Planning your 1st trip to Russia? Here are the top 5 things to do

The sunset from the observation deck on top of Detsky Mir childrens' goods store in Moscow

The sunset from the observation deck on top of Detsky Mir childrens' goods store in Moscow

AFP
A first visit to our country might be overwhelming to many people: it involves a lot of preparation, and you don’t have months of vacation at your disposal. Here is a brief list of things to see and do that will make for an unforgettable experience!

1. Preparations

Also check out more practical advice on what you need to do in advance and how to prepare for your visit here.

2. Visit Moscow

VDNKh park

Well, you probably won’t be able to skip this city, as the majority of all international flights land here (unless you fly from Asia). 

Of course you’ll need ages to explore the whole capital, but three days should be enough for your first visit if you’re a morning person.

Beyond the Red Square and the Kremlin there are beautiful city parks - for example Gorky Park, where you can walk or bike along the Moskva river with a nice view and enjoy all manner of fun activities, depending on the season. Then you can visit the adjoining Muzeon park, which contains beautiful views, excellent snack places, as well as a ‘cemetery’ for Soviet statues and other art.

Another great option is the recently renovated VDNKh park, with an alluring Soviet-era feel. Both parks arrange ice-skating rinks in winter, with the latter being the biggest in town, albeit not as centrally located as the one in Gorky Park.

If you want to visit Russian ballet, book your tickets to the Bolshoi theater in advance, but don’t be upset if you can’t afford it or there are no available seats on your dates. Bolshoi is arranging live broadcasts of its ballet in cinemas all around the world - just find the nearest to you here

Don’t forget to try Russian cuisine - here is your guide to Russian restaurants in all price categories.

3. Visit one of the Golden Ring cities

Suzdal

The best way to have a traditional Russian experience is to visit Suzdal, the most ‘Russian’ city in the country. It’s an extremely cute place about 200 km from Moscow with cozy ancient churches,wooden houses and lovely nature. 

Suzdal is a very touristic city, so book your hotel in advance if you want to stay for a night (there are also lots of private rent options). However, you won’t have any trouble covering all your sight-seeing in one day.

Here is our guide to Suzdal.

4. Visit one of the noble estates 

Shakhmatovo estate of the Russian poet Alexander Blok

Famous writers, counts and scientists and other wealthy noblemen of the past used to spend summer in their countryside residences - some of them are just paradise on Earth. With small parks and alleys, house orangeries with exotic fruits, art pavilions and plenty of other things to feast your eyes on… 

No space to cover them all here- just see these pics and choose the estate you prefer the most!

5. Visit St. Petersburg

Peterhof

Whether this stop is first or last on your itinerary will depend on where your entry point is: some like to save St. Pete for last - others like to make it their base: it’s all up to you. Just bear in mind that it’s more than 700 km from Moscow, so choose wisely. That being said, traveling to St. Petersburg is a great chance to experience a night train. So if you ever thought about conquering the Trans Siberian seven-day rail journey… first try only one night aboard a Russian train. If you are a more gentle creature - take the four-hour option.

Just as you exit the railway station, go for a walk along Nevsky Prospect (here are 5 landmarks ofNevsky you shouldn't miss), see beautiful palaces and end up on the Neva river bank, Palace square - stand in line to the Hermitage museum (or better buy a ticket online). 

Rent a bike - that will be the best option to see all the sights of the city. And visit Peterhof by boat - just from the Palace Square. Watch romantic midnight bridges being raised, and walk, eat, drink and party to your heart’s content. Don’t even try to prevent yourself falling in love with this city!

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