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. Presently, the residence is 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 thousand (2008).
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 (e.g., 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.
Alexandrov is on the boundary of Vladimir Oblast. It is conveniently reached from Moscow Oblast and from Yaroslavl Oblast, while the connections from Vladimir Oblast are less frequent. Alexandrov is usually visited together with Kirzhach and Yuryev-Polsky or on the way to Rostov Veliky and Yaroslavl.
The nearest international airport is in Moscow.
There are two railway stations in Alexandrov.
- 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.
Trains are preferable for travelling from Moscow, Yaroslavl, and Kirzhach:
- 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.
The bus station is on the square near the main railway station. The building is open from 5:00 till 21:15. Information: +7 (49244) 24-055 (station assistant), 20-357 (local bus company).
- From Moscow: 3 buses per day (# 676), departing from VDNH metro station. The trip takes about two hours (mind longer trips during rush hours).
- From Vladimir: 6 buses per day via Kol'chugino (3.5 hours).
- From Yuryev-Polsky: 2 buses per day (2 hours).
Additionally, there are several daily buses from Kirzhach. The town of Kol'chugino is another convenient transit point with buses to Alexandrov departing every 2-3 hours.
Alexandrov has road connections to the neighboring towns of Kirzhach (37 km) and Kol'chugino (40 km). From Kol'chugino, you can further reach Yuryev-Polsky (77 km) or Vladimir (120 km, via Stavrovo).
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 parking space is available all round the city.
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 will find several remarkable buildings:
- 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 building 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, yet a not very common feature in Russian architecture. The hips were popular in 16th and 17th centuries, while later traditions restricted the hips to bell-towers only. 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 original stone-work from 16th century and carved portals. The church of the Intercession is a part of the museum.
- 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 about 40 years younger than the church of the Intercession. Still, it is already an example of advanced hip-roof architecture with a pointed hip and numerous semi-round kokoshniki below it. The stone building attached to the bell-tower is known as Marfa's Chambers, the place of imprisonemnt of princess Marfa, the daughter of Tsar Alexey Michailovich. The museum ticket will allow you to climb up the bell-tower and to 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 as regular churches and houses in a regular monastery after the decay of the prince residence.
Museum (музей-заповедник "Александрова Слобода"), Музейный пер. 20, ☎ +7 (49244) 28-073 (information), 20-397 (excursions), 21-774 (secretary) (firstname.lastname@example.org), . T–Su, 09.00–17.00 (on Friday, till 16.00). 15–30 roubles for each exhibition, about 150 roubles for the whole museum (2009).
The museum includes seven basic exhibitions. Additionally, it offers a number of "interactive excursions" that reconstruct the medieval atmosphere and show some old russian traditions. The entrance to the convent is free. The full list of the exhibitions is available at the web site, while the principal displays are listed below:
- Alexandrova sloboda: legends and facts – an exhibition on the mysteries of Alexandrov: the library of Ivan the Terrible, the first flight of the human with wooden wings, and the death of Ivan the Terrible.
- Church of the Intercession – unique frescos painted inside the hip.
- Dining hall – the 16th century tableware.
- Treasures from three centuries – the collection of old books, icons, textile, and embroidery.
- Tsar court in Alexandrova sloboda – the history of the tsar residence and oprichnina.
Most of the exhibitions are pretty regular. The most interesting one is probably the church of the Intercession with its wall paintings.
- Cathedral of the Nativity (Собор Рождества Христова), Советский пер. 11 (near the Cathedral square). The cathedral was built in 1696 and rebuilt in the middle of 19th century. The present appearance of the building is rather unusual and can be referred to russian style.
- Church of Bogolyubobo Icon of Our Lady (церковь Боголюбской иконы Божьей матери), Красный пер. 11. A regular church from 1800 in classicism style.
- Church of St. Seraphim of Sarov (церковь Серафима Саровского), Вокзальная ул. 8 (near the main railway station). A russian revival building from 1904.
- Church of the Transfiguration (Преображенская церковь), Садово-Огородная ул. 2а (behind the convent). A baroque-style church from 1743, rebuilt in the beginning of 19th century.
- Estate of Pervushin (усадьба Первушина), ул. Советская, 16. The main building and two small adjoining buildings from the middle of 19th century (neoclassicism style). Presently, the estate houses the art museum.
- House of the imperial stud farm (здание императорского конного завода), ул. Революции, 45.
- House of the inn-keeper Ivanov (дом трактирщика Иванова Е.Н.), ул. Красной молодёжи, 7 (near the Cathedral square). An interesting building in art nouveau style (1912-1914). Presently, the city administration.
- Railway station, Комсомольская пл. The station building (1870) is a nice example of railway buildings from late 19th century.
- Trading rows (Торговые ряды), ул. Советская, 5. Small building from late 18th century.
- Art museum (Александровский художественный музей), ул. Советская, 16, ☎ +7-(49244)-2-43-89, 2-13-82, 2-16-04, . Daily, 10.00–18.00. The collection of provincial russian art from late 19th – 20th century. The paintings are pretty regular and not very interesting. The main reason for visiting the museum is to see the interior of the old building that once belonged to a merchant Pervushin.
- Museum of Marina Tsvetaeva and Anastasia Tsvetaeva (Александровский литературно-художественный музей Марины и Анастасии Цветаевой), Военная ул. 6 (south from Sovetskaya square), ☎ +7-(49244)-2-42-79, 2-66-74, 2-56-93, . W–Su, 8.30–17.00. 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 spent here the summer of 1916 – the period of fruiful poetical work, known as Alexandrov summer (Александровское лето). The museum presents the history of Tsvetaev's family along with the information on other famous people who lived in Alexandrov in 20th century. The specific role of the city during this period is caused by its position – about 100 km away from Moscow. During the Soviet time, people released from the prison were prohibited to live in Moscow or within 100 km from Moscow, thus leading to the phenomenon of 101st kilometer. The cities lying beyond the 101st kilometer from Moscow were occupied by intellectuals, previously imprisoned for political reasons. Alexandrov was one of such cities, the place of residence for many cultural workers.
- Museum of Stone (Музей рукотворного камня), Институтская ул. 1 (south from the railway station), ☎ +7-(49244)-9-25-46. M–Fr, 8.00–17.00; excursions can also be booked for the weekend. This museum is attached to the institute of synthetic crystals where artificial crystals of diamond, sapphire, quartz and other minerals are produced. The exposition shows natural and artifical stones, the production technology, and the resulting jewelry. The artifical stones can be purchased in the museum shop.
- Saturn (Сатурн), Советская пл, ☎ +7-(49244)-3-04-13, . A large entertainment center with a cinema, a night club, and a sushi bar.
- Yuzhnyi (Южный), ул. Королёва, 6 (south from the city center), ☎ +7-(49244)-6-10-72, 6-75-78.
- Drama theater (Александровский муниципальный театр драмы), Институтская ул. 6 (south from the railway station), ☎ +7-(49244)-2-36-00, 2-47-69.
There are a number of "trade centers" (bundles of small shops) along the central streets – ulitsa Lenina and Sovetskaya ulitsa. Additionally, in the city center one finds food supermarkets from two of the main Russian networks:
- Paterson (Патэрсон) – Красный пер. 2 (open daily, 08.00–22.00)
- Copeck (Копейка) – ул. Революции, 72 (open daily, 08.00–22.00)
- Alexandrov (ресторан "Александров"), ул. Революции, 59 (north from Sovetskaya ploschad'), . The restaurant at the hotel.
- Attic (кафе "Чердачок"), ул. Ленина, 13. A small cafe on the second floor of the trade center.
- Bungalow (суши-бар "Бунгало"), ул. Ленина, 22, ☎ +7-(49244)-2-26-83. A sushi bar.
- Cheburechnaya (Чебуречная), ул. Ленина, 62. Fast food that offers chebureki (a kind of small pies with meat), pancakes, and grilled meat.
- Cosa nostra, г. Струнино, ул. Суворова, 22 (10 km west from Alexandrov, the town ''Strunino''). A nice pizzeria, one of the best places to eat in the region.
- Larsen (ресторан "Ларсен"), ул. Королёва, 1 (southern part of the city, the road to Kirzhach), ☎ +7-(49244)-6-47-28, +7-(495)-510-29-93. Su–Th, 10.00–1.00; Fr, Sa, 10.00–4.00. The restaurant at the hotel.
- Person (кафе "Персона"), ул. Ленина, 26, ☎ +7-(49244)-2-79-81. 10.00–22.00.
- Pizza land (пиццерия "Пиццалэнд"), ул. Ленина, 20а. Pizza-style fast food.
- Rendez-vous (кафе "Рандеву"), Южный пр-д, 1 (southern part of the city), ☎ +7-(49244)-6-22-11 (email@example.com), . On weekdays, the cafe is open during the daytime and works as a self-service canteen. On Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturadays, it also works in the evening (from 18.00) as a regular cafe.
- Satellite (кафе "Спутник"), ул. Гагарина, 1 (southern part of the city), ☎ +7-(49244)-6-40-70. 12.00–24.00.
- Soviet union (кофейня "Советский союз"), ул. Ленина, 13/5, . Daily, 9.00–22.00. A coffee house in the city center.
- Sushi-bar, Советская пл, . 15.00–24.00. A restaurant of japanese and european cuisine attached to the Saturn cinema. Main dishes: 150–250 rubles (2009).
There is a local alcohol production in Alexandrov. The factory  produces a variety of vodka, fruit spirits (nastoyki), and cognac. All these drinks are readily found in the food stores.
- Saturn (Сатурн), Советская пл, ☎ +7-(49244)-3-04-13, .
- Yubileyniy (ДК Юбилейный), ул. Свердлова, 37, ☎ +7-(49244)-2-39-00.
- Alexandrov (гостиница "Александров"), ул. Революции, 59 (north from Sovetskaya ploschad'), ☎ +7-(49244)-3-14-83, . The largest hotel of the city. All the rooms were recently renovated and offer the accommodation of different quality: rooms with shared bathroom, rooms with private bathroom, or two-room suites. Breakfast included, guarded parking available. The restaurant is attached to the hotel. Double room with shared/private bathroom: 1000/1700-1900 rubles (2009).
- Island (отель "Остров"), Военная ул. 9 (south from Sovetskaya ploschad'), ☎ +7-(49244)-3-15-05. A modern mini-hotel with fully equipped rooms (breakfast included), guarded parking, and own restaurant. Double room: 1600 rubles (2009).
- Larsen (гостиница "Ларсен"), ул. Королёва, 1 (southern part of the city), ☎ +7-(49244)-6-47-28, +7-(495)-510-29-93 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . A modern hotel with a variety of additional services (restaurant, billiard, sport club, barbershop). All the rooms are fully equipped and air-conditioned, while suites additionally offer internet access. Breakfast included, parking available. Double room/suite: 1600/3000 rubles (2009).
- Vedrussiya (гостиница "Ведруссия"), Институтская ул.?, ☎ +7-(49244)-3-11-39. 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: 900/1300 rubles (2009).
- Vita (гостиница "Вита"), Вокзальная ул. 1, ☎ +7-(49244)-9-45-97. A mini-hotel near the railway station. Basic accommodation (rooms with shared or private bathrooms), noise from the trains. No breakfast, guarded parking available. Double room: from 1300 rubles (2008).
The postal code of Alexandrov is 60165*. Offices in the city center:
- Central post office (601650), ул. Ленина, 28, ☎ +7-(49244)-2-16-06, 2-58-71, 2-16-75. M–Fr, 8.00–22.00; Sa, 8.00–18.00; Su, 8.00–14.00.
- Post office # 2 (601652), Кольчугинская ул. 5 (east from the convent), ☎ +7-(49244)-2-26-95. M–Sa, 9.00–20.00.
- Post office # 4 (601654), Вокзальная ул. 1, ☎ +7-(49244)-2-04-83. M–Sa, 9.00–20.00.
Internet connection is likely available at the post offices.
- Arsaki (Арсаки) – the village 20 km west from Alexandrov. This place is known for the monk's settlement (Смоленско-Зосимова пустынь) that appeared in the second half of 17th century as a side settlement of the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius (Sergiev Posad). Presently, one finds nice examples of red-brick churches in russian revival style from late 19th century. These 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 the 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 be explicitly marked "via Karinskoe". There is an alternative route following a different road.
- Karabanovo (Карабаново) – the unremarkable industrial town 10 km south from Alexandrov. One finds a red-brick industrial building from early 20th century, and that is likely all to see here.
- Get in: local trains towards 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 available.
- Lukyantsevo (Лукьянцево) – the village 15 km north from Alexandrov (N56.5045°, E38.7132°), the monastery from late 16th century (Свято-Лукианова мужская пустынь). The monastery preserves three ancient buildings in russian style 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 are from late 18th century), the refectory building and living halls (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 from Alexandrov every two hours.
- Strunino (Струнино) – the unremarkable town 10 km west from Alexandrov. The only attractions are the ravaged red-brick industrial building from early 20th century and few later buildings in constructivist style.
- Get in: local trains towards Moscow, buses every 20-30 minutes.
- Kirzhach – the small town interesting for its 16th century monastery.
- Kol'chugino – one of the relatively new towns of the region. It lacks any important tourist attractions, yet the services (hotels and restaurants) may be useful.
- Rostov Veliky – one of the main destinations of the Golden Ring, the ancient town with numerous remarkable monuments.
- Sergiev Posad – the well-known destination with a huge ancient convent, one of the most important religious places in Russia.
- Yuryev-Polsky – the ancient town with a unique 13th century cathedral and sleepy provincial atmosphere.