A monumental country in size and culture, many visitors focus on Moscow and St Petersburg, where there is no shortage of things to see and do. These cities are home to some of the world’s best museums, architecture, classical music and ballet.
It’s easy to find Russian food and drink at reasonable prices in both cities. For something on the go, street kiosks offer savoury buckwheat pancakes. Cheap cafés and restaurants serve borsch (beet and garlic soup), meat pies, dumplings and hearty stews. The variety of vodka and beer is unending, and many daytime coffee shops are wine bars at night.
Upmarket boutiques line the mall next to Moscow’s Red Square, while the capital’s Izmaylovo Market sells jewellery and fur hats. Tourists visit St Petersburg’s Raketa factory for a world-famous wristwatch and flock to the Souvenirs Market for matroyshka dolls and Soviet memorabilia.
In Moscow, cross the cobblestones to gaze at the iconic 16th-century St Basil’s Cathedral and the embalmed body of Vladimir Lenin.
State Hermitage Museum and Winter Palace
Beacons of Russia’s cultural capital, these six historic buildings in St Petersburg hold antiquities, armour, Russian artworks and the world’s largest collection of paintings.
Inside the walled fortress is The Armoury of national treasures, including an incredible diamond collection.
Catherine Palace and Park
Extraordinary white and gold palace of ornate rooms surrounded by a 1,400-acre park, just outside St Petersburg.
Moscow’s national treasury of Russian fine art, with more than 130,000 paintings and sculpture.
Visit a banya (Russian bathhouse) for a relaxing hot steam.
Attend a classical-music concert in St Petersburg.
Watch the world-renowned Russian ballet perform in Bolshoi Theatre.
Skate in the shadow of the Kremlin on the ice rink in Red Square