Pskov is a charming old town, a Russian ancient architectural monument with 2000 years of history. Pskov is well known throughout the world for its ancient fortresses, cathedrals and architectural ensembles. Pskov has absorbed the history and the traditions of the Russian land, it became one of the spiritual centers in Russia. It was in these places that such personalities like holy Princess Olga and her grandson – Prince Vladimir, the Baptizer of Rus’ were born. The impregnable Kremlin, which has preserved well to our day is considered the heart of Pskov.
The fortress of Pskov was conquered only once – and it didn’t happen due to vulnerability but because of treachery.
People usually come here not just to wonder the old streets but to worship the holy places too. Pskov region houses the Pskovo-Pechersky Dormition Monastery, which is one of the largest male Orthodox monasteries with cave complex. The prayer Ministry does not stop since the day of its foundation — 550 years. Pskov houses the Izbork fortress as well, and it offers a spectacular view of the valley and lake Jeraviye. At just one hour-drive south from Pskov, the Pushkin Reserve is located, here lived, created and now rests the great Russian poet.
Pskov Airport (Аэропорт Псков) (IATA: PKV) have flights from Moscow Domodedovo and Saint-Petersburg Pulkovo airport three days a week. From Domodedovo on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. As of March 2014 the lowest fare is 5000 RUB return tickets. From Pulkovo on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday . As of March 2014 the lowest fare is 1400 RUB return tickets. Check availability on the airlines website, because of frequently schedule time changes.
From Saint Petersburg
There are two daily long-distance trains departing from Saint Petersburg’s Vitebskii Station bound to Lithuania and Latvia which make a stop in Pskov. Both of the trains depart from Saint Petersburg in the evening and arrive around midnight so be sure to warn your hotel that you will check-in late. Also there is a commuter train (elektrichka) departing from Baltiskii Station six days a week (no schedule on Tuesdays). The train departs at 7:25AM and arrives to Pskov at 11:30AM, this train usually has a lot of passengers so if you want to have a seat by the window (or any seat at all, for that matter) make sure to arrive beforehand. As of August 2012 the ticket costs 464 RUB.
A daily night train leaves Moscow each evening at 4:55PM from the Leningradsky station and arrives to Pskov the next day at 7:30AM.
There are two daily commuter trains and also the commuter train and both long-distance trains from Saint Petersburg make a stop in Luga
A long-distance train departs from Minsk two times a week, on Monday and Thursday.
Daily train from Riga to Saint Petersburg makes a stop in Pskov.
Daily train from Vilnius to Saint Petersburg makes a stop in Pskov.
There are several daily bus routes from Saint Petersburg. The travel times given below are according to schedule, and of course they are subject to change due to road work and weather conditions.
- From bus station №2 you can ride on one of the serveral long-distance buses which make a stop in Pskov. The cost of the ticket is 420 RUB as of August 2012. The travel time is around 5 hours and 20 minutes. The bus staion is locates at Nberezhnaya Obvodnogo Kanala, 36 close to Obvodny Kanal metro station.
- There is a dedicated bus service between Saint Petersburg and Pskov run by a company located in Pskov. Tickes must be booked in advance by phone call or through the web-site and the price is 500 RUB as of August 2012. The buses depart from Park Inn Pulkovskaya hotel, located close to Moskovskaya metro station. The travel time is 4 hours.
- Ecolines operates two routes to Pskov. The buses depart from Vitebskii train station, close to Pushkinskaya metro station, Ecolines office is located there as well. The travel time is around 5 hours.
History of Pskov
The first written mention of Pskov (the modern Pskov) dates back to the year of 903, but according to the archaeological excavations the first Slavic settlement on the territory of Pskov Kremlin already existed in the 9th century. Scientists estimate that Pskov’s age is about 1500-2000 years. From 10th to 12th century Pskov was part of the Old Russian state and later – of the Novgorod land. Officially the division of Pskov and Novgorod took place only in 1348, under the terms of the Bolotovski agreement, the city then becomes the capital of Pskov Vechev Republic. In 1510 Pskov became part of the Moscow State, which in 1521 became a single Russian Principality.
Pskov fortress (now Pskov Kremlin) has played an important role in the Livonian war, while during the Second World War the town was badly damaged. In 1944, Pskov became the center of Pskov region, and in 2010 it obtained the title of «City of Military Glory».
Historically Pskov was divided in 4 districts. The center includes Pskov Kremlin and the territory around it, in the north, across the river Pskov, lays Zapskovye, in the West, across the Velikaya river – Zavelichye and in the south and south-east – Zavokzale.
From a tourist point of view the Central district is the most attractive. It is full of architectural, memorial, and historical monuments. Zapskovye is a quiet and green part of the city where are located the Trubinski mansions, Gremyachaya Bashnya, House of Clergy, church of Epiphany with a belfry, Constantine and Helena church ensemble, and Elijah’s church from the Wet meadows. In Zavelichye, although located on the other side of the historic center, churches from 12th-18th centuries and monasteries survived – Holy-Mirozhsky and John the Baptist. The Valleys of the Velikaya and Pskov rivers, with their historic parks and public gardens, are protected by the state as natural components of the urban ensemble.
Pskov is a small town. Public transportation is represented exclusively by buses. The bus routes, which are more than 60, connect all areas of the city. The fare is 20 RUB (~0.33 EUR)— paid directly to the conductor. Prices are listed for March 2015.
In Pskov it is not common to catch a taxi in the street. It is better to order by phone or to find a cab on special parkings, which are abounding here.
There are several taxi companies in the city. To call a cab one should dial the short numbers which are usually written on the cars. The minimum cost for a trip is 100 (~1.5 EUR) RUB. On average a taxi ride around the city will cost no more than 200 RUB.
What to bring
The traditional crafts of Pskov are first of all – the hand forging, wrought iron handle holders, nails, staples and many other blacksmith products. The amazing pottery – pots, mugs, Krynki, whistles, handmade toys. All of this can be found in souvenir shops, in the House of Crafts, for instance, where is presented a wide assortment of products from birch bark, wicker, pottery, paintings on canvas and batik, ceramic works of Pskov blacksmiths, embroidered and woven rugs, tablecloths, napkins and much more.
In Menshikov mansions, one of the attractions of civil buildings of the first half of the 17th century, one can attend the exhibition of paintings by Pskov’s artists and buy traditional Tskov ceramics and pottery products.
Other souvenir shops are: Chambers of Clerks, Exhibition Hall of the Union of Artists, the salon-shop “Gonchar”, Mirozhsky monastery, Pskov museum-reserve Shop.
Pskov cafés and restaurants
In Pskov, not only the museums will immerse you in the distinctive atmosphere of antiquity, but the restaurants as well. Here to dine in chambers of the 17th century or interiors of wooden huts are a common thing. There are catering places, literally inscribed in the fortress walls. The atmosphere and the menu of these establishments are accordingly – meals of the Russian old cuisine and Pskov’s signature dishes are served here. The price list depends on the level of institutions – an average dinner in the restaurant will start at 1000 RUB. One serving of barbecue (shashlik) on a terrace with the view of the Kremlin is 250 RUB. There are in the city some democratic cafeterias as well, they offer simple and tasty meals at no more than 200 RUB.
Entertainment and attractions in Pskov
Tourists come to Pskov for its attractions and most importantly to see Pskov’s fortress which, by the way is the largest fortress in Europe. Five protective rings, including Pskov Kremlin – the heart of the complex, is a monument of the Russian defense architecture, called Krom. It is one of the most beautiful architectural ensembles in the entire Russia with historical and cultural value. Krom is located on the cape, at the confluence of rivers Velikaya and Pskov. It includes: Dovmont Town, Chambers of Clerks and many other historic buildings and towers; there is an observation deck on Vlasievskaya tower.
In Pskov it is preferable to take a walk in the evening, when one can listen to the ringing bells of the 17th century and the singing of the bishop’s choir at the service of the Holy Trinity Cathedral. There are many temples in Pskov – ancient ones with a 1000 years of history and very “young” ones, counting up to 200-300 years. The white stone merchants’ chambers are much older than Peter and Paul fortress in St. Petersburg. The main sanctuary of Pskov is the Holy Trinity Cathedral. It was erected at the site where according to the legend, princess Olga saw three rays of light converging together. It was here, in the Holy Trinity Cathedral where Alexander Nevsky prayed for victory in the Ice battle. Mirozhsky monastery in Zavelichye, is a repository for ancient frescoes. Wall paintings of the 12th century, which have no analogues neither in Russian art, nor in Byzantine art of this period, have been preserved in the Holy Transfiguration Cathedral, the temple of pre-Mongol period.
For many years in the Trinity Cathedral were stored two swords, symbolizing the independence and the military prowess of Pskov. One of them has the following inscription: «honorem meum nemini dabo».
A unique collection of ancient icons, rare weapons and medieval silver are stored in the museum-reserve Pogankiny Chambers. Gremyachaya tower, located on the right bank of the river Pskov, is the most mystical place in the city and it is associated with numerous legends about the captive princess, treasure and evil spirits, winding their searchers to perdition. It is a must to visit the museums of the city. In the literary museum “ Two Captains” are collected thematic exhibits dedicated to the eponymous work of the Pskov writer, Veniamin Kaverin. In the Railway Museum one can see the exposition about the history of railway – from the beginnings to the present day. Downstream the Velikaya river, on the outskirts of modern Pskov the Snetogorsky monastery is located. The name comes from the word «dare» – whitebaid — the name of a tiny fish, which Pskov is famous for. The stone cathedral is the oldest preserved monastery building of Pskov.
5 things you should do in Pskov
- Climb Vlasyevsky tower to overlook Pskov from the height of bird flight.
- See the 12th century frescoes in Mirozh monastery.
- Dine in the white stone houses of the 17th century.
- Make a wish at the sword of Prince Dovmont.
- Count down the 10 churches in the city center.
Snetogorsky monastery in the name of the Nativity of the Blessed Mary, founded in the 13th century on the top of mountain Snyatnaya, in the bend of the Velikaya river is today one of the oldest monasteries in Pskov.
The architectural ensemble of the monastery is represented by Nativity of the Blessed Mary and the Church of St. Nicholas. Additionally, on the territory of the monastery remained ruins of the so-called “Snetogorsky candles” or “Snetogorsky pillar” (on account of its great height of 63 meters) – the bell towers with the Ascension Church. The Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Mary was erected in 1311 in the likeness of the Transfiguration cathedral of Mirozhsky monastery and it is famous for its frescoes, which constitute an ancient Russian monument of monumental art.
Church of St. Nicholas, built in 1512, is today the only active temple in the monastery.
Pskov for children
Children will definitely enjoy Pskov as much as the adults. The Forging yard is mostly a boys’ point of interest, they will have the chance to learn what a real blacksmith shop is, and to see the masterpieces of local craftsmen. The exhibits of the Chambers of Clerks will tell how the city was managed in the old days. This museum has democratic rules – it is allowed to touch exhibits and take photos at the knights’ table. The local Planetarium with a stellar hall that can accommodate 60 people, will help you grasp better the mysteries of the unknown galaxies.
The spirit of adventures and risky journeys is guarded in the kaverinsky museum «Two captains» – this is the place to bring your teenagers. As for the little kids, instead of taking them to a museum, go to the Bird yard in Pogorelka village, only at 5 km from the city.
Beside the huge bird farm with a great variety of birds, from chickens to peacocks, there can be seen other animals too, like: raccoons, rabbits, deer, pigs. The Ferris wheel and rides are waiting for young travelers in the Botanical Garden and Pushkin Culture and Leisure Park .
In addition to the children’s menu, the café «Chocolate» offers balloons and coloring.
The weather in Pskov is as unpredictable as in St. Petersburg. Tourists should not forget their umbrellas — clarity may be quickly replaced by rain. Pskov has a temperate climate with warm summers and winters without severe frosts. Most precipitation falls in late autumn. It’s not too pleasant here during the off-season. The best time to visit the city is from May to September during the Christmas holidays. September is a favorable month to visit Pushkin Museum-reserve.
Hotels in Pskov
The small town of Pskov has a wide choice of various accommodation options — from elite spa hotels to democratic hostels. The rent for a standard double room in a mini-hotel, located within a walking distance from Kremlin, will start at 2500 RUB. The hotel accommodation in the rural area, but close to public transport, will cost cheaper — from 1000-1500 RUB per night.
It is better to book your rooms for May feasts, immediately after the winter holidays.
The most economic option is – the accommodation in hostels on the outskirts, which offer double rooms at prices starting at 4500 RUB (~66 EUR). Tourists preferring independent accommodation, can rent an apartment in Pskov, by the day or longterm. Depending on the location, the cost of single-room flats, will start at 1500 RUB.