St. Petersburg and Moscow, 7 nights
Day 1 – Sunday or Monday: Saint-Petersburg (arrival)
Arrival to Saint-Petersburg
Transfer to the hotel
Day 2 – Monday or Tuesday: Saint-Petersburg
Breakfast at the hotel
Panoramic City Tour. A guided tour completely in English, this tour is ideal for getting the feel of the city, and in particular its historical center and major monuments. Participants will enjoy Nevsky Prospect along with its most prestigious buildings: the Anichkov, Stroganov, and Belozersky Palaces; Lutheran, Catholic, and Armenian churches; the orthodox Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan, the Eliseev, Singer, and Mertens buildings, and many others. We will cross the Fontanka, the river that, along with the Moika River and Griboedov Canal, formed the border of the city center. The banks of Griboedov Canal are home to the well-known Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, built in the so typically Russian style with its multicolored cupolas and gold onion domes. The former Winter Palace, once a residence of the tsars and now the Hermitage Museum, dominates the northern bank of the Neva River, while on the opposite bank the silhouette of the Peter and Paul Fortress and its high spire command the skyline. We will stop by the Aurora Cruiser, whose guns opened the Russian revolution, followed by the House of Peter the Great – it was from this modest residence that the Tsar personally kept an eye on the construction of “his” city between 1703 and 1708. On Vasilievsky Island we will see the Strelka, the Menchikov palace and a historical building which is part of the State University. We will pass by the Admiralty with its imposing gold broach, a symbol of the Russian navy on which Peter the Great wanted to base his empire. His equestrian statue is erected in front of the Senate building and St. Isaac’s Cathedral with its impressive columns made from Finnish red granite. Then there are the buildings of the Conservatory and Mariinsky Theatre on Theater Square, after which the tour will conclude with a visit to the St. Nicolas Naval Cathedral, surrounded by canals.
Short walk through the Dostoevsky quarter. The world-famous Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky was always deeply connected to St. Petersburg, then the capital of the Russian Empire. He loved the city and lived in about 20 different apartments, most of them situated in the same part of the northern capital and near a church or cathedral, as he was a strong believer. We will visit one of his preferred areas, situated in the heart of St. Petersburg. Beyond the elegant facades, the interior of these houses reflect all the different classes represented in the city, from rich families to the middle and low classes, the ones that interested Dostoyevsky the most. He brilliantly depicted these characters and their daily life with the details he knew so well in many of his books, such as Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, and others. During our walking tour we will discover the cobbled streets where the writer lived, see the last home of Dostoyevsky, where his memorial is situated, and visit Vladimir Church, where he used to pray.
Visit to the Kuznechny food market. Situated in one of the oldest parts of the city, the so-called Dostoevsky quarter, it was built in the beginning of the 20th century and today is the most well-known market St. Petersburg, a favorite with the city’s citizens. It is not the cheapest place in the city, but is certainly the best-stocked of its markets. Since its opening only the best natural products have been gathered here from all of Russia and its regions: fruits, vegetables, and spices from the fertile oasis of Central Asia and the slopes of the Caucasian Mountains, along with milk fresh from the cow, home-made cheese, healthy dried fruits, forest mushrooms, fresh fish, and caviar. What is most amazing is that before you buy you can taste almost any product here – the best guarantee of quality! Once you have tried some honey or a slice of cheese you will not be able to leave without taking some of these delights with you.
Visit to Our Lady of Vladimir Church. Built originally out of wood in 1747, the actual stone building was inaugurated in 1768 and designed by the architect Pietro Antonio Trezzini with a surprising mix of the Baroque and Neoclassical styles. Situated in a densely populated area, this is one of the churches most often visited by the city’s inhabitants, and boasts five onion-shaped domes along with one separated belfry. During the communist rule in Russia it hosted an anti-religious library, though its religious functions were restored in 1989. One of its most famous visitors was Dostoyevsky, who frequently prayed at the church.
Exterior view of the cruiser Aurora. The Aurora is the ship of the Imperial Navy whose guns announced the beginning of the Russian Revolution on October 25, 1917 when its crew joined the Revolutionaries, neglecting an order to leave the city. Its sailors not only gave the signal for the assault on the Winter Palace, but even participated in it. Visitors will appreciate its historical guns and enjoy the beautiful view of the Neva and embankment.
Free time for lunch
Visit to the Peter and Paul Fortress. Located on a small island opposite the winter palace and dominating three branches of the Neva River, the Fortress was intended to protect the city from a naval assault. It was the city’s first building and is considered the foundation of St. Petersburg, while the tsars also used it as a political prison for their main opponents. Now it is a museum and one of the best spots in the city to enjoy magnificent panoramic views of the Neva’s southern bank. One of the guns on the top of its bulwarks is even fired every day at noon, and what was initially a small wooden church built inside the big fortress was eventually expanded and improved on, becoming the current cathedral, both hits with visiting tourists. There we will take in the graves of all the tsars of the Romanov dynasty and their families, including the grave of Peter the Great, founder of the city, and those of Nicholas II and his family, killed during the Bolshevik revolution of 1918. Their remains were buried in the cathedral in 1998.
Walking tour along Nevsky Prospect and through the Arts Quartier. Nevsky Prospect (avenue) is the main thoroughfare of St. Petersburg and the city’s most beautiful and important avenue. It is the commercial and social heart of the city; an animated place full of shops and cafes where the inhabitants of the city love to walk and have fun. We will admire some of its most important buildings, such as the Anichkov, Stroganov, and Belosselski-Belozerski palaces; the Gostiny Dvor Department Store; the Eliseev, Mertens, and Singer houses; and the Anichkov Bridge. Nevsky Prospect is also home to some of the most important churches in St. Petersburg: the Lutheran Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, the Catholic Church of St. Catherine, the Armenian Church of St. Catherine, and the imposing neoclassical colonnade of Our Lady of Kazan Cathedral. We will walk in front of the sumptuous Grand Hotel Europe on our way to discovering the “Arts Quartier,” and around the majestic Mikhailovsky Palace, which hosts the Russian Museum. Located in the same square are Mikhailovsky Theatre, the Theatre of Musical Comedy, the Philharmonic, and the imposing façade of the Ethnographic Museum. A short distance from Nevsky Prospect the multicolored onion domes of the Church of the Savior on Blood soar above Griboedov canal.
Visit to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan. This cathedral is a real treasure of 19th century Russian architecture, built in 1800 by order of Paul I and based on the same model as St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The plans were designed by Voronikhin, originally a serf of the Stroganov count before becoming professor of architecture at the Fine Arts Academy. Kutuzov, hero of the war against Napoleon, was buried here in 1813, and the epitaph on his tomb was later written by Pushkin. During the Communist period the cathedral was transformed into the Museum of Atheism. It reopened at the end of the Soviet regime as a place of worship and today is one of the city’s main orthodox churches.
Day 3 – Tuesday or Wednesday: Saint-Petersburg
Breakfast at the hotel
Short walk through the Pushkin quarter. Almost two centuries have passed already since the tragic death of the most famous and celebrated Russian poet, but Russians still remember and love his books and admire his attitude toward life. He was not only an extraordinarily talented writer, but an outstanding person who actively participated in the politic and social life of his time, defending the interests of the Russian people. Our visit will take us to the area of the city where he lived between his long and frequent trips. We will stroll along cobbled Millionnaya Street where we will admire the old palaces, the impressive Atlantes holding one of the Hermitage colonnades, and the romantic Winter Canal. By the Moika River we will discover the elegant facade of the house that Pushkin shared with his wife and where he died defending her honor after a duel with a French officer of the Tsar.
Visit to the Hermitage Museum. The magnificent Hermitage Museum is the most important sight in St. Petersburg, occupying the Winter Palace, former residence of the Russian tsars, and three more adjacent buildings overlooking the Neva River. The Hermitage is Russia’s biggest museum and one of the most important in the world. It was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great and it grew richer through the centuries as tsars purchased entire art collections abroad. Today it is home to more than three million masterpieces and hosts invaluable collections of sculptures, pictorial art, crystals, porcelain, carpets, jewellery, engravings, antiques from the classical era, modern art, weapons, medals, coins, precious books, and many more. It is well known all over the world for its collections of Italian, Flemish, French, and Spanish pictorial art, and particularly for its paintings of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Rembrandt; impressionists such as Gauguin, Matisse, and Van Gogh; and such geniuses of modern art as Picasso. Its sumptuous interiors, richly decorated by the most talented artists, are a marvellous frame for this unique collection.
Free time for lunch
Visit to Alexander Nevsky’s Monastery (Lavra). Built by Peter the Great in 1710 on the banks of the Neva as the end of Nevsky prospect, this monastery is one of the oldest buildings in the city. Initially it was devoted to preserving the burial place of Alexander Nevsky, the medieval Russian hero and Prince of Novgorod who saved the country from Swedish, Teutonic, and Tatar invaders. There are only two orthodox Lavras in Russia: the one in St. Petersburg and another in Serguiev Posad, near Moscow. Alexander Nevsky Lavra is composed of two churches built by Trezzini in the Baroque style, the majestic and Neoclassical Trinity Cathedral, and various cemeteries, all surrounded by beautiful gardens.
Visit to Tikhvinsky Cemetery by Nevsky Lavra. The cemetery of Our Lady of Tikhvin was founded in 1823 in St. Petersburg near Alexander Nevsky Lavra, with many figures from Russian art, artists, and famous writers buried here. Some of them are very well known, including the composers Tchaikovsky, Glinka, and Mussorgsky; the sculptor Klodt; the historian Karamzin; the fabulist Krilov; and the poet Zhukovsky. Fyodor Dostoevsky, one of the most renowned Russian writers, is also buried here. The funerary monument was erected in 1883 by the architect Vassiliev and the sculptor Lavretzky.
Day 4 – Wednesday or Thursday: Saint-Petersburg
Breakfast at the hotel
Excursion to Pushkin and visit to Catherine’s Palace and its park. The small city of Pushkin, located 30 kilometers to the south of St. Petersburg, was named after the great Russian poet. In the past it was also called Tsarskoe Selo, meaning “Village of the Tsars”. Catherine Palace, named after Peter the Great’s wife, Catherine I, is one of the most beautiful residences of the Russian tsars. It was designed by the famous Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli, the designer of the most important monuments and palaces of the city, and was constructed in the 17th century, spanning the reigns of five tsars. Each of them altered the palace according to their own personal tastes and what was in vogue at the time, from the initial Rococo through to the later Neoclassic. It was a favorite of Catherine II, her incomparable heritage crowned by the Amber Room, covered from floor to ceiling with Baltic amber. The Amber Room was kept from the public for almost 100 years and opened only after a full renovation in 2003, on the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg. We will also admire the beauty of the large ballroom known as the Grand Hall or the Hall of Paintings. The beautiful architecture of the palace is surrounded by the neighboring park, where you can walk among the birches, firs, lakes, ponds, streams, bridges, sculptures, and pavilions – unforgettable beauty that has been the subject of many poets and artists.
Free time for lunch
Excursion to Pavlovsk and visit to Paul’s Palace and its park. The palace at Pavlovsk was a present made by Catherine the Great to her son Pavel, future Tsar Paul I, in 1777. The place soon took the name of Pavlovsk and quickly acquired numerous masterpieces thanks to the tsar’s spouse, Maria Fedorovna, who was fond of art and a sponsor of many artists. We will appreciate the refinement of its salons, the harmony of its colors, the elegance of fireplaces made from Carrara marble, and an extensive collection of porcelain, paintings, and ivory articles. Its park, covering 600 hectares, was initially a game reserve for the tsar, and is considered a masterpiece of European landscape architecture.
Return to Saint-Petersburg
Visit to St. Nicolas Naval Cathedral. This beautiful Russian Baroque building is remarkable for its massive golden cupolas. It was built in an area where sailors had lived ever since the town was founded by Peter the Great due to the many canals crisscrossing the neighbourhood and the proximity of the port, and the Naval Regiment established its headquarters there. The cathedral itself was a gift from Prince Golitsin to Tsaritsa Elisaveta Petrovna for the feats of Russian fleet, as the temple of St. Nicholas the Miraculous, patron saint of sailors, with architect Chevalinsky managing construction from 1753 to 1762. The cathedral building is actually composed of two separated churches on different floors: Saint Nicholas Church on the lower one and Epiphany Church above it. Both are richly decorated with moulding and corinthian columns, the ensemble crowned by a beautiful freestanding bell tower.
Free time on Nevsky prospect
Transfer to railway station
Departure for Moscow
Night in train in quadruple compartments
Day 5 – Thursday or Friday: Moscow
Breakfast on board
Arrival to Moscow
Panoramic tour of Moscow: the ideal way to get in touch with the city, including its historical center and major monuments. We will stroll along the broad avenues, making our way though famous Tverskaya Street to the top of Sparrow Hills, under the imposing stare of Lomonossov University, one of the Stalin-era skyscrapers scattered throughout the city. From there we will admire an impressive panorama of the city, followed by a stop at Victory Park and another in front of Novodevichy Convent and its lake, the inspiration for Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. We will approach the historical center from the banks of the Moskva River, coming out near the White House, location of the siege of the Russian Government. We will also stop at Arbat Street, a busy pedestrian thoroughfare nicknamed the “Moscow Montmartre” because of the artist that used to live in the area and the painters that nowadays populate the street. We will pass in front of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, the Parliament Building (Duma), Bolshoi Theatre, and the imposing facade of Lubyanka, headquarters of the KGB.
Exterior visit to Novodevichy Convent. Novodevichy Monastery, designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, is one of the most beautiful monasteries in all of Russia and is situated in the southwest of the capital on a meadow next to the Moskva River. It was founded as a fortified monastery by Vasili III in 1524 to commemorate a victory over the Polish and Lithuanian armies and the seizure of Smolensk. During the 16th and 17th centuries the great boyar families and even the tsar’s family sent their daughters there. The monastery is situated next to a small lake which served as the inspiration for Tchaikovsky’s famous Swan Lake ballet, the exteriors of its five-domed cathedral and bell tower being stunningly beautiful.
Walking tour of the historical center. We will begin our tour on Manege Square, the site of the imperial stables as well as an ancient livestock fair. We will pass by Russia’s “Kilometer Zero” and continue our walk, admiring as we go the Art-Nouveau facades of the luxurious National and Metropol hotels as well as the Parliament Building (Duma). We will stroll through the alleyways of the ancient merchant district of Kitai-Gorod, home for numerous small churches, including the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan and the Cathedral of the Epiphany. We will also stop at GUM, the famous historical galleries which have been transformed into a veritable temple of luxury, and afterwards continue our walk at Red Square, included in the UNESCO World Heritage list and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in the world. It was named Red, or “Krasnaya” in Russian, which in Old Russian was a synonym of “beautiful.” Now the square is surrounded by the famous State Historical Museum, Kremlin, and St. Basil’s Cathedral with its fabulous onion domes, built by order of Ivan the Terrible. Red Square is also home to Lenin’s Mausoleum, and additionally features parades by the Russian Army on various holidays throughout the year. We will walk along the Kremlin walls, visiting Alexander Garden, the most ancient in Moscow and home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with its eternal flame.
Free time for lunch
Visit to Saint Basil’s Cathedral. This piece of architecture is considered one of the primary symbols of Moscow. The whole group is carefully laid out: it has the form of a Greek cross constituted by a central church and four chapels set at the four cardinal points, between which there are four other, smaller chapels. Its central church, which is 57 meters high, is surmounted by a tent-shaped roof, while the others brandish spectacular onion-shaped domes crowned by large gilded crosses. The Cathedral was constructed by order of Ivan the Terrible between 1555 and 1561 to memorialize his victories over the Golden Horde. The Tsar took possession of the town of Kazan after a long siege on October 1, 1552, after 300 years of occupation by the Tatars, on the same day as the orthodox celebration of Intercession. The name is therefore commemorative of this event: the Cathedral of the Intercession of the Virgin, only changing to “Saint Basil’s” after the construction of a 10th chapel on the grave of Vasili (Basilius), an ordinary man made a saint in 1580. He dedicated his life to poor people and was very popular in Moscow, while also predicting Ivan the Terrible’s victory. The legend says that Ivan the Terrible was so impressed by the Cathedral that he command that the architect be blinded to ensure that he would not be able to rebuild it anywhere else.
Visit to the Moscow metro. Opened on May 15, 1935, by the Soviet government as a symbol of the technological and industrial prowess of the political system, the Moscow metro was considered to be the “People’s Palace.” The most important artists of the period took part in its decoration, and materials were brought from all corners of the country, representing the union of the Soviet people. The metro is still the city’s main transportation artery and even one of the most important in the world, with its 200 kilometers of railway lines and 145 stations. We will visit the most important stations decorated with luxurious materials: more than 20 types of marble, granite, and onyx, as well as paintings, majolica, glass, mural paintings, mosaics, etc.
Day 6 – Friday or Saturday: Moscow
Breakfast at the hotel
Visit to the Kremlin and its cathedrals. The word “Kremlin” in Russian means fortress, and in early Rus every important town had a fortress encircled by a wall where the main buildings, churches, and cathedrals were located and protected. The Moscow fortress, the cradle of the city, is the main fortress in the country and has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Built in the 12th century, it took the form we know today in the 15th century. It is an excellent reflection of the different stages of Russian art; a single monumental center of architecture, painting, and decorative and applied arts. The best craftsmen and artists worked on its churches, cathedrals, and palaces, bequeathing to us their priceless work framing the power and fame of Russia that is concentrated in its unforgettable alleyways and different sections. The Kremlin is even today the seat of some of the main political and religious government bodies: the President’s Palace, different administrative and military buildings such as the Senate and Armoury, and also numerous churches and cathedrals. Its walls, 19 meters high and 2235 meters long, tower above the Moskva River and Red Square and are made from eight kilogram bricks. We will visit the fortress, enjoying the view of the world’s biggest “tsar bell”, forged in 1733, and the “tsar cannon”, one of the biggest guns ever made in the entire world. Forged in 1586 by Andrew Chokhov, its purpose was to defend the gate of the Spasskaya tower, though it has never been used. The Cathedral Square is an architectural jewel, flanked by the Dormition Cathedral, the Cathedral of the Annunciation, and the Cathedral of the Archangel.
Free time for lunch
Visit to the Tretyakov Gallery. This unrivalled gallery was named after its founder, the famous trader Pavel Tretyakov (1832-1898), a major sponsor of 19th century Russian art. Tretyakov’s dream was to build a large museum open to everyone regardless of class or wealth, with a significant collection of exhibits designed to help people understand and admire the history of Russian art. The project materialized in 1881 with the inauguration of the gallery as Tretyakov donated more than 2000 exhibits to the gallery from his own collection in Moscow, beginning the history of what today is an impressive museum featuring more than 130000 works of art created by Russian artists, an overall historical narrative of Russian painting from the 11th century until the present. Its treasure is its collection of icons, while among its best known pieces are the Byzantine “Virgin of Vladimir”, attributed to St. Luke according to the legend, and the masterpiece of Andrei Roublev called the “Trinity”.
Visit to Zamoskvorechye. This charming corner of busy Moscow is hidden south of the Kremlin, across the Moskva River. It’s a quartier different from others in the city, one where we can still admire traditional Russian houses. Each street even has its own church, defying the communist regime, when most churches in Moscow were destroyed. On the other side of the river lived the authorities and nobility, while this was home for handcrafters and merchants beginning in the 18th century. During the 19th century, artists, architects, and writers travelled to Zamoskvorechye and this quartier to bask in its creativity and dynamism. We will appreciate the elegant facades, the little churches, and the beautiful palaces from the 18th and 19th centuries, all set in a calm, picturesque atmosphere.
Visit to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. This imposing cathedral is quite simply the biggest Orthodox church ever built. A symbol of the Russian victory against Napoleon, its construction was finished in 1883, coinciding with the coronation of Alexander III. Its style tends toward the neo-classic side despite its neo-byzantine plans, with the interior decoration made mostly out of Carrara marble, displaying vivid paintings of the battles between Russian and Napoleonic troops. In 1931 Stalin ordered the cathedral blown up in order to build the largest sky-scraper in the world, the Soviet Palace, though the project was quickly abandoned because of flooding from the Moskva River, and so the largest swimming pool in the world was eventually constructed in the hole that was left. After the fall of the Communist regime, the Cathedral was rebuilt according to the original plans. Its inauguration took place in 2000, along with the canonization of the last tsar and its family, killed during the Bolshevik revolution.
Day 7 – Saturday or Sunday: Moscow – Sergiev Possad – Izmailovo
Breakfast at the hotel
Excursion to Sergiyev Posad and visit to its monastery. Located about 70 kilometers to the north from Moscow on the Imperial Road of the Golden Ring, Sergiev Posad (formerly known as Zagorsk) is one of the most important centers of Russian Orthodoxy. Its construction was begun by St. Sergius, who established a monastery-fortress there in 1340 that would over the course of the centuries become one of the most important spiritual centers in Russia. There you will see the characteristic elements of the military architecture of the 15th-18th centuries, the period of its development. Nowadays, the Monastery of the Holy Trinity and St. Sergius is still operational and is home to a seminary, the Technological Institute, the Pilgrimage Centre, and the residence of His Holiness the Patriarch of All Russia, thanks to which the city picked up its nickname as the “Russian Vatican.” Among its numerous churches and cathedrals, the most notable and significant are the Cathedral of the Assumption with its blue domes and the Cathedral of Dormition. It houses the tomb of Boris Godunov and his family as well as a copy of Andrei Roublev’s famous icon of the Trinity, the original of which is in the Tretiakov Gallery in Moscow. Sergiev Posad has been designated by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Free time for lunch
Visit to Izmailovo. Located near Moscow, Izmailovo is famous for its huge flea market where you can buy not only cheap souvenirs, but also valuable articles made by the best craftsmen. In addition to the typical Russian dolls, jewels, Soviet era objects, and craftwork from around the whole country are available. The range of products and their varied origins are proof that we stand at the crossroads between Europe and Asia. Several workshops offer the opportunity to try one’s hand at traditional jobs such as goldsmithery, pottery, and weaving. You can also admire many imitation buildings representing traditional Russian architecture made from wood and stone.
Visit to the Vodka Museum in Izmailovo including vodka tasting in order to get to know the history of this well-loved beverage in Russia – it is just as common to drink it during a marriage as it is to do so when celebrating a birth! It was even used as currency at the beginning of the 20th century. The principles of distillation will be detailed in order to understand how to produce this 80 proof alcohol (or at least the commercial version) that was even served to troops during World War II. Moreover, a part of the museum is dedicated to this tragic period. The visit is followed by a little vodka tasting.
Day 8 – Sunday or Monday: Moscow (departure)
Breakfast at the hotel
Transfer to the airport
- Nevsky Grand
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- Katerina City
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4* Sup. centre
- Marriott Courtyard
- Radisson Sonya
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- Novotel Moscou Centre
- Holiday Inn Lesnaya
- Holiday Inn Suschevsky
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