Top 30 cities to visit in Russia (PHOTOS)

Russia Beyond (Photo: ShotPrime, Dmitry Potashkin, Andrey Danilovich, saiko3p, benedek, bbsferrari, Westend61, Mordolff/Getty Images)
Looking for a travel destination but don't know where to go? What about the ancient cities of the Golden Ring, the Urals with its theaters and museums, or even a jaunt to the Far North? We have compiled a subjective ranking based on the experience of our journalists. You'll find a lot of good ideas!

30. Sochi

Yes, Sochi always ends up among the most popular cities, both for summer and winter tourism. Sure enough, it's great at any time of year. A mild climate, the sea, mountains all around and many activities to suit every taste, from health resorts to discos and a vibrant nightlife. 

29. Yaroslavl

This city is considered the heart of Russia's Golden Ring, the city is over 1,000 years old! The ancient center of Yaroslavl is also included in the list of ‘UNESCO World Heritage Sites’.

28. Samara

The embankment of the River Volga in Samara - an enjoyable location for walking or jogging - stretches for over four kilometers! Samara also has a subway, a secret bunker and one of the country’s oldest breweries.

27. Yoshkar-Ola

This city has partly been inspired by European architecture. Residential buildings are in the Dutch style and the main square is Venetian in character. And the Spasskaya Tower there is the spitting image of the one in Moscow.

26. Nizhny Novgorod

Firstly, it's an ancient Russian city with its own kremlin. Secondly, it's the birthplace of GAZ motor vehicles. Thirdly, it's the capital of sunsets. If that's not enough, it also has, among other sights, the ‘Chkalov Steps’ -  there are 560 of them, making it one of the longest flights of steps in Russia.

25. Veliky Novgorod

In the Middle Ages, Veliky Novgorod controlled extensive lands in the north and competed with Moscow for supremacy. The main historical milestones of the whole country are reflected in the Millennium of Russia monument erected there in 1862.

24. Perm

The cultural capital of the Urals. There is the house-museum of Sergei Diaghilev, who introduced Russian ballet to the world. There is the ‘Pyotr Tchaikovsky’ Opera and Ballet Theater, the only theater in Russia which has staged all 10 of his operas and his three ballets. And, there is the embankment of the River Kama, with its famous inscription: “Schastye ne za gorami” ("Happiness is not beyond the mountains"). 

23. Yekaterinburg

This Urals city is all skyscrapers and Soviet Constructivism rolled into one. Yekaterinburg also has a subway, the only one in the Urals

22. Derbent

One of the oldest towns in Russia and the world, Derbent goes back to the VI century BC. The Naryn-Kala citadel in the Derbent Fortress was founded at that time. The Juma Mosque, meanwhile, built in 734, is the oldest in Russia. 

21. Salekhard

The quintessential Far North: brightly-colored buildings, the Northern Lights and heated bus stops. Salekhard is the only city in the world situated right on the Arctic Circle. And, if you want even more of the flavor of the north, visit the city on ‘Reindeer Herder Day’, when they converge in the city from the whole of the Yamal Peninsula.

20. Ulan-Ude

Ulan-Ude is not only the capital of Buryatia, but also the center of Russian Buddhism. It is worth a visit to see the stunning ‘datsans’ (monasteries) and get to know Buryat cuisine (‘buuzy’ meat dumplings, for starters) and local traditions.

19. Yakutsk

This is the biggest city in the world built on permafrost. In winter, temperatures can drop to minus 50 degrees Celsius and, in summer, it holds its New Year celebration - ‘Yhyаkh’ (‘Ysyakh’) - on a grand scale in a festival on a par with ‘Burning Man’.

18. Tula

We'll leave the samovars, ‘pryaniki’ (‘gingerbread’), the ancient kremlin and the gunsmiths to history buffs. In addition to all that, you'll find public spaces converted from old factories, the camera-friendly Kazanskaya Embankment and the pedestrian Metallistov Street which hums with life 24/7.

17. Vladikavkaz

Ossetian pies. That says it all! Vladikavkaz is a city where you'll learn the difference between the ‘fydzhin’ and ‘ualibakh’ varieties. And what views of Stolovaya Mountain (‘Table Mountain’) open up from the center of town! 

16. Kislovodsk

The favorite resort of Russia's classic authors is famous for its natural springs, which have lost none of their trademark healing properties. The main pride of Kislovodsk is, however, the enormous city park. 

15. Kaliningrad

A corner of old Europe in Russia and the hometown of philosopher Immanuel Kant. In places, you can still encounter the authentic German style, rather than a modern replica designed to resemble the real thing and, in others, Kaliningrad looks like a typical Soviet city. 

14. Vladivostok

The city of bridges, lighthouses and volcanic hills. The terminal point of the Trans-Siberian Railway. The epic bridges across Golden Horn Bay and over to Russky Island are its calling card. Because of them, foreigners even dub Vladivostok the "Russian San Francisco". 

13. Rostov-on-Don

A large and beautiful southern Russian city where you can stroll along the embankment of the River Don, learn about the history of the Cossacks and dine on local fish soup and Don crayfish.

12. Kazan

A city with a white masonry kremlin, the "leaning" Söyembikä Tower and an eastern fairy tale-themed subway

And remember: No-one has ever left Kazan without some ‘chak-chak’!

11. Krasnoyarsk

You can get a sense of the grandeur of Siberia's natural scenery without leaving the city. Go to Tatyshev Island to see Arctic ground squirrels, go for a stroll on the cable-stayed bridge over the mighty Yenisey or, best of all, visit the ‘Krasnoyarskiye Stolby’ (‘Krasnoyarsk Pillars’) national park. The latter has 48,000 hectares of taiga and ancient rocks, but a corner of it can be visited from right inside the city.

10. Tomsk

Founded in 1604, it's one of the oldest Siberian cities. A large number of wooden mansions dating from former centuries survive in the city. If you want to see houses with "wood lacework", this is the place for you! 

9. Novosibirsk

A major Russian city with the only subway in Siberia and ‘Akademgorodok’, a closed-off Soviet city of scientists in the middle of a forest. And the only zoo in the world where you can see a large number of manuls, a breed of enigmatic and grumpy-looking wild cats (also known as Pallas's cats), up close! You might even get them to pose for you. But, we doubt it!

8. Murmansk

This is the largest Arctic city in the world! Murmansk has a population of around 270,000. A real nuclear-powered icebreaker, the ‘Lenin’ - today a museum - is moored in the middle of town. And, on the outskirts, you can see really cool murals on the facades of houses depicting the heroes of Saami folk tales.

7. Tobolsk

The town has a fairytale look: a white masonry kremlin (the only one in Siberia!), narrow European-style cobbled streets, cozy coffee bars and a neo-Gothic Catholic church. And all in the midst of dense forests and away from major roads.

6. Sevastopol

This is the base of the Black Sea Fleet and a major maritime port. The remains of ancient ‘Khersones’ (‘Chersonesus’), founded in the 5th century BC, are to be found on the territory of present-day Sevastopol.

5. Suzdal

Everything quintessentially "Russian" is concentrated in this city on the Golden Ring. Wooden village houses, a multitude of churches, traditional Russian cuisine and stores selling clothes and antique-style homewares. 

4. Vologda

Considered the principal city in the Russian North, Vologda is famous for its 16th century white masonry kremlin, wooden houses with carved window surrounds, icon painting and lace. And its ancient crafts. 

3. Arkhangelsk

Before St. Petersburg was built, Arkhangelsk was Russia's trade and cultural "window onto Europe". Old wooden merchant houses have survived on its central streets. There are also trendy restaurants serving traditional Pomor dishes with a contemporary twist.

And, on the embankment of the Dvina River, you can see a "witty reply" to the city of Perm - an inscription that reads: “Schastye ne za moryami” (“Happiness is not beyond the seas”).

2. St. Petersburg

For more than 200 years, St. Petersburg, founded by Peter the Great, was the capital of the Russian Empire. Celebrated 18th-19th century writers, painters and composers all lived there and the city is considered to be the “cultural capital” of Russia to this day. Where else can you find so many palaces, museums and architectural masterpieces in one place?

1. Moscow

The Russian capital is a city you absolutely must see at least once in your lifetime. The architecture of the most diverse periods, from Ancient Rus’ to our time, can be found there. And it also has one of the world’s most beautiful subways, some of the most exceptional high-rises and a plethora of restaurants serving food from all around the world! 

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