Vologda is one of the largest cities located in northwestern Russia. It is a nice and interesting provincial town with good-natured people who are very passionate about the letter "O". Only here can you find a monument dedicated to it! The city is a rare gem for tourists, which can provide you with a rich tour program. Who hasn't heard of the famous Vologda lace and the magnificent wooden mansions scattered all over the city? The tasty Vologda butter and carved palisades glorified in the popular Russian song ("Vologda"), are equally well-known.
The trip to Vologda will become your journey to the provincial capital of the Russian north and lace.
How to get to Vologda?
It is more convenient and economical to travel from Moscow or St. Petersburg.
This is the fastest way to get to Vologda. Flights are not daily. For example, planes from Moscow only fly on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. You can get from the airport to the city center by taxi or bus. In Vologda there are no services like Yandex.Taxi, Uber and such, but local taxis will be happy to take you anywhere in town, just dial any number from 050 to 059.
The train station is located 10 minutes away from the city's historical center. The train runs from the Moscow Yaroslavskaya railway station, and the journey takes 7.5-8.5 hours. So it is most convenient to take off to Vologda at night to sleep it through. There are 3 trains from St. Petersburg, and the journey takes from 10.5 to 12 hours.
You can use public transport or taxi to get to the place where you decided to stay. Traveling by bus or trolleybus will be cheaper if you get a pass for several rides. The fare is cheaper for senior citizens. On your first ride on a minibus you can get a pass that will allow you to pay less for a minibus ride in the future. It is cheaper to call a taxi to be picked up rather than approaching them at the railway stations.
There is no shuttle buses from Moscow to Vologda, but there is another option for bus lovers: you can take a bus with a transfer in Yaroslavl. A trip from St. Petersburg is more convenient: there are comfortable daily shuttles to Vologda, and some of them are even quicker than trains. Thus, this mode of transport may be an excellent alternative to trains.
When is the best time to visit Vologda?
Vologda is open to its visitors at any time of the year, but the best time to come is, probably, in summer, when the whole city is covered in green, and the citizens mostly go to the country or the sea. You can cycle across the whole city or wander through the many parks and squares. Summer temperature is unpredictable and may vary from +15°C to +35°C.
For those who cannot imagine living without winter, the best time to visit Vologda will be from the end of December to the beginning of March. You will have a chance to go skiing on numerous ski trails, including those following the riverbed. You will see the beauty of the historic center of the city, and skate on many ice rinks, scattered over different districts, go down the slides on a sled and a snow tube, try downhill skiing at a holiday ski resort, winter hunting, and fishing.
It is worth noting that Vologda has a "guest card". You can book it on visitvologda.ru. It gives you free bus and trolleys rides, free access to certain museums, a free walking tour through the city's historic center, discounts in partner restaurants, hotels and gift shops. You will even get a city map. But you should calculate the cost-benefit first, it may not be worth it.
Where is the best place to stay?
There will be no problems with finding a place to stay in Vologda, since there are options to suit every taste and budget. There are also hostels (7Days, Piligrim) and mini hotels. The best option is to stay at the hotels closer to the center - Guberniya, Spasskaya Hotel. The Vologda Hotel is conveniently located near the train station.
For those who prefer unusual rooms, the Biblioteka Boutique Hotel will provide you with an unusual hotel, designed in a classic style. If you cannot imagine your life without reading, then you shoud definetely visit it. Each room number is one of the world’s literature masterpieces, and book quotes are not only in the rooms, but also on the stairs and in the lobby.
If you're tired of huge and polluted cities, and you want to have a quiet family holiday, you can stop at one of the tourist bases near the city. At the "Konni" tourist base, you can visit a pet corner, collect berries and mushrooms, go to a shooting range, and try a real Russian firewood bath. Or at the "Kubensky Beach" tourist base on the shore of the Lake Kubenskoye in summer you can lie on a sandy beach, go for a swim, play some beach games, and in winter you can go fishing and rent a mobile home
In Vologda, you can easily find a place to have a delicious and inexpensive meal - O'gorod, Parizhanka, Oliva, Paprika, etc.
But if you want to try real Russian cuisine, you should go to restaurants and cafés like Chateau de Grand, P.P., Kransy Most, Smetana, Biblioteka, and Maslenitsa.
Also be sure to stop by the Zhili-byli café, situated near Vologda, in Maega village. Here you can try eco-dairy products, sourdough bread and handmade pastries.
For true beer lovers there is the Veliky Ustyug beer restaurant in town. The restaurant offers a wide range of beer snacks, dishes prepared according to ancient Veliky Ustyug recipes, and classical Bavarian beer cuisine. For all the guests, connoisseurs, and beer lovers, the restaurant serves a special branded beer.
Things To Do
There are two historical centers In Vologda: the Kremlin square and the Revolyutsii Square. Almost all Vologda cultural events take place here: concerts, parades, fairs.
The pride of all citizens of Vologda stands on the Kremlin Square - Vologda Kremlin. A cathedral church - a magnificent stone building, called the Saint Sophia Cathedral - is situated on its territory.
If you want to see Vologda from a bird's eye view, then you should climb to the top of the Bell Tower of the Vologda Kremlin. There is a small observing deck at the level of the cupola. From there you can enjoy an extraordinary, beautiful view of the city and the river, and take nice pictures of it.
In close proximity to the Vologda Kremlin, there is the first and only Lace Museum in Russia. People often call Vologda "the lace capital of Russia". Its unique exhibition includes not only the famous Vologda lace, but also more than 700 items reflecting the world history of Lace art. On the ground floor, you can buy souvenirs to remember your visit to the art shop, rest and drink coffee at a museum café, or use the museum's information terminals. Guided tours are conducted in Russian, English and French.
Walking alongside the Kremlin in the park near the Vologda River, you will see a monument dedicated to the letter "O", which reflects the Vologda dialect; and the statue of the founder of Vologda, Saint Gerasim.
On the Revolyutsii Square there is Komsomolsk Square, in the center of which is the Eternal flame memorial. Right next to it is the monument to the Civil War heroes, a white stone obelisk, popularly called "the tooth" because of its form.
Many tourists also associate Vologda with carved palisades. Monument to the Carved Palisade (a small fence in front of the house) is at the crossing of the Blagoveshchenskaya and Maltseva streets.
Vologda Ded Moroz (Slavic Santa Claus)
Everybody knows that the main residence of Ded Moroz is located in another city in the Vologda Oblast, Veliky Ustyug. But if you do not have time to visit another city, you can visit a mini-residence of Ded Moroz in Vologda. There you can visit the museum and the café, attend different open-air festivals and concerts, or just walk in the park. In winter you can find a Christmas tree here. And a special holiday program is usually held here on New Year's Eve. This mini-residence resembles the one in Veliky Ustyug. It is a pleasure to rest here - in the park you can ride a horse or a snowmobile, ride on the rides and carousels. The most important thing is outdoor recreation, everything is so bright and picturesque that it delights both children and adults.
Guests of the city who would like to become familiar with the religious life of local residents should visit one of the largest monasteries in the North, the Spaso-Prilutsky Monastery. This place is amazing in its beauty and calmness. You can get there by bus directly from Vologda. It is a male monastery, so women will need to wear long clothes and a handkerchief. It is this cultural heritage site that represents a unique ensemble of the original monastery buildings, that have stayed almost untouched since its foundation. Its architecture is unique and diverse, since at different times it changed under the influence of Novgorod, Moscow or other architects.
Vologda is, first of all, a quiet holiday town for those who would love to have a calm and relaxed rest. You will admire the beauty of the city and feel its atmosphere walking about numerous parks and squares - Park of Culture and Leisure of Veterans of Work, Kremlevskiy Garden, Komsomolsk Square, Square of Sergey Kirov, and Victory Park. But at night Vologda, except for central streets and main transport routes, is poorly lit, so you should probably not walk at night through unfamiliar districts.
Vologda has an official beach located in Mira park. You can only sunbathe or play some beach games there. It is not recommended to swim in the Vologda River (strongly not recommended!). But if you have a desire to swim on a hot summer afternoon, you should go to the Toshnya River or Lake Kubenskoye.
Active holiday lovers will find something fun to do in Vologda as well. In winter, come to the Yeremeevo village in the Vologda Oblast, where you can visit the Freestyle mountain ski complex. It is paradise for those who have a passion for active winter sports! Everyone will find something fun to do here. There are ski expeditions for leisure walks in the fresh air, and well-prepared routes and a modern mountain platter pull for the extreme sports and speed skiing fans. And ice sliding on a sled and a snow tube will bring a lot of joy to both the children and the adults.
But I personally enjoyed spending time at the Center of leisure and tourism "Y.E.S.". It is located in the village Striznevo, Vologda oblast. It is the first Dinosaur Park in the Vologda oblast. In addition, you can visit the Rope Park, Contact Zoo, ski trails of various levels of difficulty, Snow Park and Sport Pistol Club (trap-shooting) there. You can rent ski equipment, get instructor services, have a picnic, shoot the bows and crossbows, and more! More than anything else, I remember the Rope park. I was not new to it, so I did the extreme level. But the second half of the way, I was already dreaming of coming down, because it was really difficult, even for a non-beginner. But it turned out that there was no way to just come down and finish half way through! I had to finish the walkway anyway. I was very tired, but I will remember this experience for the rest of my life! So, here is the lesson: when you plan your activities, know your limits.
What to take with you from Vologda?
Leaving Vologda, do not forget to buy souvenirs for you and your family. Vologda has two places with Vologda souvenirs. The first one is right in front of the Vologda Kremlin. The location is great, you can admire the attractions and buy souvenirs at the same place. Even though it is small and discrete, you can buy lace and flax articles, and Vologda butter, honey, and sweets.
If you did not find what you had been looking for here, you will probably find it in another Vologda souvenir shop. The largest gift shop in Vologda is located at the crossroads of Mira and Chekhov streets. This shop looks like a museum or some kind of an exhibition - it is a big, cozy store with a wide selection of products and excellent service. Here you can find the Orenburg Shawls, Matryoshka dolls, sheepskin and woolen goods, Pavlovo Posad handkerchiefs, Samovars, Valenki, Northern silver niello, Vologda enamel and, of course, famous Vologda souvenirs - Vologda lace, linen goods, Vologda butter and sweets.
The most important thing that you will take from Vologda with you, besides souvenirs, is Vologda dairy products. In a town near Vologda called Tarnogrsky Gorodok you can find very tasty butter that you cannot buy from a regular store. In the town stores there is butter from the "Vologda Dairy Factory". But you can buy Tarnogrsky butter at the market. Also, be sure to try Vologda chocolate glazed cottage cheese bars.