If you want to escape from the hustle and bustle of the capital, less than 15 km in the south of Moscow you will find the former summer residence of the czars in the 16th and 17th centuries. Today it is an open-air museum and park with a set of highly prized buildings, most outstanding among them being the Church of the Ascension (World Heritage Site) and the Wooden Palace of Czar Alexei Mikhailovich that will transport you to the world of fairy tales.
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1. What was and what is Kolomenskoye?
Kolomenskoye is known for being the former suburban residence, estate and ranch, especially in the summer, of the Russian dukes and czars during the 16th and 17th centuries. In addition, it was one of Moscow’s first human settlements.
In this watercolor you can see Kolomenskoye in 1797:
At the beginning of the 18th cent. When St. Petersburg became the capital of Russia under Peter the Great (from 1712 to 1918), Kolomenskoye ceased being a royal residence.
In the 19th cent., the buildings constructed by the czars, a large complex of domestic structures for their accommodation and other needs, gradually deteriorated and suffered significant damage. Some of the most famous of these buildings, such as the Wooden Palace, even disappeared.
It was at the beginning of the Soviet period, on the initiative of the architect and restorer Pyotr D. Baranovsky, that they began moving old wooden buildings from different places in the USSR for permanent exhibition in Kolomenskoye.
And so there you will find a large Russian architectural and ethnographic complex, with very original buildings, all restored and spread over a large area of about 390 hectares.
In addition, Kolomenskoye rises over hills and offers splendid views of the Moskva River and sprawling parks, ravines or sites of archaeological interest.
Since 2005 this cultural and natural macrospace has been under the management of the Kolomenskoye Historical and Architectural Museum-Reserve, which also includes the Izmaliovo and Lyublino territories located elsewhere in Moscow. In fact, most of the restorations, (and there have been many), have taken place in the first decade of this 21st century.
In short, I would recommend this location above all because of its authenticity and as a picturesque site that is very popular among Muscovites who visit it when the weather is good and on weekends. It is a quiet refuge in the big city, with very good subway connections as I show below. I recommend this visit in my 5-day tour of Moscow, preferably in spring or summer and that you add a visit to the Tsaritsyno Park.
2. Tickets and Opening Hours
Kolomenskoye has 7 entrances to the complex. Entry to Kolomenskoye is free, although you will have to pay to get into the monuments, most of which are museums with themed exhibitions of different interests.
Kolomenskoye will provide you with enough to spend the whole day, although you can go straight to what may be of interest to you for about 3 hours.
Park admission schedule is as follows:
- 7 a.m. to 12 midnight. April to September
- 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. October to March.
For admission to the monuments, the schedule is as follows:
- April to September: Tuesday to Friday and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Closed Mondays.
- October to March: Tuesday to Sunday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Closed Mondays.
The offering is really large, and more so in summer, and includes a visit to various historical monuments, in addition to the opportunity to learn about special subjects such as falconry, the life of the peasants or an old Russian wedding. In Kolomenskoye many festive activities are held in the spring and summer.
It is important to know that the most important honey fairs in Russia take place in Kolomenskoye, where you can also see how beekeepers worked. There is an alcoholic drink, the medouvkha, whose main ingredients are water, honey and yeast, and you can try it in the summer. It is a tradition of Slavic origin.
The official website, http://mgomz.com/ is in English and Russian. However, most of the information as well as ticket sales are only in the local language. If you purchase the tickets online, you will have to redeem them at the ticket office. The Moscow CityPass card includes admission to the Czar’s wooden palace.
Anyway there are several ticket offices and automatic ticket machines throughout the complex. Prices usually range from 100 to 300 rubles with discounts for minors.
If you want to learn much more about this fantastic park, I suggest that you take a guided tour of Kolomenskoye.
3. What to see in Kolomenskoye: a 3-hour tour
3.1. Getting to Kolomenskoye: Maps and Location
In just about 40 minutes you can get to Kolomenskoye from downtown Moscow (about 15 kilometers south) passing through two stops on the Metro Line 2:
- Kolomenskaya, from where you will go through the north gate to visit the Wooden Architecture Museum and the Church of the Ascension, one of the two gems of Kolomenskoye.
- Kashirskaya, to get very quickly to the Wooden Palace of Czar Alexis Mikhailovich, Kolomenskoye’s other gem.
A very useful option is to get to the Kolomenskaya Metro station and tour the entire park from north to south visiting its main attractions which cover about 3 or 4 km, and exit at Kashriskaya Station.
Apart from walking tours (if you like to walk, this is your place), you can rent a bicycle or take a kind of electric tourist train that goes through the entire park. Or ride a horse or carriage. Or take a boat tour on the Moskva River from the Kolomenskoye Pier. The possibilities are endless.
Here’s a map with the 3-hour tour of Kolomenskoye that I recommend:
This is a more detailed map of Kolomenskoye for printing:
At this link you have all the permanent exhibitions at Kolomenskoye: http://mgomz.com/category/permanent-expositions
3.2. Going inside Kolomenskoye: the Museum of Wooden Architecture (25 minutes)
Next I suggest a tour of Kolomenskoye lasting about 3 hours. I’ll tell you about the main monuments and gardens that you can visit in a tour of some 3-4 kilometers from north to south, during which you can make stops. Just take some comfortable shoes.
To start this tour I recommend stopping at the Kolomenskaya Metro station, walking for about 5 minutes along Novinki Street until you reach Entrance no. 1 of the complex (as you can see on the map above).
As soon as you go past Entrance no.1 you turn left and in 5 minutes you will reach the Museum of Wooden Architecture, opened in 1923 and created by the visionary restorer P. D. Baranovsky.
It is an open-air museum with very picturesque wooden structures brought to Kolomenskoye from different regions in Russia. Most of the buildings have been restored in recent years.
Some of the most outstanding structures are:
- The Tower of the Monastery of St. Nicholas of Korela (or Korelsky), originally from the 17th cent. and the White Sea Coast. It is a symbol of spiritual strength, without any military function and is a fine work of carpentry.
- The Tower of Bratsk Fort, dating back to 1659, from the Baikal region. Defense function.
- The Mokhovaya (Moss) Tower of Sumskoy Fortress, from the same period as the other two and military in nature.
- The Wooden Church of St. George the Victorious. It dates back to 1685 and was built in northern Russia. It has two floors and was moved to Kolomenskoye in 2008. It almost retains its original appearance and is an entity by itself.
Near the Museum of Wooden Architecture is the Dutch House of Peter the Great. This was a gift from the Netherlands to Russia in 2013, transported in two Navy vessels, and an exact copy of the house in Zaandam (Holland) where Peter the Great stayed. The oldest wooden house in the country, it dates back to 1632.
On display are portraits of Peter the Great and his wife Catalina I, as well as other objects related to the life and adventures of the czar.
After visiting these buildings I recommend taking the route along the road on the banks of the Moskva River and in 10 minutes you will reach one of the two gems of Kolomenskoye: the Church of the Ascension. Throughout the tour of Kolomenskoye you can find restaurants as well as food and drink stalls.
3.3. The Church of the Ascension of the Lord and surrounding monuments (70 minutes)
Walking along the banks of the Moskva River you will be able to see in the distance the dome of the Church of the Ascension. It was erected in 1532 as a stone and brick structure but has seen many renovations over time, the last being in 2007. It served to commemorate the birth of the heir of Basil III, the world-famous Ivan the Terrible.
Unlike other Russian churches, in 1928 it was under the protection of the Soviet authorities.
It is an architectural gem with white stone façades and ends in the shape of a pyramid. It is a masterpiece of Russian and world architecture.
You won’t notice the slenderness and height of its bell tower until you get close. The Church of the Ascension stands 62 meters high, although the interior space is just over 100 m².
It is used for religious purposes but is also dedicated in part to a museum.
Next to the Ascension Church is the Water Tower (or Vodovzvodnaya), from the mid-17th cent. that used to supply water to the royal residence. Its last major renovation was in 2007.
Next to the Water Tower is the Church of St. George the Victorious (in Ascension Square), which should not be confused with the Wooden Church of the same name mentioned in the previous section. Its highlights are its refectory and bell tower.
Also striking is the Palace Pavilion, dating back to 1825 and the only remaining structure of the palace built by Alexander I, who died the year of its construction without being able to enjoy it. It hosts exhibitions and concerts.
Facing the Church of the Ascension you will see the Front Gate. It was built between 1671 and 1673 as the main access to the architectural complex of the summer residence and courtyard of the Czar. In addition, it is where foreign ambassadors entered the estate. It has also been renovated.
The complex next to the Front Gate now houses different exhibitions on the history of Kolomenskoye, as well as the daily life of the czars and workers in different chambers, spaces, buildings and courtyards, and even the Fryazhsky Winery.
As soon as you go through the Front Gate you will be at the Church of Our Lady of Kazan. From the middle of the 17th century it was the temple of the royal family during the reign of Czar Alexei Mikhailovich (1629-1676). It stands out because of its blue domes and because it houses the famous Russian icon of the Mother of God “the Sovereign”, one of the country’s most respected icons.
Beyond the Church of Kazan is the Savior Gate (or Back Gate). It was also built at the same time as the other gate in the 1670s, and served primarily as an entrance to the domestic area of the estate. Its last renovation took place at the beginning of the present century. It is named after the icon of Christ the Savior, which you will see in one of its arches.
Continuing southbound you will find the House of Czar Peter the Great, dated 1702 and from Arkhangelsk in northern Russia. It served as protection against the Swedes for Peter the Great and was relocated to Kolomenskoye in 1934. It is the only museum space in Moscow dedicated to Peter the Great. Do not confuse this house with the previously mentioned Dutch House of Peter the Great.
You will also find the Ascension Garden, featuring apple and other fruit trees. I must tell you that it is forbidden to pick apples and pears, as well as the other fruits that give the place color as they are apparently contaminated with heavy metals.
3.4. The Church of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist (25 minutes)
From the Ascension Garden you can go to see the Church of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist, whose dome you can see from a distance.
It is located on a little hill in a wooded area and you climb a set of steps to get to it.
This church dates back to 1550, the era of Ivan the Terrible, and is located in the old town of Diakovo. It was renovated in 2009.
It’s a pleasant walk lasting about 20 minutes from there through the Kolomenskoye Nature Reserve, and it will take you to the second gem of Kolomenskoye, the Wooden Palace of Czar Alexei Mikhailovich.
3.5. The Wooden Palace of Czar Alexei Mikhailovich (60 minutes)
It has a crazy history. Originally built between 1667 and 1672 by Czar Alexei of Russia, it was ordered destroyed by Catherine the Great and was mostly demolished around 1768, to be subsequently demolished completely in 1872.
In 2010 it was entirely recreated with wood from all over Russia, although it was not placed in its exact original location.
In any case, this wooden palace, a true fairy-tale dream, was declared the eighth wonder of the world in its day by its illustrious guests and visitors. It consisted of 250 rooms with very ornate interiors.
Its amazing green domes will dazzle you when you walk around and it has no less than 26 towers. I recommend that you buy a ticket to see the inside of this palace.
It is a masterful structure in terms of wooden architecture, and has a surface area of more than 7,000 m². On the inside it houses exhibitions on the life of the czars, and rooms with objects of great artistic value, such as those belonging to the czar or czarina. You can also see an old Russian banya.
It is very famous because it is represented in numerous paintings, plans or drawings preserved in archives and museums in Russia and Western Europe.
Near the czar’s Wooden Palace you have Kolomenskoye’s Exit no. 5, which will take you directly to the Kashirskaya Metro stop.
If you’ve not yet eaten or want to do some shopping, next to the Metro station you will find the Moskvorechije Shopping Center, which is where this tour of Kolomenskoye ends 🙂
I hope this article has been useful to you for touring and relaxing in this beautiful Moscow park. If you’ve found this article useful you can help me by sharing it on Twitter or Facebook. Thanks for reading me!