Suzdal is the crown jewel of the Golden Ring, with more than 200 historic monuments and some of the most striking churches in Russia. This quiet tourist town of 12,000 on the Kamenka River is compact enough to be explored entirely on foot, but to do it justice, give it two days.

One of the earliest settlements in central Russia, Suzdal has been inhabited since the 9th century and was first mentioned in the Russian Chronicle (Russia's ancient historical record) in 1024. In 1152 Yuri Dolgoruky made Suzdal the capital of his growing fiefdom in northeastern Russia. He built a fortress in nearby Kideksha. That town, 4 km (2½ miles) to the east, is the site of the oldest stone church in northeastern Russia, the Church of Saints Boris and Gleb, built in 1152. His son, Andrei Bogolyubsky, preferred nearby Vladimir and focused much of his building efforts there. Still, Suzdal remained a rich town, largely because of donations to the many local monasteries and church-building commissions. Indeed, medieval Suzdal had only about 400 families, but some 40 churches.

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