If you have only one day to relax and run away from routine, the best decision is to go to one of the cities of Golden Ring. That is the famous group of ancient Russian towns, which were strong and high developed many centuries ago. And now they are small and nice. You can get there usually for 2-4 hours by car or train, walk there, looking for ancient ruins and go back the same day. But what is really great in these kind of trips is that you will have feeling, that you spent not just one day, but the whole weekend traveling, because these trips present you a bunch of impressions.
Having visited almost all towns of Golden Ring we started thinking about Velikiy Novgorod, which is very special, because of the following reasons:
- Velikiy Novgorod is the most powerful and strong city of ancient Russia. Reading historical books you see, that it was always the reachest, the biggest, the most developed city in Russia in its very beginning. So, it seems, that the biggest castles, ruins, and ancient churches should be there.
- That city is much farther from Moscow than other ancient cities. So, you will not just get into the car and drive there. You have to plan your trip.
How to get to Velikiy Novgorod
Velikiy Novgorod is well-located, right between Moscow and Saint-Petersberg. And it is a good idea to get there for a couple of hours on your way if you are traveling between two Russian capitals.
But here I am telling about 1-day trip, so, you’ve got two options.
That option seems really hard. The distance from Moscow – 540 km – is not very comfortable. So, probably it is possible to get up early in the morning and start your trip and to get back after midnight. But traffic jams on your way back and fatigue, which is guaranteed, make that option not very attractive. On the other hand, if you have more, than one day, that is a good idea to take a car and spend a night in the city, but be sure, there is nothing to do in Velikiy Novgorod for two days.
That is the option that we chose. There are two trains:
- Moscow – Velikiy Novgorod: departs at 10:05 p.m. and arrives at 06:24 a.m.
- Velikiy Novgorod – Moscow: departs at 09:20 p.m. and arrives at 05:15 a.m.
That seems really comfortable and it really is: you will have the whole day to spend in Velikiy Novgorod, you do not care about parking, toll roads, traffic jams etc. On the other hand, it seems, that the trains, which go between Velikiy Novgorod and Moscow, were produced in the nineteenth century, and your nights will not be the best in your life.
Be informed, that taking the tickets on Russian railways official website you should choose “Новгород на Волхове”. I still do not know why Russian railways think, that we know all names of railway stations as they are named in their databases, but there is no option “Velikiy Novgorod”, only “Новгород на Волхове”.
What to do
To walk. To walk and pretend how people lived here centuries ago. That is a good feature of old historic towns in Russia – everything interesting is located in the city center. It is not more than 20 minutes to go from the railway station and you are in front of the big fortress – local kremlin. It is huge, it is great, it is the most interesting castle, that I’ve seen in Russia.
It is the real fortress as it should be: it has strong walls, towers, the real moat with the bridge from three sides and a river from the forth. Until the main touristic places and tourist centers are opened I recommend just walk around the kremlin. It will take about 30 minutes. And while you are walking just think about the assault of castles like this: how could it be even possible? Fantastic.
I am advising you to take an audioguide in one of the touristic centers, for example, the red cottage, which is located near the kremlin (information plates are everywhere, you won’t be lost).
The price of audioguide is 400 RUR (6.5$). The walking with audioguide takes about 3 hours, you will learn a lot, really a lot, you will walk in your pace, listening comments in your language.
After these three hours, the main thing will be done. Seriously, the town is very cool, the kremlin is amazing, but there is nothing to do in Velikiy Novgorod after spending 5 hours there unless you are traveilng in summer and you can spend some time on the sand beach. By the way it is clean, it has free volleyball and workout courts, and it is located right under the kremlin walls. The view is fantastic.
Where to eat
I will recommend here several places, that we visited and really loved.
After a quite horrible night on the train, you will have to drink coffee immediately. There is a nice small coffee point near the central railway station. It is not pointed in other guides, but it is located on Nevsky square.
Nice people work there, coffee is rather good and the prices are not high. That is right what you need in the morning.
I will recommend a quite unusual pace for lunch – Dom byta. It is a small street food place, but inside it is like the small restaurant, the interior is excellent. The food and beverages are very tasty and…unusual. Despite having lunch in the street food place I bet you will sit there for a couple of hours.
Some special place for dinner. Let’s just admit, before the night on the train and after a long day, you will have to drink. There is a special place just on the road to the railway station – ZavodBar. Actually, there is a small alcohol plant in Velikiy Novgorod, and this bar is right near that plant. Nice atmosphere, local delicious Russian food and several types of beverages will make your evening memorable.
Total cost for 2 persons:
- Train tickets: 160$;
- Audioguide: 6$;
- Food and drinks + restaurants: 48$
More photos are available in Photo Gallery