Video courtesy of Federal Agency for Tourism, Russian Federation
Russia, a country of enormous social, political and geographic proportions, remains one of the great undiscovered destinations for travel in the 21st century. An incredible diversity of customs, culture and wildlife lies between the Gulf of Finland and the Pacific Coast’s Kamchatka peninsula. Russia remains the biggest country in the world, covering an eighth of the Earth’s land area. Travelling 9,200 kilometers overland from west to east takes six days on the Moscow – Vladivostok train, a route that crosses a fascinating landscape across eight time zones.
Due to its geographical position, Russian culture is a melting pot of Oriental, European and Asian traditions. This diversity is evident not only in its architecture and art, but in the character and lifestyle of its people. Even the two main cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg, are completely different in character. Moscow is an ancient capital of churches and monasteries. Its heart, the Kremlin, brings you immediately to the 15th century, the time of grand princes and tsars, yet it is one of the most rapidly developing cities in the world, increasingly influenced by the West. St. Petersburg is an elegant city of palaces and grand estates that was founded by Peter the Great to become Russia’s “Window to Europe”.
Between these two remarkable cities lies vast countryside dotted with villages of small wooden dachas and, occasionally, country estates and historic monasteries. The Golden Ring towns of Vladimir, Suzdal, Yaroslavl, Kostroma and Rostov were founded during the 12th and 13th centuries following invasion from the south and flourished as trade towns, though they were overtaken by Moscow in importance by the 16th century.
Russia is a country of great composers, musicians, ballet dancers and artistic traditions. Concert halls such as the Tchaikovsky Conservatory are ever popular and the Bolshoi and Mariinsky Theatres are among the most important ballet and opera stages in the world.
Situated on the Great Silk Road, a historic trading route between Europe and Asia, the widely unexplored destinations of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan offer much in the way of authentic old-world charm, captivating history, intricate architecture, dynamic cities and dramatic landscapes.
The list of most interesting attractions has remained unchanged over the years: The Moscow Kremlin and Red Square, the Novodevichy Convent and the Church of the Ascension in Kolomenskoye Park. Other popular places include the VDNH exhibition park, the Tretyakov Gallery, Sparrow Hills observation platform and Ostankino Tower, the tallest freestanding structure in Europe (540 meters). The largest underground palace in the world—the Moscow metro used by more than eight million people every day; seven Stalinist Empire style high-rise buildings and, of course, the Bolshoi Theater.
Moscow has more than 1,000 churches and monasteries of different Christian denominations, 270 museums, 170 theaters, and a large number of historic and cultural monuments. The Night in the Museum event is held every year and is attended by more than 1 million visitors, making it the largest such event in Europe. Tourists can see the world-famous classical Russian ballet throughout the whole year. The Summer Ballet Seasons has been held for the last 15 years in July and August after the end of the theater season.
The Russian capital has about 400 parks. Gorky Park is the most popular park in Moscow. There are wooden beaches on the banks of the Moscow River and sports, dancing and children’s areas throughout the park. You can attend festivals, celebrations, firework displays, painting classes, yoga classes and fairs; there are cycle paths and in winter you can skate on the ice rink and ride on a dog sled.
The unique VDNH park is home to the best examples of Soviet architecture. Recently, the wonderful Historic Park opened—a grand multimedia exhibition telling the story of the most important events in the Russian history.
Several Moscow parks are museum-reserves: Tsaritsyno Park, where out of ruins an estate was built for Catherine II; the Kolomenskoye museum-reserve, a former royal residence, the ancestral lands of great Moscow princes and tsars with a wonderful view of the city and the Moskva River.
Bicycles are available to hire in all the city’s parks. Moscow’s cycle paths cover 210 kilometers.
Moscow has many entertainment and educational places for children to visit: The Moskvarium oceanography and marine biology center; the Planetarium, one of the largest in the world; the Eksperimentanium and a model of a Martian space station at the VDNH. Children will love the Nikulin Moscow Circus, the Great Circus on Vernadsky Prospekt, the Moscow Cats Theater, the Natalya Sats Musical Theater, the Durov Animal Theater, and the Moscow Zoo.
Moscow is very attractive in winter when its festivals transform and illuminate the city and offer locals and visitors a wide range of entertainments: The New Year Tree, toboggans, ice rinks, ballet on ice, light installations, ice labyrinths, Christmas markets, competitions, and concerts.
Ice rinks open in winter in Moscow, including the largest one in the world—at the VDNH—that covers 20,500 square meters. The country’s main ice rink is on Red Square, in the center of the city. Moscow also has 650 kilometers of ski tracks, 9 ski slopes within the city, while very close to the city is the all year round indoor ski center Snej.kom.
The city is often called Venice of the North. In terms of water flowing through the city, Saint Petersburg has more rivers and canals than most places in the world. The Neva River is the largest among the hundreds of rivers, canals and streams. The Moyka, Fontanka, Nevka and other rivers divide the city into big and small islands connected by bridges.
Saint Petersburg has more than 300 bridges. Thirteen of them are movable bridges. The sparkling lights on Saint Petersburg’s bridges are an unforgettable sight. All the canals and rivers organically blend into the city plan which was developed in 1712. Take a boat trip along Saint Petersburg’s rivers and canals for an unforgettable experience.
The White Nights are another highlight of this magical city attracting vast numbers of tourists. They begin at the end of May and last until the middle of July. For more than 50 days a year, the evening dusk blends into the morning dawn.
Nevsky Prospect is the most famous shopping area in Saint Petersburg. Here you can find Gostiny Dvor and Passage, as well as one of the most famous intellectual and cultural centers in the city, the Dom Knigi bookshop.
Saint Petersburg has more than 200 museums which are some of the most interesting and varied in the world.
The city’s unique symbols are gryphons, lions and sphinxes. Four of them sit on the University Embankment and are considered to be lucky symbols for the city’s residents and guests.
You can see the cruiser Aurora on Petrogradskaya embankment.
The city has three major tourist districts: the historical center, Petrogradskaya Side and Vasilyevsky Island. In Petrogradskaya Side, you can find the Peter and Paul Fortress, St. Vladimir’s Cathedral, a zoo and the Artillery museum.
The Rostral columns are one of the city’s most famous symbols; they are 32 meters high and long ago were used by ships as beacons. You can find them on Vasilyevsky Island. Here you can also see the Stock Exchange, the Kunstkamera, Menshikov Palace and the university.
Petergof is the most popular place to visit outside Saint Petersburg and is more famously known as Petrodvorets. This Russian Versailles with its palaces, parks and fountains will stay in your memory forever. Visitors to Saint Petersburg can enjoy the city’s theatres. The world-famous Mariinsky Theatre of Opera and Ballet, Alexandrinsky Theatre, Tovstonogov Bolshoi Drama Theatre, etc.
Saint Petersburg is beautiful at any time of year and in any weather. Visitors come from all over the world to see this unusual city during the white nights, to visit the royal palaces and parks, the fairytale fountains and movable bridges. A city praised by poets and artists.
Moscow typical high temperatures in the warm months of June, July and August are around 23 °C (73 °F), but during heat waves, which can occur anytime from May to September, daytime temperature highs often top 30 °C (86 °F) for sometimes one or two weeks.
In St Petersburg July is the hottest month in St Petersburg with an average temperature of 18°C (64°F) and the coldest is January at -6°C (22°F) with the most daily sunshine hours at 9 in July.
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