If you're traveling to Russia for the first time but don't want to follow a typical tourist itinerary, consider this two-week tour.  We've combined stops at iconic Russian museums, palaces, and gardens with visits to local markets, urban spaces, historic sites, and food and beverage tastings to give you a taste of Russian culture and history. You'll visit trendy neighborhoods, famous fortresses, a Cold War museum in a secure bunker, and a beautifully-decorated Metro station.

Highlights

  • Take a walking tour of Moscow, visiting local markets and Moscow's iconic buildings
  • Explore Moscow's famous museums, including the Kremlin and Red Square
  • Descend to an underground Cold War-era bunker, now a Moscow museum
  • Visit Veliky Novgorod, one of Russia's oldest cities
  • Discover Imperial and contemporary St. Petersburg, including palaces and gardens

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Moscow Moscow
Day 2 Moscow City Tour and Bars and Drinks Tour Moscow
Day 3 Moscow's Red Square, Kremlin, and Historic Metro Moscow
Day 4 Izmailovo Kremlin and a Local Market Moscow
Day 5 Alternative Moscow Moscow
Day 6 Moscow on Your Own and Overnight Train to Veliky Novgorod Overnight train
Day 7 Veliky Novgorod and the Vitoslavlitsy Museum of Wooden Architecture Velikiy Novgorod
Day 8 St. Petersburg City Tour Saint Petersburg
Day 9 The Hermitage Museum, Metro Tour and Vasileostrovsky Market Saint Petersburg
Day 10 Peterhof Gardens and Alexandria Park Saint Petersburg
Day 11 Pushkin and Pavlovsk Saint Petersburg
Day 12 Brewery Tour and Russian Rock'n'Roll's Birthplace Saint Petersburg
Day 13 Free Day in St. Petersburg Saint Petersburg
Day 14 Depart St. Petersburg  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Moscow

The Kremlin and the Moskva River
The Kremlin and the Moskva River

Arrive at the airport and meet your driver, who will take you to your hotel. You'll have free time today to rest or explore the city. Consider taking a boat tour on the Moskva River, walking through Red Square at night, attending a theater or circus performance, or finding a quiet sidewalk café where you can relax and take in the sights and sounds. 

Day 2: Moscow City Tour and Bars and Drinks Tour

Novodevichy Convent
Novodevichy Convent

This morning, you'll become acquainted with Moscow on a city tour. You'll visit the Cathedral of Christ the Savior and the iconic Patriarchal Bridge. Next, you'll stop by the Bolshoi Theater, then continue to Novodevichy Convent, one of Russia's oldest, most historic monasteries, to tour the grounds. You'll drive along the banks of the Moscow River and stop at Sparrow Hills to see a panoramic view of the entire city. Your tour will end with a walk along Arbat Street, a pedestrian zone in the heart of historic Moscow where street vendors, buskers, and souvenir sellers ply their trades. After your tour ends, you'll have some free time to explore or relax.

This evening you'll take a bars and drinks walking tour that will introduce you to local craft beer, berry-infused spirits, and tasty local snacks. You'll learn about Russia's drinking customs, find out how to propose a special toast, and soak up the atmosphere in Moscow's local bars. As you walk from one bar to the next, you'll see more of Moscow's sights, such as the legendary KGB building

Day 3: 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. The metro system was created to be a showpiece and act as 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 what it's like to be a Moscow commuter. After visiting the metro stations, you'll join your guide for a traditional Russian pie and a cup of tea.

Next, you'll continue to Red Square, Moscow's main square, surrounded by numerous important monuments, museums, and cathedrals. You'll first enjoy a view of the square and the Kremlin from across the river. Then, you'll 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 complex is unique, as it is one of the world’s very few medieval fortresses that still functions 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 4: Izmailovo Kremlin and a Local Market

Izmailovo Kremlin
Izmailovo Kremlin

Begin your day by exploring the Izmailovo Kremlin, which is a unique cultural and entertainment center that looks like a small medieval Russian town. At the Izmailovo Kremlin, you can visit a museum dedicated to Russian crafts, take part in a bakery master-class, visit small churches and shop at a flea market.

In the afternoon, you'll visit a Russian food market and taste local snacks, such as honey, seasonal fruit, red caviar, smoked lard, pickled cucumber, sauerkraut, pilaf, pie, and tea.

Day 5: Alternative Moscow

Bunker-42
Bunker-42

Today you'll discover another, alternative Moscow that tourists normally do not see. Your first stop will be in Moscow’s bohemian district, where you will see how Russian contemporary art develops and how Russia’s youth spend their free time. You'll notice young artists creating their projects in front of you, discover unique souvenirs made by local artisans, and peek into impressive art galleries. At the end of the tour, you'll sample a vegan snack and try a glass of local wine.

Later you'll visit Bunker–42, a fortified underground facility, originally designed as a Cold War bunker and later used as a strategic command center. Today it is a huge facility in downtown Moscow, 213 feet (65 m) deep under the ground, that includes a Cold War museum, restaurant, and entertainment complex where visitors can play laser tag, fire tag, and other games.

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Day 6: Moscow on Your Own and Overnight Train to Veliky Novgorod

Moscow Kremlin and the Patriarchal Bridge
Moscow Kremlin and the Patriarchal Bridge

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 head back to the incredible Izmailovo Kremlin and Market. 

“Kremlin” is a Russian word meaning "fortification." The word has a different meaning when applied to the Izmailovo 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 tallest 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 7: 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 actually one of Russia’s oldest settlements. Today, the city's original outpost hosts an archaeology site near the Yuriev Monastery on the outskirts of Veliky Novgorod.

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 8: St. Petersburg City Tour

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

This morning, you'll catch an early train to St. Petersburg. Upon your arrival in the city, your tour guide will lead you through Russia's Cultural Capital.

St. Petersburg represents Russia’s European side, with art and architecture inspired by classical motifs rather than traditional Russian styles. 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 begin to understand St. Petersburg's complex character. You'll start in Senate Square, then make your way to St. Isaac's Square to view St. Isaac's Cathedral, which is often compared to St. Peter's Basilica 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. You'll 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 Prospekt.

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 St. Petersburg just as it has done since 1706. The fortress boasts not only beautiful architecture and the burial vaults of the emperors but also a feared prison and a bastion of revolution. 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 Prospekt, with its numerous restaurants, bistros, and bars, or venture to the up-and-coming neighborhood of New Holland for trendy eateries.

Day 9: The Hermitage Museum, Metro Tour and Vasileostrovsky Market

St. Petersburg Metro
St. Petersburg Metro

The director of the Hermitage Museum once said, “I can’t say that the Hermitage is the number one museum in the world, but it’s certainly not the second.” Russia’s most famous museum and one of the most respected collections of priceless art and antiquity in the world, the State Hermitage Museum houses over 3 million pieces of art and treasure.

You can see the works of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Rembrandt, Rubens, Picasso, Van Gogh, and other outstanding masters in the Hermitage Museum.  Experts say that if you were to look at every single item in the collection, just for a few seconds each, it would take you six years to see everything. If you walk through just one of the Hermitage's five connected buildings, you will have covered more than six miles (10 km). Your guide will take you through the museum room by room, pointing out must-see artworks. 

After your tour of the Hermitage Museum, you'll need to recharge. The Vasileostrovsky Market, which is both a local market and a collection of international cafés, is the perfect place to sample a variety of treats.

Next,  your guide will take you back to your hotel via metro, showing you the most fascinating stations. St. Petersburg's metro is not only as impressive as the Moscow one but is also the deepest in the world. Some of the stations are located more than 328 feet (100 m) under the ground.

Day 10: Peterhof Gardens and Alexandria Park

Alexandria
Alexandria Park

Today you'll visit Peterhof Gardens, often called the Russian Versailles. In the morning you'll travel by hydrofoil boat to Peterhof, a 40 minute-trip from downtown St. Petersburg. After visiting the Lower Garden with its numerous magnificent fountains, you'll head to another garden, Alexandria Park, named after the wife of the Russian emperor Nicholas I. The garden and the nearby buildings were built as a private retreat for the Imperial family. The telegraph station, the farmer's house, and the Imperial cottage were built in the neo-Gothic style, which was common in Europe, but new and unique in Russia.

After your tour, you'll head back to St. Petersburg, with a stopover at Shuvalovka, a reconstructed village built in the typical 17th- and 18th-century Russian wooden architectural style. You can wander through the village, learning about Russian traditions and trades, or enjoy a typical Russian lunch featuring pancakes and caviar.

Day 11: Pushkin and Pavlovsk

Alexander's Palace
Alexander Palace

Right after breakfast, you'll head to the town of Pushkin, which is located 19 miles (30 km) south of St. Petersburg. While many people visit Pushkin to tour the Catherine Palace, you'll spend your time here visiting the Alexander Palace, Emperor Nicholas II's favorite residence. The Alexander Palace served as the Imperial Family's first prison after the first Russian Revolution in February 1917.

After lunch, you'll visit another imperial residence, Pavlovsk Palace. Catherine the Great built this palace for her son, Grand Duke Paul (later Emperor Paul), and his wife, Maria Feodorovna. The sights the Grand Duke and Duchess visited on their European tour are reflected in Pavlovsk's architecture and furnishings. After Paul was assassinated in 1801, his widow remained at Pavlovsk and turned the palace into a shrine dedicated to her husband's memory.

Day 12: Brewery Tour and Russian Rock'n'Roll's Birthplace

Baltika Brewery
Baltika Brewery

This morning you'll have free time to relax or explore the city.

In the afternoon, you'll visit Baltika Brewery, which is the second-largest brewing company in Europe and the leader of the Russian beer industry. You will learn about beer brewing and bottling, visit the brewery's beer history museum, and enjoy a beer tasting at the end of your tour.

Later that evening, you'll meet your guide in the hotel lobby, and take a walk along Rubinshteina Street, the most popular street in St. Petersburg.  Rubinshteina Street is where Russian rock'n'roll began. The street is St. Petersburg's Restaurant Row, featuring lots of pubs, bars, and cafés. 

Day 13: Free Day in St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg Skyline

Your final day in Russia is yours to spend as you choose. Some suggestions include:

The State Russian Museum is located in the heart of the city. This museum contains the largest collection of Russian art in the world, ranging from 13th-century icons to the works of 20th-century masters. 

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 over three dozen temporary exhibitions each year. 

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 an interesting museum with numerous colorful mosaics and paintings inside. 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.

Head out onto the canals for a river cruise. 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.

Day 14: Depart St. Petersburg

St. Isaac's Cathedral
St. Isaac's Cathedral

Enjoy your final morning in St. Petersburg, then transfer to the airport in time to catch your flight.

Map

Map of Hidden Gems of Moscow, Veliky Novgorod, and St. Petersburg - 14 Days
Map of Hidden Gems of Moscow, Veliky Novgorod, and St. Petersburg - 14 Days