The largest country in the world and covering 11 time zones, Russia has always intrigued with a sense of mysterious aura – from the all-powerful Tsar, Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, Ivan the Terrible to the communist regime with names like Lenin, Stalin and the infamous KGB. It is a treasure trove that will not disappoint any visitors who has the remotest interest in history and culture.
Moscow, the beating heart of the nation is now a dynamic and cutting-edge city. Explore Moscow’s Red Square with Lenin’s Tomb and its iconic St Basil Cathedral built by Ivan the Terrible. Descend deep underground and take a ride on the Moscow metro to marvel at its ornately decorated stations. The must visit has to be Kremlin including the Armoury Museum with its vast collection of Imperial Russian artwork. At night, be entertained by the operas at Bolshoi Theatre or dine in fine restaurants frequented by the well-heeled Muscovites.
St Petersburg, on the other hand, exudes a different vibe. Known as “Venice of the North”, this opulent city is founded by Peter the Great whose inspirations came from France. Canals, imposing statues, baroque and neoclassical buildings dotted the cityscapes. St Petersburg is also the country cultural centre, with world-class arts, opera and ballet in venues such as the Mariinsky Theatre. Get a glimpse into the riches of the Russia Imperial family from Peter the Great to the Romanov family at the sites of The Hermitage, Peterhof and Pushkin.
Outside Moscow and St Petersburg, travel across the country through eight time zones on the Trans-Siberian Express rail journey from Vladivostok to Moscow or enjoy slow travel along the Volga River, visiting smaller cities and sites that is not overcrowded by tourists.
The best time to visit Russia is from May to October when the day is long and pleasantly warm. In July, St Petersburg hosts the White Night festival with days of summer festivity.
Another good but less known season is to visit Moscow and St Petersburg in winter. The sites are not crowded, and the cities covered in white give it a totally different ambiance.