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Population: 31,800
Mayor: Konstantin Shevkoplyas
Founded in 862.
Main Industries: food production, engineering, woodworking, construction materials manufacturing.
Interesting Fact No. 1. Rostov is sometimes known as Rostov Veliky ("the Great") to differentiate it from the southern city of Rostov-on-Don. Only three Russian towns are referred to as "veliky:" Veliky Novgorod, Veliky Ustyug and Veliky Rostov.
Interesting Fact No. 2. The Soviet cult comedy "Ivan Vasilievich Changes Profession" (1973) was filmed in Rostov.
Sister Cities: Stevens Point, Wisconsin, U.S.; Jamsa, Finland; Chernihiv and Makarov, Ukraine; Nimes, France.
Helpful Contacts: Alexander Shevtsov, head of the Rostov administration. (+7 485-366-3485,

Modern-day Rostov is a small and quiet touristy town in the central Yaroslavl region, with several main streets dominated by two-story buildings. It is situated about 200 kilometers from Moscow, on the bank of Lake Nero, whose serene beauty adds to Rostov's small-town charm.

In its heyday — almost a thousand years ago — the city was the capital of the Rostov-Suzdal principality, one of the richest parts of medieval Rus. Founded and developed during the ninth and 10th centuries, it soon became a center of handicrafts and trade, due to its advantageous location along the Volga trade route.

Rostov endured repeated invasions during its early history, and in the 15th century, it lost its political independence and joined the Moscow principality. It remained a major religious center and pilgrimage site. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Rostov was home to one of the most famous trade fairs and became the center of "finift" art, a type of painting on metal and enamel.

By the 20th century, Rostov had become a quiet, provincial town and its development had ground to a halt. Ironically, it was given a new lease of a life by a natural disaster: In 1953, a hurricane destroyed almost all of the Rostov kremlin's elaborate, onion-domed roofs, necessitating major renovation work. As a result of the work, the kremlin was fully restored and included in the well-trodden Golden Ring tourist route of historic towns around Moscow. Its addition to the circuit provided a stimulus for the construction of new hotels and restaurants and an overall upgrading of the town.

What to Do If You Have 2 Hours

Rostov's main site of interest is its kremlin, built in the 17th century as the residence of the city's metropolitan. But unlike other kremlin fortresses in Russia, the Rostov kremlin was not planned as a defensive structure. The walls and numerous impressive towers of the Rostov kremlin are for decorative purposes only.

For MT
Konstantin Shevkoplyas,
Acting Mayor
Q: What festivals are held in Rostov?
A: Rostov is well known for its international and national festivals dedicated to culture and history. Among the international events, the most important are the festival of medieval monastery culture, the festival of the Rostov onion, devoted to onion cultivation traditions, and the "Living Past" festival of music and handicrafts, when the atmosphere of a medieval town is recreated and ensembles sing Russian epics, historical songs and sacred chants. Interregional events include the Rostov souvenir fair, the Sarskoye Gorodishche (ancient settlement) festival of historical re-enactment clubs and the Alyosha Popovich Russian bogatyr festival.

Q: What plans are there for Rostov's development?
A: Rostov has a complex investment development plan that started being implemented in 2010. The program includes road reconstruction, improving the gas supply and building a stadium and cultural development center where film screenings and exhibitions will be held. This year the project to restore Lake Nero's natural environment got under way. There are also plans to set up a multifunctional industrial park housing industrial companies, an agrotechpark, residential area and related activities. The project's implementation will attract financing and allow Rostov to reach a new level of economic and cultural development.

Q: What is the outlook for tourism in Rostov?

A: Tourism in Rostov is developing rapidly: Last year there were 120,000 more visitors than in the year before. We intend to increase the number of tourists, places to stay and jobs. The main trends are the increasing popularity of weekend trips thanks to events, and the growth of the bed-and-breakfast accommodation segment. Hotels are becoming tourist destinations themselves, such as the Tsarevna-Lyagushka hotel and museum.

Q: How important for Rostov's municipal budget is tourism compared with other sources of income?
A: The main contributor to the municipal budget is land tax and a 10 percent tax on individual income. Taxes paid by companies benefitting from a special tax regime — and that is the majority of tourism firms — do not go to the municipal budget. Therefore the proportion of income from tourism does not exceed 10 percent of the budget.

— Yekaterina Tretyakova

The kremlin's territory is divided into three parts separated by walls: Cathedral Square, home to the Assumption Cathedral; Bishop Court with its museum buildings; and the Metropolitan garden, with its enormous apple orchard. Bishop Court contains several museums, the most impressive of which are the finift museum and the museum of ancient Russian art, including Rostov icons. It also boasts a panoramic viewing point from which the whole town and Lake Nero can be seen.

Visitors to the kremlin may be lucky enough to catch the distinctive Rostov chimes played by skilled bell-ringers on the 15 bells of the Assumption Cathedral. The largest bell is named Sysoi, and weighs 32 tons.

What to Do If You Have 2 Days

Thanks to Rostov's convenient location on Lake Nero, visitors can enjoy views of the town from a different perspective by hiring a boat on the lake. Swimming, however, is not recommended because of the thick layer of silt along the bottom of the lake.

The 11th-century Avraamiyev-Bogoyavlensky Monastery close to the kremlin is the oldest in Russia's northeast. According to legend, John the Apostle destroyed a pagan idol here. The monastery has its own ceramic workshop.

A 30-minute walk along the lakeshore from the town leads to the Spaso-Yakovlevsky Monastery. Its Dmitriyevsky (Sheremetyevsky) Cathedral is an impressive example of Russian classicism. It took its alternative name from Count Nikolai Sheremetyev, who funded the church's construction in gratitude to one of the monastery's monks, who the count believed had saved his wife's life. In the center of the monastery is a sacred spring with ferriferous water. It is well worth climbing the monastery's walls for the fantastic view they offer of the monastery and Lake Nero.

A third ancient religious complex, the Borisoglebsky Monastery, is located in the village of the same name, about 20 kilometers west of Rostov. Founded in 1363, its appearance has changed little since before the era of Peter the Great. It was one of the richest monasteries in the Rostov principality.

What to Do With Family

Rostov is ideal for family trips, thanks to its variety of children's activities that guarantee a fun trip for both children and adults.

The Tsarevna-Lyagushka (Frog Princess) Museum (20 Leninskaya Ulitsa, +8 485-367-5431) offers an interactive experience inspired by the Russian fairy tale of the same name.

The Bogatyr Alyosha Popovich farmstead (21A Ulitsa Frunze, +7 485-366-6003), named after a folk hero, offers a wide variety of activities, including handicraft master classes, theatrical performances of folk tales and an exhibition titled "Alyosha Popovich's Refectory."

Russky Vertograd (30 Podozerka Ulitsa, +7 485-366-2483) comprises both a hotel and several museums and exhibitions in its territory a stone's throw from the kremlin, including a museum dedicated to everyday life in a bygone age. Visitors are plunged into the world of Rostov fairy tales and legends, and can be photographed in the guise of Russian heroes — both historical and mythical.

Where to Eat

Rostov has plenty of restaurants serving traditional Russian fare.

Slavyansky (8 Sovetskaya Ploshchad, +7 485-366-2228, is Rostov's oldest and best known restaurant, having been open for 15 years. Dishes on offer include Ukha Rostovskaya (fish soup) with pikeperch from Lake Nero, pelmeny and pancakes with assorted fillings, as well traditional Russian drinks mead and kvass. As well as traditional Russian cuisine, it also offers its own original dishes.

Russkoye Podvorye (9 Ulitsa Marshala Alexeyeva, +7 485-366-4255, is located on the first floor of an eponymous hotel. It has a great choice of Russian dishes served in an interior modeled on a Russian log hut, complete with a stove, samovar, wooden tables and benches.

Alyosha Popovich (1 Ulitsa Karla Marxa, +7 485-366-1500) offers an inexpensive bite to eat, including a wide choice of ice cream, cocktails and blini. In summer there is a great view of the Rostov kremlin from the cafe's summer terrace.

Where to Stay

Moskovsky Trakt (29A Okruzhnaya Ulitsa, +7 485-366-5801, is the most upscale hotel in Rostov, despite being located relatively far from the center. It has a pond on which guests can skate in winter. Rooms start at 3,600 rubles a night.

Boyarsky Dvor (4 Kamenny Most, +7 485-366-0446, has a very convenient location opposite the main entrance to the kremlin. It offers packages comprising accommodation, meals and billiards. The cheapest option is about 6,000 rubles.

Hotel Lion (9/6 Ulitsa 50 Let Oktyabrya, +7 485-366-4949, is a more economical option, with single rooms costing from 1,400 rubles a night.

How to Get There

It takes four to five hours to get to Rostov from Moscow by bus, with stops in Sergiyev-Posad, Pereslavl-Zalessky and the village of Petrovsk. By train from the Yaroslavl station, it takes between two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half hours to get there.

Rostov's bus and train stations are conveniently adjacent, and from there the town's center can be reached on foot in about 10-15 minutes. A one-way bus or train ride costs about 600 rubles.