Take a walk in the tropics: 5 of Russia’s best botanical gardens

Primulas have burst into bloom at the Apothecaries' Garden botanic garden of Moscow State University.

Primulas have burst into bloom at the Apothecaries' Garden botanic garden of Moscow State University.

Vladimir Astapkovich/RIA Novosti
Spring and summer are the best time for walks, and there’s nowhere better to enjoy the sights and scents of flora in all its breadth than in a botanical garden. RBTH found out what interesting things you can do in the main gardens in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sochi and even in the Arctic Circle.

1. The Main Moscow Botanical Garden of the Academy of Sciences

- Take a walk along the pathways

One of Europe's largest botanical gardens is located in the northeast of Moscow. It is open all year round and popular both with those who like a leisurely stroll along its picturesque pathways and those who prefer slightly longer routes: It’s about 2.5 miles through the garden to the famous VDNKh park and exhibition center.

- Enjoy the cherry blossom

The Japanese garden was created in the 1980s by landscape architect Ken Nakajima. Behind the bamboo gates a typical Japanese garden has been recreated for meditation and contemplation: It is decorated with houses and pavilions (for tea ceremonies), stone pagodas, streams and bridges. The garden is open from late April to mid-October. In early May, it is enveloped in a pink-white cloud — here it is- Sakura blooming.

- Go to the greenhouse

Here you can see a thematic exhibition, listen to a guide telling you about the tropical plants and take part in a botanical drawing workshop. A new greenhouse, the highest in Europe at 110 ft. (33.6 meters), is soon to open.


2.  The Apothecaries' Garden, or the Botanical Garden of Lomonosov State Moscow University (Moscow)

- Immerse yourself in the story

This oldest botanical garden in Russia was founded by Peter the Great for the cultivation of medicinal plants. The picturesque pond reminds of the past — it was constructed in the 18th century, and its bottom is laid out with Gzhel clay. The local cats are considered to be descendants of those that were living there during the reign of Peter I.

- Get acquainted with rare plants

Orchid fans will certainly appreciate the collection of exotic plants, featuring a large number of collectible species of orchids. Among them there are the giant Dracula and coal-black Dracula, as well as the tulip orchid Anguola. In addition, the garden is home to the spherical cactus Matucana and the giant waterlily Victoria Amazonica.

- See a play

The performances of the theater S. A. D. (“Garden”) are designed for both adults and children. A walk in the greenhouse is a part of the performance.


3. The Botanical Garden of the Russian Academy of Sciences (St. Petersburg)

- Visit an island

A decree establishing the garden, one of the oldest in Russia, was signed by Peter the Great in 1713. And later Vorony Island, where the garden is located, became known as Aptekarsky in honor of the original medicinal purpose of the garden.

- Follow one of three routes through the greenhouse

There are several tour programs for visiting the greenhouses. The tropical route introduces visitors to collections of ferns, succulents and orchids, while the subtropical one boasts citrus plants, camellias and azaleas. The water route will begin to work in summer: You can visit the Greater Palm and Victorian hothouses. Guides are available.

- Play a quest

For children there are special fun tours on which they can get acquainted with record-breaking and unusual plants. Adults will also find it interesting!


4. The Sochi Arboretum (Sochi is 870 miles south of Moscow)

- Ride a cable car

A cable car runs from Kurortny Prospekt to the upper terraces of the arboretum, which offers a splendid panoramic view of Sochi.

- Visit the Villa Nadezhda

In 1889, the ballet historian Sergei Khudekov built the Villa Nadezhda ("Hope") on the slope of Mount Vereschaginsky. Over the years the villa has welcomed cultural figures such as the great singer Feodor Chaliapin and writer Anton Chekhov. Today it is home to a memorial exhibition.

- See the Fairy Tale fountain

A huge marble fountain was installed in the Soviet era in 1969. The sculptural composition is based on The Tale of Tsar Saltan, written by the great poet Alexander Pushkin.


5. The Polar-Alpine Botanical Garden (Kirovsk, 1,100 miles north of Moscow)

-  Enjoy the views of the polar region

The most northern botanical garden in Russia was opened in 1931 and is located in the Murmansk Region. It is also one of the world’s three botanical gardens located beyond the Arctic Circle.

- See the tropics in the permafrost

Pre-book a tour and you'll see with your own eyes how in the harsh climatic conditions even tropical and subtropical plants can grow.

- Take a stroll on an eco-path

Take a walk through the different altitudinal zones of the Khibiny mountain range and get acquainted with the local flora. This route is only available in the summer upon request.


Read more: Myths and legends of Moscow's historic Soviet-era hotels

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