What to see in Sviyazhsk in one day
Sviyazhsk is an ancient district town in Tatarstan. It is often compared to the island of Buyan from Pushkin’s fairy tale.
People come here for the sake of beautiful panoramic views, and also – to see ancient monasteries and the lifetime portrait of Ivan the Terrible, to drink mead, to try their hand at axe throwing and archery.
According to a legend, Ivan the Terrible took a fancy to Sviyazhsk, when he was returning to Moscow in 1551 after an unsuccessful assault on Kazan. The island seemed to him a convenient strategic point, and the Tsar decided to build a fortress right under the nose of the enemy. True, how to do it – it is not clear. The solution was simple and absolutely ingenious: the fortress was built near Uglich, dismantled, floated down the Volga and assembled on the spot.
Three rivers wash the territory of Sviyazhsk: the Volga, Sviyaga and Shchuka. During the Soviet era, part of the land around was flooded by the waters of the Kuibyshev reservoir, and Sviyazhsk became an island. But recently it was connected to the big land by an embankment dam, along which the road runs.
Travelers go here by car from Kazan or come by motor ships and “Meteors”. Usually you spend a day on the island. But there are hotels and apartments here – if you want you can stay for a couple of days.
This summer my family and I also visited Sviyazhsk – we came here by car from Kazan. In 4 hours we saw the main sights. We didn’t go to museums: during the pandemic, we tried to be outdoors more and indoors less.
Sviyazhsk left me with pleasant impressions: it’s easy to get here, the island is clean and easy to navigate – there are signs. The only thing missing is a cafe with good service and toilets.
In this article I will share the route of our walk. We’ll see two monasteries, go to “Lazy Torzhok” for entertainment, and admire the views of the Volga and Sviyaga from the observation decks.
What you’ll see
How to get to Sviyazhsk from Kazan
It’s only an hour by car from the center of Kazan to Sviyazhsk. In my opinion, this is the most convenient way to get to the village. You can park your car for free at the entrance to the island. I recommend arriving early: we were in Sviyazhsk at noon and could not find a parking spot, so we had to leave the car on the roadside.
A cab from Kazan to Sviyazhsk costs about 1500 R .
In this photo you can see two rivers at once: the Sviyaga River on the left and the Shchuka River on the right. Between them is a narrow dam and a road. It immediately becomes clear that Sviyazhsk really used to be an island
Buses from Kazan to Sviyazhsk go only on weekends and holidays. They leave from the “Yuzhny” bus station at 08:40. One way ticket costs 165 R. View the schedule and buy tickets on the website of the bus station.
On the museum site it is written that buses from Sviyazhsk to Kazan go at 14:30. But for some reason they are not in the schedule on the website of the bus station.
“Meteors” and motor ships. The trip by ship will take 2-2,5 hours. The ticket costs 127 R one way. By “Meteora” you can reach Sviyazhsk in just 40 minutes, but it also costs more: 700 R per trip. Tickets are sold only at the ticket offices of the river port of Kazan and only for cash – you can’t book by phone or buy them online. Tourists often go to Sviyazhsk by boat, and back – by cab.
By train. There is an electric train from Kazan to Sviyazhsk station. The ticket costs 88 R . You can check the schedule on the website of the suburban passenger company “Sodruzhestvo”. Travel time is 1 hour and 13 minutes.
Previously, from the station Sviyazhsk to the island five times a day there was a special bus, the schedule of which was adjusted to the arrival of the electric trains. It was a comprehensive offer for tourists: the ticket price included travel to and from the island and visits to six museums. In 2019, such a ticket cost 450 R . Now it is not possible to use this way: because of the pandemic, the route was temporarily closed.
Excursion tours to Sviyazhsk are sold in travel agencies or on websites like Tripster and Sputnik. A five-hour bus tour from Kazan costs from 1600 P for a group tour and from 6000 P – for an individual tour.
Another tour for organized groups can be ordered on the website of the museum-reserve “Island-town Sviyazhsk. Price for a group of up to 10 people – from 1800 to 6200 P, depending on the route, theme and content of the tour. Transfer is not included in the price, you have to go to the island by yourself.
How to get to the beginning of the route. Starting point – Tourist Information Center. There you can get tickets at the ticket office and they are free. To get to the historical territory of the island, you just need to put a ticket to the turnstile.
Admission is paid only in museums, there are many of them in Sviyazhsk. If you plan to visit them, buy tickets at the ticket office. A single ticket to one museum costs 120-250 R, a complex ticket to six museums – 660 R . Details on other variants of complex tickets – in the group of the museum-reserve in “Vkontakte”.
Complex ticket to six museums of Sviyazhsk
Sviyazhsk is located on a hill. From the tourist information center you can get to the beginning of the route in two ways: by road along the embankment of the Sviyaga River or by a staircase of 120 steps. We took the stairs – it seemed to be the shorter way.
The route is .
The equestrian yard is located on Assumption Square. Previously this place belonged to the Sviyazhsky Assumption Monastery, which is located on the other side of the square – there was a household yard. The buildings were built in the 17th and 18th century. Now it is a tourist attraction with cafes and souvenir shops that sell bread, mead and tea. Bread costs from 100 R, honey – 600-850 R per half kilo, 1 l of mead “Sviyazhskaya” – 650 R, and a glass of 0.2 l – 200 R .
At the stud farm you can visit a blacksmith’s workshop or make a whistle in a pottery workshop. In the center of the courtyard is a small arena where you can ride. Two rounds on the arena cost 200 P, and a ride around the island in a carriage – 2000 P.
Costs a walk around the island in a carriage.
In the shop they sell author’s bread from a wood-burning oven. We were not hungry, so we did not take bread. But we saw a lot of praise on Instagram.
St. John the Baptist monastery was founded in the late 16th century. At first it was a separate women’s monastery, and now it is a branch of the Assumption monastery.
The monastery consists of several buildings. One of them is the Trinity Church. This is the only building that remains of the original wooden Sviyazhsk. It is believed that Ivan the Terrible prayed in the Trinity Church before the decisive campaign against Kazan in 1552. Kazan was taken.
I was born and lived most of my life in Karelia, we have a lot of little wooden churches like this there. I love them for their quietness and comfort, inside there is always a dim light that comes in through small windows. I always feel peaceful in these churches.
Also on the territory of St. John the Baptist monastery there is a huge red-brick cathedral – the church in the name of the icon of the Mother of God “Joy of All Who Sorrow”. The height of the cathedral – about 32 meters, so it is clearly visible from almost anywhere on the island.
Inside the cathedral is no less majestic: there is a lot of air and free space, the walls and vaults are richly decorated with paintings and gilding.
Sviyazhsk Museum of History used to be an orphanage, then a prison of the NKVD, and then – a boarding school. Now there are exhibits from different years: for example, ancient coins and icons, costumes of an officer and a nun. Also, in the museum you can learn about the history of the district town, see household items and recreated interior of a Russian hut and look at the prison cell of the late 19th century. Tripadvisor users write that it is chic, and the exposition is unusual and capacious. Admission costs 200 P .
Museum of archeological wood “Tatar Slobodka” was built right on the site of the excavations. Here on an area of 900 m² the real location of houses in the city street of the 16th-18th centuries is presented. Visitors can see log houses and even fragments of fences and bridges: the findings are perfectly preserved. There is also a 21-meter animation panel showing ancient Sviyazhsk and life in it, exhibited household items and models of ancient buildings.
“Tatar Slobodka” is the only museum of its kind in Russia. Even abroad there are only two of them: in Brest and Stockholm. Visitors say that the museum itself is delightful, but some complain about the unfriendly staff. It is advised to go there with a tour guide – listening to a story more interesting than just wandering around the exposition. It costs 250 R to enter.
It may seem that it is just a mountain of wood or an old warehouse of lumber. Actually it is a real archeological site with houses of 16-18 centuries. Every item here is a relic. Source: “Inde”.
The embankment of the Sviyaga River is one of the observation points of the island. From here you have views of the Sviyazhsk pier, several villages and the Ascension Makariev Monastery on the other bank of the river. It all reminds me of shots from the movie “Andrei Rublev” when the monk is flying in a hot-air balloon. On the bank of the Sviyaga you feel free from the stone jungle of the city and noisy roads. All around is the river, the sky and small houses.
Equally beautiful views of the river open from the wall of communards and from the site with the ruins of the Church of the Annunciation. Both of these points are next to each other, on opposite sides of Christmas Square.
When we came here, we saw only two artists and a girl with a book. I think it’s a perfect place to get away from the noise of the city.
The buildings of the Artisan School and Fire Brigade are also located on Rozhdestvenskaya Square. The buildings are small and made of red brick. A wooden tower of fire tower rises above them. It’s impossible not to notice it.
The buildings were built in 1870-1910. At various times there was the town council, men’s and women’s parochial schools, a fire brigade, a prison, a boarding school for visually impaired children and other organizations. Now the complex of buildings has a visitor’s center and an art gallery of the Sviyazh museum-reserve. Admission for adults costs 150 R, for students and seniors – 100 R, students and children under 7 years are allowed free of charge.
A mantelpiece rises above the fire cart. It originally stood here when the building was built, but was later lost. It was only restored in 2015. You can go up to the watchtower and look at the island from above. Adult ticket costs 250 P, for seniors, students and schoolchildren – 200 P. Children under 8 years old are not allowed on the fire tower – I had to go up there alone, and leave the child with my husband.
There is a price for a ticket to the fire tower.
There are beautiful views from the fire tower, but you can’t spend more than five minutes at the top: there is very little space. You look, take a picture – and you can go down. My husband said: “It’s good that we didn’t go alone.” He was satisfied with the photo.
“The Lazy Torzhok” is officially called a complex of historical reconstruction. It reminded me a small fair with a lot of paid entertainment.
On the site of the museum-reserve is written that visitors can be transported back to the Middle Ages: to shoot a bow, learn to throw axes and try on the image of a warrior. Each service costs 100 P . There is also a forge and a pottery workshop. We did not go there because we had already been to similar places. I was interested in the crossbow range, but the line to shoot was too long.
There are costume festivals: Shrovetide and New Year celebrations, knight fights. In the autumn there is a gastronomic festival “Sviyazhskaya Ear”. The program includes fishing, a procession in costumes of mermaids, watermen and fish, as well as a competition in cooking ukha.
The Virgin Dormition Sviyazhsky monastery is usually one of the first to be seen by tourists: it is visible even from the parking lot. The monastery is a large complex of buildings. Outwardly, it reminded me of the Rostov Kremlin – perhaps this impression is due to the white color of the walls.
The monastery was founded in 1555 and since then has been constantly rebuilt. So today on its territory there are temples and buildings of different epochs. The Dormition Cathedral and St. Nicholas’ refectory church were built in the mid-16th century, brotherhood blocks – at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries, and the fence, which stretches for almost a kilometer, – in the 18th and 19th centuries. Architects will probably tell you about the differences in the buildings, but I did not notice them. True, all buildings are neat and look harmonious.
In the Assumption Cathedral is preserved full cycle of frescoes from the era of Ivan the Terrible. There are only two monasteries in Russia, where you can see such paintings. The second is the Spaso-Preobrazhensky Monastery in Yaroslavl. One of the most famous images in the Assumption Monastery is a lifetime portrait of Ivan the Terrible and his boyars.
Unfortunately, I could not see these frescoes: visitors are allowed in the cathedral five times a day and only for half an hour. Visiting hours are strictly defined: 10:00, 11:30, 12:30, 15:00 and 17:00.
Food There are several cafes and restaurants on the island: “Traktir”, “Bujan”, “Fisherman’s Farmstead”. We didn’t go there: we had read on “Tripadvisor” that the food was not always delicious and the service was long, and we didn’t want to pay money for it. So we took some fruit and water with us.
Next to the “Lazy Little Market” we found a kiosk, in front of which samovars were smoking and cones were lying in baskets. Here we bought herbal tea with hot puffed pancakes – it was delicious. The kiosk also sold compote for 50 R and mulled wine for 80 R per glass.
Souvenirs. Tourists buy magnets, postcards, ceramic figurines and plates with the inscription “Sviyazhsk” and “Kazan”. There are also edible gifts: mead, various kinds of honey, jams and fruit marshmallows.
Most of all I liked the jewelry: earrings and pendants, stylized as the Tatar national ones. For example, the seller asked 350 R for a pair of earrings, but I could not decide on the color. In the end I decided not to buy them at all.
Restrictions due to the coronavirus. As in other cities in Russia, you have to wear masks indoors. In church I had to wear a scarf and a mask at the same time – it looked specific. There are dispensers with antiseptic even in churches.
Top 25: Sightseeing on Sviyazhsk Island worth visiting
Brief description Preparing for the decisive campaign against Kazan, Ivan the Terrible decided to create a bridgehead to attack the capital of the Kazan Khanate, for which purpose in 1551 he laid the island-town of Sviyazhsk. Since its foundation the city has become one of the centers of Orthodoxy in the Volga region, and thanks to that has grown with monasteries and temples. Today in Sviyazhsk you can find monuments of religious architecture of different centuries and styles, starting with the founding of the city five hundred years ago. The beauty of Sviyazhsk is that the island-town is a big museum, where all the attractions are located in close proximity to each other. Thanks to this, one day will be enough to visit all the iconic places of Sviyazhsk, but we’ll tell you which ones you should pay attention to first.
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Where to go and what to see in Sviyazhsk in 1 day by yourself?
The most interesting and beautiful places of Sviyazhsk Island, photos and description.
1. State Historical-Architectural and Art Museum-Reserve “Island-town of Sviyazhsk”
The capture of Kazan was not given to Ivan the Terrible at the first attempt, so in order to gain a foothold on the conquered territories, he ordered the construction of the fortress city of Sviyazhsk on one of the Volga islands. The construction of the fortress took place in 1551 and proceeded apace, and in the next year the king and his squad finally managed to defeat the Tatars and capture the city. After this, Sviyazhsk received the status of one of the main Orthodox cities of the region, from which the pilgrims moved to neighboring towns to preach the Christian faith in the conquered lands. Over its centuries-long history, many monasteries and temples have been built in Sviyazhsk, abounding in traditional Russian architecture. Most of the architectural ensemble has been preserved in excellent condition, and each building has its own unique history, so it is worth telling about them separately.
2. Museum of the History of Sviyazhsk
It keeps in its funds the largest collection of different exhibits, telling about the most important pages in the history of the city, starting from the middle of the XV century to the beginning of the XX. The museum is divided into several sections, each of which presents a unique exhibit. Building 2 houses an exposition illustrating the most striking events in Sviyazhsk during the revolution of 1917 and the Civil War that followed. The exhibition in Building Three will tell about Russian prisons and the work of the defenders of order in the 16th-20th centuries, including the subject of repression in the 1930s. The fourth building is devoted to temporary exhibitions, devoted not only to the island’s history, but also to its culture and art, because many writers and artists were once fascinated by the old Russian city. The most interesting exhibition, devoted to the early history of Sviyazhsk, is in the main building, where a mock reconstruction of the town as it was during Ivan Vasilievich’s lifetime is also presented.
Address: 22 Uspenskaya Street, Sviyazhsk.
3. museum of archeological wood “Tatar Slobodka
For our ancestors, wood was almost the most important material from which they built houses, made tools, weapons, vehicles, etc. Tatar Slobodka” wood museum is called an archeological museum for a reason, because most of the exhibits are the original parts of ancient houses, labor and household items, placed on the territory of a huge pavilion. In addition to more than 100,000 artifacts of the XV-XX centuries, you can see ceramic and stone items, whose age is estimated at thousands of years. There is also a very interesting and impressive exhibit – the panel “Sviyazhsk of the XVII century”, where hundreds of characters, involved in dozens of scenes, show how people used to live.
Address: Sviyazhsk, 42 Sviyaga River Embankment.
4. the Art Gallery of Museum-Reserve
In the XIX century this building was a fire-fighting brigade, but nowadays it houses an art gallery. Sviyazhsk temples have always been famous for their frescoes and paintings, some of which had to be moved into the museum, in order to preserve them for future generations. Some of the most famous works are paintings that used to be a part of the interior decoration of the Cathedral of the Mother of God. There are also many different icons in the gallery, both old and painted by modern masters, among which the works of icon painter Maxim Sheshukov occupy a special place. And, of course, there are many views of the island town of Sviyazhsk, which has always been a source of inspiration for many Russian and foreign painters.
Address: Sviyazhsk, 1a Rozhdestvenskaya pl.
5. Museum of the Civil War
At history lessons we have heard about the events in Moscow and St. Petersburg during the October Revolution and the Civil War, but it was in Sviyazhsk and its surroundings at the end of the summer of 1918 began one of the most important battles between the opposing sides. For a month the Whites fought off the Reds, entrenched in the vicinity of Sviyazhsk. As a result of bloody battles, the Red Army soldiers managed to take Kazan in September and continue the offensive. Shortly before the fateful events in one of the old estates of Sviyazhsk stayed famous revolutionary Leo Trotsky. Now there is a museum in the manor, where the atmosphere of that epoch is reconstructed, as well as Trotsky’s cabinet with some things that belonged to the great revolutionary personally. The other part of the exhibition is devoted to the battles in the vicinity of Sviyazhsk in 1918. Among the exhibits are authentic artifacts of the time: guns, pistols, uniforms, banners, personal belongings of soldiers, letters, photo cards, etc.
Address: Sviyazhsk, 8 Moskovskaya Street.
6. Exhibition Hall “The Old Water Tower”.
Although the building does not look like a typical water tower, it used to be one until the end of the last century. No records concerning the exact date of its construction have been found, but most historians agree that the hydraulic structure appeared at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. In the 1980s, employees of the institute “Spetsproektrestavratsiya” proceeded to the study of all potential architectural and historical monuments Sviyazhsk, in order to restore them in the foreseeable future. Then the water tower caught their eye, and although it had many discrepancies with the original appearance, it was restored as close to the original as possible, thanks to the drawings found. The tower is no longer the city water supply system, but one of the many museums is situated inside it.
Address: Sviyazhsk, 1 Nikolskaya ul.
7. Museum of Artist Gennady Arkhireev
Today it is impossible to imagine Kazan without a painter Gennady Arkhireev, which is as integral part of this region as old monasteries and ramshackle wooden churches. Arkhireev was born in Sviyazhsk in 1949 and during his lifetime managed to become one of the most recognizable artists of his native land. He did not like to sell his paintings, painted only out of love for art and did not seek fame, but, as often happens, fame found it itself. The subjects of his paintings mainly revolved around Kazan nature and architecture, Arkireev masterfully transferred on canvases the gardens drowning in lilacs, sun-drenched domes of churches and villages still sleeping before dawn. After the artist’s death a museum was opened in Sviyazhsk, where the creators were able to accurately convey the atmosphere of the artist’s apartment, where he lived and worked. Many personal belongings were donated to the museum by the widow of Gennady Arkhireev, and the main exhibits are, of course, mysterious and attractive paintings of the legendary painter.
Address: Sviyazhsk, Trinity Street, 4.
8. Center for children’s leisure “Fairy tale
Children are unlikely to be interested in the history of Sviyazhsk and peculiarities of architecture of its temples, unless, of course, this information is presented correctly. This is exactly what the center of children’s leisure “Skazka” does, the staff of which tells about the history of the island taking into account children’s perception. The program is filled with interactive elements and contests, through which children learn in simple and clear language about the formation and development of Sviyazhsk, get acquainted with the biographies of famous personalities and join the study of nature of the region. “Fairy tale” is a great way to diversify your vacation for those who travel with children and want to broaden the horizons of their children.
Address: Sviyazhsk, 20 Uspenskaya Street.
9. Garden of reflection
Sviyazhsk is closely connected with the name of Leo Tolstoy, or rather with his ancestors, three of whom served in Sviyazhsk as governors. Leo Tolstoy himself spent a large part of his youth in Kazan, whose nature and history must have influenced the future writer. In 2012, an orchard with fruit trees was planted on the island, and apple trees were brought specially for it from Tolstoy’s manor in the Tula region. Six years later, the garden received its present name – the Garden of Reflections, thanks to the plates with the wise sayings of Tolstoy and other writers and philosophers. In addition to spiritual enrichment, you can also enrich yourself culturally in the Garden of reflections, because there are regularly held theatrical performances for all ages.
Address: Sviyazhsk, Monastyrsky Lane, 15.
10. Sviyazhsky Assumption Monastery
Three years after the defeat of the Tatars the Kazan Diocese was established, then began the construction of the Dormition Monastery in Sviyazhsk. For most of its existence, the monastery was beloved by the Russian tsars and therefore always had enough land and funds for existence. Until the 18th century the monastery was considered the richest in the area, but the secularization reform of Catherine the Great forced the monks, who remained no more than 20 people, to significantly reduce spending. However, this was not so bad compared to the fact that after 1918 the monastery was turned into a hospital for the mentally ill. It took almost 90 years for the faithful to be allowed to return to the monastery. After several years of work, the centuries-old frescoes of exceptional historical and cultural value were restored.