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Bolgar [1] (Russian and Tatar: Болгар) is situated on the bank of the Volga River on the site of a medieval city which was inhabited between the 7th and 15th centuries AD by the Volga Tatars. Following the Mongol conquest, Bolgar became the first capital of the Golden Horde in the 13th century and remained an important trade centre in the time of the Kazan Khanate. It is a sacred place for all Tatars, a place of pilgrimage for Muslims (as a symbolic reminder of the acceptance of Islam by the Volga-Bolgars in AD 922), and a place generally steeped in legend and history. For this reason, Bolgar has been called the 'Mecca of the North'.

In 1969, the Bolgar State Historical and Architectural Museum-Reserve was established to protect the ancient site. In 2014, the Bolgar Historical and Architectural Complex was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Today, the Complex contains ruins of the historical settlement with monuments of Islamic architecture, as well as various museums.

Get in[edit]

Buses depart from the South Bus Station in Kazan (which itself can be reached by taking the number 22 bus from anywhere along Karl Marx Street in the city centre) at 14:00 and 17:45, while buses return from Bolgar at 05:30 and 13:30.

During the summer months, Tatflot operates a hydrofoil service between Kazan and Bolgar. For the up-to-date schedule, consult the Tatflot website and the VKontakte page of Kazan port (port_kazan; Речной порт «Казань»). As of 2017, the hydrofoil departs from Kazan at 08:00 and the return journey departs from Bolgar at 15:40. The hydrofoil journey takes around 2hr 30min (one-way). The hydrofoil stops in front of the Museum of Bolgar Civilisation in Bolgar.

For more information, see the official website of the Bolgar Historical and Architectural Complex.

As of 2016, Taxi STC [2] charges 5500₽ for a one-way journey from Samara to Bolgar (journey time over 3 hours).

See[edit][add listing]

The Bolgar Historical and Architectural Complex is open between 8am and 5pm daily. The historic hillfort contains the following sights:

  • Museum of Bolgar Civilisation [3] [4]: Opened in 2013, this six-storied building was built into the side of the hill on the Volga river bank. There are displays and exhibitions.
  • 'Memorial Sign' [5] [6]: Opened in 2012, the full name of this building is "Memorial Sign Commemorating Volga Bulgars' Adoption of Islam in 922". It is an octagonal building with a round titanite dome and a Muslim crescent moon at the top, designed to resemble ancient Bolgar architecture. Inside the central hall of the building, the biggest printed Quran in the world (according to the Guinness Book of Records) is displayed – it is 2 meters in length, 1.5 meters in width and 800 kilograms in weight, with the cover made of malachite, precious stones and leather.
  • Cathedral Mosque [7] [8]: Built in the 13th century out of limestone, this mosque was partially restored in 2000. Today, you can see the the ruins consisting of the 'Great Minaret', walls, corner towers, portal bases and column foundations.
  • Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary [9] [10]: The church was built in 1732 in honour of Peter I who had visited 10 years earlier.
  • Black Chamber [11] [12]: Built from limestone in the 14th century, it is today the best-preserved monument in Bolgar.

The new White Mosque complex is situated just outside the Southern Gate and contains the following sights:

  • White Mosque [13] [14]: Opened in 2012, this mosque, made of white Italian marble, is crowned by three domes and two graceful minarets (inspired by the architectural design of the Prophet's Mosque in Medina).
  • Museum of Bread [15]: Situated next to the White Mosque, the museum complex contains a main exhibition hall, a miller’s manor, a windmill, a watermill, a barn, a threshing floor, a bakery, a forge and trading stalls of folk craftsmen.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

The only hotel (Hotel Regina) is located at the very north end of the town. Room rates start from 1,300 Rubles.

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