasnaya Armiya Avenue) is halls, where works of modern painters are constantly exhibited.
The Riznitsa (territory of the Sergiev Lavra) presents to us the century riches of the Lavra itself.
Local Lore Department (Ovrazhny per., 9a) – exhibits on archeology and modern life of the city and region. The building of Regional Studies Department has an interesting history – it is the first civilian structure of the Soviet period, which from 1937 to 1997 housed a kindergarten.
The museum complex “Kony Yard” (First Udarnaya Army, 2a) is a worthy architectural monument of Sergiev Posad. What can be seen there? In the ethnographic museum you will see the realities of village life with its hard work and amazingly skillful creation.
Horse yard” exposition
At the “Museum of Russian Matryoshka” you’ll understand what makes the local nesting doll different from the others and be amazed to meet unique representatives of this applied art.
Matryoshka doll museum exhibits
Depending on your preferences and the time you have left, you can visit one or more buildings of the Museum-Reserve and then have a rest and dine at one of the restaurants where you can taste the Russian national cuisine: pelmeni, blinis, mead, sbiten and many others.
We offer the restaurant “Russian Yard” (134, Krasnoi Armii Avenue). First, it is close to Lavra; second, there is an atmosphere of Russian life of the past centuries; third, the restaurant has good recommendations; and, finally, it is more convenient to continue our recommended route from there.
Where else to walk in Sergiev Posad
Red Army Avenue
In the afternoon we suggest a walk along the main street of the city – Red Army Avenue to the right of the Lavra. This is the longest and widest street, carefully preserving the old historical buildings of the former centuries. In the 18th century the present avenue was only a part of the road from Moscow to Pereslavl-Zalessky, and then it was called Bolshe road street.
Prospekt Krasnaya Armiya
A walk will bring you an aesthetic pleasure with the well-groomed view of the cozy town of Sergiev Posad (Zagorsk). In addition, in the numerous stores you can buy souvenirs (read more – What to bring from Sergiev Posad), as well as explore the original modern museums of the city and see interesting historical and architectural monuments, which will meet in this street.
Pyatnitskaya and Vvedenskaya Churches
Almost immediately behind Lavra, more precisely, behind its southeastern corner, there are two churches that are impossible not to notice. They are the most ancient temples: Vvedenskaya Church and Paraskeva Pyatnitsa Church (127, Red Army Ave.), forming a harmonious composition. In the old times there was a shopping route and a marketplace, on which wooden church of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the side-altar of Paraskeva Pyatnitsa built in the early 15th century. In the middle of the 16th century. – Two stone churches were built instead of one wooden one by donations of the boyar voevode I. I. Khabarov and congregation members.
Vvedenskaya and Pyatnitskaya churches
Vvedenskaya is a cross-domed church with one gilded head and no belfry. It is austere and majestic, and represents the vertical of the composition. And the Church of Paraskeva Pyatnitsa – three-part temple, resembling a ship, in unity with which there is a bell tower, decorated with numerous decorative elements. This church is light, smart and cozy and has a horizontal composition. Both churches had storage rooms in Soviet times, but they have been restored to their former look.
Chapel of the Pyatnitsky Well
Near the ensemble of two churches is situated the Chapel of the Pyatnitsky Well. This is a small construction of three tiers, inside of which there is a spring. This spring was discovered by St. Sergius, and from here he carried water for his monks on the mountain Makovets.
Chapel of the Pyatnitsky Well
Continuing along the path you’ll reach the Memorial of Glory with the Eternal Flame.
Then by the path and openwork bridge of newlyweds across the river Kopninka you will get to the unique “Art and Pedagogical Museum of Toys” (123, Red Army Ave.), which we highly recommend you to pay attention to. This museum, which grew out of a private collection of the art historian N. D. Bartram, is located in an old red brick building, the former commercial school.
The museum has a huge number of exhibits, starting from the 11th century. You will not miss such items as the first Russian matryoshka doll made in the image of a Japanese toy – a bald old man or funny things that were played by the children of Nicholas II.
Exhibits of the Toy Museum in Sergiev Posad
And for admirers of painting there is a special corner in the museum called “Children’s portrait”. It presents little-known paintings of masters of painting of 17-20 centuries.
If you have time and energy left, turn right to the famous Kelar Pond and walk around it. This artificial body of water was built by monks in the 16th century. In later times, the pond was expanded and ennobled. You can take a boat ride in summer, or simply admire the surroundings and take pictures.
Walking around the Kelarsky pond, you can reach the Ilyinskaya church (Kuzminov, 1/5). It is an architectural construction in the baroque style of the second half of the 18th century. The dark red walls, white platbands and relief patterns – everything is strict and elegant. An interesting fact is that it was the only functioning church in the city during Soviet times.
And the history of its construction is very interesting. Earlier there was a village of Panino, where in the 17th century was built a wooden church of Kazan with a chapel of Elijah the Prophet. In the 18th century, because of dilapidation the chapel was dismantled and a new church was built – the Church of St. Elijah, which soon burned down in a fire. Then the stone Ilyinskaya church was erected, which was in harmony with the wooden Kazan temple. But in the 30s the Kazan church was destroyed.
In addition to Ilyinskaya church near Kelarsky pond you can see the Monument to Peter and Fevronia of Murom.
Monument to Peter and Fevronia of Murom
Then, continuing the way along the avenue Red Army, you can look into the Museum of Folk Arts and Crafts (105 Red Army Avenue), located in a former merchant’s house, where you can see the wooden sculptures of saints, and buy some original toy souvenir.
A little to the south of the avenue is the blue-and-white Church of the Ascension (Red Army Ave. 88a), built in the second half of the 18th century in the so beloved in the city baroque style.
The church was planned as a two-storey building, but because of the lack of funds it was built in a somewhat earthy appearance, which is compensated by the high elegant three-tiered bell tower and the stucco decorations of the facades. Before it there was a wooden parish church for parishioners of Rybnaya and Ikonnoi Sloboda (17th century). In 18-19 centuries the main city square – the Ascension square – was located in front of the church.
Church of the Ascension
And now you have to go a little further – to reach Co-operative street, and then along it to the Station square, where the monument to Savva Mamontov, a famous sponsor of the local railroad branch, is situated. He is sitting opposite the building of the station, welcoming and seeing off all the guests of Sergiev Posad.
Monument to the patron of arts Savva Mamontov