1. Izumrudny Les - luxurious ecohotel
Only 1,5 hour drive from Moscow you'll find this picturesque chalet type resort where you can stay in the hotel or rent a chalet with your family or friends. It is brand new and all materials used are of high quality. It has a cozy atmosphere due to the forest surroundings, the lake and the natural elements. There are many activities like a beautiful spa, banya's, a bathing house, 25m indoor pool, kids pool, gym, sports fields (outdoor&indoor), horse riding, playgrounds, a kids club, animal farm, ice-skating (in winter) and more. They have a nice restaurant with affordable Russian food. They have one English menu and communication is mainly in Russian, but they are very friendly and if you only speak English you will be fine. Location: Denisovo, Klin district https://izumrudnyles.ru/en/
2. Vladimir & Suzdal - the Golden Ring Vladimir and Suzdal form the most important cities of the so called Golden Ring of Moscow. The towns have been called "open-air museums" and feature unique monuments of Russian architecture of the 12th–18th centuries, including kremlins, monasteries, cathedrals and churches. Vladimir is the biggest city of the two and was our first stop. As the former capital of medieval Russia, Vladimir is a very historically important city. It is somewhat more industrial than its neighbour of Suzdal but its Golden Gates, St Demetrius’ Cathedral and the Dormition Cathedral are UNESCO protected and masterpieces of ancient Russian architecture. We spent a few hours here which we thought was enough. We stayed at Park Hotel Voznesenskaya Sloboda, Voznesenskaya Ulitsa, 14Б, Vladimir. Classical interior (see photo) and we can highly recommend to dine in the hotel restaurant. The view from the terrace is absolutely stunning and the food is really good. Do make a reservation! It is also a popular party venue hotel but at 11PM, all parties ar over so it turned out to be very entertaining. Guests were beautifully dressed up and we had a fire show outside our window. Don't expect too much around breakfast. The drive from Vladimir to Suzdal is 35 km and takes about half an hour. If you ce to Vladimir by train, you can easily take a taxi.
Suzdal really is an open air museum. There is so much to see in this small town. Everything is beautiful and just walking around is a treat. Apart from one Chinese tour group, we were the only non-Russians and it was packed! Stop for lunch at Gostinyj Dvor, Lenina St., 63a, Suzdal. The food is traditional Russian and we were lucky to sit out on the large balcony. Although Suzdal is real touristy place, the prices in the souvenir shops are mostly good. We didn’t stay in Suzdal overnight but if you want to plan it, friends of ours recommended: Pushkarskaya Sloboda Nikolaevsky Prosad
3. Kolomna - 19th century traditions
The city is located about 114 km southeast of Moscow's center, has about 150.000 inhabitants and the main attraction is the beautiful historic old city center. By car it takes about 2 hours with normal traffic and you can park directly in front of the Kolomna Tower in a paid parking lot. From there, you walk up a small hill and arrive directly in one of the beautiful old town streets. The streets look like out of a picture book, with the beautifully decorated facades and the old wooden houses. Especially worth seeing are the old churches, the city gate "Pyatnitskiye Vorota" and the Kremlin, which was built of red bricks. And don't forget to visit the small museums and shops, where the traditional production methods of various crafts are shown in guided tours. One of the highlights was a visit to the “Kalachnaya museum". Here you can buy incredibly delicious bread and rolls, which come directly from the oven and are usually still warm. By entering the small bakery, you get the feeling of having travelled 100 years into the past, as even the salesgirl with her costume and the whole shop looks as if nothing changed the past 100 years. From the small sales area you can look straight into the adjacent bakery, where bread is made in a traditional way. Guided tours are offered for this purpose, but unfortunately they are all in Russian. But a visit to the bakery is still worthwhile, the exact address you will see below the article.
There are many other surprising museums and shops. Most of them look quite inconspicuous from the outside, but inside you are always surprised how beautiful the small shops are and most of them will take you on a little time travel as well. Therefore our tip: just go inside and get surprised. Have fun exploring and let us know what is your favorite one.
4. Murmansk - northern light&winter paradise
If you like nature you should visit this place in winter! It's paradise with trees covered in iced snow, blue skies, snowy landscapes, beautiful husky dogs and reindeers. And if you're lucky you'll even see the northern light! There are many day trips from Murmansk city to husky sledding and to view the norther light, but to get the full experience we advice you to stay 1 or 2 nights at "Arctic Land". They have 2 romantic houses for rent, the "arctic hut" which is for two people and a bigger house for 4-6 people. It's in the middle of nature, very private and even though it's basic, it's comfortable with a hot shower, a sauna and proper meals delivered to your hut. Besides enjoying the view from your hut you can go dog sledding, reindeer sledding, ice fishing or just go for a beautiful walk. Even with temperatures of -25 to -30 you can enjoy these activities and warm up in the sauna afterwards. Enjoy winter paradise! Location: Lovozero, Murmansk region (2 hours drive from Murmansk) http://www.arcticland.ru/eng/ https://www.airbnb.nl/rooms/29649712?s=51
5. Sochi - skiing or snowboarding
If you like skiing or snowboarding, go check out the beautiful slopes, perfect dry powder snow and modern facilities in Sochi! The town of Roza Khutor looks like a Hollywood film set aiming to copy the atmosphere from the Alps. But although it lacks authenticity it is very nicely done, with high quality lifts, stylish restaurant and even great slopeside restaurants for high quality lunch and entertaining apres-ski! You can also stay in Krasnaya Polyana, but this is a smaller area and further away from the main hub in Roza Khutor. Only 1,5 hours from Moscow, multiple times a day (although we strongly recommend to fly from the highly efficient and nice airport Vnukovo). Arriving there just order a get taxi van which takes you to Roza Chutor in 40 mintes for 2500RB. We stayed in the Azimut, which is quite simple, but cheap and good value for money. But hotel options are wide here, so check out booking.com for your preferred hotel. Ski conditions are almost perfect, with high quality powder snow because of its tropical climate and proximity to the ocean. Surprisingly the snow quality was better than Europe! Beautiful forest slopes, although they are often a bit narrow when it's crowded. Only downside are that lift logistics is not very well thought trough and therefore there can be long lines. And watch out in the afternoon for skiers who enjoyed a bit too many alcoholic beverages at lunch ;)
6. Tula - a capital of samovars, gingerbread and metal works
Tula is 180 km from Moscow to the South. It is one year older than Moscow and has 0.5 mln citizens. Tula is famous is famous for several things:
Pryanik. A gingerbread with jam filling and "stamped" pattern on top. You can buy it in Moscow, too, but in Tula much more varieties are available.
Weapon production. Tula has been one of the centers for weapon production since Peter the Great's times. In the local Weapons Museum, located in a new helmet-shaped building, you can find old rifles which look like pieces of art, WWII and modern weapons. Tours in English are available.
If you are short in time, opt for the museum's branch in the Tula Kremlin.
The walls of the Kremlin in Tula have the same shape at the tops as in Moscow. Unlike Moscow, in Tula ere you can walk on their top and imagine yourself a city defender ! A pedestrian embankment between the Kremlin and the river Upa is a nice place to continue the walk.
Samovar production. A samovar is a kind of a coal-heated kettle. Water stays hot in it for several hours, inviting for a slow-pace tea-drinking ceremony. You can buy one in a souvenir shop of the Kremlin.
Leo Tolstoy. The writer's estate Yasnaya Polyana is 30 minutes drive from Tula. Tolstoy wrote all his great works in Yasnaya and his grave is also here, in the nearby forest. The estate did not change much since his times, and, walking around the garden and inspecting the house, you can feel why the writer was an adept of country-side lifestyle.
7. Bogdarnya - family hotel&farm
Only 3 hours drive from Moscow you can find this perfect weekend getaway to enjoy a rural and relaxed experience with your family. They have a family hotel with restaurant and 2 larger group accommodations at a lake with self-catering or food service. There's an animal farm and you can enjoy sled or horse rides, sauna, lake side pick nick or BBQ and more, all organized on request by the friendly owners. If you want to avoid the traffic take the 1 hour and 45 minute express train (the regular one doesn't have a toilet!) ride from Kurskaya railway station in Moscow to Petushki station and the owners will pick you up. You can also combine visist to Bogdarnya with Suzdal, they can even arrange a car&driver for you. We can especially recommend the colorful house you see on the pictures. It was comfortable for 3 families (3 family rooms) and located at an amazing setting. You can order your BBQ meat & sides and breakfast up front and they'll deliver it to your home. http://bogdarnya.ru