This comprehensive tour of Russia’s two capital cities—Moscow and St. Petersburg—will bring you beyond the highlights to hidden gems known only to locals. Whether this is your first time in Russia or a repeat visit, you’ll be sure to find something new and exciting on this tour. Visit iconic sites like the Kremlin, Hermitage Museum, and Bolshoi Theater along the way.

Highlights

  • Enter the famous Kremlin, the historic home of tsars and emperors
  • Visit the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg's collection of art and artifacts
  • Follow in the steps of Russian tsars in Tsarskoye Selo at the Catherine Palace

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Welcome to Moscow Moscow
Day 2 Classic Tour of Moscow, Red Square, and The Kremlin Moscow
Day 3 Medieval Moscow and Izmaylovsky Kremlin Moscow
Day 4 Kolomenskoye Park and Museum - Afternoon Moscow Metro Tour Moscow
Day 5 Free day in Moscow Evening at the Bolshoi Theater Moscow
Day 6 Train to St. Petersburg, City Tour, and Peter and Paul Fortress St Petersburg
Day 7 Hermitage and River Cruise St Petersburg
Day 8 Tsarskoye Selo and Peterhof Palace St Petersburg
Day 9 Depart St.Petersburg  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Moscow

Moskva river view
Moskva river view

Welcome to Moscow! Upon arrival, you'll be picked up from the airport and taken to your hotel to relax after your flight.

If you're feeling up to it, have a walk around and explore the local neighborhood, enjoy a coffee in an atmospheric cafe or have dinner in a local restaurant. Feel the buzz of the Russian capital and get ready for your adventure.

Day 2: Classic Tour of Moscow, Red Square and The Kremlin

Resurrection Gates to Red Square
Resurrection Gates to Red Square

As a newly minted Muscovite, it’s only proper that you get to know your city! We start our day with a general tour of Moscow, taking in some of its best-known streets and sites along the way. You’ll have a chance to see the so-called Stalin Sisters, which were built to compete with New York’s skyscrapers. You’ll take in the Triumphal Arch and the Church of Christ the Savior before heading to New Maidens Convent, Sparrow Hills, Moscow State University, and Luzhniki stadium. You’ll have time to explore some of these sites and you'll have plenty of time for photo stops at all of them. This is all just scraping the surface of this beautiful and always intriguing city. Prepare to be surprised and beguiled by Moscow.

After lunch, it's time for the blockbuster sites of Red Square, St Basil’s and the classic view of the Kremlin from across the river. This morning features one of your trip’s highlights, a tour of the Kremlin. That icon of power, beauty, and majesty. It’s an unforgettable visit to one of the world’s very few medieval fortresses still functioning in its original intended purpose as a center of government, a seat of religious authority, a military base and not to mention an expression of raw power. After lunch, you'll have the afternoon to continue exploring on your own. 

After a long day, stop at Vatrushka Restaurant (5 B.Nikitskaya St) which is situated close to Lenin Library not far from the Kremlin and offers traditional Russian menu. The breakfast menu is available here from 8 am to midnight, and on weekends they make wonderful caster sugar doughnuts.

Day 3: Medieval Moscow and Izmaylovsky Kremlin

Izmailovsky Kremlin (Photo by Pixabay)
Izmailovsky Kremlin (Photo by Pixabay)

So far, you’ve seen the big sites. Today we’re going to have a busy day. In the morning, we’ll explore medieval Muscovy in greater detail. Sites like the Kremlin, St Basils and the New Maiden’s Convent are must-sees, but the spirit of medieval Moscow can still be found in unknown places that few tourists know of. So, let’s begin.

We start with a visit to the last remaining sections of the Kitai Gorod wall, with a discussion of Moscow’s military defenses and how the largest city in Europe was defended. Then we’ll head through the streets of Kitai Gorod, the heart of the oldest part of Moscow, although, most of what you see today was built in the 18th – 20th centuries. Next, we’ll stop by the Romanov Boyar house and the Old English Embassy. We then head out to the Krutitskoye Podvorye, a secluded part of Moscow where time seems to have stopped at the 17th century. 

After lunch, it's time to visit the Izmaylovsky Kremlin and Market. Generally, “Kremlin” is a Russian word meaning fortification. But it’s not the case with the Izmailovsky Kremlin. It was built as a cultural and entertainment complex in 2007, modeled on Russian architecture of the 18th century. Among other sites, you can see the Church of St. Nicholas, the tallest wooden church in Russia (46 m/151 ft in height); museums, cafes, and souvenir shops.

In the market, you can buy souvenirs and handicrafts from different Russian regions. This is a good place to buy Khokloma, Gzhel, Palekh which are all traditional handicrafts. You can also pick up an “ushanka,” the famous Soviet ear hat. The antique market is a great place to pick up Soviet souvenirs, ranging from the authentic to the kitschy. 

The Izmailovsky Kremlin houses several museums including the popular Vodka Museum, the Museum of Folk Arts and the unique museum of Bread.

Day 4: Kolomenskoye Park and Museum -> Afternoon Moscow Metro Tour

The wooden palace of Tsar Alexei
The wooden palace of Tsar Alexei

Kolomenskoye was once the hunting preserve of the tsars. Today, it hosts a wonderful collection of traditional wooden buildings from around Russia, as well as a handful of late medieval churches. The star is the unique wooden palace of Tsar Alexei, a 17th-century wooden palace recreated about 10 years ago, giving you a real taste of how the sovereigns liked to live in the days of yore. (The original palaces in the Kremlin looked much like this one). Another highlight is the Ascension Church, built in 1532, and similar to the legendary Ivan the Terrible.

In the evening after rush hour, get ready to experience Moscow's metro, the heart of Moscow life. 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.

Day 5: Free day in Moscow Evening at the Bolshoi Theater

Cafes in Kitai Gorod
Cafes in Kitai Gorod

Today is yours to explore Moscow however you like!

Here are some suggestions to help you make the most of it:

1) Arbat Street and Pushkin Museum
Walk along Arbat street and visit the Pushkin museum. Pushkin is Russia’s national poet and is beloved as few others in Russian history are. No visit to Russia is complete without meeting him. We’ll walk down the famous Arbat street to see where Pushkin lived for a brief time after his marriage and later see the church where he got married.

2) The Second World War Museum at Poklonnaya Gora
The WW2 museum at Poklonnaya Gora has some excellent displays. This might seem an odd choice for a cultural tour, but it is simply impossible to understand modern Russia without understanding the countries history of fighting and defeating Hitler.

3) Tretyakov Gallery
The 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.

In the evening, you’ll visit the legendary Bolshoi Theater to watch a ballet or an opera (the season usually lasts from mid-September to mid-July).

Day 6: Train to St. Petersburg, City Tour, and Peter and Paul Fortress

The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

After an early breakfast, take a Sapsan express train to St. Petersburg (around 4 hrs). Upon arrival and check in at your hotel, it's time to get acquainted with Russia’s magnificent, history-haunted, and stunningly beautiful Northern Capital. 

You’ll find the mood here very different from Moscow. St Petersburg is Russia’s so-called Window to the West, the Venice of the North. It represents Russia’s European side, with art and architecture inspired by Classical motifs far more than traditional Russian ones. Yet St Petersburg is, in its very “otherness,” a paradoxically Russian city. Home of the Emperors, the cradle of the 1917 Revolution, the City of the Siege, and the hometown of Putin, St Petersburg is embarrassed by the richness of the stories it has to tell. Your general tour of St Petersburg includes the highlights: Senate Square, St Isaac Square and Palace Square, Nevski Prospekt, and the Smolny Institute.

After lunch, you'll visit St Petersburg's original citadel. Still standing guard over the city just as it has done since 1706. Indeed, the city was essentially born here and is incomparably represented in all its highs and lows. From beautiful architecture to the burials vaults of the Emperors, feared prison to bastion of revolution, the fortress has seen it all. You'll discover these highlights and others as you explore this thrilling monument.

Day 7: The Hermitage and River Cruise

The Hermitage
The Hermitage

In the morning, visit the Hermitage, which is one of the world’s greatest art museums. Housed partly in the old Winter Palace, this is a museum where the building is as much the star exhibit as the art on display.

A city built on 42 islands, St. Petersburg is surrounded by water and interlaced with a complex web of rivers, canals, and channels. After lunch, you'll take a river cruise to experience it for yourself. The city's classical architecture is low-rise, which means that you'll get great views from the water.  A river cruise is an essential St Pete experience.

In the evening, enjoy dinner at a Georgian restaurant Mamalyga (2 Kazanskaya Ulitsa), right behind the Kazan Cathedral. Georgian cuisine is delicious and is omnipresent in Russia. Georgian food is to Russia what Mexican food is to the USA. You simply can’t visit Russia without trying it at least once.

Day 8: Tsarskoye Selo and Peterhof Palace

Catherine Palace, Tsarskoye Selo
Catherine Palace, Tsarskoye Selo

Tsarskoye Selo (Tsar’s Village) Tsarskoye Selo (Tsar’s Village) was so called because many of the tsar’s palaces were located here outside the former capital of St. Petersburg. You’ll visit the stunning 18th century Catherine Palace and Park with the famous Amber Room. Later, you'll visit the atmospheric and more intimate Alexander Palace, home to Nicholas II and his family. Nicholas was the last tsar and something of his tragic story still seems to haunt the air of this much less visited palace. Although the Alexander Palace is currently closed for restoration and is promised to be re-opened in 2018, we will see it from outside.

After lunch, we drive to one of St. Petersburg's most famous attractions, the palace, and park at Peterhof (also known as Petrodvorets) are often referred to as "the Russian Versailles". Although many visitors conclude that the grandeur and scope of this opulent estate outshines Versaille.

Versailles was, however, the inspiration for Peter the Great's desire to build an imperial palace in the suburbs of his new city. Peterhof - which means "Peter's Court" in German - became the site for the Tsar's Monplaisir Palace, and then of the original Grand Palace. The palace was equally loved by Peter's daughter, Empress Elizabeth, who ordered expansion projects to the Grand Palace, greatly extending the park and the famous system of fountains. The palace-ensemble is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The tour includes only the park, but not the palace. Please ask if you would also like to visit the palace.

Day 9: Depart St.Petersburg

Bank bridge
Bank bridge

It's time to say goodbye to Russia for now! After breakfast, you will be taken to Pulkovo Airport to catch your flight home.