Start in Moscow to see the iconic Kremlin and St. Basil's Cathedral, then head to the countryside to see 16th-century wooden churches in Vladimir and Suzdal. Take an overnight train to visit 9th-century Velikiy Novgorod, then continue to European-influenced St. Petersburg for world-class art in the Hermitage and the sprawling Peterhof estate. See wooden churches in Russia's northern Karelia region before returning to Kazan to see ornate mosques and Tatar culture.

Highlights

  • Explore Russia's history in medieval monasteries and Soviet skyscrapers
  • See underground palaces in Moscow's famed Metro system
  • Visit St. Petersburg to see the Amber Room and Rasputin's murder site
  • Catch a world-famous ballet performance at the Bolshoi Theater

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Welcome to Moscow Moscow
Day 2 Moscow - General tour, Kremlin, Bolshoi Theater Moscow
Day 3 Moscow - Medieval Moscow, Metro tour Moscow
Day 4 Sergiev Posad, Rostov Veliki Rostov Veliki
Day 5 Yaroslavl, Kostroma Yaroslavl
Day 6 Vladimir, Suzdal Suzdal
Day 7 Suzdal Moscow
Day 8 Moscow Free day, train to Velikiy Novgorod Moscow
Day 9 Velikiy Novgorod Veliky Novgorod
Day 10 Tsarskoye Selo, St. Petersburg St. Petersburg
Day 11 St. Petersburg - General Tour, the Hermitage St. Petersburg
Day 12 St. Petersburg - Free Day St. Petersburg
Day 13 St. Petersburg, Petrozavodsk Petrozavodsk
Day 14 Petrozavodsk, Kizhi St. Petersburg
Day 15 Peterhof and Kronstadt St. Petersburg
Day 16 Return to Moscow Moscow
Day 17 Borodino Moscow
Day 18 Kazan Kazan
Day 19 Kazan, return to Moscow Moscow
Day 20 Departure from Moscow  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Moscow

Moskva River at night
Moskva River at night 

Welcome to Moscow. Transfer from the airport to your hotel to relax after your flight. After settling in, head out to get a first look at Russia's capital. 

Day 2: Moscow - General tour, Kremlin, Bolshoi Theater

Russian ballet performing The Nutcracker
Russian ballet performing The Nutcracker

Start your day with a general tour of Moscow to see some of the city's highlights and most notable landmarks. Start your tour with a visit to several of the seven Stalin Sisters, built to compete with New York's skyscrapers. Continue to see the Triumphal Arch and the Church of Christ the Savior, as well as the panoramic views from Sparrow Hills and the Moscow State University

After lunch, head to the city center for a visit to the Red Square, the onion-domed St. Basil's Cathedral, and a chance to see the Kremlin—the home of the Russian government—up close. This medieval fortress is one of the few in the world still functioning in its original intended purpose as a government and military center.  In the afternoon, join a tour to see inside the Kremlin walls or explore on your own. Stop inside the GUM—the government department store—located opposite the Kremlin to see a Soviet-era shopping center. 

In the evening, visit the legendary Bolshoi Theater to see a world-class ballet performance on the New Stage. 

Day 3: Moscow - Medieval Moscow, Metro tour

The house of the Boyar Romanov
The house of the Boyar Romanov

Spend the morning exploring the older parts of Moscow. Start with a visit to the remaining sections of the Kitai Gorod wall and learn about how the largest city in Europe defended itself against invasions. From here you can walk the medieval sections of Moscow, although many of the buildings you see were built in the 18th-20th centuries. Stop by the Romanov Boyar house to see a museum devoted to the Russian nobility's lifestyle during the 16th-17th centuries. From here head out to the 17th-century Krutitskoye Podvorye, a restored Orthodox estate and personal metochion of the church leadership.

In the afternoon take a tour of nearly 90-year-old Moscow Metro, constructed as a showpiece and underground palace for the capital's residents. These days nearly 9 million tourists and locals use the metro for their commutes. Make sure to get out to walk around and enjoy the different styles, as each station is built in a unique artistic style. 

Day 4: Sergiev Posad, Rostov Veliki

Uspensky and Voskresensky Cathedrals in Rostov Veliky Kremlin
Uspensky and Voskresensky Cathedrals in Rostov Veliky Kremlin

Make the 1.5-hour drive to Sergiev Posad, the headquarters of the Russian Orthodox Church. Visit the tomb of St. Sergius—Russia's patron saint—and see a wide display of century-old architecture. 

After lunch drive to Rostov Veliki to see the monasteries, Kremlin, and everyday life outside of the major cities. Spend the night in a renovated and modern hotel located inside the Kremlin. 

Day 5: Yaroslavl, Kostroma

Old-town Yaroslavl
Old-town Yaroslavl

Head to Yaroslavl, located an hour away, to see another medieval Russian city. Enjoy a walk along the waterfront of the Volga River—the longest river in Europe. After lunch, continue to Kostroma, located an hour and a half away, to experience a slower pace of life in a small Russian town. This will be your first experience with Russia outside of the tourist bubble. 

Day 6: Vladimir, Suzdal

The Golden Gate of Vladimir
The Golden Gate of Vladimir 

After an early breakfast hit the road for your next stop—Vladimir, the former capital of the Grand Duchy of Vladimir from the 1150s to the 1330s. Make a quick stop at the Church of the Intercession on the Nerl, one of the finest examples of medieval Russian architecture. 

Vladimir has preserved much of its medieval architecture and old-world charm. You'll see onion-domed churches, medieval monastery walls, traditional wooden homes, and ancient city barricades. Visit the Golden Gate and see the nearly thousand-year-old sculptures and icons housed in the church, then grab lunch at a cafe in town before transferring to Suzdal for the night. 
 

Day 7: Suzdal

A typical wooden 18th-century church
A typical wooden 18th-century church

Once part of the Grand Duchy of Vladimir, Suzdal's old-world charm transports you to a time of medieval Russia. Tour the town and see the Kremlin, the Museum of Wooden Architecture, the Spasso-Efemievski Monastery, and Rozhdestvensky Church. Transfer back to Moscow for the night. 

Day 8: Moscow Free day, train to Velikiy Novgorod

Overnight train compartment
Overnight train compartment
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Today is a free day to explore the city on your own. Visit one of the city's many parks, explore the bustling downtown, or see where Soviet Russia meets modern-day luxury inside the Detsky Mir—The Children's Department and Toy Store. For a bird's-eye view of the Moscow skyline, head to the top floor, stopping by the exhibit of old Soviet toys on the way. In the evening, transfer to the railway station to catch the overnight train to Velikiy Novgorod, a typical Russian experience. 

Day 9: Velikiy Novgorod

Aerial view of the Velikiy Novgorod kremlin
Aerial view of the Velikiy Novgorod Kremlin

Arrive in Velikiy Novgorod early in the morning and enjoy coffee and breakfast in a cafe in town. Novgorod, which means 'New City', is one of Russia's oldest cities, with origins in the 9th century. Head out for a general tour of the city, including the impressive Kremlin, the St. Sophia Cathedral, the famous Yaroslav Marketplace, and the Yuriev Monastery. Enjoy the restored buildings in the wooden architecture museum, including some 16th-century churches from Ivan the Terrible's rule. 

Day 10: Tsarskoye Selo, St. Petersburg

Catherine's Palace at Tsarskoye Selo
Catherine's Palace at Tsarskoye Selo

After early breakfast drive to St. Petersburg via Pushkin to visit Tsarskoye Selo.

Spend the morning touring the countryside estates and palaces favored by the Tsars during the 18th-20th centuries. Start at Tsarskoye Selo—The Tsar Village— so called because of the many palaces that are located there. Visit the stunning 18th-century Rococo style Catherine Palace and the ornate Amber Room. 

Transfer to St.Petersburg, free time.

Overnight in St Petersburg.

Day 11: St. Petersburg - General Tour, the Hermitage

Hermitage in the Winter
Hermitage in the Winter

St. Petersburg has been described as the Venice of the North and is as strikingly beautiful as it is historically significant. Visitors will find the mood here to be more extravagant and relaxed than in Moscow. Much of downtown St. Petersburg was influenced heavily by European architecture, with art and buildings inspired by Classical motifs. Paradoxically, this very European city—complete with winding canals, ornate mansions, and gilded monuments—was also home to some of Russia's most critical historical moments. From the 1917 Revolution to the World War II siege, St. Petersburg's history has shaped Russia's future. 

Your tour of the city today will include iconic highlights—from the Kazan Cathedral to the Academy of Sciences—as well as numerous cathedrals, notable buildings, and the expansive Nevsky Prospekt

Break for lunch at one of the city's many cafes and restaurants, then continue to the Hermitage, one of the world's greatest art museums. This massive collection is housed partially in the old Winter Palace, the St. Petersburg home of the tsars. Enjoy the interior of the museum—the architecture is as much on display here as the art itself. 

Day 12: St. Petersburg - Free Day

One of the many canals in downtown St. Petersburg
One of the many canals in downtown St. Petersburg

Today is a free day to explore the city on your own. Spend the day touring one of the many museums and art galleries, or simply stroll around down one of the numerous canals and waterways. 

Day 13: Day 14 - St. Petersburg, Petrozavodsk

Church on Spilled Blood
The Church on the Spilled Blood

In the morning go for a tour of the 18th-century Yusupov Palace, the former home of the Yusupov family. The opulent and extravagant interior gives insight to life among the Russian Empire's rich and powerful families. In 1916 Rasputin, the "mad monk" who famously weaseled his way into Tsar Nicholas' family, was murdered in this building.

Continue to the Church on the Spilled Blood, a favorite among visitors due to its beauty.  Its name comes from its location on the site of Tsar Alexander II's murder. 

Take the 5-hour evening train to Petrozavodsk, then check in to your hotel. 

Day 14: Petrozavodsk, Kizhi

The Church of the Transfiguration, Kizhi
The Church of the Transfiguration, Kizhi

Start your day in Petrozavodsk, a typical northern industrial town, before taking an express boat to the island of Kizhi for a full day tour of the wooden churches. You will see one of Russia's most incredible collections of traditional wooden architecture, including the 1714 Church of Transfiguration. This 22-domed church was built entirely without nails and using only axes and is one of the tallest wooden buildings in Europe. 

Catch the train from Petrozavodsk in the evening, arriving in St. Petersburg 5 hours later. 

Day 15: Peterhof and Kronstadt

Peterhof Palace and the Grand Fountain
Peterhof Palace and the Grand Fountain

In the morning drive to the sprawling estate of Peterhof, which served as a summer home for the Tsar's family. Also known as Petrodvorets, this majestic and ornate palace was built by Peter the Great to emulate the famous Versailles gardens of France. The palace, along with the adjacent gardens, gazebos, fountains, and landscaped flower beds is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In the afternoon visit the Kronstadt naval base, which was closed to foreigners until recently. It played a key role in the Revolution of 1917 and was on the front lines during the Siege of Leningrad in WWII. 

Day 16: Return to Moscow

Moscow's International Business Center
Moscow's International Business Center

Take the train from St. Petersburg to Moscow, then enjoy a free day in the capital. 

Day 17: Borodino

Spaso-Borodino nunnery at Borodino battle field
Spaso-Borodino nunnery at Borodino battlefield

Take a one-day excursion from Moscow west to the Borodino battlefield, which was the site of the battles of 1812 and 1941. The countryside here has been part of many struggles in Russian history. 

Day 18: Kazan

Qolşärif Mosque, Kazan
Qolşärif Mosque, Kazan

Take an early morning flight from Moscow to Kazan, the capital of the nearby Republic of Tatarstan. This city is home to the Tatar population, descendants of the Ghengis Khan warriors who occupied Russian lands in the 13th-15th centuries. Go on a tour of the Kremlin, which was built by Ivan the Terrible and provided the inspiration for St. Basil's in Moscow, to see the Qolşärif Mosque and the next-door Orthodox Christian church.

Day 19: Kazan, return to Moscow

Interior of the Annunciation Cathedral of the Kazan Kremlin
Interior of the Annunciation Cathedral of the Kazan Kremlin

You have a free day to explore this 1000-year old city before catching a flight back to Moscow in the evening. 

Day 20: Departure from Moscow

Ploschad Revolutsii Metro Station
Ploschad Revolutsii Metro Station

Transfer to the airport to catch a flight back home.

Map

Map of Grand Russia Tour - 20 Days
Map of Grand Russia Tour - 20 Days