Russia is a vast country stretching from eastern Europe to the Pacific ocean. You may not find many people who have traveled there as it seems a little mysterious, especially to North Americans.
In this great expanse, you will find cosmopolitan cities, a large land mass covered in forest, tundra, and deserts.
The people we met were warm and hospitable with many English speakers who are at ease talking with foreigners. In the cities we visited, transportation was typically European excellent both in the cities and between cities.
There is historical architecture, events, fantastic restaurants and so much more to see. Let us help you decide where to start, Moscow and Saint Petersburg, and if you’re willing to leap, cities further inland.
Top Things to See and Do in Russia
Moscow, the largest city in Russia is the political and financial capital. The heart of the city is the Red Square, the seat of government (the Kremlin) with museums, churches, and the famous GUM mall. Stroll the riverfront paths or take a boat tour to see Soviet-era buildings or riverfront parks. Exist as a Moscovite and relax in Gorky Park, view the city from the best vantage point near Moscow State University and ride the metro to visit the beautifully decorated subway stations.
Saint Petersburg is Russia’s second largest city and one of the most beautiful on earth. It is located on the Neva river and designed by European artisans under the Romanov dynasty. Visit the Hermitage museum complex with its world-class collection of art, stroll Nevsky Prospect taking in the architecture like Kazan Cathedral and Singer House or take a canal tour cruising under the bridge and watch the building light up as the sun goes down.
White Nights In June the northern hemisphere has the longest days of the year, and the cities in northern Russia experience near 24 hours of continuous daylight. This phenomenon is famous especially in Saint Petersburg, where every night people gather to see the opening up of the city’s bridges at 1:00 AM. The celebrations culminate with the summer solstice concerts and events.
Kazan Center of the Tatar culture sits at the mixing point of Asia and Europe. One will visit the Kazan Kremlin or see the Kul Sharif Mosque. Stroll Bauman street with its boutiques, cafes and souvenir shops. Be sure to take in one of its many festivals.
Sochi is one of the most southern Russian cities located on the Black Sea. It’s a busy summer resort with beaches and surrounded by mountains. A sportsman paradise, as one can ski, snowboard, dive and kitesurf depending on the season. Do take in Mount Akhun with its view of the city, Stalin’s summer residence now a museum, or Riviera Park full of leisure activities.
Trans-Siberian Railway The longest railway lines in the world connecting Moscow to the far east. With many stops along the way, they are an ultimate adventure.
Golden Ring is a ring of cities described as open-air museums. They contain architectural gems of Kremlins, monasteries, and cathedrals. Visit Yaroslav, the unofficial capital which dates back to 1010, Suzdal with its many preserved edifices or Sergiyev Posad right in the Moscow region.
Lake Baikal Largest freshwater lake in the world is located in eastern Siberia. Trek along the coast, sunbathe on its beaches or take part in rafting and fishing, there is plenty to do.
The Hermitage Among the largest museums of art and culture in the world. It’s located in Saint Petersburg and opened to the public in 1852. Six historic buildings are occupied on the Neva river bank, one of which was the former residence of Russian emperors. It would take days if not weeks to appreciate all its offerings.
Russian Palaces former residences pre-communism can be found around Russia. Most famous is Peterhof and Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg. You may visit the museums and see the extravagant lifestyle with which the Tzars lived.
General travel advice for Russia
- Do you need a visa? Check here. You cannot obtain a visa when you arrive in Russia, you must request it in advance, otherwise, you will be denied entry. If you are traveling to attend one of the 2018 FIFA World Cup matches you may not need a visa, but must request a Fan ID. Upon arrival, you will be given a form at the customs. You will need it to register at hotels (they will ask) and you must return it upon departure.
- Language spoken: Russian, in the Russian Cyrillic alphabet
- Currency: Ruble. Calculate the exchange here
- Electricity: 220 Volts
- Standard electrical frequency: 50 Hz
- International calling code: +7
- Making domestic calls: Add 8 before the number
- Drives on the: Right
- If possible, get familiar with the Russian Cyrillic alphabet, as most names and signs are only written that way. Otherwise, you may never recognize the names of certain hotels or subway stops for example.