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Russia

Vodka bars, golden palaces, Faberge eggs, czars and caviar
With world-famous palaces, babushkas, onion-domed cathedrals, and plenty of drama and intrigue in general, Russia has long been a popular destination for travellers, adventure lovers and history buffs alike.

It is a constantly rewarding travel destination. A trip to Russia means taking in the sight of the world-famous jewel encrusted Faberge eggs or spending an adventurous day ice-cycling across Siberia’s Lake Baika, the world's largest, deepest, and oldest lake.

You can fire legendary Kalashnikov machine guns at a shooting range or learn how the country’s charming Matryoshka dolls are made. You’ll see the treasures of the tsars. You’ll eat beetroot soup and tasty blinis. You’ll never meet a shot of vodka you don’t like. There’s so much variety on offer today in Russian tour packages, whether for a solo traveller or a group trip, you’re sure to enjoy a holiday fit for a tsar. 

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With world-famous palaces, babushkas, onion-domed cathedrals, and plenty of drama and intrigue in general, Russia has long been a popular destination for travellers, adventure lovers and history buffs alike.

It is a constantly rewarding travel destination. A trip to Russia means taking in the sight of the world-famous jewel encrusted Faberge eggs or spending an adventurous day ice-cycling across Siberia’s Lake Baika, the world's largest, deepest, and oldest lake.

You can fire legendary Kalashnikov machine guns at a shooting range or learn how the country’s charming Matryoshka dolls are made. You’ll see the treasures of the tsars. You’ll eat beetroot soup and tasty blinis. You’ll never meet a shot of vodka you don’t like. There’s so much variety on offer today in Russian tour packages, whether for a solo traveller or a group trip, you’re sure to enjoy a holiday fit for a tsar. 

Location

We're talking about the world's largest country here. Russia is spread across Europe and Asia, bringing with it a diversity in both culture and climate. To put that in perspective, Russia spans 11 time zones and shares borders with 14 other countries: Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, China and North Korea. Non-stop flights from India to Russia takes you to the capital, Moscow, in just 6.5 hours.

When to go

Knowing the best time to visit Russia should be the first step in making your Russia travel plans.  

The climate across major cities in Russia is primarily continental, making the summers pleasantly warm (June officially marks the start of the summer season for Russia), and cold winters which are easily bested with a warm coat and boots. 

Summer is the season of the famous White Nights (nearly 24 hours a day of sunlight). It’s a great time to visit the countryside, go on a river cruise and visit royal summer palaces. But if you’d like to avoid the crowds summertime attracts and the slightly higher travel rates, opt for a trip during the rest of the year.  Some travel agencies offer Russia packages that are unusually affordable during traveller off-seasons. Visiting Russia during winter will give you a chance to see cities decked out in Christmas decorations, New Year lights, and snow. 

Where to go

Thanks to the sheer variety of things to do in Russia, travellers have the unique benefit of being able to do so many different things in a single trip. A simple flight or train journey of just a few hours can bring you somewhere completely new – with a new set of experiences to try! 

The most visited cities in Russia - Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Kazan and Sochi - each offer unique cultural experiences, so a carefully-planned itinerary is the way to go. Must-do quintessential Russian experiences include a stroll through the old historic towns of St. Petersburg, a ride on the Trans-Siberian Railway, and eating the national dish, Pelmeni.
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At a glance

Language

Russian
While Russian is the official language at a national level, 35 different languages are spoken in different regions of the country. However, in bigger cities like Moscow which are traveller-friendly, public transport announcements are usually accompanied by an English translation, which makes getting around easier.

Currency

Russian Ruble
The national currency is called the Russian Ruble. The ruble to INR conversion at the time of posting is 1 RUB = 1.09 INR.

Weather

The weather and precipitation varies depending on which part of Russia you are visiting. In general, summer and weather are the two main seasons; spring and autumn are shorter seasons. January is the coldest month of the year, while July is the warmest.

Expert travel advice

Travel tips and insider advice that have made the most difference to us, sourced from our
community of like-minded travellers and global experts.

Get steamy at a traditional Russian banya   

Recommended by Wanderlusting K

“...one of the most unique experiences to have while you’re visiting Russia...It [is] also a great way to connect with friendly Russians as the banya is a great time to chat with friends as well as strangers...After the banya, I was amazed at how amazingly smooth my skin was and how glowing my skin was.”

Wanderlusting K is run by Karen, her husband Jacob, and her father, Steve. On the blog you will find travel inspiration for independent travellers, practical advice about travel, moving abroad, expat life, adventure travel, and off the beaten path travel.

Visit the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood   

Recommended by Have Clothes, Will Travel

“...this cathedral is perhaps the most famous landmark in all of St. Petersburg. It’s an incredible building to see...the inside and outside are incredibly beautiful, and a must-visit when in St. Petersburg.”

Lindsey Puls is a travel and style blogger who shares travel and style tips from around the world. Have Clothes, Will Travel has been featured in various media publications and online sites.

Witness the grandeur of the Moscow metro   

Recommended by We Are Travel Girls

“The Metro here is decorated in the traditional Soviet style, with each station showcasing a unique perspective and story. The decorations and symbols were designed to showcase the achievements of the Soviet Union...Wandering through the stations you can expect to find with chandeliers, marble, statues of heroes and mosaic artworks so detailed, that it’s hard to believe you’re not in a museum!”

Becky van Dijk & Vanessa Rivers founded We Are Travel Girls, a global travel community, to inspire, connect, educate and empower female travellers around the world. The blog is a popular online resource for female travel tips, advice and stories, and has been featured on Oprah Magazine, Marie Claire, Harper's Bazaar and Cruise Magazine amongst others.

Experience the famous ‘White Nights’ in St. Petersburg   

Recommended by Frommer’s

“Two weeks of festivities in late June celebrate the longest day of the year, when the northern sun never dips below the horizon. The White Nights are more than just a party; they're a buoyant, carefree celebration of summer -- liberation after the city's long hibernation.”

Frommer’s is the most trusted name in travel guidebooks, and a highly reputed online resource for planning the perfect travel excursion. On the site, you will find candid, timely articles written by Frommer’s experts.

Ride the Trans-Siberian Railway   

Recommended by Recommended by Nomadic Matt

“One of the best things about the Trans-Siberian is the opportunity it affords you to see more of Russia than just Moscow and/or St. Petersburg...the people I met were some of the friendliest in my three months in Russia, and the experiences were unforgettable.”

Matt Kepnes, aka Nomadic Matt, has travelled to nearly 100 countries. He shares proven tips and advice on his website which has been featured on major media sites including the New York Times, the BBC, Lonely Planet, National Geographic, The Independent, The Huffington Post, The Guardian, and TIME magazine.

Incredible places to visit in Russia

Moscow

No trip to Russia is complete without a visit to the City of Domes.  Named after the River Moskva, Moscow is the political, economical and spiritual centre of the country. The cityscape is a mix of modern buildings and whimsical onion domes. Experiences, such as watching ballet at the Bolshoi theatre or stepping into metro stations that resemble palaces, will make Moscow one of the highlights of your trip.

Moscow Kremlin

The Moscow Kremlin is an enduring symbol of Russian power and authority. This former fortress is now the Russian President’s official residence, linking the modern nation to its legendary past. The Kremlin encompasses a multitude of famous palaces and gold-domed churches. It also houses the  treasures of the tsars in the Kremlin Armoury Museum;  an impressive selection of opulent carriages, imperial regalia,  jewel-encrusted Fabergé eggs, the Orlov diamond (the world’s fourth-largest). Nobody does bling like a Russian royal.

The Red Square

The Red Square is the heart and soul of Russia. Thousands of years of history have played out on this rectangular stretch of architectural marvels; to simply stand at the center evokes a sense of awe. As you walk along the square, don’t miss out on visiting Resurrection Gate (toss a coin over your shoulder onto a plaque for good luck), and the Kazan Cathedral.

St. Basil’s Cathedral

The cathedral, topped with its colorful, psychedelic patterned onion domes, each capping one of nine separate chapels, is the ultimate postcard-perfect symbol of Russia. Inside, it is lavishly decorated with mosaics, icons and columns of malachite and lapis lazuli. Legend has it that the architect was blinded by Ivan the Terrible so that he could never build anything else to rival it.

The Bolshoi Theatre

If you haven’t been to the Bolshoi, you haven’t seen Russia. Not really. The Bolshoi Theatre has had its share of a tumultuous history, having being burnt down several times and resurrected over and over again. It is one of the most reputed theatres in the world; there’s no equal to the performances you’ll watch here - the melodious voices of opera filling your ears, the accompanying musicians, and ballerinas pirouetting. 

Moscow metro stations

Opulent Russian architecture does not end at the city’s famous sites. Unlike other railway systems you may have come across around the world, the Moscow Metro is in a league of its own.  With arched ceilings, sparkling chandeliers and ornate interiors, the Moscow Metro makes you feel like you're inside a palace worthy of kings! Visiting the metro is an offbeat experience that you must add to your trip itinerary.

St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg is the second largest city in the country.  Culture enthusiasts, take note - it is considered the cultural centre of Russia; a city of artists, intellectuals, palaces, and theatres. A maze of canals sets this port city apart, best appreciated from a boat cruise.

State Hermitage Museum

The State Hermitage Museum spans six palatial palaces – including the Winter Palace – and houses one of the largest, oldest and greatest art museums in the world. Its walls are adorned with intricate gold leaf carvings, floors with exotic marble and timber ceilings drip with crystal chandeliers. It also has a  collection of 2.8 million exhibits that spans ancient Egyptian and Renaissance art to masters, including Rembrandt, Rubens, Matisse and Picasso. It truly lives up to its reputation as one of Russia’s chief glories. Note: Keep an eye out for one of the Hermitage’s 74 cats that roam the underbelly of the museum and guard its artworks from mice. There are kitchens dedicated to preparing their food and there’s even a small hospital for them.

Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood

Built on the site where Tsar Alexander II had his legs blown off by a revolutionary's bomb, it is one of the weirdest and captivating sights you’ll see, featuring colorful onion domes and lavish, wall-to-ceiling mosaics.

Peterhof Grand Palace

Peterhof was Peter the Great's summer estate, and is often referred to as the ‘Russian Versailles’.
It is famous for its vast gardens, immense waterfalls, golden fountains, marble statues and avenues of lime trees. #allthatglittersisgold Note: keep an eye out for trick fountains (you read that right) which were designed by the tsar himself, and are triggered by switches hidden under stones which will hit you straight in the face! The longer you linger, the more details you’ll fall in love with.

Nikolaevsky Palace

Visit the Nikolaevsky Palace to watch the folk show “Feel Yourself Russian”. The two-hour show introduces you to the culture and traditions of this vibrant country using the method of folk songs, orthodox Russian hymns, dances and is a fun way to spend a free evening.

Peter & Paul Fortress

One of the first structures to be built in St. Petersburg, this fortress is referred to as the birthplace of the city, making it a major landmark. It played a significant role in shaping and forming the military base of Russia, making it a vital part of any history buff’s Russia tour. It is located on Zayachy Island so you have to take the Loannovsky Bridge to reach the island. Check out the fortress’s cathedral, which houses the tombs of countless tsars and tsarinas including Peter the Great himself.

Kazan

Kazan is called ‘the third capital’ of Russia, after Moscow and St. Petersburg. It is a UNESCO World Heritage City, and is also famous for its religious diversity. A quick glance of the cityscape dotted with onion-shaped domes, golden minarets, and church spires, will affirm this. Kazan is a destination for the discerning traveller. 

Kazan Kremlin

This historical citadel is located at the heart of Kazan.  Legend has it that a fire-breathing Zilant dragon used to live here, guarding a large underground kingdom under the city. Today, the Kremlin complex houses the President of the Republic’s residence, administration buildings, and the "Kazan Kremlin" Reserve Museum among others. A general ticket would allow you to visit all the museums and fulfil your hankering for history lessons. It is a UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage site.

Kul Sharif Mosque

The elegantly blue-domed Kul Sharif Mosque is the largest place of worship for Muslims in Europe; it can accommodate 6,000 worshipers. The mosque was named after the imam, one of Kazan’s defence leaders, who died protecting the city from Ivan the Terrible ‘s army in 1552. The in-house museum houses a rich collection of books and scriptures. 

Bauman Street

Bauman Street is a lively pedestrian street in the heart of the city. It is the perfect place to shop for your souvenirs and boutique clothes, after which you can grab a bite at one of many roadside cafes. The life of the boulevard lies in its impromptu music performances, enthusiastic street dancers and wandering pedestrians. Unwind at one of the beautifully lit bars or clubs or mingle with locals over a drink or two.

Temple of All Religions

The Temple of All Religions was built to attest to and to uphold religious harmony in the city. It is not so much a place of worship as a symbol of unity.  The temple is a blend of the styles of different places of worship including a church, a mosque, and a synagogue, among others. The domes of the temple represent the major religions of the world: Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and other religions.  And it is layered with intriguing elements, symbols and stories.

The Hermitage Kazan

The Hermitage in Kazan is a branch of the original State Hermitage in St. Petersburg. Works of art are regularly exhibited here, with collections changed twice a year.  There’s a variety of interesting objects and stories here, from ancient dinosaur fossils to antique royal jewellery. 

Sochi

Sochi is a town on the coast of the Black Sea, attracting millions of travellers every year, especially during the summer. It is well-loved for its natural splendour: nature reserves, lakes, forests, mountain ranges, and an endless coastline. There are plenty of ski resorts, and hiking trails for those who love the outdoors, and thrill-seekers won’t want to miss the SkyPark which has the highest swing in the world. Those who are inclined to want to laze along the coast will delight in the many towns, restaurants, and clubs to explore.

Mount Akhun

Mount Akhun lies on the outskirts of Sochi and stands 662 meters tall. This place is best reached bus from Sochi. If you like hiking, you should definitely opt for a half-day trek up the mountain. The observation offers panoramic views of the surrounding landscape and the Black Sea. 

Ritsa Lake

Lake Ritsa is located three hours from Sochi, in the Abkhazia region between Russia and Georgia. Encircled by mountain forests, and meadows, it is one of the loveliest lakes you’ll ever see. Stalin himself was so taken by the turquoise waters and pretty countryside, that he had a summer house built on its banks, which still remains. You can take a tour of the building including his swimming pool and study. 

The Singing Fountains

Located within the premises of the Olympic Park, the Singing Fountains are massive water cascades that move to accompanying music; it is a beautiful visual and aural performance The place is easily accessible by public transport. However, it is advisable to schedule your travel plans keeping in mind that the fountains are best viewed at night and the lights are only effective during warm summer months.

The Black Sea for a swim

With more than 100 kilometres of shoreline, Sochi beckons to all beach bums, divers, and swimmers. There are many activities to occupy travellers on the coastline, including trampolines, roller coaster rides, and plenty of water sports. 

Dagomys Tea Plantation

Dagomys is a town that is famous for it large-scale tea plantations. Here, you can experience a traditional Russian tea ceremony that includes being served tea from a traditional samovar pot, sipping your cup whilst eating pirogi pancakes and Caucasus honey,, and being serenaded by musicians playing Russian folk songs. Overlooking the Black Sea and the Caucasus Mountains, a trip to Dagomys must not be left out of any Russia tour packages from India.

Yekaterinburg

The vibrant art scene, coupled with the presence of heavy-weight modernisation, makes this city a splendid feather to flaunt in the hat of Russia’s tourism industry. Conveniently located at the border of Europe and Asia, Yekaterinburg doubles up as a basecamp for excursions to the Ural Mountains.

Church on The Blood

Yekaterinburg’s Church on the Blood was built on the site where the last Romanovs were shot. Every year, the city holds a three-day period called the “Tsar’s Days”, in commemoration of the much-loved royal family (who were canonised as saints by the Russian Orthodox Church by 2000). The period culminates in a procession where up to 60,000 people parade through the city’s streets.

Kirillov’s House

Kirillov’s House is a stunning example of the distinctive architecture that Russia is so well known for. It is a private residential building in a village named Kunara that was built by Sergey Kirillov, a blacksmith. The house will mesmerize you; it is painted with bright colours and embellished with nationalistic and Soviet design elements (such as statues representing optimistic slogans like “Fly pigeons, fly. For you, there are no obstacles), and ornaments that remind you of children’s art, and fairy tales. It is truly a sight to see.

Psychedelic Salt Mines

Located at several hundred metres beneath the city, the psychedelic salt mines of Yekaterinburg are so named because of their dizzying patterns and mesmerising colours. The bright marbled cave walls are made of mineral layers left over by a sea that dried up millions of years ago. Take heed, though, that visiting the mines might be a challenge since it requires a special permit from the Russian government and won’t be included in a typical Russia vacation package.

Military Technology Museum

The Military Technology Museum in Yekaterinburg is touted as the largest of its kind in Russia. It displays military artefacts, armour, vehicles and planes of every possible kind and is a gem for war intellects. A bevvy of military vehicles is paraded on Victory Day to celebrate the defeat of Nazi forces during World War II.

Ganina Yama Monastery

If you need a break from city life, the thought-provoking atmosphere of the Ganina Yama Monastery offers a great change of pace. The exterior of the monastery appears fairly simple compared to the otherwise stately Russian architecture see elsewhere. Meditate for a while or stroll in silence while the calm atmosphere relieves you of stress.

Top things to do & experience in Russia

Nobody wants to be a tourist. Here are curated experiences in art, music, food, culture and communities
to help you have an authentic and memorable trip.

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