Things to do in Russia
“Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”, Winston Churchill once said and these words stand true today when it comes to exploring this magnificent country. Given Russia’s sheer size alone, you could say it would take a lifetime to uncover only a handful of Russia’s tourist gems and the best approach might be to tackle the country in sections rather than as a whole if you want to reflect on your journey from Russia with love (oh snap).
A popular short trip might include a few days exploring Moscow’s palaces, cathedrals and significant monuments around the Red Square, before stopping by charming Golden Ring towns like Suzdal and medieval Novgorod on your way to cultural hub and historic beauty, St Petersburg. Another option is to embark on the legendary 18th-century Trans-Siberian Railway route that unravels Russia’s vast evolving terrain along the 9,000-kilometre journey between Moscow and Beijing. This journey not only covers Moscow and St Petersburg, but ventures through the wonderments of Siberia en route to the wilds of Mongolia for a ger camp stay then onto China’s most famous treasures.
For the more adventurous, venture further afield to places like the ski resort of Dombay, complete with about 20 kilometres of ski routes; Essuntuki’s medicinal hot spring and hydrosulfide baths; the pagan ritual site of Kizhi; Prussian beach resort Kranz and the splendorous Siberian tour at Olkhon Island off of Lake Baikal. If you’re willing to rough it, go farther east and explore from the Ural Mountains to the Lena River in Siberia.
If architecture and culture are more your style, we recommending sticking to the metropolitan European side of Russia, rich with Neo-Classical and Baroque architecture, ballets, operas, and an emerging new culture scene. Want more inspiration? Here’s our must-see sights in Russia.
The Russian capital’s ancient heart that used to symbolise the Soviet government is a massive complex of palaces, cathedrals and significant sights near the Red Square in downtown Moscow. Don’t miss the treasures of the Armoury or the gilded cathedrals.
One of the most-visited sites in Moscow, Red Square is not that colour or named for Communism, but is a translation of ‘krasny’ that can mean ‘red’ or ‘beautiful’. The vast square offers a stunning lit panorama at night and a winter wonderland hidden in snow in the colder months.
The wow factor of the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg is never-ending with 3 million items representing world culture and art from the Stone Age to present day. There’s also architectural marvels Winter Palace and the Hermitage Theatre and much, much more.
This open-air museum rests on one of the islands of Lake Onega and is rich in Russian architecture including churches made solely from pine plus 18th-century traditional farms, gardening displays and old-school settlements.
The official abode of Russian monarchs from 1732 to 1917, the monumental Winter Palace is an eyeful of opulent architecture and artifacts reflective of the residence’s rich and ever-changing history.
Home of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Russia’s largest resort town Sochi extends some 145 kilometres along the Black Sea. It comes complete with beaches attracting hordes of tourists during the summer as well as parks, monuments and impressive Stalin architecture to be enjoyed year round.
Home of the Russian Pacific Fleet, Vladivostok is more than a stop in the Trans-Siberian Railway journey - especially for civil architecture and marine buffs.