If you’re planning a holiday abroad, you’ll probably have a list of countries you’d like to visit. A top ten of places to see before you die. Everyone has a bucket list these days, right? When you finally get round to ticking off the destinations on that list, your first task is to book flights and accommodation. The next step is to plan your itinerary and decide which attractions you’d like to visit during your holiday.
If you’re visiting Tenerife or Cyprus, your itinerary is easily decided. If you’re visiting Russia, however, the rule book goes out the window. How do you explore a country with a population of 142,000,000 that borders no less than 14 nations? The short answer is you don’t. The best you can hope for is to target one or two cities and absorb as much culture and vodka as you can during your stay (in moderation, of course.) We’ve chosen to focus on two major Russian cities that are ideal candidates for first-time visitors to the Russian Federation – Moscow and St Petersburg.
Holidays in Russia: planning
If you’re planning a visit to Russia, the first thing to know is that you’ll almost certainly require a visa. This needs to be obtained in advance by applying to the Russian Visa office in London or Edinburgh. The Russian Consulate will decide on the merits of each application. As a point of reference, Russian visa applications have a higher approval rate than corresponding visa applications to enter the US. In the vast majority of cases, your application will be approved by the Russian Consulate. A single or double entry tourist visa, once granted, will entitle you to spend up to 30 days in Russia.
Holidays in Russia: historic Moscow
With a population of over 11,000,000, the Russian capital is also the federation’s most populous city. Situated on the Moskva River, Moscow has a rich and turbulent history; one defined by political upheaval, revolution, fallen heroes and a mystical peasant named Rasputin. During your stay in the capital, you’ll doubtless want to check out the red-brick towers of the Kremlin, visit the city’s impressive museums and soak up the atmosphere in Red Square. Moscow is not beholden to the past, but its history is there for all to see in the churches, statues and monuments erected in the memory of former leaders.
Holidays in Russia: modern Moscow
Dispel all thoughts of interminable winters and discontent; Moscow today is a young and vibrant city. On weekends, its party-loving people flock to warehouse raves and club nights held in converted factories and abandoned mills. Keep up with them if you can, or take things a little slower and explore the city’s wine bars and coffee shops at your leisure. Moscow is as cosmopolitan as any major European city, offering a host of sushi bars, noodle houses and beer halls alongside vodka bars and blues cafés.
Holidays in Russia: historic St Petersburg
700km to the north-east of Moscow lies St Petersburg. The distance may seem vast, but the city can be reached by train from the Russian capital in less than four hours. But if you’re planning a break in St Petersburg, the simplest option is probably to fly direct. As Russia’s cultural capital, St Petersburg is a beautiful city whose churches, monuments and grand public buildings have made it a UNESCO World Heritage site. While you’re here, be sure to visit The Hermitage, one of the world’s largest and greatest art museums and take a stroll through the historic Palace Square.
Holidays in Russia: modern St Petersburg
St Petersburg is a great city for shopping; pick up handmade arts and crafts in the local markets alongside fresh fruit and veg and fine china. No trip to Russia’s most Westernised city would be complete without sampling the nightlife of course. XXXX is a huge bar-cum-club with eclectic music that serves food all night; the door policy can be fussy, but it’s well worth chancing your luck. Just across the road from XXXX, Denis Popov Bar plays house music and serves up a dizzying array of alcoholic concoctions. For something a bit different, head to Decadance, a basement club that’s always rammed. Here, the music plays hard and the party goes on into the wee hours.