New Year the Russian Way: Five Cities for Holiday Breaks

PHOTO by Said Tsarnaev / RIA Novosti
Rambler.Travel shares some of the best Russian destinations to visit during the New Year holidays

New Year's celebrations in Russia are not only limited to Moscow or St. Petersburg. Apart from well-known destinations, New Year's is widely celebrated throughout Russia's vast regions. We present you five very different, yet equally charming Russian cities to celebrate in real Russian style.

Suzdal

Bell troikas, the sound of sleighs swishing through the snow, countless churches and monasteries, fragrant sbiten, a traditional Russian winter drink, and mead – the atmospheric Suzdal is a perfect place to go for idyllic winter landscapes and culinary pleasures.

Explore Suzdal’s numerous restaurants for New Year specialties like herbal alcoholic nastoikas, pies with various fillings, honey pizza, semolina mousse with berry honey, duck kalja soup, pea kissel with grated horseradish and “grey” cabbage soup. You can also sample Russian dishes made according to recipes from the times of Peter the Great or a hunter-style menu as well as an incredible variety of meads with spices, horseradish, lime blossoms, juniper berries and pepper, anise, clover or basil.

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A sleigh ride in Suzdal

Veliky Ustyug

Veliky Ustyug, an ancient merchant town with historic churches, lovely two-storey mansions and narrow paved streets, stands on the banks of the Sukhona, the largest river in the Vologda region.

Veliky Ustyug has recently risen to fame as the home of Father Frost, the kind spirit of winter. The Russian Santa’s official residence, with its magnificent throne room and a fun programme of workshops in wood-carving, lace-making and other folk crafts, rubs shoulders with Father Frost’s Magic Post Office and the Museum of New Year and Christmas Decorations.

Located about half an hour’s drive from the town centre is Father Frost’s stronghold with a two-storey palace, a zoo, a smithy, a workshop and a children’s theme park with rides. There are several hotels and restaurants on the premises. In winter, you can travel around the estate on snowmobiles, some of which are disguised as Russian stoves. This unlikely vehicle is a humorous reference to a folk tale “Yemelya and the Pike,” in which the hero rides on top of a magic self-driving stove straight to the Tsar’s palace.

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The palace of Father Frost in Veliky Ustyug

Pereslavl-Zalessky

Christmas parties, tea-drinking traditions and cheese tasting: a holiday in Pereslavl will immerse you into an authentically Russian atmosphere. Take a leisurely stroll in the spectacular Russian Park on the steep bank of Lake Pleshcheyevo. If the day is breezier, a glass of hot mead or sbiten will keep you warm inside.

Visit Pereslavl’s Museum of Ingenuity with a fascinating display of clever peasant tools and household utensils dating from the 17th to 19th centuries. Part of the Museum’s exhibition is focused on traditional local crafts and trades.

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St. Nicholas Monastery in Pereslavl-Zalessky

Kazan

Enjoy a walk along historic Bauman Street, admire the ancient Kazan Kremlin and Qol Sharif Mosque, and sample chak-chak, qistibi and other traditional Tatar dishes. Kazan is a perfect place to plunge into a winter fairy tale.

Speaking of plunges, be sure to visit Riviera, one of Russia’s largest water parks. The park contains around 50 slides, pools and rides, along with a children’s zone as well as surfing and scuba diving areas. It would take a couple of days to try all of the Park’s facilities. The 80-meter-long outdoor pool in the centre of the water park never cools below +30°С and can be used in winter.

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A street in Kazan

Myshkin

The name “Myshkin” comes from the Russian word meaning “little mouse,” so it is hardly surprising that the mouse has become the town’s main tourist brand. Myshkin is an excellent choice for a family holiday as your little ones will certainly enjoy an outing to the world’s only Mouse Museum or the Valenki Museum with its colourful collection of traditional Russian felt boots.

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The Mouse Palace of Myshkin

Don’t forget the fairy-tale-like Mouse Palace, a tourist centre which runs a rich interactive game programme for children and even offers tours of a mousery. Adult visitors wishing to broaden their horizons of Russian banquet traditions can take advantage of the Mouse Palace’s alcohol-tasting programme entitled “Having Fun Myshkin-Style.”

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Gate Chapel of the 19th century, an open-air museum in Myshkin