Discover Russia's two capital cities on this trip to Moscow and St Petersburg, starting with tours of the Red Square, the Kremlin, and some of Moscow's most interesting monasteries, palaces, parks, and museums. Explore the medieval neighborhoods, as well as enjoy a boat cruise along the river. Take the train to St Petersburg, where you'll tour Peterhof in the Pushkin District, the world's largest painting collection at the Hermitage Museum, and the city's birthplace at the Peter and Paul Fortress, all while learning about the city's important cultural and historical significance.

Highlights

  • Discover the sites, cathedrals, and monuments of Moscow's Red Square with a tour
  • Tour the Kremlin and learn about the city's government and history
  • Explore the birthplace of St Petersburg at the Peter and Paul Fortress
  • Visit the grandiose gardens of the UNESCO site of Peterhof
  • Enjoy one of the world’s greatest art collections at the Hermitage Museum

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Moscow - Explore Moscow
Day 2 Enjoy a tour of the Red Square, the Kremlin, and the metro Moscow
Day 3 Explore more of Moscow, including its medieval neighborhood Moscow
Day 4 Enjoy a free day to explore parks, museums, and take a river cruise Moscow
Day 5 Take the train to St Petersburg - Explore Saint Petersburg
Day 6 Enjoy a guided tour of St Petersburg and the Peter and Paul Fortress Saint Petersburg
Day 7 Enjoy a guided tour of the Hermitage Museum Saint Petersburg
Day 8 Discover Tsar's Village and the UNESCO site of Peterhof Saint Petersburg
Day 9 Free Day in St. Petersburg Saint Petersburg
Day 10 Depart St Petersburg  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Moscow - Explore

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

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 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: Enjoy a free day to explore parks, museums, and take a river cruise

Grand Palace in Tsaritsyno Park
Grand Palace in Tsaritsyno Park

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

  • 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 also walk down 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.
  • Moskva River. Enjoy a cruise along the river, discovering the city from a different vantage point. Some cruises include lunch or dinner.
  • Tsaritsyno. This district is set in the southern part of Moscow and is home to the neo-Gathic Palace of Catherine the Great. The grounds include an extensive garden with ponds and pavilions. 
  • 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.
  • Izmailovsky Market. Izmailovsky Kremlin 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.
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Day 5: Take the train to St Petersburg - Explore

Arch of General Staff in Palace Square
Arch of General Staff in Palace Square

After breakfast at your hotel, you'll transfer to Moscow's railway station and catch your 4-hour, high-speed departure to St Petersburg. After arriving in the city, you'll settle into your accommodation and head out to explore St Petersburg. Your trip will include guided tours of the city, so enjoy your first few hours by simply strolling by its main sites.

Mikhailovsky Garden is a good starting point and 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. From across the river, you can view Peter and Paul Fortress, which is set on a small islet and founded by Peter the Great in the early 1700s. 

Wander toward St. Issac's Cathedral, a 19th-century Russian Orthodox church, where you'll find plenty of restaurants to grab some dinner. Or, if you have the energy, take the subway to the Vasilievsky Island neighborhood, which is brimming with baroque architecture and trendy pubs, cafes, and wine bars popular with the university crowd.

Day 6: Enjoy a guided tour of St Petersburg and the Peter and Paul Fortress

Aerial View of Peter-Pavels Fortress
Aerial View of Peter-Pavels Fortress

Today you'll explore St Petersburg with a local guide, learning why the city is known as Russia’s "Window to the West" and the "Venice of the North".

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 these 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.

After lunch, 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 7: Enjoy a guided tour of the Hermitage Museum

Kazan Cathedral
Kazan Cathedral

Today you'll visit the State Hermitage Museum, which is one of the world’s greatest art museums. 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, 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.

The rest of the day is yours to continue exploring the city at your leisure. 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 8: 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 evening is yours to continue exploring the city.

Day 9: Free Day in St. Petersburg

St. Nicholas Cathedral
St. Nicholas Cathedral

Your final day in Russia is yours to freely explore St Petersburg on your own. Some suggestions include:

  • The State Russian Museum is located in the heart of the city and possesses the largest collection of Russian art in the world, starting with 13th-century icons and including the works of 20th-century masters. The main exposition is located in two adjacent buildings.
  • The Erarta Museum is the largest private museum of contemporary art in Russia. The name of the museum consists of two words: era and art. Its collection includes more than 2,800 works by Russian artists, and the museum presents around 40 temporary exhibitions annually. A visit to Erarta is a completely different experience from viewing the art of classical and conservative St. Petersburg.
  • The Log Cabin of Peter the Great is the smallest, oldest construction in the city. Built within the first three days of the city's existence, it suffered from numerous floods. Peter the Great and his successors preserved the cabin by moving it and, later, building a brick pavilion around it.
  • St. Isaac's Cathedral, the largest cathedral in St. Petersburg, is not only an interesting museum with numerous colorful mosaics and paintings inside, but its dome is also the best place in the city to enjoy the capital from a birds-eye view. If you didn't get to see it on your first day in St Petersburg, you can enjoy it today.
  • The Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood, site of Emperor Alexander II's assassination, is also a museum of icons, a gold-clad high altar, and mosaics that depict scenes from the Bible. Closed to the public for many years, the church-turned-museum reopened on the tricentenary of St. Petersburg, after a long-term reconstruction.

In the afternoon, 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: Depart St Petersburg

St. Issac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg
St. Issac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg

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