Set on the banks of the Svir River, Mandrogi (also known as Mandrogy, Upper Mandrogi, or Verkhny Mandrogi) makes an appearance on many Russian river itineraries that run between Moscow and St. Petersburg. Constructed in the mid-1990s on the site of a village destroyed during World War II, Mandrogi is a reproduction of a traditional 18th-century Russian settlement. The open-air museum hosts colorful wooden log houses with intricate carvings, artisan workshops, a vodka museum, a small zoo, and a bathhouse.
What We Love
Lukomorie Fairytale Meadow: Visitors can wander into this magical forest scattered with carved wooden sculptures (including knights, wizards, and even a story-telling cat) inspired by Alexander Pushkin’s epic poem "Ruslan and Ludmila."
The Banya: Sample traditional Russian-style R & R at the on-site banya, complete with a steam house, sauna, and outdoor steam tent.
Best Known For
Artisan Workshops: Several of the open-air museum's buildings house artisan studios, where you can watch demonstrations of wood carving, pottery, lacework, or painting, and pick up handicrafts as souvenirs.
Vodka Museum: It doesn't get more Russian than vodka, and this museum is dedicated to showcasing the drinking culture and the production methods behind the spirit. Peruse nearly 3,000 labels of Russian vodka on display, and of course, extend your glass for tastings.
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Who It's Best For
Souvenir Hunters: Shoppers will appreciate the opportunity to pick up handmade Russian crafts and meet the craftsmen who made them. They might even get a chance to paint traditional matryoshka dolls as take-home keepsakes.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
It's For Tourists: Call it Russia's version of Disney. Mandrogi is more of a tourist attraction than a real-life glimpse into an authentic Russian village.
Elissa Garay is a Brooklyn-based contributor to ShermansCruise who also writes for Condé Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure.