Russia is sometimes described as a nation of two souls. Moscow represents old world tsarist Muscovy, with its Orthodox faith, onion domes, and thousand year history. St. Petersburg is an elegant city born from Enlightenment, aristocracy, and revolution. Discovering these two contrasting capitals is pure travel magic, and this exciting tour of Moscow and St. Petersburg will give you a taste of their compelling stories.

Highlights

  • Enter the famous Kremlin, historic home to tsars and emperors
  • Marvel at one of the world’s greatest collections of art and artifacts 
  • Walk the streets of Suzdal to feel the rhythms of a timeless landscape
  • Stand where Vikings once walked in one of Russia’s oldest cities
  • Follow in the steps of the Russian Tsars at the Catherine Palace

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Welcome to Moscow Moscow
Day 2 Get to Know Moscow Moscow
Day 3 Red Square, St. Basil's Cathedral, and the Kremlin Moscow
Day 4 Explore Medieval Moscow Moscow
Day 5 Kolomenskoye Park and the Wooden Palace of Tsar Alexei Moscow
Day 6 From Moscow to Vladimir and Suzdal Suzdal
Day 7 Explore Suzdal -> Train to Moscow Moscow
Day 8 Free day in Moscow -> Overnight Train to V.Novgorod Overnight train
Day 9 Velikiy Novgorod Velikiy Novgorod
Day 10 Drive to St. Petersburg, City Tour, and Peter and Paul Fortress St Petersburg
Day 11 Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin), River Cruise St Petersburg
Day 12 Peterhof Park and the Grand Palace St Petersburg
Day 13 Free day in St Petersburg St Petersburg
Day 14 Departure from St.Petersburg  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Moscow

Moskva river view
Moskva river view

Welcome to Russia! 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: Get to Know Moscow

Komsomolskaya metro station
Komsomolskaya metro station

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, explore the 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 3: Red Square, St. Basil's Cathedral, and the Kremlin

Dormition Cathedral, Kremlin
Dormition Cathedral, Kremlin

Today 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. 

Suggested afternoon activities:

1) Zaryadye Park
Zaryadye Park is an urban park located adjacent to Red Square in what was once one of the city’s oldest areas. In fact, the name of the park means “beyond the trading rows,” those rows of market stalls which once upon a time used to line the edge of Red Square. The park is divided into four climatic zones: forest, steppe, tundra, and the floodplains, which taken together represent the Russian landscape. From here you can enjoy spectacular views of the Kremlin and the old city center and venture out over the traffic and over the river on an innovative flying bridge. For the historians, look out for a small pavilion which showcases the history of the neighborhood.

2) Cold War Museum at Bunker 42
The only declassified military object in Russia, which is located at a depth of 65 meters underground in the center of Moscow, as an anti-nuclear bunker. The underground facility includes an Interactive Cold War Museum, conference rooms, banquet halls, and a restaurant.

Day 4: Explore Medieval Moscow

Grounds of the Krutitskoye Podvorye
Grounds of the Krutitskoye Podvorye

So far, you’ve seen the big sites. 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 out of the way places that fewer tourists go to if you know where to look. So, let’s explore medieval Muscovy in greater detail. 

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 (even three centuries ago foreigners were incredulous at the size of the city) 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 of the Krutitskoye Podvorye, a secluded part of Moscow where time seems to have stopped at the 17th century.

In the afternoon, it's time to explore independently, however you choose! Here are some suggested activities for the afternoon:

1) Lunch/dinner at a Georgian restaurant.
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.

2) Izmailovsky Kremlin and market
Izmailovsky Kremlin 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 highest wooden church in Russia (46 m/151 ft in height); museums, cafes, and souvenir shops. Izmailovsky market is the largest market for souvenirs and handicrafts from different Russian regions. This is a good place to buy Khokloma, Gzhel, Palekh which are all tradition 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 5: Kolomenskoye Park and the Wooden Palace of Tsar Alexei

Ornate details on the Wooden palace in Kolomenskoye
Ornate details on the Wooden palace in Kolomenskoye

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.

After lunch, take a boat (or 'river tram' as the locals call it) on your own from the Kolomenskoye Park port and enjoy the view of the city from the Moskva River. You won't have to wait long, as they depart every 15-20 minutes. Take a seat, sit back and prepare for a memorable experience, as you pass the beautiful Novodevichy Convent, the Stalin-era skyscraper of Moscow State University,  Gorky Park,  Christ the Saviour Cathedral, and, finally Moscow's Kremlin and St. Basil's Cathedral. Approaching the city's most famous sights by water allows you to see them from the best vantage points, and you can sit back and enjoy the views.

Day 6: From Moscow to Vladimir and Suzdal

Dormition Cathedral, Vladimir
Dormition Cathedral, Vladimir

After an early breakfast, you will be taken to Kursky railway station to catch an express train to Vladimir (1 hr 40 min). 

Vladimir and Suzdal embody the old-world Russia that history buffs dream of. Onion-domed churches rising behind medieval walls, surrounded by traditional wooden peasant cottages and the legendary Russian countryside. These two towns are not to be missed!  You’ll explore monasteries which have remained the same for centuries, see the remains of the Kremlins, and stand in the same place where the terrifying Mongolian army tore down the town gates, bringing the rule of these once independent principalities to a fiery end.

On arrival in Vladimir, you’ll visit the Golden Gates and explore some of Russia’s greatest surviving medieval churches, where you’ll learn about the meaning behind the nearly thousand-year-old sculptures and icons.

On your way from Vladimir to Suzdal (30 min), you’ll also visit the Church of the Intercession on the Nerl, widely considered to be the most sublime and elegant examples of medieval Russian architecture. You’ll then take a short drive through the bucolic Russian countryside to Suzdal where you'll check into your accommodation for the night.

Day 7: Explore Suzdal -> Train to Moscow

Wooden architecture museum, Suzdal
Wooden architecture museum, Suzdal

Today you’ll explore Suzdal, one of central Russia’s fairy-tale towns. After visiting the Kremlin, you’ll explore the town’s most important sights. This includes the wooden architecture museum, where you’ll be able to venture inside peasant huts, wooden churches and get a taste of what life was like over a century ago.

Perhaps the highlight of your visit is simply the feeling of being in a seemingly timeless rural environment, where you’ll feel the pressures of everyday life subside as you immerse yourself in the atmosphere of a bygone world.

In the afternoon, you'll transfer to Vladimir railway station to catch the train back to Moscow.

Day 8: Free day in Moscow -> Overnight Train to V.Novgorod

Nativity Church at Putinki
Nativity Church at Putinki

You'll have the morning free to explore the city on your own today.

Suggested activities:

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, transfer to Leningradsky train station to catch the overnight train (around 8 hrs) to Veliky Novgorod (or Novgorod-upon-Volkhov).

Day 9: Velikiy Novgorod

View of Novgorod from the river
View of Novgorod from the river

Upon arrival to Velikiy Novgorod central station, you will have a nice traditional Russian breakfast to gather your strength for the day.

Novgorod, which means “New City,” is actually one of Russia’s oldest cities. (The old Novgorod is an archaeology site near the Yuriev Monastery.) Today you’ll have a general tour of the city, including the magical Kremlin and St Sophia Cathedral, the Yaroslav Marketplace, Yuriev Monastery, and the Wooden Architecture Museum.

Eastern Europeans love their museums of wooden architecture and you’ll see two of the best on this trip. Some of the churches preserved here in Novgorod’s museum date back to the time of Ivan the Terrible in the 1500's. The peasant was the backbone of Russian society and this is a great chance to explore their lives.

Day 10: Drive to St. Petersburg, City Tour, and Peter and Paul Fortress

Peter and Paul Fortress
Peter and Paul Fortress

After an early breakfast, take a drive to St Petersburg (around 3 hrs). Upon arrival, 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 11: Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin) and Afternoon River Cruise

Catherine Palace
Catherine Palace

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.

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.

Day 12: Peterhof Park and the Grand Palace

Peterhof Park
Peterhof Park

One of St. Petersburg's most famous and popular 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.

Day 13: Free day in St Petersburg

Neva River
Neva River

Today, St. Petersburg is yours to explore however you choose!

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

1) The Hermitage 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.

2) St Isaac's Cathedral is arguably the most iconic church in St Pete. Looming over the city since the 1850's, it is the largest Orthodox cathedral in the world and its interior beauty is matched by its well-balanced Neo-Classical exterior. 

3) Kazan Cathedral is modeled loosely on St Peter's in the Vatican. It is essentially the home church of the Russian armed forces and once displayed objects captured from Napoleon.

4) Church of The Savior on Spilt Blood was constructed on the spot where assassins murdered Tsar Alexander II in 1881. The church, although over a century old, looks like it belongs in Moscow and evokes the old world of onion domes and traditional orthodoxy. Witnessing the contrast between these two landmarks, St Isaac and The Church of the Savior, makes for great travel memories.

Day 14: 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.