Embark on an epic adventure when you visit the world’s largest country, spanning Europe and Asia. European cruises focus on the major cities of Moscow and St Petersburg, which boast enough impressive attractions to fill weeks of sightseeing on their own, from the grandeur of the Kremlin and Red Square to the classic art of the Hermitage. Soak in the unbeatable culture from the land that gave us Leo Tolstoy and Mikhail Baryshnikov, or get out into the great outdoors to discover charming country villages and tranquil mountain lakes.
Saint Petersburg, Russia
Russia’s capital city makes a grand, imposing impression. At its heart sits the Kremlin, the seat of power for centuries and home to a number of museums. Stroll through Red Square to gaze at the varied architecture here, from the onion-shaped domes of St Basil’s Cathedral to the memorial hall of Lenin’s Mausoleum. Don’t miss a visit to the State Historical Museum to learn more about the centuries of history here!
Built by Peter the Great, St Petersburg offers a glimpse into the extravagant grandeur of imperial Russia. Must-sees include the Hermitage art collection, extravagant Romanov palaces, and opulent Russian Museum. The Winter Palace is a highlight of these! Take in a folk show or world-renowned ballet performance at night, and spend your day cruising down the city’s network of canals to view it from a different angle.
Russia’s winters are notoriously harsh, which is why most visitors will opt to arrive between the months of May and October. From spring to autumn, the country’s mild weather invites you to get out and explore its city and country charms alike. Summer days are long and festive in the parks of Moscow, with festivals like the White Nights of St Petersburg opening the doors to cultural institutions for an array of music, dance and theatrical performances. However, this will also bring throngs of tourists to the most in-demand sights, so if you want to beat the crowds try visiting in spring or autumn instead.
Many visitors will focus on the cities of Moscow and St Petersburg, which offer a treasure trove of sights starting with Moscow’s impressive Kremlin complex. From art museums to stately palaces, you can easily spend a full day learning more about the Russian state. Admire the architecture of Lenin’s Mausoleum and St Basil’s Cathedral around Red Square here as well. In St Petersburg, the Hermitage Museum is truly a must-see with its impressive art and history, as is the seafront Peterof Palace which rivals Versailles with its beautiful gardens. You can also get out of the city and take an excursion to beautiful Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest.
From crab to caviar, Russian food is a true treat! Try the massive red king crab, caught straight from the Bering Sea and served with an assortment of dipping sauces. Borscht is a typical dish served throughout the country – although you may be familiar with the red beetroot version, it can also be made with cabbage or greens. Bite-sized savouries include pelmeni dumplings stuffed with minced meat, and tiny blini pancakes topped with caviar or sour cream. Russia is famous for its vodka, but another drink worth trying is ‘kvass,’ made from fermented rye bread. Its alcohol content is far lower, comparable more to kombucha than vodka.
Russia is truly massive in scope, which means it gives you the chance to explore a wide range of diverse ecosystems. Forests cover over two-thirds of the country, but there are also grasslands in the south, Arctic tundra in the north and wetlands near the sea! The diversity of its ecosystems means that Russia is a great place to spy plenty of creatures, particularly in its Far East region. Out in Siberia you’ll find Amur leopards, wild boars, red deer, and Eurasian lynx. There are also Asian black bears dotted through these untouched forests. Perhaps the most famous animal from this region is the Siberian tiger, a truly elusive animal that was once ubiquitous throughout Russia and Asia. Now there are about 500 of them, and they cover lots of ground in search of prey! You can experience a glimpse of old-world Russian elegance with a night out at Moscow’s legendary Bolshoi Theatre, which has been showcasing ballet, opera and theatre productions for over 240 years. Its opulent interior is worth the price of admission on its own, spread out over six tiers with plenty of glitter and gold. Be aware that a New Stage was added recently, so if you want to soak in the atmosphere of the original Bolshoi purchase a (more expensive) ticket for the latter.