Join in local life and customs as you share a meal in a Russian home in the fairytale-like Golden Ring town of Suzdal. Soak up the atmosphere of Moscow’s Red Square and Kremlin, which has for centuries been at the very centre of Russian history. Marvel at the opulence of Peter the Great’s grand palace gardens and fountains of Peterhof. Discover treasure-upon-treasure at the incredible art collection housed in St Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum, the former Winter Palace of Catherine the Great
This is the perfect tour of Russia’s glorious past. Surround yourself with culture, history and breathtaking architecture and get beneath the surface of a country that for so long guarded their treasures from the west.
Breakfast Included: 7 Lunches Included: Dinner Included: 1
Zdrastvutye! Welcome to Russia. The great city of Moscow has survived centuries of revolution and tumult, from the days of the tsars through the communist era to the growing pains of democracy. Beneath its modern veneer – a sign of Russia's recent embrace of capitalism – Moscow is a fascinating, historic city with a wealth of sights to see. There’s so much to see and do in Moscow, and you’ll have plenty of time to explore on Day 4. You will be collected from the airport on arrival and transferred to your hotel. Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6 pm today, where your insurance and next of kin details will be collected. Please also have two copies of your passport, visa and migration cards ready. Your leader will collect one; the other is for you to keep on you at all times whilst on the trip. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where the meeting will take place. After the meeting, your leader will organise an optional meal so you can enjoy your first taste of delicious Russian cuisine with new friends.
Moscow – Suzdal
Transfer to the train station and take the Strizh high-speed train to Vladimir. These trains reach up to 250km/h, with the journey taking just under two hours. You will need to be able to carry your own bags through the train station and onto the train. From there you will transfer by private minivan to Suzdal (approximately 30 minutes). The town is a main stop on Russia’s legendary Golden Ring, the circle of ancient and former capitals that played an important part in the formation of the Russian Orthodox Church and hold the memories of significant events in Russian history. The fairytale-feel historic small town of Suzdal is filled with contrasting examples of early Russian architecture, where onion-domed monasteries stand next to decorated little wooden cottages. Here there are opportunities to drink mead by the riverside with a symphony of cathedral bells in the air, and peek inside the crumbling churches that line the narrow streets and alleys. Tonight you’ll share a meal of hearty regional flavours with local friends.
Suzdal – Moscow
Get to know Suzdal a little better today with a walking tour of this ‘open-air museum’. Take in the sights – the grandeur of the Kremlin, the opulent frescoes of the Cathedral of the Nativity, the trading square, market and monastery (approximately 3 hours). This tour is made even more memorable by the sight and sound that will greet you when you enter one of the main cathedrals – the angelic, clear and ethereal voices of a local choir. The beautiful sound will fill and transform the space like the sunlight that streams through the windows. You will leave Suzdal in the afternoon and return to Moscow by train, arriving at approximately 8pm (expect approximately 3 hours total travel time back to Moscow).
Today, with a local guide by your side, enter cobbled Red Square, surrounded by the brightly coloured domes of St Basil’s Cathedral, the opulent GUM Department store, the fairy-tale building of the State Historical Museum, and the imposing walls of the Kremlin. From the days of Ivan the Terrible to the military parades of the Cold War, the square has long been at the heart of Russian history. We have the option of travelling to begin the tour by Metro (1 station, plus approximately 10 minutes walk to and from the station) or on foot (approximately 30 minutes walk total), which takes you through interesting historic streets. Enter the Kremlin grounds, home to the oldest and most important churches in the country, and the tombs of Tsars and Tsarinas. Walk through the soaring towers and cathedrals of the political and spiritual heart of Russia before entering the Armoury Museum, home to an eye-bulging former royal collection of Faberge eggs, coronation robes and glittering jewels. This afternoon is a free for you to explore the city’s wonders. Perhaps take the metro to see elaborately decorated stations unlike any other – the fascinatingly decorated 'Palaces of the People'. Otherwise you might relive the nation's turbulent past at Victory Park, travel back to the beginnings of Russian art at the Tretyakov Gallery, or pick up some souvenirs at the Izmailovo Markets. Maybe step inside the colourful St Basil's Cathedral on Red Square. Legend has it that tsar, Ivan the Terrible, had the two architects blinded so that they couldn't build anything as beautiful.
Moscow – St Petersburg
Before leaving Moscow today, visit the Mausoleum of Russia’s most famous revolutionary – Lenin. The initiator of the 1917 Russian revolution that ushered in the era of communism, you will join the sometimes long queue lining up to visit his austere eternal resting place on Red Square. Then you will board a high speed train once again to race through the Russian countryside to one of Russia’s most celebrated cities (approximately 4 hours). Arrive in the beautiful centre of former imperial capital St Petersburg, where your private transfer will take you to your hotel.
A living museum, St Petersburg is a blend of baroque European architecture and Russian royal history, built by the Russian Tsar Peter the Great, whose legacy can be felt in its enigmatic streets and showcase cathedrals and museums.
St Petersburg is truly one of Europe’s, and the world’s, finest cities. Take the day to explore this beautiful city brimming with historic centres. Today you will explore one of Russia’s most spectacular sights – the stunning Hermitage museum. One of the largest and oldest museums in the world, it was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great and houses one of the world's premier art collections. Your tour will begin around 10am and continue until around 2pm, however you are then of course free to continue any independent exploration. There is a cafe inside for when you need a break to recharge! The Hermitage boasts over 2.7 million exhibits and displays a diverse range of art and artefacts from all over the world and throughout history (from Ancient Egypt to the early 20th century Europe). The collection includes works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and Titian, a unique collection of Rembrandts and Rubens, many French Impressionist works and several sculptures by Rodin. Expert have calculated that, if you watch each item for no longer than a minute and spend 8 hours in the Hermitage daily, it will still take you almost 15 years to view all the museum’s exhibits.
Perhaps take a boat to see landmarks from a Neva river cruise or climb the belfry of St Isaacs Cathedral for a rare high view of the city. Then of course there are the world class performances at the Mariinsky Theatre to occupy your evening.
St Petersburg (Peterhof)
This morning you travel a short distance out of the city (40 minutes by hydrofoil) to uncover the opulence of the stunning Summer Palace and Park of Peter the Great, known as Peterhof or Petrodvorets. Your memorable arrival will be a special moment, much like that of the esteemed guests and European royalty of history. Disembarking at the pier and walking up the Fountain Alley, the magnificence of the water features and the splendour of the Big Palace will all be spread out before you – a breath-taking sight. The Tsar was heavily influenced by European styles and customs and so the place is roughly modelled on Versailles. Built to impress on guests the ruler’s wealth and taste, the grounds of the park are filled with fountains, cascades and landscaped gardens, and the location right on the Gulf of Finland makes for beautiful views. The palaces (of which there are three – Great Peterhof Palace, Marly Palace and Monplaisir Palace) are fascinating not only for the elaborate halls and galleries, but also for the fact that they have been so accurately restored after being almost completely destroyed during Nazi occupation in World War II. Return to St Petersburg at 2pm, and use any free time to visit the last minute sites you might have missed. Tonight is your final night with your new travel companions, and so your leader will organise an optional farewell dinner at one of the city's great restaurants.
Your Russian adventure will come to an end today after breakfast. There are no activities planned and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. An airport transfer is not included, however your leader or hotel staff can help you book a taxi for your flight. St Petersburg has much to offer, so we recommend that those that wish to see more extend their stay a day or two.