St. Petersburg is considered the ‘Venice of the North’ and the capital Moscow is the political, cultural and historical centre of Russia.
Both these cities in Russia are unique in their own right.
We have outlined what you can expect to see on our tours to Russia and a few recommendations for your free time in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
At the very heart of the city is the Kremlin, one of the biggest active fortresses in Europe. It contains five palaces, four cathedrals, the Kremlin towers and the residence of the President of the Russian Federation. Within the Kremlin you will find The Armoury, one of the oldest museums in Moscow. The Armoury contains a dazzling display of jewellery, religious art, weapons, royal regalia and you can view the famous Fabergé Eggs.
The Bolshoi Theatre is an important landmark in Moscow and is world renowned for hosting opera, and ballet performances from the most famous ballet company, the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. Unsurprisingly tickets for Bolshoi Ballet are sold out months in advance, so if you get an opportunity to go it will definitely be an unforgettable and enjoyable experience.
St. Basil’s Cathedral
One of Russia’s most famous symbols, St. Basil’s Cathedral or Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed is a church located in the Red Square. Ivan the Terrible ordered the construction in 1554 and it was completed in 1561. Legend has it that Ivan blinded the architect so that the church’s design couldn’t be replicated elsewhere.
It’s hard to believe that travelling on a metro system could be an enjoyable experience, but the Moscow Metro is very impressive. Opened in 1935, the first metro stations were built by Soviet workers and British engineers, who were brought in to help with the construction because of their experience with the London underground. Stalin was concerned the British were learning too much about the layout of the city and they were later arrested for espionage! Leading Soviet artists created the artwork for the stations, which depicts the Soviet Union’s key milestones and successes. Every station has a unique design, so you could easily spend a whole day exploring the Moscow Metro and admiring the artwork!
Museum of Soviet Arcade Games
This quirky museum holds a collection of arcade machines that were produced in the USSR from the mid-1970s. Of course, Western culture and capitalist ideas were banned in the Soviet Union, so it’s a fascinating insight into how Marxist ideology was portrayed through arcade games, plus it’s a fun and interesting activity to do in Moscow!
The Hermitage Museum
The Hermitage Museum is located in the Winter Palace and houses a most impressive collection of art, including two pieces by Da Vinci. Whether you’re an art enthusiast or a novice, a visit to the Hermitage is highly recommended. The Winter Palace was also the official residence of the Russian Royal family from 1732 to 1917.
Museum of Russian Political History
For those who want to learn more about modern Russian history, this museum is very insightful. It used to be the Bolsheviks’ headquarters and you can see Lenin’s very own office. You could also view a statue of Lenin at Finland Station, which is approximately a 15 minute drive away from the museum. This is significant, as this is where Lenin return from exile in Switzerland in 1917 to lead the Bolshevik revolution.
Catherine’s Palace & Gardens
This was the summer residence of the Tsars, the palace was reconstructed after the German forces destroyed it during the siege of Leningrad in WW2. The gardens and pleasant walks around the lake offer a peaceful contrast to the bustling city.
You can’t go to Russia and not sample one of their most famous exports! Vodka is an integral part of Russian culture. A short guided tour at the museum will give a fascinating insight into the origin of vodka, as well as Russian history, culture, dining and drinking traditions. Afterwards you could also enjoy traditional Russian cuisine in the adjacent restaurant - Russian VodkaRoom No. 1.
Peter and Paul Fortress
Peter the Great founded the city of St. Petersburg, which remained the capital of Russia until 1917, and the fortress was the first structure in the city to be built in 1703 to defend from naval attacks from Sweden. During the 1920s, it was used as a prison and execution ground by the Bolshevik government. Located within the fortress is the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Paul where the majority of the rulers of Russia and the Romanovs, the last Russian Royal family, are buried.
Find out more about our tours to Russia.