St. Petersburg and Moscow, 7 nights
Day 1 / Saint-Petersburg (arrival)
Arrival to Saint-Petersburg.
Transfer to the hotel.
In option (depending on the arrival time):
Guided walking tour along Nevsky Prospect. 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.
Day 2 / Saint-Petersburg
Breakfast at the hotel.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Free time for lunch.
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.
Visit of St. Isaac Cathedral and climbing to its roof for panoramic view. This St. Petersburg landmark was designed and constructed by two main architects: the Spanish Agustin de Betancourt and French Auguste de Montferrand. St. Isaac’s Cathedral is one of the largest cathedrals in Europe, while also one of the richest by the luxury of its materials: gold, malachite, lazuli, 14 varieties of marble, more than 40 minerals and semiprecious stones, granite from Finland, and 600 square meters of mosaics, along with numerous paintings and sculptures. The dome is covered with 100 kilograms of gold. The imposing columns are each 43 meters high and made from a single piece of granite from Finland. More than half a million workers took part in the construction of the cathedral, made particularly difficult by the swampy ground, the magnitude of the project, and the heavy materials that were employed – more than 300,000 tons! Today the cathedral is a museum, with only one small chapel used for religious purposes every day, though religious services are still held on the most important orthodox holidays.
Return to the hotel.
Russian ballet. The ballet originated in Italy during the Renaissance and was later developed in France. It arrived in Russia during the 18th century, with the Imperial School of Ballet opening in St. Petersburg in 1740 and the Moscow Academy of Choreography (Bolshoi) in 1773. Originally restricted to the tsar’s court and high nobility, from the beginning of the 19th century the ballet became more popular and was opened to all social classes. Even when it started to decline in France, the ballet continued full steam ahead in Russia, reaching its zenith here. A Russian impresario, Sergey Diaghilev, founded the company “Les Ballets Russes” in Paris in 1909, popularizing ballet once again in Western Europe and highlighting the talent of Russian performers and composers. The Russian revolution provoked an exodus of artists who integrated western companies and contributed to the fame of the Russian ballet, while in the Soviet Union, after an initial rejection of the ballet, which considered too bourgeois, the Soviet government finally encouraged its development. The main companies are still in St. Petersburg (Mariinsky, renamed “Kirov” by the communists) and Moscow (Bolshoi), and Russian ballet is still considered top notch, with Russian companies and performers enjoying a sterling reputation around the world.
Day 3 / Saint-Petersburg
Breakfast at the hotel.
Excursion to Pushkin and visit to Catherine Palace and its famous “Amber Room”. Visit of Pushkin 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.
Free time for lunch.
Visit of the Pavlovsk park and exterior view of the palace. 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.
Return to Saint-Petersburg.
Visit of St. Nicholas Naval Church. 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.
Return to the hotel.
Russian Dinner at Podvorie with vodka and wine. This cosy wooden traditional Russian house is situated outside the city in a picturesque meadow under the shadow of birches and firs, its beautiful architecture a direct descendant of the traditions of Northern Russia. Its excellent cuisine will let you enjoy the best flavours of popular and ancient Russian recipes, so much so that even personalities like Vladimir Putin are enthusiasts of its delicious dishes. Podvorie is considered “the most Russian of the Russian restaurants.” Here their products are natural and in many cases home-made, the wine comes from the owner’s Crimean vineyards, and the vodka is distilled onsite. During the summer you can enjoy a charming terrace, while in the winter you can warm yourself next to the cosy fireplace after a welcoming shot of frozen vodka on the snow.
Folk performance at Podvorie. During the delicious dinner surrounded by the wooden decor, dancers and singers in traditional dress will perform songs and dances, making your Russian experience unforgettable.
Day 4 / Saint-Petersburg – moscow
Breakfast at the hotel.
Excursion to Peterhof and visit of the Grand Palace, its park, cascades and fountains. Peterhof, rightfully called the “Russian Versailles”, and in former days “Petrodvorets”, was the main summer residence of the tsars. Located on the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland near the sea and about 30 kilometres from St. Petersburg, it is undoubtedly one of the main centres of interest of the former tsar’s capital. Construction on the Grand Palace was initiated under the reign of Peter I as his summer residence, designed by the French architect Leblond, and was continued afterwards by the Rococo master, Bartolomeo Rastrelli. Its main attractions are the monumental Ceremonial Staircase, the luxuriously gilded Ball Room and the private rooms of Peter I, such as the Oak Studio and the Throne Room. Even considering the magnificent interiors of the Grand Palace, the main interest of the visit is the park, where many small palaces, monuments and pavilions are scattered throughout the beautiful gardens. Don’t miss its famous ensemble of 150 fountains and three cascades, decorated with splendid golden statues, as well as its amazing “water play” which will surprise you during your promenade in the park.
Return to St. Petersburg by hydrofoil. We will leave Peterhof from the same pier in the palace gardens where the imperial family used to leave the summer palace on their way to their capital. After the leafy forests of the shores with the magnificent houses and small palaces of yesterday’s and today’s elite will come the urban scenery, along with the port and its hustle and bustle. From the Gulf of Finland we will enter the estuary of the Neva River and pass under its most famous bridges, arriving at the most beautiful place in the city, the Winter Palace, opposite the Strelka and the Peter and Paul Fortress.
Transfer to railway station.
Departure to Moscow on high-speed train “Sapsan”.
Arrival to Moscow.
Transfer to the hotel.
Panoramic visit of Moscow “By Night”. The capital transforms itself after sunset, offering an absolute different view at night than the one during daylight hours: stunning and recently installed illumination enhances the beauty of the severe and imposing Stalinist facades, while the magnificent Orthodox churches sparkle. The banks of the Moskva River offer this alternative vision of the city, to be discovered only after the sun goes down.
Day 5 / Moscow
Breakfast at the hotel.
Panoramic tour of Moscow. 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.
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.
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. In Novodevichy Cemetery, situated on the Monastery’s grounds, numerous outstanding and famous Russian personalities from the worlds of art, science, and even politics are buried: Boris Yeltsin, Khrushchev, Kropotkin, and Molotov rest here, along with Chekhov, Gogol, Mayakovski, Bulgakov, and also Rostropovich, Shostakovich, Stanislavsky, Rubinstein, Chaliapin, and Eisenstein.
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.
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 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.
Russian folk show. There is no better way to get to know the culture of a people than through their traditions, music, dances, and costumes. Russia is a large country stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean, a rich blend of ethnicities and cultures that we can experience through a beautiful and emotional performance by the National Ballet Kostroma. The dancers’ excellence, irresistible charm, and blazing costumes will transport you into the Slavic soul.
Cossack folk show. The Cossacks, a people of horseback warriors, live in the south of Russia and Ukraine and since the Middle Ages have contributed mightily to Russian history. In fact, it was mostly Cossacks who conquered and colonized Siberia and the Caucasus for the Russian Empire. Their intense lives of fighting, risk-taking, and passion as well as their love of freedom and feasting can be felt during a performance put on by Cossack dancers or choir in their traditional uniforms. It will be an unforgettable experience that will add a unique touch to your event.
Day 6 / 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 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.
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 Rublev called the “Trinity”.
Walking tour on Zamoskvorechye area. 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.
Performance at the Moscow Circus. The circus has always been one of the most beloved expressions of art for Russians, and Muscovites have been enjoying the circus since the old times, when it was a traditional show of Russian clowns called Balagan. At the beginning of the 19th century the equestrian circus shows coming from Western Europe melded with the Russian culture of the comic circus, producing new shows that rapidly picked up steam in Moscow, featuring a mix of humour and levity on the one side and athletic prowess and horse-riding skills on the other. Since those days circus performers have enjoyed great respect in Russia, even during the Soviet times. We will enjoy a fantastic performance in one of Moscow’s two main circuses.
Day 7 / Moscow – Sergiyev Posad – Izmailovo
Breakfast at the hotel.
Excursion to Sergiyev Posad and visit to its monastery. Located about 70 kilometres to the north from Moscow on the Imperial Road of the Golden Ring, Sergiyev Posad (formerly known as Zagorsk) is one of the most important centres 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 centres 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 Rublev’s famous icon of the Trinity, the original of which is in the Tretiakov Gallery in Moscow. Sergiyev 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.
Special dinner on panoramic ship “Radisson”, cruising the Moscow River. The Radisson Royal Hotel Moscow flotilla includes seven breaker class river boats with restaurant service on board. Every day boats offer a 2.5-3 hour excursion along the Moscow River, during which passengers see the main sights: the Kremlin, Novodevichy Monastery, the monument to Peter I, St. Basil’s Cathedral, the University, and other symbolic locations. The yacht’s cabin features a restaurant, bar, dance floor, and karaoke club, all offering Italian cuisine. Audio guides in different languages are also provided, as the boats run 365 day a year.
Day 8 / Moscow (departure)
Breakfast at the hotel.
Transfer to the airport.
- 3* (city limits, non-central): Bristol, Lira, or similar
- 3* Sup. Centre: Ibis, Dostoevsky, or similar
- 4* (city limits, non-central): Park Inn Pulkovskaya, Park Inn Pribaltiiskaya, or similar
- 4* Centre: Radisson, Marriott, Sokos, Vedensky, Nash or similar
- 3* (city limits, non-central): Izmailovo, Maxima, Katerina Park or similar
- 3* Sup. Centre: Ibis Paveletskaya, Ibis Bakhruchina, Katerina City, Arbat House, or similar
- 4* (city limits, non-central): Cosmos, Best Western Izmailovo, or similar
- 4* Centre: Holiday Inn Lesnaya, Holiday Inn Suschevsky, Mercure Paveletskaya, Novotel, Azimut, Borodino or similar