MOSCOW – SAINT-PETERSBURG CHRISTMAS BOX

7 days / 6 nights

  • DAY 1 / MOSCOW (ARRIVAL)

    • Arrival to Moscow
    • Small orientation tour (depending on the time of arrival, only if arriving before 2:00 p.m.)
    • Transfer to the hotel. Accommodation

    In Option: Dinner at the hotel

  • DAY 2 / MOSCOW

    • Breakfast at the hotel
    • At 9h, meeting with the guide at the hotel
    • Complete panoramic tour of Moscow
    • Visit of the local market
    • Lunch in the restaurant
    • Visit of the Kremlin and its cathedrals
    • Walking tour of historical centre
    • Exterior visit to Saint Basil’s Cathedral
    • Visit of the Christmas Market on the Red Square

    In option: Skating rink on the Red Square near GOUM
    In option: Visit of Museum Panorama 360 with panoramic view of Moscow

    • Dinner at the hotel
  • DAY 3 / MOSCOW - SAINT-PETERSBURG

    • Breakfast at the hotel
    • Visit of the Cosmonautics Museum
    • Guided tour on park VDNKh, site of Soviet Exhibition and world-famous by its Soviet architecture pavilions
    • Visit (exterior) of the Monument to the Conquerors of Space and the Avenue of the Cosmonauts
    • Visit (exterior) of the VDNKh Exhibition centre and its famous Soviet architecture

    In option: Visit of Park Zaryadie with movie “Flight above Moscow”

    • Lunch in the restaurant
    • Visit to the Moscow metro
    • Transfer to railway station
    • Departure to Saint-Petersburg on high-speed train “Sapsan”
    • Arrival to Saint-Petersburg. Transfer to the hotel. Accommodation
    • Dinner at the hotel (depending on the time of arrival, dinner could be served as a packed lunch)
  • DAY 4 / SAINT-PETERSBURG

    • Breakfast at the hotel
    • Complete panoramic City Tour
    • Short walk through the Dostoevsky quarter
    • Visit to the Kuznechny food market
    • Visit to Our Lady of Vladimir Church
    • Visit of New Holland and the Christmas Market
    • Lunch in the restaurant
    • Visit to the Hermitage Museum
    • Guided walking tour through the Palace quarter
    • Dinner at the hotel

    In option: Spectacle in Mariinsky \ Michailovski \ Aleksandrinski theatre

  • DAY 5 / SAINT-PETERSBURG

    • Breakfast at the hotel
    • Excursion to Pavlovsk, visit to Paul’s Palace and Troika riding in its Park
    • Excursion to Pushkin and visit to Catherine’s Palace and its park
    • Lunch in the restaurant
    • Visit to the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood
    • Dinner at the hotel
  • DAY 6 / SAINT-PETERSBURG

    • Breakfast at the hotel
    • Visit to the Peter and Paul Fortress and its cathedral, pantheon of Romanov Tsars
    • Exterior visit to the house of Peter the Great
    • Exterior view of the cruiser Aurora
    • Lunch in the restaurant
    • Visit to the Yusupov Palace
    • Visit to the site of Rasputin’s assassination in the Yusupov Palace
    • Walk on Nevsky Prospect and the Arts district
    • Visit to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan
    • Dinner at the restaurant
  • DAY 7 / SAINT-PETERSBURG (DEPARTURE)

    • Breakfast at the hotel
    • Transfer to the airport

DETAILED PROGRAM

DAY 1 / MOSCOW (ARRIVAL)

Arrival to Moscow.

Small orientation tour (depending on the time of arrival, only if arriving before 2:00 p.m.). Vibrant, modern, and oh-so–fashionable, the Russian capital rivals the world’s best cultural destinations. The thriving metropolis is home to famous Bolshoi Theatre and the impressive Kremlin. Theatres, concert halls, chic stores, hip restaurants, and trendy clubs abound along the Moskva River. Moscow is the biggest Russian and European city, with more than 12 million inhabitants. It has been the capital of Russia since the 15th century, except from 1712 to 1918, when the capital was transferred to St. Petersburg. The city was founded in the 12th century and the Kremlin, its main fortress, was erected in 1156. Moscow rapidly gained importance and the Duchy of Moscow became the main political centre among the principalities of central Russia before Ivan III, Grand Prince of Moscow, united most of these states under his control. He liberated central Russia from the Mongol and Tatar invaders, expanded the Russian state, and was named Grand Prince of Rus, with Moscow as its capital. The city has been destroyed by invaders several times throughout its history: the Mongols, Crimean Tatars, Poles, and Swedes have all occupied the city, and even Napoleon remained here for six weeks before beginning his catastrophic retreat during the Russian winter. During World War II, the German armies were stopped only 20 kilometres from Moscow. These events have shaped the city’s landscape and architecture, making it extremely eclectic: medieval fortresses neighbour Stalinist skyscrapers and beautiful baroque and neoclassic churches are located next to Art Nouveau buildings. Moscow is therefore a great centre of cultural life and arts, with several monuments on the UNESCO World Heritage List, many first-class museums, and some theatres ranked among the best in the world. It is a dynamic, always-on-the-move city which in the past few years has reinvented itself as a tourist attraction.

Transfer to the hotel.

Accommodation.

In option: Dinner at the hotel.

DAY 2 / MOSCOW

Breakfast at the hotel.

At 9h, meeting with the guide at the hotel.

Complete panoramic tour of Moscow. The ideal way to get in touch with the city, including its historical centre and major monuments. We will stroll along the broad avenues, making our way through the famous Tverskaya Street to the top of Sparrow Hills, under the imposing stare of Lomonosov 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 centre 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. We will continue through the alleyways of the ancient merchant district Kitai-Gorod, which contains numerous small churches, finally arriving at Red Square, undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in the world and designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. 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 buildings of the Russian Historical Museum, the Kremlin, and Saint Basil’s Cathedral with its gorgeous onion domes, built by order of Ivan the Terrible. Red Square is also home to Lenin’s Mausoleum and features Russian Army parades on various holidays throughout the year.

Visit of the local market.

Lunch in the restaurant.

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 centre 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.

Walking tour of the historical centre. 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 “Kilometre 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 stop in front of Bolshoi Theatre and the imposing face of Lubyanka, headquarters of the KGB. 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.

Exterior 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 of the Christmas market on the Red Square.

In option: Skating rink on the Red Square near GOUM.

In option: Visit of Museum Panorama 360 with panoramic view of Moscow.

Dinner at the hotel.

DAY 3 / MOSCOW – SAINT-PETERSBURG

Breakfast at the hotel.

Visit to the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics. This fantastic museum details the entire story of the conquest of Space. Its collection includes fascinating exhibits such as the real Sputnik, the capsule in which Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth, a spacesuit, propulsion rocket units, a reconstruction of the MIR orbital station, the Soviet Lunakhod moonrover, and many others, totalling 85000 pieces related to the space programs of Russia, the USA, Europe, and China.

Exterior Visit of the Monument to the Conquerors of Space and the Avenue of the Cosmonauts. Situated in the All-Russia Exhibition Centre (VDNKh), Cosmonauts Alley is a large pedestrian thoroughfare decorated with statues of the main characters in the story of the Soviet and Russian conquest of Space. At the end of the Alley all 107 meters of the breath-taking, titanium-covered Monument to the Conquerors of Space stand high above the earth, featuring a rocket soaring into the skies and leaving behind a gigantic exhaust plume. At the base of the monument is the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics.

Visit of VDNKh (Russian exhibition centre) with its remarkable Soviet-styled architecture. Guided visit of the VDNKH (All-Russian exhibition centre), for admiring its renowned soviet-styled architecture. The construction of the site started in 1935, at the apex of the Stalinist period, for hosting a vast exhibition boasting the feats of the Soviet Union to the world. We will admire several pavilions built on the characteristic style of that time, and many sculptures on the Soviet theme, such as the world-famous “the Worker and the Kolkhozian Woman”, by Vera Mukhina. On the premises are also Tupolev planes, Proton space rockets and even the famous “Buran”, the soviet copy of the American space shuttle. VDNKh is a favourite location of the Muscovites for their weekend strolls.

In option: Visit of Park Zaryadie with movie “Flight above Moscow”. This new, state-of-the art park has been created where used to stand the “Rossiya” hotel, a soviet behemoth of more than 3000 rooms that was demolished in 2010. It has a prime location, in Moscow’s historical heart. It stands on the banks of the Moscow River, in front of the Kremlin and next to “Kitay-Gorod”, the oldest city district. Inside the park there are 9 churches of historical interest. Zaryadye park has been designed using the most advanced trends in landscaping architecture and has received several international design awards. It features several differentiate areas, corresponding to Russia’s diverse ecosystems: Tundra, steppe, taiga, flood lands, and even an “Ice Cave”, where the temperature is always between -5 and -12 degrees Celsius. It has several exhibition objects integrated in the vegetation, or situated under it, such as restaurants, cafes, and a press centre. It features a concert hall for more than 1500 spectators, equipped with the most advanced technics, and an amphitheatre for 4000 people. Its biggest attraction is called the “Floating Bridge”, a V-shaped, 70 m-long panoramic deck that advances itself above the waters of the Moscow River. It can hold more than 3000 people at a time.

Lunch in the restaurant.

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 kilometres 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.

Transfer to the railway station.

Departure to Saint-Petersburg on high-speed train “Sapsan”.

Arrival to Saint-Petersburg.

Transfer to the hotel.

Accommodation.

Dinner at the hotel.

DAY 4 / SAINT-PETERSBURG

Breakfast at the hotel.

Complete panoramic tour of St. Petersburg. “Russia’s window to Europe”, the “Northern Venice”, the “Museum City” – regardless of the alias it goes by, St. Petersburg is a must-see. Built on mud and water in 1703 by Tsar Peter the Great, this magnificent city in northern Russia captivates, highlighted by its stately palaces, elegant bridges and majestic granite embankments flanking the river and canals crisscrossing the city. Its beauty and richness will leave you utterly spellbound. When Peter the Great wanted to push Russia toward European standards, judging his country underdeveloped and its nobility and institutions out-dated, he decided to move the capital from Moscow and build a new one from scratch closer to northern Europe, which he admired. The location seemed to be poorly chosen – a marshy land in the Great North, plagued with malaria in summer and a harsh climate in winter where thousands of forced labourers would die building the city. However, it soon began to grow rapidly, becoming a magnet for architects and artists from all over Europe who built avenues, parks, churches, palaces, canals, bridges, schools, a University, and the Academy of the Arts, and embellished the city to a degree previously unimaginable. The luxury and technical sophistication used during the construction and the wealth of the tsar’s court can be seen in the numerous palaces and theatres, as well as the luxurious facades decorating the broad avenues, called “Perspectives” (Prospects) in the native Russian. The numerous canals, islands, and bridges that were built to drain the marshy soil and the impetuous Neva lent St. Petersburg its unique character. All of this led to the city being designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. St. Petersburg remained the Russian capital for more than two centuries, from 1712 to 1918. After the Russian revolution, the capital was moved back to Moscow, after which the city endured a period of decline. The communists even changed its name twice, first to Petrograd and then to Leningrad. After the fall of the Soviet Union, St. Petersburg recovered its name and, thanks to significant reconstruction and restoration, has been restored to its past glory and splendour. Today St. Petersburg is a vibrant, dynamic city with five million inhabitants and is the fourth largest city in Europe. It is the most visited city in Russia and, in addition to its wonderful cultural heritage, offers visitors an impressive palette of recreational activities all year round. A guided tour completely in English, this tour is ideal for getting the feel of the city, and in particular its historical centre and major monuments. Participants will enjoy Nevsky Prospect along with its most prestigious buildings: the Anichkov, Stroganov, and Beloselsky-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 Griboyedov Canal, formed the border of the city centre. The banks of Griboyedov Canal are home to the well-known Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood, built in the so typically Russian style with its multi-coloured 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 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 Vasilyevsky Island we will see the Strelka, the Menshikov 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 Theatre Square, after which the tour will conclude with a visit to the St. Nicholas 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 reflects 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 favourite 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.

Visit of New Holland and the Christmas Market.

Lunch in the restaurant.

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, and 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. Its sumptuous interiors, richly decorated by the most talented artists, are a marvellous frame for this unique collection.

Short walk through the Palace quarter. The quarter near the Winter Palace, today the Hermitage museum, is one the oldest and most interesting in the city. Here lived Alexander Pushkin: 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 honour after a duel with a French officer of the Tsar.

Dinner at the hotel.

In option: Spectacle in Mariinsky \ Michailovski \ Aleksandrinski theatre. This is a unique opportunity to admire one of the world’s best performances, in such a prestigious scene. You will see by yourself the importance that the Russian people gives to the art, with the performances attended by citizens of all ages and social layers.

DAY 5 / SAINT-PETERSBURG

Breakfast at the hotel.

Excursion to Pavlovsk, visit to Paul’s Palace and Troika riding in its Park. From ancient times until the appearance of automobiles, nothing was faster than these carriages: a huge sled in winter and equipped with wheels in summer, all pulled by a team of three horses and called a “troika” in Russian. Troikas were adored by Russians and were the subject of much admiration and amazement among foreigners, now considered one of the symbols of Russia. You will experience unforgettable moments riding a traditional Russian troika, participating in the rich heritage of the past with its everyday life and culture. During your ride, you will enjoy the sound of the little bells that decorate the horses and feel the breeze over your face.

The palace at Pavlovsk was a present made by Catherine the Great to her son Pavel, who would become Tsar Paul I, in 1777. Its magnificent park, covering 600 hectares along the valley of the Slavyanka River, is one of the most extensive landscape parks in the world and the biggest of its kind near St. Petersburg. It was designed by Charles Cameron in the English style, and was originally a game reserve for the tsar. The Dutch gardens, their colourful flowerbeds situated next to the Palace, were reserved exclusively for the imperial family. The park is considered a masterpiece of European landscape architecture, with green slopes along the meandering Slavyanka, gentle streams, and beautiful monuments among the meadows and woods. The park is a favourite among the residents of St. Petersburg, who love to walk here all year round.

Excursion to Pushkin and visit to Catherine Palace with its famous “Amber Room” and its park. The small city of Pushkin, located 30 kilometres to the south of St. Petersburg, was named after the great Russian poet. In the past it was also called Tsarskoye 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 favourite 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 neighbouring 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.

Lunch in the restaurant.

Visit to the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood. Erected in 1882 by order of Alexander III, it was designed and named to memorialize his father Alexander II, killed in a terrorist attack on pavement preserved inside. It was built in the traditional Russian style and influenced by churches from the Yaroslavl region and Saint Basil’s cathedral in Moscow and is therefore very different from the rest of the churches in St. Petersburg. Its facade is made from red bricks decorated with mosaics, and its onion domes are covered with brightly-coloured ceramics and gilded painting. However, it is the magnificent interior where the décor achieves its greatest splendour: more than 7500 square meters of mosaics, unlike any other church in the world. Its silhouette rising from the waters of Griboyedov canal is undoubtedly one of the symbols of the city.

Dinner at the hotel.

DAY 6 / SAINT-PETERSBURG

Visit to the Peter and Paul Fortress and its cathedral, pantheon of Romanov Tsars. 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.

Exterior visit to the house of Peter the Great. This small wooden house was inspired by the Dutch houses of the 18th century. It was one of the first buildings of St. Petersburg and it was from this spot that the Tsar watched the construction of his city between 1703 and 1708. There is a living room, a bedroom, and an office, all with period decorations and furnished with the tsar’s personal belongings.

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.

Lunch in the restaurant.

Visit to the Yusupov Palace. This sumptuous palace on the bank of the Moika River belonged to the Yusupov princes, the richest and most aristocratic family in Russia. You will be impressed with its decorations: frescoes, marble, stucco mouldings, reliefs, Venetian mirrors, gold chandeliers, sets, lovely furniture, soft silks, carpets, and much more. A visit to this palace will allow you a glimpse into the luxury and wealth of the noble families in pre-revolutionary times. The palace even has its own theatre with seating for 180 people where the most famous artists of the time gave private performances for the family and its guests. It was in this palace that Grigori Rasputin, favourite of Tsar Nicolas II and his wife, was killed in December 1916.

Visit to the rooms in the Yusupov Palace where Rasputin was assassinated. The Siberian monk Grigori Rasputin came to St. Petersburg in 1903, having travelled throughout Russia, Greece, and the Holy Land. Once in the imperial capital, he quickly gained influence in the Tsar’s family thanks to his supposed remedial power as demonstrated on Tsarevich Alexei, who was a haemophiliac. Jealous of the sway he held with the Tsar, Felix Yusupov and other eminent courtyard noblemen killed him inside the Yusupov Palace. We will visit the rooms where these events took place and see an exhibition devoted to the amazing story of his life and death.

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 Beloselsky-Belozersky 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 multi-coloured onion domes of the Church of the Saviour on Blood soar above Griboyedov canal.

Visit of Our lady of Kazan Cathedral. 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.

Dinner at the restaurant.

DAY 7 / SAINT-PETERSBURG (DEPARTURE)

Breakfast at the hotel.

Transfer to the airport.

The order of visits is subject to change at any time due to operational reasons and museums schedules.

HOTELS

MOSCOW

4* Sup.: Holiday Inn, Radisson, Novotel, Azimut, Borodino, or similar

SAINT-PETERSBURG

4* Sup.: Radisson, Marriott, Holiday Inn, Sokos, Holiday Inn, Vedensky, Nash, or similar