Though steeped in history and ancient architecture, the town’s proximity to Moscow and Yaroslavl makes it an increasingly popular weekend destination for residents of both cities. It has facilities, infrastructure and enough attractions to educate and entertain visitors for several days.
The main cathedral at St. Nicholas Monastery
The Goritsky Monestary houses a museum of artifacts, and its bell tower provides a great view.
PERESLAVL-ZALESSKY, Yaroslavl Region — It strikes one as odd that a city located hundreds of kilometers from the nearest sea is the birthplace of the Russian navy.
In 1692, Tsar Peter the Great set up a “toy flotilla” on the banks of Lake Pleshcheyevo in Pereslavl, Yaroslavl region — part of the forces that the tsar used for military games with his playmates in his youth. That flotilla was the embryo of the Russian Empire’s naval might.
Since its founding in 1152, Pereslavl has also been home to an abundance of other characters that were influential in the development of the country. These include Prince Yury Dolgoruky and Tsar Ivan the Terrible. The city’s main claim to fame is as the birthplace of Alexander Nevsky, grand prince of Vladimir from 1252-1263.
Locals have been keen to capitalize on the city’s ancient history by promoting tourism. The industry is the backbone of the city’s economy because it has been considered part of the Golden Ring — the tourist route that includes some old cities northeast of Moscow — since the Soviet period.
The inflow of visitors has triggered the emergence of a large number of privately-owned and uniquely themed museums. These include the Museum of Irons, the Museum of Kettles, the Museum of Russian Vases, the Museum of Cunning and Wit, the Museum of Money, the Museum of Masks and perhaps the most unique one of them all — the Museum of Steam Locomotives. This is the only museum of its kind in the entire nation, and it displays locomotives dating back to the 19th century.
Pereslavl is also gearing up to celebrate the 800th birthday of Alexander Nevsky in 2021 in an effort to lure more visitors. Pereslavtsy, as natives are called, see this event as something that will propel the city into the limelight.
Another thing that attracts tourists is the fact that Pereslavl resembles a peaceful countryside and is in harmony with nature. The quiet atmosphere of the city historically made it a popular destination for Russian nobility. Today, it is a desirable place for Muscovites — they only need travel the two hours by car along the Yaroslavskoye Shosse to find temporary peace of mind and refuge from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Rolling green hills and open plains surround the city. Dispersed throughout the countryside are numerous ancient churches and monasteries. Golden-domed and almost tower-like in comparison with the simplicity of Pereslavl’s foliage, the churches add a dazzling spectrum of color to the town and enhance the city’s timeless feel.
Quaint houses are scattered throughout the center of the city, and it is not uncommon to see cattle grazing on its Red Square in the center. Other than main arteries, much of the town is unpaved, and dirt pathways instead connect points of interest for the locals.
Man-made ports line the banks of Lake Pleshcheyevo, and fishing boats can be seen bobbling in the distance in the early dusk.
Apart from tourism, the city’s economy is driven by factories operating on its borders. Local companies like Polier and Slavich and foreign ones, including Kodak and Mondi, have invested in Pereslavl-Zalessky by opening and maintaining numerous production sites.
What to do if you have two hours
Visit the center of Pereslavl-Zalessky (Red Square; www.tourismpereslavl.ru/content.html?page=sightseeing_sobor&lang=en). Huge earthen ramparts encircle the historical center of the city. Inside of the ancient fortifications there are a number of churches.
One of the most interesting places to visit in the center is the Transfiguration Cathedral, built by Prince Yury Dolgoruky in 1152 (1A Krasnaya Ploshchad; +7 485-353-8100; www.tourismpereslavl.ru/content.html?page=sightseeing_sobor)
It is the oldest building in the whole city and one of the most ancient cathedrals in the country.
The cathedral lacks ornaments and frescoes, but its austerity attracts. It echoes the spirit of the 12th century with its simple, clean lines, yet intermixed with the simplicity of the cathedral is a great feeling of dominance and stoicism. The church is open for everyone, and entry is free. After visiting the cathedral, walk along the ramparts, from which you will enjoy a nice view of the city.
Across the street from the cathedral is the quirky Museum of Irons (11 Sovietskaya Ulitsa; +7 485-353-2583; http://www.tourismpereslavl.ru/content.html?page=museum&lang=en). On the second floor of the museum there is a massive collection of irons and household goods dating back to the nineteenth century. Included in the 100 ruble ($3) entrance fee is a tour that many say is the highlight of visiting the museum, though tours are only conducted in Russian. After viewing the museum’s collection, go downstairs to a huge souvenir shop filled with traditional matryoshkas and magnets depicting the city.
Across the street from the cathedral is the quirky Museum of Irons (11 Sovetskaya Ulitsa; +8 (485) 353-25-83; tourismpereslavl.ru). On the second floor of the museum there is a massive collection of irons and household goods dating back to the nineteenth century. Included in the 100 ruble ($3) entrance fee is a tour that many say is the highlight of visiting the museum, though tours are only conducted in Russian. After viewing the museum’s collection, go downstairs to a huge souvenir shop filled with traditional matryoshkas and magnets depicting the city.
What to do if you have two days
Catch a cab (www.pereslavlru.ru/transport.htm) to the Goritsky Monastery (4 Muzeiny Pereulok; +7 485-352-3124; (www.pereslavl.ru/turizm/museums.htm). The monastery houses the Pereslavl-Zalessky State Museum, which contains a vast number of Russian icons and wooden carvings dating back to the 15th century. When you are done browsing the museum, walk over to the monastery’s bell tower. There you will get a panoramic view of both the city and of Lake Pleshcheyevo. Keep in mind, though, that the bell tower is only open from May to September.
Continue your tour of Pereslavl with a viewing of the Museum of Peter I’s Boat (Pereslavl District, Village of Veskovo, Botik Settlement; +7 485-353-2788; www.pereslavl.ru/turizm/museums.htm). From the Goritsky Monastery, the museum is not accessible by foot, so it is advisable that you catch a taxi (pereslavlru.ru/transport.htm). The boat was part of the tsar’s toy flotilla on the banks of Lake Pleshcheyevo.
The city has a plethora of monasteries that are worth visiting. One of them is the Nikitsky Monastery (Nikitskaya Sloboda, 20 Zaprudnaya Ulitsa; +7 485-352-2008; www.pereslavl.ru/turizm/monastyr.htm), located close to the banks of Lake Pleshcheyevo. It was founded in 1010, before the establishment of Pereslavl-Zalessky and is considered the oldest and best-preserved monastery in the city. The maintenance of the building was funded by Tsar Ivan the Terrible in the sixteenth century.
The St. Nicholas Monastery (43 Ulitsa Gagarina; +7 485-353-0645; www.pereslavl.ru/turizm/monastyr.htm) was mostly destroyed during the Soviet period. Starting from 1999, the monastery has been going through constant renovations.
Take a cab to the Blue Stone — a twelve pound boulder that used to be a place of worship. It is located on the north-eastern shore of Lake Pleshcheyevo (tourismpereslavl.ru).
Many centuries ago, Finnic and Slavic tribes would make pilgrimages to this stone and pay their respects by giving offerings. There are stories of the Orthodox Church battling to get rid of the shrine, but always failing, since in one way or another the stone would end up prevailing. The stone is located on the banks of Lake Pleshcheyevo, so after viewing the stone you have the perfect opportunity to wander along the banks of the lake or even go for a swim.
The city has one nightclub named ForRest (23 Rostovskaya Ulitsa; +7 485-353-5060; http://www.forrest-club.ru). It is a fairly modern building, and inside there are two dance floors and a café.
Where to eat
If you are looking for fast, inexpensive but high-quality food, check out Visit (36A Rostovskaya Ulitsa; +7 485-353-1230; autotravel.ru/otklik.php/842). Visit is a self-serve café and offers traditional Russian cuisine. Typically, a four course meal should come out to about 300 rubles ($10).
The Zolotaya Rybka Cafe (13A Sovietskaya Ulitsa; +7 903-823-7742) is located near the Museum of Irons. The place serves traditional Russian and Caucasian food. For 500 rubles ($17), you can get a four course meal that would typically consist of a salad, soup, main entrée and a dessert.
Albitsky Sad (21 Ulitsa Kardovskogo; +7 485-356-0068; www.pereslavl.ru/turizm/restaurants.htm) is located inside the Albitsky Sad Hotel. The restaurant offers a huge variety of food and most of their meals are about 600 ($20) rubles per person or more.
Where to stay
The Zapadnaya Hotel (1A Pleshcheyevskaya Ulitsa; +7 485-353-4478; www.westhotel.ru) is located in the oldest part of the city. All of the windows face the city’s center, so you will be able to enjoy a view of the Transfiguration Cathedral. Rooms range from $80 to $220 depending on the size of the room and the season. Breakfast is included.
The Albitsky Sad Hotel (21 Ulitsa Kardovskogo; +7 485-353-1430; www.pereslavlru.ru/hotels.htm) is located on the Yaroslavl highway. If you want to avoid the sound of cars passing on the highway, request a room facing away from the road. The rooms range from $80 to $220 depending on the size of the room and the season. Breakfast is not included in the price.
Art Hotel (45 Bolshaya Protechnaya Ulitsa; +7 485-359-8130; www.pereslavlru.ru/hotels.htm) is a small, cozy place with an eccentric interior. It is a five minute walk from the city’s center. The hotel does not provide food of any sort.
If you want to start a conversation with the locals, mention Lake Pleshcheyevo. For decades there have been many legends and mysteries surrounding the lake. Many Pereslavtsy tell tales of the lake having not one, but two bottoms; others claim that a 3-meter pike fish resides in its depths.
Along with the many legends, the lake is a habitat for a number of rare plants and organisms, including the vendace fish, locally known as “the tsar’s herring.” The fish earned its grand name due to the fact that it was served every time a new tsar took the throne. The herring is a great source of pride for the residents of Pereslavl, and it is no surprise that it appears on the city’s flag. Another interesting inhabitant of the lake is a seaweed called Cladophora, which grows in the shape and size of a soccer ball. Typically, this type of seaweed only resides in the mountainous areas of Switzerland, and to many it is a mystery as to how it ended up appearing in Lake Pleshcheyevo.
What’s even more puzzling is the recent rumored sighting in the lake of a Coelacanth fish – a “living fossil” that was previously thought to have gone extinct in the Cretaceous period and was rediscovered in 1938 off the coast of South Africa.
How to get there
The only way of reaching Pereslavl from Moscow is by car or bus (pz76.ru/kak-doehat-do-pereslavlya-zalesskogo). Buses depart daily from Shchyolkovskaya bus station (2 Uralskaya Ulitsa; +7 495-468-0400; www.vokzal.5w.ru/auto.htm)
A ticket for an adult is roughly 310 rubles ($9) and the trip as a whole takes between two and three hours.
If you decide to voyage out in your own car, the city is located right on the Yaroslavskoye Shosse (M8), which connects Yaroslavl with Moscow.
The Moscow Times