Discover the vibrant capital cities of Russia, starting in Moscow with its famous Red Square, Kremlin, and sprawling Izmailovsky Market. You'll visit ancient settlements of the Golden Ring, including the towns of Vladimir and Suzdal, touring museums, churches, and monasteries. End your trip exploring St Petersburg's monuments and palaces, including Tsar's Village, Peterhof, and the Hermitage with the world's largest collection of paintings.

Highlights

  • Enjoy one of the world’s greatest art collections at the Hermitage Museum
  • Discover the sites, cathedrals, and monuments of Moscow's Red Square
  • Walk the ancient streets of Suzdal and explore churches in Vladimir
  • Explore the birthplace of St Petersburg at the Peter and Paul Fortress
  • 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 Enjoy a tour of the Red Square, the Kremlin, and the metro Moscow
Day 3 Explore Moscow's museums and the city's historic metro Moscow
Day 4 Take the train to Vladimir and Suzdal in the ancient Golden Ring Suzdal
Day 5 Explore Suzdal - Take the train back to Moscow Moscow
Day 6 Soak at the Sanduny bathhouse and visit the Bolshoi Theater Moscow
Day 7 Explore the Izmailovsky Kremlin and its market Moscow
Day 8 Take the train to St. Petersburg - Tour the Peter and Paul Fortress Saint Petersburg
Day 9 Visit the Hermitage Museum and enjoy an afternoon river cruise Saint Petersburg
Day 10 Discover Tsar's Village and the UNESCO site of Peterhof Saint Petersburg
Day 11 Create traditional Russian dishes with a cooking class Moscow
Day 12 Explore museums and enjoy a Russian folk show Saint Petersburg
Day 13 Visit churches, museums, and/or palaces with a free day in St Petersburg Saint Petersburg
Day 14 Depart St Petersburg Saint Petersburg

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: Enjoy a tour of the Red Square, the Kremlin, and the metro

Views of the Kremlin
Views of the Kremlin

Now that you've had a night to rest, it's time to properly explore the Russian capital. You'll start your day with a general tour of Moscow, visiting some of its best-known streets and sites along the way. You’ll see the so-called Stalin Sisters, which were built to compete with New York’s skyscrapers, as well as the Triumphal Arch and the Church of Christ the Savior. You'll then visit the New Maidens Convent, Sparrow Hills, Moscow State University, and Luzhniki Stadium

After lunch, your local guide will help you explore all the sites that are congested in Red Square, starting with views of St. Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin from across the river. You'll enjoy a guided tour of the Kremlin, 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.

Afterward, you'll visit the Moscow metro. Construction began under Stalin in the 1930s and was intended to be a showpiece, acting as an underground palace for the people. Today, nearly 9 million people use it on peak days. You'll explore some of these magnificent stations while getting an important taste of everyday life for commuters and city workers.

In the late afternoon, you'll have free time to continue exploring the city on your own or to return to the hotel to rest before dinner.

Day 3: Explore Moscow's museums and the city's historic metro

Moscow by Night
Moscow by Night

In the morning, you'll meet your guide and start your tour of the Cold War Museum at Bunker 42. This is the only declassified military object in Russia, which is located at a depth of over 200 feet (65 m) underground in the center of Moscow. As an anti-nuclear bunker, the facility includes an interactive Cold War museum, conference rooms, banquet halls, and a restaurant.

Afterward, you'll make your way to Kosmopark, which is located in the northeastern part of the city. Here you'll find several sites dedicated to Russia's history in space exploration, including the Monument to the Conquerors of Space. At the base of this monument is the Museum of Cosmonautics, which contains a wide variety of Soviet and Russian space-related exhibits and models which explore the history of flight, astronomy, space exploration, space technology, and space in the arts. 

The last stop on the tour will be the Moscow metro. Construction began under Stalin in the 1930s and was intended to be a showpiece, acting as an underground palace for the people. Today, nearly 9 million people use it on peak days. You'll explore some of these magnificent stations while getting an important taste of everyday life for commuters and city workers.

The rest of the day is yours to continue exploring Moscow on your own or to rest at your hotel.

Day 4: Take the train to Vladimir and Suzdal in the ancient Golden Ring

Skyline of Vladimir, Russia
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. 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 nearly thousand-year-old sculptures and icons. Next, you'll make your way to the small town of Suzdal. Along the way, you’ll also visit the Church of the Intercession on the Nerl, widely considered to be the most sublime and elegant examples of medieval Russian architecture. You’ll then take a short drive through the rustic Russian countryside and settle into your accommodation for the night.

Day 5: Explore Suzdal - Take the train back to Moscow

Alexander Monastery in Suzdal
Alexander Monastery in Suzdal

Today you’ll explore Suzdal, one of central Russia’s fairy-tale towns. After visiting its kremlin, you’ll explore the town’s most important sights, including the wooden architecture museum. 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 you’ll feel the pressures of everyday life subside and immerse yourself 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 late afternoon, you'll transfer to the railway station in Vladimir to catch the train back to Moscow.

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Day 6: Soak at the Sanduny bathhouse and visit the Bolshoi Theater

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

An excellent way to relax and experience a quintessential Russian tradition is with a visit to the legendary Sanduny Banya bathhouse. Dating back to the 11th century in some areas of the Eastern Slavic regions, neighbors would visit communal baths together as the only way to get clean. Today, the Russian banya is a national institution and, on occasion, a social event. People soak, eat, drink, and chat as a way to improve their mood and feel refreshed. 

Perhaps the most characteristic feature of the banya is the veniki, a birch or oak branch with leaves still attached. It's used to gently hit each other, which is believed to increase blood circulation and remove dead skin particles. Trust the locals and enjoy, as it’s much more pleasurable than it sounds! When you have finished with the banya, remember to congratulate your fellow bathers and say ‘S lyohkim parom’, which means 'light steam’.

For dinner, enjoy a meal at a Georgian restaurant. Georgian cuisine is a popular staple in Russia and found throughout the country. Afterward, you'll end the day with a show at the opulent Bolshoi Theater.

Day 7: Explore the Izmailovsky Kremlin and its market

View of Izmailovsky Kremlin
View of Izmailovsky Kremlin

Generally, “Kremlin” is a Russian word meaning fortification. But it’s not the case with the Izmailovsky Kremlin. Today you will explore this venue, which was built as a cultural and entertainment complex in 2007, modeled after Russian architecture of the 18th century. Here you can see the Church of St. Nicholas, the highest wooden church in Russia at 151 ft (46 m) tall, as well as cafes, souvenir shops, and different museums (like 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 (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 dolls to take home.

After the market, you have the evening to enjoy the historic streets of the city's central core. Grab dinner in one of the traditional restaurants and bask in the glow of the city's lights.

Day 8: Take the train to St. Petersburg - Tour the Peter and Paul Fortress

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

After an early breakfast, you'll catch a high-speed train from Moscow to St Petersburg, arriving in about four hours. Settle into your accommodation and set out to explore Russia's "Northern Capital" with a guided tour of the city.

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 and Palace Square. 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.

In the late afternoon, you'll return to your hotel for a break before heading back into the city for dinner. Stroll down 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 9: Visit the Hermitage Museum and enjoy an afternoon river cruise

Cruising by the Kazan Cathedral in St Petersburg
Cruising by the Kazan Cathedral in St Petersburg

In the morning, set out to meander the streets of St Petersburg on your own as you leisurely make your way to the city's famous State Hermitage Museum. Stroll through Mikhailovsky Garden where you'll find the city's iconic landmark, the colorfully-domed, 19th-century church, Savior on the Spilled Blood. From here, cross the canals and make your way toward Palace Square which is home to grand baroque architecture housing museums and palaces, including the popular Winter Palace and the Hermitage Museum. 

Founded by Catherine the Great in 1764, you'll enjoy viewing vast collections of art and relics from the city's past, with over three million items to be seen. This includes 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.

Enjoy lunch on your own with recommendations from your guide, then head out onto the canals for a river cruise. As a city built on 42 islands, St Petersburg is surrounded by water and interlaced with a complex web of rivers, canals, and channels. The city's classical architecture is low-rise, so you'll enjoy great views from the water.

In the evening, you can experience a typical Georgian dinner at the restaurant Mamalyga, which is directly behind the Kazan Cathedral. Georgian cuisine is delicious and everywhere in Russia, a forever favorite with the locals and a must-try for visitors.

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: Create traditional Russian dishes with a cooking class

Russian Pirogi
Traditional Russian Piroshki

Today you’ll learn how to cook some classic Russian dishes. You'll join your guide at one of the city's bustling food markets, selecting your ingredients from an array of local and regional sellers. Back in the kitchen, you'll learn different cooking and baking techniques that are frequently used in traditional Russian recipes.

Your instructor will discuss which recipes you'd like to make. Perhaps you’ll attempt some 18th or 19th-century imperial favorites, or hearty peasant standbys, such as borscht soup, piroshki, or pelmeni dumplings. Whatever you choose, you'll enjoy it for lunch along with your teacher. As you eat, you'll learn about holiday dining traditions and the popular dishes of Soviet times.

After lunch, you are free to explore the city on your own.

Day 12: Explore museums and enjoy a Russian folk show

Folk Dancing in Russia
Folk Dancing in Russia

Your day begins with a visit to ILLUSIUM, the first interactive museum in St Petersburg. You can independently study, touch, and photograph each individual exhibit, creating an experience of spatial sound and optical illusion. You'll learn interesting facts about the work of the brain and memory, explore your vestibular apparatus, and visit a virtual reality.

Next, you'll make your way to the Shadow Museum, a unique art space that presents modern art objects in the style of shadow. A unified exposition connects all the pieces in a tribute to the city of St Petersburg. The Shadow Museum develops creative thinking, exposes an unusual view of the world, and teaches guests to find new images in habitual items. Enjoy an afternoon exploring the atmosphere of confrontation between light and shadow.

In the evening, you'll immerse yourself in Russian folk culture at the popular show, Feel Russian. Enjoy a 2-hour performance in the grand Nikolaevsky Palace. Costumed artists alongside a small classical quartet will provide great traditional ambiance with songs, dancing, and music. During intermission, you'll enjoy a snack bar of fruits, canapes with red caviar, ham, Russian-style Salami, and drinks.

Day 13: Visit churches, museums, and/or palaces with a free day in St Petersburg

Views from Smolny Cathedral
Views from Smolny Cathedral

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.

  • Shopping at Nevsky Avenue is a popular past time and a great way to spend an afternoon. You'll find many international shops lining this street, as well as locally-owned boutiques.

  • Set at the bend in the Neva River is the 18th-century baroque Smolny Cathedral, known for its colorful blue-and-white facade. The church offers excellent views of St Petersburg from its observation deck.

Day 14: Depart St Petersburg

St. Nicholas Cathedral
St. Nicholas Cathedral, St Petersburg

It's time to say goodbye to Russia. After your final breakfast, you'll transfer to the Pulkovo Airport in time to catch your flight home, or onto your next destination.