While early September can still hold the warmth of summer in some southern parts of Russia, as the month progresses the mercury drops. Average high temperatures are mild, and although parts of Russia in or close to the Arctic Circle are colder than elsewhere, temperatures elsewhere are fairly uniform. Expect average September highs of around 60° F (15° C) in all the main centers. The exception is in the far east, around Vladivostok, which remains a bit warmer, at around 68° F (20° C). In most places you'll need a coat and sweater, but nothing too heavy.
Septembers are moderately wet across Russia, more so earlier in the month. Come prepared with an umbrella or waterproof jacket. While you shouldn't expect to experience too much rain, if you're staying for a couple of weeks in September it's likely you'll experience a couple of days of wet weather.
With the dipping temperatures, the foliage on the trees also turns during September (although exactly when depends on the latitude). This is a nice time to get out into the parks in the cities, and nature elsewhere.
Crowds & Costs
Russian schools and colleges go back in September, so crowds of domestic tourists significantly ease at this time. If you fancy spending some time at a Russian beach resort (such as at Sochi), you may still get some good weather for this in early September but without the crowds of July and August.
Where to Go
If you're visiting St. Petersburg in the fall, make sure to head to Peterhof before the end of September. This is when the famous fountains close for the winter. While you can still visit the grounds and the palace buildings throughout the year, the fountains are certainly a highlight so catch them if you can.
Taking a Golden Ring tour of western Russia is a great way to get an overview of European Russian culture, history, and architecture. September is a good month to do this because the cooler temperatures will mean the car or train travel between places won't be too hot and uncomfortable, but because this area is relatively far west and south, you won't have to worry about snow.
For classic onion-domed churches and rural architecture, head to charming cities like Yaroslavl, Kostroma, Suzdal, Sergiev Posad, and Pereslavl-Zalessky. The Golden Ring can be accessed from Moscow and St. Petersburg, and you can add places to your itinerary to suit your time and interests.
Another good place to experience Russia at its rural best before the winter descends is Kizhi Island. This open-air museum is on Lake Onega, in the culturally distinct Russian Republic of Karelia, north-east of St. Petersburg. The architecture on display at Kizhi is incredible, especially the 18th century Church of the Transfiguration.
What to Do
As the temperatures drop and the cities clear out of domestic tourists, the museums and galleries in St. Petersburg and Moscow become a whole lot more pleasant than they were in the summer. If you're spending time in these major cities of the east, try to schedule in plenty of museum and gallery time.
Events in September
Moscow City Day. Many Russian cities celebrate their city days throughout the summer, but Moscow's is in early autumn and is especially lively, with parades, fireworks, concerts, street performances, and more.
Traveling to Russia in September? Check out these great itineraries
Russia's Rural Golden Ring - 7 Days. The early fall is an ideal time to venture beyond St. Petersburg and Moscow and explore the western Russian rural heartland, with spectacular churches and village architecture, and centuries of history.
Grand Russia Tour - 20 Days. This comprehensive tour of European Russia starts includes big-name destinations like Moscow and St. Petersburg, as well as those that are overlooked by many travelers, like Kazan. Make the most of the last of the good weather in September.
Highlights of Russia's Capital Cities - 8 Days. Discover the distinct cultural and artistic characters of European Russia's two largest and most vibrant cities.