18 top attractions in Veliky Ustyug – description and photos

Veliky Ustyug

Veliky Ustyug is an important point on the tourist map of Russia. This ancient city in the Vologda region attracts many travelers, including foreigners who want to learn more about the history and culture of our country. The surge of interest in Veliky Ustyug coincided with the opening of the Grandfather Frost Estate, but believe me, even in summer there is a lot to see here.

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Historical background

Veliky Ustyug is a settlement in Russia, located in the Vologda region. Originally it was just called Ustyug. In the 16th century, the town was noted by Ivan the Terrible for its significant contribution to the state treasury, due to its strategically advantageous location for trade, and received the prefix “Veliky”. Since the first settlement appeared here in the XIII century with the assistance of Rostov-Suzdal princes, it is impossible to establish the origin of the name precisely. However, the most logical version, according to which the familiar ear of the name is the result of combining the word combination “mouth of the South” – the place where the two arms merge into the Northern Dvina.

For a long time this was one of the main outposts, designed to restrain the aggressive appetites of the Bulgarian tribes and Novgorod, so up to becoming part of the Moscow principality under Vasily I, Veliky Ustyug was repeatedly besieged and destroyed, but rebuilt.

It experienced its “golden age” in the 17th century, when the Northern Dvina waterway became the main mode of transportation for merchants engaged in foreign trade. But the administrative reform of Peter I made Ustyug a province, since the access to the Baltic Sea completely redesigned the scheme of transport and economic communications, and the former importance of many northern towns was lost. To top it all, too dense buildings at the end of the XVIII century led to a big fire that destroyed almost the entire settlement. Thanks to the successful reconstruction plan it was possible to preserve the old buildings as much as possible, so the historic center of Veliky Ustyug is so valuable architecturally.

Streets of Veliky Ustyug

The next great shock for the ancient city was the barbaric destruction of religious buildings in the 30s. Veliky Ustyug was deprived of many churches, chapels and even cathedrals, and part of the premises that belonged to monasteries, are still in possession of local technical schools.

Architectural Monuments

Since we are talking about history, we can not not tell about the buildings that were witnesses of bygone eras. Today Veliky Ustyug is a perfect example of how reverently one should treat the heritage of their ancestors – its entire center was declared a territory of a museum-reserve. This decision of local authorities allowed to impose a ban not only on construction in old quarters, but also on changing the facades of existing houses, and thus helped to preserve the authentic appearance of Veliky Ustyug, so attractive to tourists and explorers.

Assumption Cathedral dates back to 1639-1658, but in the same place earlier stood a wooden church of the Assumption of the Mother of God of the XIII century, built during the life of the blessed wonderworker Prokopy. Naturally, over time, the original project has undergone significant changes, now it shows careful look mix of many styles. Visitors can not only view the interior, but also climb the bell tower, which offers a beautiful view of the surrounding area.

Assumption Cathedral in Veliky Ustyug

Since ancient times, the Cathedral Court, where the sanctuary is located, was a true center of the spiritual and secular life of Ustyug. In the neighborhood you can see the 17th century churches in honor of St. Procopius, who is considered the patron saint of the town, and St. John of Ustyug, as well as the Bishop’s House, which building is a century younger.

The Cathedral of St. Procopius of Ustyug.

On the opposite bank of the Sukhona river is the Dymkovo settlement, with churches from the beginning of the 18th century. They bear the names of Dmitry Solunsky and Sergiy Radonezhsky. In the first one a unique wooden iconostasis is preserved, and the second one can amaze historians only with its original tile stoves, where divine services were held in the cold season. Unfortunately, both buildings are now closed to the public, but even from the outside they make a strong impression.

Erection of churches in pairs, for the winter and summer periods, in general, is a characteristic feature of Ustyuga architecture. An example of that is the oldest survived building – the Church of the Ascension on the Torg, built in 1648-1649 on the money of a local merchant. Its style differs greatly from that of other temples in the city. It is supposed that the architect was commissioned by a patron of arts from Moscow, which had many masters of Russian ornamentation, especially the ornate decoration of facades with accentuated asymmetry. The Museum of Old Russian Art was opened here in spring 2009.

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The Holy Trinity-Gleden Monastery, first mentioned in written sources in the XVI century, is also an exclusively museum. Some documents claim that it was founded even before the Tatar-Mongols came to Russia. The modern look of this complex was mostly formed in the 17th century, it includes the Holy Trinity Cathedral, the churches of Tikhvin icon of the Mother of God and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a refectory, a hospital ward, the Watchtower and gates.

But the oldest in the Russian North church historians tend to consider the Monastery of St. Michael the Archangel, founded, according to legends, in 1212. It is precisely known that it was abolished in 1919. Since then its territory was in turn a concentration camp, a museum, a military school, and a motor transport vocational school. Nevertheless, the architectural ensemble of the monastery survived surprisingly well, tourists can see the main cathedral with a bell tower, several churches (including the Assumption, under which rest the relics of the first abbot, St. Cyprian), the brotherhood cells.

Guests of Veliky Ustyug should also pay attention to St. Nicholas Church, Savior Transfiguration, St. George, Sretensky churches, Simeon Stolpnik Church, baroque and later merchant mansions on Sovetsky Prospect, Krasnaya Street and the waterfront.

Grandfather Frost Estate in Veliky Ustyug

Tell me, how many places do you know, where to spend a few days will be equally interesting to both children and adults? Just a few minutes drive from Veliky Ustyug there is a dense pine forest, in the middle of which the residence of the good Russian wizard was built. It is not an exaggeration to say that 1998 was a landmark in the history of the region, because the start of the project turned into a starting point of a new history of Veliky Ustyug. Now it has become a place of pilgrimage of families with children and just people who dream to touch magic.

Behind the high carved fence there is a huge museum and entertainment complex. The main part of it is accessible from the gates through the Path of Fairy Tales, where visitors are welcomed by forest dwellers, winter magician’s indispensable helpers. Santa Claus House is a two-story log cabin, decorated with traditional for the Russian North carved designs and decorative wooden elements. Inside a lot of rooms, each of which has its own purpose: in one, for example, waiting in line to be read all the existing fairy tales, the other keeps gifts that will find new owners on New Year’s Eve, in the third on the shelves there are hundreds of interesting books about winter. The authors of the project did not forget about the private study of the master where the geographical maps are kept. There are also a bed-room with featherbeds and even a throne room with a beautiful Christmas tree.

Especially for those who are bothered by the question how the ruler of blizzards and bitter cold escapes from the destructive summer heat, it is possible to go down into the spacious Glacier. Here all year round the temperature is maintained at -15º C, which allows amazing sculptures not to melt.

If the world of eternal cold is pleasantly striking on a July afternoon, being in the winter garden must be especially joyful after the dazzling whiteness of January. In this kingdom of lush greenery and bright colors you want to stay as long as possible to see with their own eyes how exotic fruits grow, and taste the fragrant tea served to guests by the greenhouse keepers.

Everyone knows that Santa Claus travels in a magical sleigh pulled by three white horses. But how do they manage to ride all night long without tiring? Visitors to the Grandfather Frost Estate in Veliky Ustyug will be able not only to see the forge, where the fastest horses in the world are “put on shoes”, but also to forge a horseshoe for good luck. And in the Forest pharmacy with you gladly share the secrets of miraculous northern berries and herbs.

And, of course, it is impossible not to go round the zoo, where you can observe the life of local fauna, including hares, squirrels, wolves, elks, deer and the family of lynx. Don’t forget that the admission ticket also includes three attractions of your choice. This can be an ice slide, a steam train, a ride on the “waders” – soft inflatable sleds round shape, walking in a sled and more. In any case, remember the safety rules, listen to the recommendations of staff and do not leave your kids without supervision – then active entertainment will bring only a lot of positive emotions.

When you need to catch your breath, go to the Santa Claus Post Office. Here is a collection of the brightest, most unusual and touching children’s messages that come to the residence of the magician from all over the country. Every year this department receives 180 thousand letters with a short address “Veliky Ustyug, Santa Claus”. And everyone can send postcards with a branded stamp of the fairy mail to family and friends.

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If you meet Ded Moroz himself during the walk, let the children, following a good tradition, tell him a favorite poem. For such a performance, the Grandfather will certainly reward the artist with a special lollipop from his reserves.

Museums of Veliky Ustyug

In the city there are a lot of really interesting expositions. In addition to the Historical and Architectural Museum of Veliky Ustyug, which offers a glorious past of this land, we recommend visiting the exhibition of Christmas cards, which presents samples of holiday messages from the beginning of the twentieth century to the present day. A similar theme is devoted to the exhibits of the Museum of New Year and Christmas Toys, many of which are not hidden under the window glass, but hang on the branches of Christmas trees of different sizes. Grouped by historical periods, it is possible to visualize how the forest beauties looked in the homes of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers.

In the mentioned above Church of the Ascension on the Torg since the spring of 2009 there is a museum of Old Russian art. Under one roof are gathered old icons, carved iconostases, collections of unique wooden sculptures and personal embroidery, rare publications from the monastery libraries. Master-classes “In the icon workshop” are held at the museum, where visitors are introduced to the ancient techniques of painting and the basic stages of creating icons.

The demonstration hall of the factory “Northern Niello” presents the company’s products, which for decades have been recognized by the jury and received prestigious awards at Russian and foreign exhibitions. Niello is a special kind of jewelry, and in Veliky Ustyug work with silver is as close to the ancient Russian techniques and modern design often uses patterns known in the North from the XVI-XVII centuries.

Local Cuisine

In connection with the peculiarities of the climate in these latitudes cereals do not grow, and there is no possibility to engage in traditional animal husbandry, so the inhabitants of Veliky Ustyug very rarely used to eat bread and meat. But the Russian North has long been famous as a land of fishing, and the most famous dishes cooked here are Pomor fish soup, all kinds of fish cakes (filled with various kinds of river fish), cod cake with potatoes “Siyskaya trapeza”, which is stewed in the oven in its own juice.

Berries, cowberries, currants, rose hips are used to make berry-wine sauces “volozhi”, and the favorite drink of locals remains hot kissel kyozh, for which available berries, herbs and spices are used.

Red Street Sovetsky Prospekt.

Souvenirs and memorable gifts

You can take so many things from Veliky Ustyug to your family, friends, and acquaintances that you can’t help but divert your eyes. Forget about banal magnets and cups with pictures of places of interest! Practical gifts would be warm socks or mittens made of sheep’s wool, with traditional ornaments. Those with a sweet tooth will appreciate natural berry jams or cloudberries steamed in honey, supplemented with healthy and fragrant herbal teas collected in this ecologically clean region. Local masters create incredibly beautiful kitchen utensils from birch bark and hand-painted wood – such thing will remind you of yourself for many years. And for yourself or especially your loved ones buy something made of nielloed silver: jewelry, cutlery, a flask for strong drinks. Exquisite patterns and ornaments will not leave anyone indifferent!

Where to stay?

Over the past decade and a half in Veliky Ustyug and its surroundings have been built many comfortable hotels and private mini-hotels. The cost of living in them depends on the number of “stars” and the distance from the historic center. Travelers who are not afraid of a few extra minutes in a cab or personal vehicle, often prefer rural guest houses, where for a reasonable price you can get a cozy room and a delicious homemade breakfast. Large companies are perfectly suited to suburban recreation centers. In addition, if you plan a trip to Ustyug in advance, you have all the chances not just to visit the Monastery of Santa Claus, but also to live for a few days directly within its territory – there is a cottage village and a small hotel with a view of the main castle.

Bear in mind that during the peak season (from December 18, when the birthday of the winter wizard is celebrated, to mid-January) it’s quite hard to find free rooms, so it’s recommended to book an accommodation in advance.

How to get there?

Although a long way from Moscow or St. Petersburg to Veliky Ustyug, only the most experienced drivers choose this way of traveling by car. You can get from these towns to your destination much faster by air. However there are no direct flights to Veliky Ustyug, you will have to change planes in Cherepovets. Twice a week arrive at the local airport and planes from Vologda.

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The maximum budget option, as usual, is the railroad. But if you are not part of an organized group, from the capital, St. Petersburg or Arkhangelsk you can reach only the station “Yadriha”, which is 60 km from Veliky Ustyug. You have to take a bus to the final point of the route.

A bonus option for tourists arriving in the homeland of Santa Claus in summer is the boat trip “Vologda – Veliky Ustyug” on the full-flowing Sukhona River at this time of year.

18 fabulous sights of Veliky Ustyug

The city got its name because of its proximity to the river Yug. According to another opinion, it appeared Veliky Ustyug. For its great role in history and commercial importance acquired the epithet “Great”. During the reign of Ivan the Terrible it became a major trading center, so the tsar appointed it one of the oprichnye towns, which supplied money to the state treasury, with beautiful sights, there is something to see and where to go with the kids and the summer and the New Year.

Sightseeing in Veliky Ustyug

Developed infrastructure allows you to stay here for a few days: there is a hotel, several cafes and restaurants. It is impossible to get bored at Votchina. Professional actors constantly organize theatrical performances and hold exciting games here.

What to visit with children

A visit to Veliky Ustyug will not leave any kid indifferent. This town is not famous for its variety of attractions and entertainment centers, but will give magic and a fairy tale to any child, because in winter you can visit Santa Claus and visit a wonderful forest. Puppet shows are often organized in the Local History Museum. In the adjacent structure – Museum of the nature of the region there is an exhibition of the living world of the Russian North.

The Museum of Ethnography organizes exciting workshops for children, where the child can try his or her hand at practical handicrafts – making linen cloth or weaving a sash.

One of the oldest cities in the Russian North, which has preserved a rich cultural heritage

One of the oldest cities in the Russian North that preserved a rich cultural heritage

Summer and winter holidays

In Veliky Ustyug, it is recommended to rest not only in winter, when everything is saturated with Christmas fairy tales and Father Frost is waiting for guests in his tower. In this city, the traditional festivities with the accompanying folk festivals are actively celebrated. So, at the end of winter, the town celebrates Shrovetide, which is accompanied by pancakes, fist fights and burning of a scarecrow.

Among the summer holidays in Veliky Ustyug are the holidays of Russian matryoshka and lapdash, the City Day and the joyous Prokopyevskaya fair. At this time you can also visit Santa Claus, who never leaves his fiefdom. On November 18, he celebrates his birthday, the plan of which consists of the ancient Russian fun, concert, fireworks and quests.

There are several ways to get to the city: via Moscow or St. Petersburg. Or from nearby cities: Vologda, Nizhny Novgorod, Yaroslavl. Residents of other cities will have to get with transfers.

Naberezhnaya Street

Naberezhnaya Street is located between Pyatnitskoe Selco Street and Gledenskaya Street, in the town of Veliky Ustyug, Vologda Region.

It has existed since the erection of the city. Throughout its existence, in the course of numerous reconstructions and changes, it has never disappeared from the city map. In the 18th century it was filled with churches and mansions of merchants. The street is considered to be a form of the city of Sukhon. It stretches from Leontievskaya and Ilyinskaya churches to the Soborny court. Along it are erected Church of St. Alexis with the Archbishop’s Palace and St. Nicholas Church. At the end of the street was erected a church of Simon Stolpniak.

Oktyabrsky Lane

Several years ago was called Archangelskaya street. It stretches from the Soborny Court to St. Michael the Archangel Monastery. It appeared at the same period with St. Michael the Archangel Monastery. Connected the earlier central points of the city. Until the beginning of the 19th century was among the suburban streets. Divided in half by Archangel gates of Bolshoy burg. Only a third of the street was located in the city itself. A few years after the great urban fires, the city plan had undergone significant changes. All the streets of the town, except for Arkhangelskaya, were relocated.

Buldakov’s homestead.

Its main house was once the largest building in the whole town, and belonged to the famous merchant and pathfinder Mikhail Matveyevich Buldakov

Built in the early 19th century. The architecture of the manor is the main house and two attached wings. The manor building is considered an interesting example of architectural combinations. At the beginning of the 19th century Buldakov bought a plot of land on the edge of town. A few years later, a large house and two outhouses, which served as offices, appeared on it. In 1995 the estate was given the status of a historical and cultural monument of federal importance.

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Red Lane

Intermediate street of the city. It stretches from Red Street to Naberezhnaya Street. Active construction in the alley began in the 19th century. The plan for the construction of all buildings on the street was designed by architect Golubev. Almost 150 years later Ustyuzhsky Torg appeared. Currently, instead of it there are several stores, opposite there is a hotel, House of Culture and printing house. Throughout its existence, Krasny Lane has repeatedly changed, ennobled. Lane is covered with asphalt. Transport passes here rarely. Red lane belongs to one of the protected areas of Veliky Ustyug.

The sculpture Aquarius.

It was installed in 1983 at the river station. It is among the symbols of the town and symbolizes the joining of the rivers South and Sukhona, which flow into the Northern Dvina River. The idea to create a monument belongs to E. Vishnevetskaya. Initially there were two statues of Aquarius in Veliky Ustyug. One was in the center of the town in Komsomolsky park. In the late 90s of the last century it was removed because it was destroyed.

Church of Nicholas the Wonderworker

A wooden church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker (St. Nicholas of Gostun or Gostinsky) existed in the old Ustyug shopping square at least since the beginning of the 17th century.

On the bank of the Sukhona river and on the territory of the former trading square there is the church of St. Nicholas with the bell tower, which is a famous monument of architecture of the 17-19th centuries

It appeared due to the collected funds of passing merchants. The construction of the church lasted about 50 years. The architecture of the building looks like a three-tiered church with a three-tiered bell tower. This church is an initial example of an Ustyuzh stone church, which included two stories and combined a summer and a winter church. At the end of the last century the church was restored. After the work was completed, an exhibition hall was opened in it. Educational excursions are regularly organized in it, allowing to get acquainted with Ustyuzh crafts.

Spaso-Preobrazhensky Monastery

Is a complex that combines two temples. One of them is used in winter, the other in summer. The history of the monastery begins with a wooden building from the beginning of the 15th century. The extant stone buildings were erected in the 17th and 18th centuries. The walls are decorated with beautiful tiled friezes and colorful majolica. A special attention should be paid to the carved gilded iconostasis, which appeared a year after the completion of the temple. It was ordered by Archbishop Alexander, who initiated the construction of the monastery.

Museum “Russian hut”

At a distance of about 25 km from Veliky Ustyug, in a small village of Krasavino, is the museum “Russian Hut”.

Veliky Ustyug is famous for its wide cultural heritage and folk crafts. The museum complex allows everyone to discover the secrets of Russian antiquity, get acquainted with the life, customs and traditions of the ancestors. The museum is located 20 kilometers from the city, in the village of Krasavino. Visitors will be able to explore the details of ancient Russian life. Among the expositions of the museum are the krosna, the spinning wheel, the child’s coil, the lantern, and the irons.

Monastery of Trinity and Gleden

Trinity-Gledensky monastery – Inactive Orthodox monastery, 4 km from Veliky Ustyug, at the confluence of the rivers Sukhona and South.

It was built with funds collected by local residents. There is no exact data on the date of the erection of the monastery. According to archaeological excavations and assumptions of scientists, the monastery appeared in the 12th century on the site of the ancient city of Gleden, which was destroyed by numerous wars. The appearance of the monastery changed over the centuries. Finally, the architecture of the monastery was formed at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries. At the end of the last century the territory of the monastery was declared an artistic attraction and came under the authority of the museum association.

Sobornoye Court

It is considered the most ancient fragment of the city and its spiritual part. On the left bank of Sukhona river stretches a unique association of churches dating from 17-19 centuries. In terms of composition the Sobornoye Court is considered a classic example of ancient Russian construction. The central position of the constructions is occupied by the square, on which a large number of significant religious buildings are placed. Each temple, placed on the square, can be seen from any point. This makes the entire composition of the courtyard look complete and well-proportioned.

Museum of Glass Bottles

This museum is represented in Russia in one copy. In the world there are only three of them. Similar museums can be found in Thailand and the United States. The idea for the museum belongs to local resident Alexander Kokovin. He believed that the glass bottle is the object, which no one counterfeits. There are more than five hundred items on display, including bottles made during the reign of the tsars. The museum features bottles that held alcohol, perfumes, dairy products and carbonated beverages.

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Factory “Veliky Ustyug Patterns”

At the experimental factory of artistic products “Veliky Ustyug patterns” worked and still do a lot of talented carvers.

This place is known across the country for its birch-bark products, decorated with unique carving, weaving and painting. The factory opened in 1972. The initiator of its creation were the representatives of the local authorities, who decided to preserve the local traditions and folk crafts. The company specializes in the production of wooden and birch-bark products. The assortment of products is varied. Besides birch bark boxes, baskets, souvenir cutting boards and writing materials you can find here colorful boxes and painted tableware.

Veliky Ustyug State Historical-Architectural and Art Museum-Reserve

This is a vast museum complex, which combines more than a dozen architectural monuments of national importance and seven museums. Each object offers excursions, interactive activities and master classes. Every year the museum halls are filled with new expositions and exhibits. Among the museum objects are architectural monuments dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries, with surviving iconostases and monumental paintings.

Church of the Ascension

The stone Church of the Ascension was built in 1648, it is the earliest surviving church in Veliky Ustyug

It was built in the first half of the 17th century. Among other architectural constructions of that time, this church looked like a complex structure. In due course, after several reconstructions, its appearance has undergone many changes. In the basis of the composition of the temple is a combination of different volumes, which make a very complex asymmetric composition. Of significant artistic importance is the interior decoration of the church, which consists of a combination of monuments of icon painting and iconostasis art of Veliky Ustyug in the 18th century.

Dymkovo Sloboda

In 1383 the first wooden churches were built and consecrated there, but they have not survived to this day

It is believed that the churches of the Dymkovo settlement were monuments of the march of Ustyuzhans to the Kulikovo Field in 1380

On the bank of the river Sukhona, opposite the Sobornoye Dvoroshcha, there are several churches. This place is called Dymkovo sloboda. All the monuments erected here were built in honor of the march of the natives of Ustyug to the Kulikovo Field in the 14th century. The first churches were erected and illuminated in the 14th century. The architectural complex of Dymkovo includes a church with a bell tower of Dmitry Solunsky, a winter single-domed church of Sergius of Radonezh, gates, church fences and parts of the corner tower. All the objects of the sloboda can be seen only from outside.

The Cathedral of St. Prokopy the Righteous

It was canonized by the Local Council of 1547 and became the first saint to be glorified by the Russian Orthodox Church as a fool for Christ.

Erected in the second half of the 17th century in memory of the celestial defender of Velikiy Ustyug. It is among the monuments of the Soborny Court. In the course of three centuries after its construction the church was repeatedly rebuilt. St. Prokopy was born in Germany in the XIII century. After embracing Orthodoxy he decided to settle in Russia forever. Spiritually, he chose the hardest act of Christian piety – foolishness for Christ’s sake. He became famous for his many miracles, among which was preventing the imminent destruction of Ustyug by a stone cloud. The gilded, carved iconostasis, which consists of five tiers and was built in the 18th century, is most important to the cathedral.

Museum of Christmas and New Year Toys

The Museum of New Year and Christmas toys has been working in Veliky Ustyug, the homeland of Ded Moroz, since 1998.

The New Year is recognized as a favorite celebration for many people. This place is recommended to visit for those who like to immerse themselves in the New Year’s Eve and enjoy the children’s fairy tale and miracle. The museum opened at the end of the 1990s. Among the exhibits in the museum are a variety of Christmas tree decorations and toys, Christmas and Christmas cards, porcelain figurines. Visitors can find out how the New Year was celebrated a few decades ago and what was used to decorate the tree. As exhibits are presented artworks of masters, collected from all over the country.

Country of Ded Moroz

The Father Frost’s estate is a fabulous place located in a wonderful pine forest near Veliky Ustyug.

Each visitor of this place will plunge into childhood and feel in a fairy tale. With a ticket you can walk around the territory of the residence for the whole day, three rides on any attraction, visit the Terem.

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