Alexandrov (Александров) is a city in the north-western part of Vladimir Oblast. The location is known as a medieval residence of Russian princes. It was home to several important events in Russian history. The residence is now transformed into a convent and preserves noteworthy architectural sights, while the city itself is quite unremarkable.
Alexandrov is located on the eastern edge of Klin-Dmitrov ridge, a series of hills lying north from Moscow. The city stands on the banks of the tiny river Seraya, the left tributary of the Sherna that further flows into the Klyazma. The area near Alexandrov is very typical for the central part of Russia: it is a nearly flat land with vast forests and small fields. Alexandrov is an important transport hub, the crossing of the principal Moscow–Yaroslavl railway and the circular railway line around Moscow (the so-called Big Ring of Moscow Railway). The M8 highway runs 25 km west from the city. A number of local roads pass through Alexandrov and offer connections to Kirzhach, Kol'chugino, Yuryev-Polsky, and to the cities of Moscow Oblast. The population of Alexandrov is 63 000.
Alexandrova Sloboda with the Cathedral of St. Trinity and the hip-roof bell-tower of the Crucifixion
The settlement of Alexandrov is known since 14th century. However, the official foundation date is 1513, when Vasili III, the Grand Prince of Moscow, built a residence, fortifications, and first stone churches on the banks of the river Seraya. At that time, the settlement was known as Alexandrova sloboda or Alexandrovskaya sloboda, which means that it was an independent community exempt from taxes and duties. In 1564, Ivan the Terrible, the son and the successor of Vasili III, made Alexandrov his permanent residence. He suffered from defeats in the war with Lithuania and felt constant fear of treason. Then, he decided to leave Moscow and to escape from the nobility in Alexandrov. Alexandrov shortly became the actual center of the country: for example, one of the first printing factories appeared here in 1568. However, some negative things appeared as well.
To protect himself, Ivan the Terrible organized a special army called oprichnina. This army had superior rights and did not hesitate to rob and murder others (first of all, nobility and merchants). This made Alexandrov a strange and sorrowful place where Ivan the Terrible combined orthodoxal religiousness with the savageness and depravity. The fluorish of Alexandrov lasted for 17 years, until 1581. In the fall of 1581, Ivan the Terrible killed his son (this accident is shown in the well-known painting by Ilya Repin) and left Alexandrov forever.
The town rapidly decayed and also suffered from Polish army during the Time of Troubles (1598-1613). In 1654, the former residence was transformed into a convent and later used as a place of exile. Alexandrov is oficially considered a town since 1778. It gained the regular rectangular layout and later (1870) hosted the Moscow–Yaroslavl railway. In 20th century, Alexandrov was strongly industrialized and lost nearly all of its original buildings. The industry of the city includes the production of electronics (such as TV sets of the well-known Rekord brand), crystals and diamonds, textile, and alcohol.
As you arrive to the train/bus station of Alexandrov, you will find yourself on a large square, Komsomol'skaya ploschad (Комсомольская площадь). The street running perpendicular to the railway tracks is called ulitsa Lenina (улица Ленина). It will lead you through the central part of the city and finally bring you to another square, Sovetskaya ploschad (Советская площадь) with the easily recognizable Cathedral of the Nativity on it. Here the street changes its name to Sovetskaya ulitsa (Советская улица), runs downhill, crosses the river, and comes to the convent – the old Alexandrova sloboda. Following the same street after the convent, you will start a way east to Kol'chugino and Yuryev-Polsky.
Another important street is Krasnyi pereulok (Красный переулок) that runs perpendicular to ulitsa Lenina. You will get to this street from the north while arriving by car from the M8 highway (from Moscow, Yaroslavl, and many other destinations). Following the same street in the southern direction will bring you to Kirzhach.
The main station (Alexandrov I) stands on the Moscow–Yaroslavl railway, in the very center of the city. This is a stop or a terminal station for all the local trains and for some long-distance trains as well. The station building is open round-the-clock and offers a lounge. Information: +7 (49244) 24-171 (local trains), 94-310 (general information), 24-051 (station assistant).
The second station, Alexandrov II, is minor. It is in the western part of the city, on the railway to Kirzhach. Alexandrov II is a regular stop for some of the local trains. The station building is closed.
From Moscow: local trains run every hour. The trains depart from Yaroslavsky station, and the trip takes 2 hours. Additionally, there are 2 daily express trains to Yaroslavl and one express train terminating in Alexandrov. The express trains are slightly faster, but they require a "long-distance" ticket (see Russia:Get around for details). All the local trains make a stop at Sergiev Posad. A number of long-distance trains departing from Yaroslavsky station will also stop in Alexandrov.
From Ivanovo: one local train runs early in the morning, while two long-distance trains to Moscow travel during the night. The trip takes five hours. On the way to Alexandrov, you will pass through Yuryev-Polsky and Kol'chugino.
From Kirzhach: local trains every 1.5-2 hours (mind the gap in the afternoon), the trip takes 40 minutes.
From Yaroslavl: same to Moscow, but there are just two local trains per day (travel time 4 hours) and two express trains (2.5 hours). A number of long-distance trains running in southern direction can be used as well. You will pass Rostov Veliky on your way.
Additionally, there are two local trains from Dmitrov. If you travel from Vladimir, take a local train to Orehovo-Zuevo and change there to another local train to Alexandrov. The whole trip will take at least 4 hours, so the direct bus connection is recommended instead.
Moscow Oblast and Yaroslavl Oblast can be reached via the 25-km connecting road that joins the M8 highway in the village Dvoriki. The alternative way to Moscow Oblast is the road to Strunino and further to A108. The northern road to M8 (via Lukyantsevo) is not recommended due to the poor quality.
The central part of the city is rather small and easily explored by foot. The convent and the train station are found on the opposite sides of the city center (about 20 min walk). A number of city bus routes are available: in particular, buses # 4 and 7 run between the station and the convent.
Alexandrova sloboda is the eldest part of the city and the former residence of Russian princes. Presently, it is the Assumption convent (Успенский монастырь) jointly operated by the Russian orthodoxal church and the museum. Sloboda is the must-see attraction in the whole city: come here to feel the quiet of ancient walls and churches and to learn something about russian history. The present white-painted stone walls were built in 17th century and follow the general style of medieval Russian fortresses. Original ramparts from 16th century can be seen outside the walls. Inside the convent, you find several remarkable buildings:
Cathedral of St. Trinity
Cathedral of St. Trinity (Троицкий собор) built in 1513. The cathedral is rather conservative in its shape and decorations. It resembles the ancient churches of Vladimir, Bogolyubovo, and Yuryev-Polsky, however the stone carvings are few. Inside the cathedral, you find some original frescos from 16th century and two iron gates. The gate in the southern portal was brought from Novgorod during the punitive expedition of Ivan the Terrible in 1570. The other ancient gate is installed in the western portal and also originates from Novgorod. The gates reveal fine carvings depicting biblical stories. Both gates date back to 14th century and evidence the skill of russian craftsmen. The cathedral belongs to the church. Entrance is free.
Church of the Intercession (Покровская церковь) – the hip-roof church originally built in 16th century. It is the first hip-roof church in Russia. You will hardly feel its beauty from the outside, because this church was the very first attempt to incorporate the hip, a new element in 16th century Russian architecture. Moreover, later annexes, the refectory chamber and the bell tower, also changed the appearance of the building. Still, its interior remains unique due to the wall paintings (frescos) inside the hip. Hips instead of domes are a distinctive, but not very common, feature in Russian architecture. Hips were popular in 16th and 17th centuries, while later traditions restricted the hips to only bell towers. Painting the hips from inside was uncommon even for the medieval tradition. The frescos are painted in dark color and converge to the image of Our Lord in the apex. Overall, they look mystical and awesome. The church was originally attached to the prince palace as an in-house church. The present building of the refectory chamber stands on the spot of the former palace, so in the basement you can still see carved portals and original stone-work from 16th century. The Church of the Intercession is a part of the museum. Tickets are sold at the entrance.
Bell-tower of the Crucifixion (Распятская колокольня) – an unusual building from the middle of 16th century, the time of Ivan the Terrible. This bell-tower is an example of advanced hip-roof architecture with a pointed hip and numerous semi-round kokoshniki below it (yet the tower is just 40 years younger than the church of the Intercession). The adjoining stone building is known as Marfa's Chambers, the place of imprisonment of princess Marfa, the daughter of Tsar Alexey Michailovich. The museum ticket allows to climb the bell-tower and enjoy panoramic views of Alexandrov.
Church of the Assumption (Успенская церковь) is a regular building in the style of 16th–17th centuries. The church was originally constructed around 1525. However, the reconstructions in 1570s and in the 17th century modified the galleries and added the bell-tower. Presently, this church is a part of the museum.
Further buildings:church of Theodore Stratelates (надвратная церковь Феодора Стратилата: 1682, over-the-gate), church of the Presentation (церковь Сретения Господня: 1682, a small stocky building in russian style), living chamber (келейный корпус: 1682, rebuilt in 19th century), and a number of small buildings from 18th – 19th centuries. These buildings are pretty regular, since they were constructed after the decay of the prince residence, as regular churches and houses in a regular monastery.
Museum (музей-заповедник "АлександроваСлобода"), Музейный пер. 20, ☎ +7 (49244) 28-073 (information), 20-397 (excursions), 21-774 (secretary) (email@example.com), . T–Su, 09.00–17.00 (on Friday, till 16.00). Entrance fee: 15–30 rubles for each exhibition, about 150 rubles for the whole museum. edit
The museum includes seven basic exhibitions. Additionally, it offers a number of scenic "interactive excursions" that reconstruct the medieval atmosphere and show some old russian traditions, however, in a very imitation way. Among the exhibitions, you find
Palace of Ivan the Terrible – the reconstruction of the prince palace.
Treasures from three centuries – the collection of old books, icons, textile, and embroidery.
Tsar court in Alexandrova sloboda – the history of the prince residence and oprichnina.
The must-see exhibition is one in the church of the Intercession (Tsar court in Alexandrova sloboda). Here you find the ivory carved throne of Ivan the Terrible and other original items from 16th century. You will also enter the church and watch the unique wall paintings inside the hip. Downstairs in the same building, one finds the original basement of the prince palace. Other exhibitions are fairly regular.
Cathedral of the Nativity (СоборРождестваХристова), Советский пер. 11 (near the Cathedral square). The cathedral was built in 1696 and rebuilt in the middle of 19th century. The present appearance reminds the neo-Byzantine style and, to some extent, the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. To continue this comparison, the cathedral in Alexandrov has just one dome due to the low significance of Alexandrov in 19th century. The cathedral is rather unusual, yet it is not really nice.edit
Church of Bogolyubobo Icon of Our Lady (церковьБоголюбскойиконыБожьейматери), Красный пер. 11. A regular church in classicism style from 1800.edit
Church of St. Seraphim of Sarov (церковьСерафимаСаровского), Вокзальная ул. 8 (near the main railway station). A russian revival building from 1904.edit
Church of the Transfiguration (Преображенскаяцерковь), Садово-Огородная ул. 2а (behind the convent). A baroque-style church from 1743, rebuilt in the beginning of 19th century.edit
Ivanov's house (домтрактирщикаИвановаЕ.Н.), ул. Красной молодёжи, 7 (near Sovetskaya ploschad'). A nice building in art nouveau style (1912-1914). Presently, the city administration.edit
Pervushin's estate (усадьбаПервушина), ул. Советская, 16. The remarkable classicism-style building from the middle of 19th century. It is combined of two parts, which are made of different materal (stone in the right and wood in the left), yet decorated in a very similar way.edit
Railway station, Комсомольская пл. The original station building from 1870, a nice example of Russian railway architecture.edit
In the city center, you will find further old buildings from 18th–19th centuries (note the street names: Советская, Первомайская, Военная, Ленина, Революции, Красной Молодёжи). All of them are, however, unremarkable.
Museum of Marina and Anastasia Tsvetaevas (Александровскийлитературно-художественныймузейМариныиАнастасииЦветаевой), at the junction of Военная ул. and Военный пер. (south from ulitsa Lenina), ☎ +7 (49244) 24-279, 26-674, 25-693. W–Su, 8.30–17.00. The museum occupies the original wooden building where Anastasiya Tsvetaeva, a Russian writer, lived in 1915-1917. Her sister Marina Tsvetaeva, a famous poetess, visited this house and wrote some of her well-known poems here. The managers of the museum do their best to guide every visitor. In fact, visiting the museum without a guide is just impossible, because there are no exhibits to watch. The whole museum is an elegantly furnished room with photos on the walls and an imitation of the footbridge in the middle. The guide will readily tell you about the Tsvetaevas family and also show an exhibition "Alexandrov – the center of 101st kilometer" about people who were prohibited to live in Moscow during the Soviet times and stayed in Alexandrov. The museum is a local cultural center: it hosts musical and poetical performances, books about Marina Tsvetaeva are also sold here.Entrance fee: 60 rubles. edit
Pervushin's house (УсадьбакупцаПервушина), ул. Советская, 16, ☎ +7 (49244) 24-389, 21-382, 21-604, . Daily, 10.00–18.00. The museum reconstructs the old merchant's life. The museum staff act as the family of Pervushin, the 19th century russian merchant originating from Alexandrov. They will tell you about russian traditions and the history of the house, offer tea and local drinks. The interior is not original. This is however compensated by an inofficial (non-museum) atmosphere, the chance to see things in detail and to touch them. Art exhibition (another branch of the museum) can be found in the neighboring building (Советская ул. 5).edit
The museums of Alexandrov are not very exciting. Aritificial stones are really unusual, while the two other museums try to compensate the lack of exhibits by the intensive (and even useless) guidance. The reconstruction of the 19th century life is rather common for russian museums and can be found elsewhere. To learn more about Marina Tsvetaeva, visit the museums in Moscow, Ivanovo, and Tarusa.
Alexandrov (ресторанАлександров), ул. Революции, 59 (north from Sovetskaya ploschad'), . A restaurant at the hotel.edit
Attic (кафеЧердачок), ул. Ленина, 13. A small cafe on the second floor of the trade center, the limited range of food (canteen-type).edit
Bungalow (суши-барБунгало), ул. Ленина, 22, ☎ +7 (49244) 22-683. A sushi bar.edit
Cheburechnaya (Чебуречная), ул. Ленина, 62. Fast food that offers chebureki (a kind of small pies with meat), pancakes, and grilled meat.edit
Gusli (ресторанГусли), Советский пер. 33 (south from Sovetskaya ploschad'), ☎ +7 (49244) 63-405, +7 (920) 930-12-12. A restaurant decorated in Russian style.edit
Person (кафеПерсона), ул. Ленина, 26, ☎ +7 (49244) 27-981. 10.00–22.00. edit
Pizza land (пиццерияПиццалэнд), ул. Ленина, 20а. Pizza-based fast food.edit
Soviet union = USSR (кофейняСССР), ул. Ленина, 13/5, . 9.00–22.00. A coffee house with a good choice of tea, coffee, alcoholic drinks, cocktails, and desserts. Food is limited to pancakes and omlettes. The room is furnished with various symbols from Soviet times.Сoffee: 50–100 rubles. edit
Sushi-bar, Советская пл, . 15.00–24.00. A restaurant of Japanese and European cuisine (which means a sushi bar with meat food, or the other way around) at the Saturn cinema.Main dishes: 150–250 rubles. edit
Troika (ресторанТройка), ул. Революции, 45, ☎ +7 (49244) 29-765. Yet another restaurant.edit
Cosa nostra, г. Струнино, ул. Суворова, 22 (the town ''Strunino'', 10 km west from Alexandrov), ☎ +7 (49244) 42-955, . A nice pizzeria serving pizza, pasta, soups, salads, as well as traditional fish and meat dishes. Free Wi-Fi.Main dishes: 200–300 rubles. edit
Larsen (ресторанЛарсен), ул. Королёва, 1 (southern part of the city, the road to Kirzhach), ☎ +7 (49244) 64-728, +7 (495) 510-29-93. Su–Th, 10.00–1.00; Fr, Sa, 10.00–4.00. A restaurant at the hotel.edit
Russian Versailles (ресторанРусскийВерсаль), ул. Фабрика Калинина, 20, ☎ +7 (920) 902-72-69. edit
While there are many places to eat, finding a really nice place can be difficult. Locals will often advise going to the neighboring town of Strunino (Coza Nostra), because most of the restaurants of Alexandrov suffer from typical russian problems (unfrienfly waiters, loud music and drunk people during the evening hours). If you are not too hungry, try the Soviet union coffee house, which seems to follow reasonable standards of quality. For a fast food, cheburechnaya will perfectly suffice.
Alexandrov (гостиницаАлександров), ул. Революции, 59 (north from Sovetskaya ploschad'), ☎ +7 (49244) 31-483, . The largest hotel of the city. Rooms were recently renovated and offer the accommodation of different quality: shared bathroom, private bathroom, or two-room suites. Breakfast included, guarded parking, restaurant.Room for 2 with shared/private bathroom: 1000/2200 rubles. edit
Island (отельОстров), Военная ул. 9 (south from Sovetskaya ploschad'), ☎ +7 (49244) 31-505. A modern mini-hotel, rooms with private bathroom. Breakfast included, guarded parking, restaurant.edit
Larsen (гостиницаЛарсен), ул. Королёва, 1 (southern part of the city, the road to Kirzhach), ☎ +7 (49244) 64-728, +7 (495) 510-29-93 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . A modern hotel with a variety of additional services (restaurant, billiard, sport club, barbershop). Rooms are equipped with a bathroom and air-conditioned, suites also offer internet access. Breakfast included, parking available.Double room/suite: 3000 rubles. edit
Vedrussiya (гостиницаВедруссия), Институтская ул.?, ☎ +7 (49244) 31-139. A basic accommodation in the ugly part of the city. No breakfast, no parking, no cafe. A limited range of food and drinks is served to the rooms.Double room with shared/private bathroom: /1300 rubles. edit
Vita (гостиницаВита), Вокзальная ул. 1 (near the railway station), ☎ +7 (49244) 94-597. A mini-hotel offering basic accommodation. Rooms (shared or private bathroom) are noisy due to the trains. No breakfast, guarded parking.Double room: from 1300 rubles. edit
Arsaki (Арсаки) – the village 20 km west from Alexandrov. The location is known for the monk's settlement (Смоленско-Зосимова пустынь), a 17th century side settlement (skit) of the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius (Sergiev Posad). Arsaki keeps nice examples of red-brick churches in russian revival style from late 19th century. The buildings belong to the church, but they are located inside the military territory. Entering this territory requires an ID and is likely problematic for non-residents.
Bol'shoe Karinskoe (Большое Каринское) – the village 4 km south-west from Alexandrov (N56° 22.427', E38° 39.997'). The field near the village (Каринское поле) is a place of the battle between Russian and Polish troops in 1609, during the Time of Troubles. The monument commemorates this event.
Get in: buses and minibuses to Strunino (every hour). Note that the bus should follow "via Karinskoe". There is an alternative route taking a different road.
Karabanovo (Карабаново) – the unremarkable industrial town 10 km south from Alexandrov. The red-brick industrial building from early 20th century, the constructivist building of the club, and the war memorial – it is likely all to see here.
Get in: local trains to Kirzhach, buses or minibuses every 15-30 minutes.
Lizunovo (Лизуново) – the village 20 km south-west from Alexandrov. The museum of Alexei Musatov, a Soviet writer.
Get in: no public transport.
Lukyantsevo (Лукьянцево) – the village 15 km north from Alexandrov (N56.5045°, E38.7132°). The late 16th century monastery (Свято-Лукианова мужская пустынь) preserves three russian-style buildings from late 17th – early 18th century: church of the Nativity of the Theotokos, church of the Epiphany, and church of Ekaterina.
Get in: three buses daily.
Mahra (Махра) – the convent of St. Trinity (Свято-Троицкий Стефано-Махрищский женский монастырь) , 15 km south from Alexandrov (N56.2705°, E38.6804°). The convent dates back to 14th century, but its present appearance is very recent, because most of the buildings were destroyed during the Soviet period. The original buildings are the baroque-style church of Sergiy Radonezhsky (over-the-gate) and the church of Peter and Paul, both from late 18th century. You will also find a refectory building and living halls from late 19th century. The largest and the most impressive church of St. Stephan was rebuilt in 1997. The territory of the convent is well decorated and looks very picturesque during the summertime.
Get in: buses every two hours.
Strunino (Струнино) – the unremarkable town 10 km west from Alexandrov. Note the pretty regular church of Transfiguration (1893-1898), the ravaged red-brick industrial building from early 20th century, and few buildings in constructivism style.
Get in: local trains to Moscow, buses every 20-30 minutes.