This tour of Russia's cities starts and ends in Moscow, where you'll enjoy guided tours through its Red Square, Kremlin, quirky markets, and many museums, plus visit ancient cities and villages in the country's Golden Ring, such as Vladimir and Suzdal. Then discover the cities of Veliky Novgorod with its onion-domed cathedrals and St Petersburg with its UNESCO sites of Peterhof and Peter and Paul Fortress. Head west to the Tatar city of Kazan and explore its unique culture, traditions, and religious monuments, including Orthodox churches, Catholic cathedrals, and grand mosques.

Highlights

  • Peruse Moscow's Red Square, Kremlin, markets, and museums
  • Enjoy the beauty of the Golden Ring cities with traditional wooden architecture
  • Explore the birthplace of St Petersburg at the Peter and Paul Fortress
  • Discover Tatar's culture and traditions in Kazan
  • Visit the grandiose gardens of the UNESCO site of Peterhof

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Moscow - Explore the city Moscow
Day 2 Discover Moscow's Red Square, Kremlin, and historic metro Moscow
Day 3 Explore more of Moscow, including its medieval neighborhood Moscow
Day 4 Visit the city of Vladimir in Russia's Golden Ring Vladimir
Day 5 Discover the monasteries and wooden churches of Suzdal Moscow
Day 6 Enjoy a free day to explore parks, museums, and markets Moscow
Day 7 Moscow on Your Own and Overnight train to Veliky Novgorod Overnight train
Day 8 Veliky Novgorod and the Vitoslavlitsy Museum of Wooden Architecture Velikiy Novgorod
Day 9 Take the train to St. Petersburg - Tour the Peter and Paul Fortress Saint Petersburg
Day 10 Discover Tsar's Village and the UNESCO site of Peterhof Saint Petersburg
Day 11 Explore the three million art pieces at the Hermitage Museum Saint Petersburg
Day 12 Enjoy a free morning in St Petersburg - Fly to Kazan Kazan
Day 13 Discover the city of Kazan with a guided tour Kazan
Day 14 Fly back to Moscow and enjoy a free evening in the city Moscow
Day 15 Depart Moscow  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Moscow - Explore the city

Manezhnaya Square in Moscow
Manezhnaya Square in Moscow

Welcome to Russia! Upon arriving at the airport in Moscow, you'll transfer to your hotel in the city. After settling into your accommodation and taking some time to rest, head out to explore. 

Although you'll enjoy plenty of guided tours throughout your trip, you can spend your first few hours perusing the city's streets and walking by some of the main sites. Start in Red Square, where many of Moscow's landmarks reside. You'll see the famously colorful St. Basil's Cathedral, which many consider the symbol of Russia. 

You can also view the two pillars of Red Square, the Tsar's Tower and the 15th-century Nikolskaya Tower. Nearby are the golden onion domes of Ivan the Great Bell-Tower and two cathedrals, the 14th-century Dormition Cathedral and the Annunciation Cathedral.

After your stroll through Red Square, walk down the street into the historic center and find a restaurant or bistro for dinner.

Day 2: Discover Moscow's Red Square, Kremlin, and historic metro

Views of the Kremlin in Moscow
Views of the Kremlin in Moscow

You'll start your tour of Moscow on the city's expansive metro system. Metro construction began under Stalin in the 1930s, intending to be a showpiece and act like an underground palace for the people. You'll explore some of these unique, magnificent stations, many decorated with marble, chandeliers, sculptures, and mosaics while getting a taste of everyday life for Moscow's commuters. After visiting the metro stations, you'll join your host for a traditional Russian pie and a cup of tea.

Next, you'll continue to Red Square, Moscow's main square clustered with numerous important monuments, museums, and cathedrals. You'll first enjoy the square and the city's Kremlin from across the river. Cross the Bolshoy Moskvoretskiy Bridge and admire the multicolored patterned domes of St. Basil's Cathedral, a 16th-century Orthodox church that now houses a museum. Your guide will detail the church's importance and history, along with several other sites around the square, including the Tsar's Tower, Lenin's Mausoleum, GUM Department Store, and the neo-Russian building housing the State Historical Museum.

Afterward, you'll make your way to Senate Square and learn more about the Kremlin on a guided tour. This building is exceptionally unique, as one of the world’s very few medieval fortresses that still function in its original intended purpose as a center of government, a seat of religious authority, a military base, and an expression of raw power. The citadel is comprised of important cathedrals, museums, and government buildings.

In the late afternoon, you'll have free time to continue exploring the city on your own.

Day 3: Explore more of Moscow, including its medieval neighborhood

The Interior of the Bolshoi Theater
The Interior of the Bolshoi Theater

Now that you've seen the big sites of the city, today you'll explore the quieter side of Moscow. Start on the pedestrian bridge, Patriarshiy Peshekhodnyy Most and visit the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, which sits strikingly against the skyline with its golden onion domes. It's the second-tallest Orthodox Christian church in the world, rebuilt in the 1990s to pay homage to the original 19th-century cathedral.

Next, visit the legendary Bolshoi Theater with its ornate interiors, then make your way along the river and via the metro to Novodevichy Convent. This 16th-century monastery is known for its gold domes, colorful structures, and riverside park. End your morning atop Sparrow Hills for a panoramic view of the city and the Moskva River, 

For lunch, find an eatery along the pedestrian-friendly Arbat Street. In the afternoon, you'll have free time to continue exploring the city on your own. If you'd like to keep with the quieter them, you can visit the medieval neighborhoods of Moscow. Start with the last remaining sections of the Kitai Gorod Wall, then visit the streets of Kitai Gorod, the heart of the oldest part of Moscow. Next, stop by the Romanov Boyar House and the Old English Embassy, followed by a walk through Krutitskoye Podvorye, a secluded part of the city that seems locked in the 17th century.
 
Return to Kitai Gorod for dinner, where you'll find plenty of trendy bars, restaurants, and bistros, or explore the city's meatpacking neighborhood, Khamovniki, for hip eateries and cocktail bars.

Day 4: Visit the city of Vladimir in Russia's Golden Ring

Historic Skyline of Vladimir, Russia
Historic Skyline of Vladimir, Russia

After an early breakfast, you'll transfer to the train station and catch the express train to Vladimir. This city is situated on Russia's Golden Ring, which is a cluster of ancient towns, including the town of Suzdal (which you'll explore tomorrow). Both Vladimir and Suzdal embody old-world Russia, with onion-domed churches rising behind medieval walls, surrounded by traditional wooden peasant cottages and the legendary Russian countryside. Both include monasteries which have remained the same for centuries, as well as ruins of Kremlins that still stand in the same place where the Mongolian Army tore down the town gates, bringing the rule of these once independent principalities to an end.

Upon arriving in Vladimir, you’ll visit the city's Golden Gates and explore some of Russia’s greatest surviving medieval churches, where you’ll learn about the meaning behind the thousand-year-old sculptures and icons. Slightly outside the city, you'll explore the Church of the Intercession on the Nerl, which is widely considered to be the most sublime and elegant example of medieval Russian architecture.

After settling into your accommodation, enjoy the rest of the evening at your leisure.

Day 5: Discover the monasteries and wooden churches of Suzdal

Monastery in Suzdal
Monastery in Suzdal

After breakfast, you'll head north of Vladimir and make your way to another ancient settlement in Russia's Golden Ring, the village of Suzdal. In the 12th century, Suzdal was the capital of an old principality of Russia. At the same time, Moscow was simply a neighboring settlement, making Suzdal one of the oldest towns in the country. For many years, the city was a monastic center and an important stopping point for merchants.

You'll start your exploration of Suzdal with a city tour, visiting the Kremlin, the Pokrovsky Monastery, and the unique museum featuring wooden architecture. Here you can venture inside peasant huts and wooden churches, learning about the rural way of life that lasted for centuries. Take time to enjoy the feeling of being in a pastoral environment, where the pressures of everyday life subside and you're immersed in the atmosphere of a bygone world.

Before returning to Moscow, you'll visit the Saviour Monastery of Saint Euthymius, which was founded in the 14th century. Today the monastery operates as a museum and a cathedral. The frescoes inside the cathedral are some of the most intricate in the country. 

In the evening, you'll catch the train back to Moscow, arriving in time to settle into your hotel and grab some dinner.

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Day 6: Enjoy a free day to explore parks, museums, and markets

Moscow Riverbank at Dusk
Moscow Riverbank at Dusk

Today is yours to explore Moscow at your own pace. The city is brimming with museums, markets, and neighborhoods, so take your time to peruse some of the most interesting in the city, including the following:

  • Arbat Street and Pushkin Museum. Pushkin is Russia’s national poet, one of the country's most beloved citizens. No visit to Russia is complete without meeting him. You can walk down the famous Arbat Street to see where Pushkin lived after his marriage, and later see the church where he got married.

  • The Second World War Museum at Poklonnaya Gora. You don't often hear about the Soviet side of WWII, and this museum exposes the country's role through interesting exhibits. To comprehend modern Russia, it's important to understand the country's history of fighting and defeating Hitler.

  • Tretyakov Gallery. Tretyakov is one of Russia's great art museums. Housing a world-renowned collection of medieval icons (including those by the legendary Rublev), as well as classics of Russian landscape painting and portraiture. See the Three Bogatyrs, a work known to every Russian, as well as paintings by Kandinski and Malevich.

  • Kolomenskoye Park and Museum. Kolomenskoye was once the hunting preserve of the tsars and today hosts a wonderful collection of traditional wooden buildings from around Russia, as well as a handful of medieval churches. The main attraction is the 17th-century wooden palace of Tsar Alexei, which resembles the original palaces in the Kremlin. Another highlight is the Ascension Church, which was constructed in 1532 and the birthplace of the legendary Ivan the Terrible.

  • Tsaritsyno. This district is set in the southern part of Moscow and is home to the neo-Gothic Palace of Catherine the Great. The grounds include an extensive garden with ponds and pavilions.

Day 7: Moscow on Your Own and Overnight train to Veliky Novgorod

Colorful Buildings of the Izmailovsky Market
Colorful Buildings of the Izmailovsky Market

Enjoy your final day in Moscow. You can go back to places you've seen or explore new ones. Perhaps you'll want to take a cruise on the Moskva River or peruse the incredible Izmailovsky Kremlin and Market

“Kremlin” is a Russian word meaning "fortification." The word has a different meaning when applied to the Izmailovsky Kremlin. This venue, which was built as a cultural and entertainment complex in 2007, is modeled after 18th-century Russian architecture. Here you can see the Church of St. Nicholas, the highest wooden church in Russia at 151 feet (46 m) tall, as well as cafés, souvenir shops, and several museums, including the Vodka Museum, the Museum of Folk Arts, and the unique Museum of Bread.

The Izmailovsky Market is the largest market for souvenirs and handicrafts from Russian regions. Along with the nearby antique market, this is a great place to buy traditional handicrafts, such as Khokloma (a style of painting on wood), Gzhel (blue and white ceramics), and Palekh (miniature paintings). You can also pick up an Ushanka, the famous Soviet-era hat. And, of course, you'll find plenty of traditional, hand-painted Matryoshka (nested) dolls to take home.

In the evening, your driver will transfer you to the railway station, where you'll catch the overnight train to the city of Veliky Novgorod.

Day 8: Veliky Novgorod and the Vitoslavlitsy Museum of Wooden Architecture

Domed Churches in Veliky Novgorod
Domed Churches in Veliky Novgorod

Your train will arrive in Veliky Novgorod in the morning, allowing you a full day to explore the city. Your driver will meet you at the train station and transfer you to your hotel. 

After breakfast, you'll start exploring the city. Although Novgorod means “New City,” Veliky is one of Russia’s oldest settlements. Today, the city's original outpost hosts an archaeology site near the Yuriev Monastery, one of Russia's oldest monasteries.

Your guide will lead you through the city's main sites, many of which reside in the Kremlin's Kremlovskiy Park. These include St. Sophia Cathedral, an 11th-century church known for its five onion domes, as well as the fortress walls and towers. Across the river, you'll find the Yaroslav Marketplace, Saint Nicholas Cathedral, and the Hanseatic Fountain.

Although it's located outside of the city, you'll also visit the Yuriev Monastery, a restored medieval site featuring five different churches and cathedrals. Nearby is the Vitoslavlitsy Museum, an open-air museum featuring folk-wooden architecture, where you'll learn about Russian history and life throughout the centuries.

In the evening, enjoy resting at your hotel before heading out to find a traditional meal in the city center.

Day 9: Take the train to St. Petersburg - Tour the Peter and Paul Fortress

Peter and Paul Fortress, St Petersburg
Peter and Paul Fortress, St Petersburg

This morning, you'll catch an early train to St Petersburg, where you'll enjoy breakfast on board. Upon your arrival in the city, your tour guide will lead you through the Northern capital.

St Petersburg represents Russia’s European side, with art and architecture inspired by classical motifs rather than traditional Russian ones. Yet, at the same time, its history includes a wide range of stories. The city was the home of the Emperors, the cradle of the 1917 Revolution, the City of the Siege, and the hometown of Putin. As your guide leads you through the main squares and sites, you'll hear stories and slowly start to understand the city's complex character. You'll start in Senate Square, then make your way to St Isaac's Square to view St Issac's Cathedral, which is often compared to St. Peter's Cathedral in Vatican City and St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

Next, you'll loop back towards the main cathedral of the city, the Cathedral of Lady Kazan. Walk toward the river and stop to view the monuments and architecture of Palace Square, then enjoy a stroll through Mikhailovsky Garden. As you look for a place for lunch, you can meander down the main throughway of St Petersburg, Nevsky Prospect.

In the late afternoon, you'll visit St Petersburg's original citadel, Peter and Paul Cathedral in the Peter and Paul Fortress. According to historians, the city was essentially born here and the cathedral represents its highs and lows, still standing guard over the St Petersburg just as it has done since 1706. From its beautiful architecture and burial vaults of the Emperors to a feared prison and a bastion of revolution, the fortress has seen it all. You'll discover these highlights and others as you explore the monument with your guide.

Afterward, settle into your hotel for a break before heading back into the city for dinner. Return to Nevsky Prospect for numerous choices in restaurants, bistros, and bars, or venture to the up-and-coming neighborhood of New Holland for trendy eateries.

Day 10: Discover Tsar's Village and the UNESCO site of Peterhof

Part of Catherine Palace
Part of Catherine Palace

Set outside of the city in the historic Pushkin District, you'll find Tsarskoye Selo (Tsar’s Village). It's named for the many imperial palaces that were once home to different Russian emperors. You’ll start with a visit to the 18th-century Catherine Palace and Park with its famous Amber Room, followed by a visit to the more intimate Alexander Palace, home to Nicholas II and his family. Nicholas was Russia's last tsar and some say his tragic story still seems to linger in the palace.

After lunch, you'll transfer to one of St Petersburg's most popular attractions, the palace park of Peterhof, also known as Petrodvorets. Some refer to the park as the "Russian Versailles", although many visitors conclude that the comparison does a disservice to Peterhof's grandeur. Versailles was, however, the inspiration for Peter the Great when he first imagined building an imperial palace in the suburbs. Peter's daughter, Empress Elizabeth, encouraged the idea and expanded it to include the Monplaisir Palace and the Grand Palace. Enjoy walking around the grounds of this UNESCO World Heritage Site and admiring the famous system of fountains.

The rest of the day is yours to continue exploring the city.

Day 11: Explore the three million art pieces at the Hermitage Museum

Hermitage State Museum in Winter Palace
Hermitage State Museum in Winter Palace

Today you'll visit the State Hermitage Museum, which is Russia’s most famous museum and one of the most respected depositories of priceless art and antiquity in the world. It houses over 3 million pieces of art and treasure, allowing you to view the works of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Rembrandt, Rubens, Picasso, Van Gogh, and more. According to statistics, if you were to look at every single item, even just for a few seconds, it would take you six years to see everything. Your expert guide will lead you through the museum's sections, helping you to view the most important pieces and get the most out of your visit.

Housed partly in the old Winter Palace, this is a museum where the property is just as interesting as the art on display. Founded by Catherine the Great in 1764, you'll enjoy viewing vast collections of art and relics from the city's past, including the largest collection of paintings in the world. The museum spans five different buildings and includes art from all over the world, including antiquities, jewelry, home furnishings, architecture, and modern art, to name a few.

After your tour, you can stroll through the Winter Palace Garden, then walk along the riverfront until you reach the 19th-century Marble Palace. You'll find more art here if you're interested in continuing your pursuit of Russian art and sculpture. Enjoy the Summer Garden and then visit Saint Michael's Castle, an 18th-century palace.

The rest of the evening is yours to continue exploring the city at your leisure.

Day 12: Enjoy a free morning in St Petersburg - Fly to Kazan

Kazan Skyline at Night
Kazan Skyline at Night

After a leisurely morning, today is yours to explore St Petersburg on your own. Some suggested sites to visit include:

  • The privately-owned Faberge Museum was established by Viktor Vekselberg to repatriate lost cultural valuables in Russia. The museum's collection contains more than 4,000 works of decorative applied and fine arts, including gold and silver items, paintings, porcelain, and bronze. A highlight of the museum's collection is the group of nine Imperial Easter eggs created by Fabergé for the last two Russian Tsars.

  • The Yusupov Palace is the St Petersburg residence of the Yusupov family, one of Russia's great aristocratic houses. A tour of the palace will help you imagine what life was like among the Russian Empire's rich and powerful. In 1916, Rasputin, the famous "mad monk" who tricked his way into the family of the last Tsar, was murdered in this building.

  • The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is a favorite among visitors due to its otherworldly opulence. The church was built on the site of Tsar Alexander II's murder. He was a great reformer and you'll explore his story here.

In the late afternoon, you'll transfer to the airport to catch your flight to the city of Kazan. After settling into your hotel, head out into the city center to grab dinner. You'll find plenty of restaurants along the city's pedestrian walkway, Bauman Street, or near the southern waterfront by the Kremlin.

Day 13: Discover the city of Kazan with a guided tour

Kul Sharif Mosque in Kazan
Kul Sharif Mosque in Kazan

In the morning, you'll enjoy a guided walking tour through some of Kazan's main sites. The city is the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, also known as "Third Capital of Russia". It's one of the largest economic, political, scientific, and cultural centers of the country. Kazan is an admirable city, filled with palaces and churches, as well as the distinct Tatar culture with its unique mixture of religious beliefs. 

You'll start at the centuries-old Kazan Kremlin, a citadel comprising religious sites and museums. These include the tiered Tower of Soyembika, the Annunciation Cathedral, and the colorful Kul Sharif Mosque. You can also visit Kazan's Hermitage Museum, which includes the Tatarstan Museum of Natural History and the National Gallery of Art.

Next, you'll leave the walls of the Kremlin and visit the Kazanskiy Cathedral, the Russian Orthodox Church of the Great Martyr Paraskeva Pyatnitsa, and the Kazansko-Bogoroditskiy Muzhskoy Monastery. Then enjoy the city views at Chornoye Ozero Park and visit the Lovers' Arc.

After your tour, you have the rest of the day to enjoy at your leisure. Take a stroll along the waterfront, go shopping down Bauman Street, or see a show at the Opera House.

Day 14: Fly back to Moscow and enjoy a free evening in the city

Moskva River by Night
Moskva River by Night

After breakfast, you'll transfer to the airport and catch a morning flight back to Moscow. Upon arrival, you'll settle into your accommodation and enjoy your final day in Russia. Explore any sites, museums, or markets that you may have missed, or discover some new ones. Perhaps you'll want to spend the afternoon at Gorky Park, where you can relax, roller skate, cycle, or row a boat on the lake.

You can also visit the Stalin Sisters, which were built to compete with New York’s skyscrapers; or make your way to the Triumphal Arch, which was built in the early 19th century to replace a wooden structure constructed by those who fought in the Napoleonic Wars in 1814. Enjoy panoramic views of the city atop Sparrow Hills, then continue to Moscow State University and Luzhniki Stadium, which was used during the 1980 Olympic Games.

Day 15: Depart Moscow

Goodbye, Moscow
Goodbye, Moscow

Enjoy your final morning in Moscow. When you're ready, you'll transfer to the airport in time to catch your flight.