But there are plenty of opportunities to get into the heart of Russia to experience what makes the country unique. The famous Trans-Siberian is just one example. This rail journey starts in Moscow and ends in Vladivostok on the Pacific Coast, before continuing on to Mongolia and China. But don’t stop there – get to know the locals in regional areas like Irkutsk, Novosibirsk, or Yekaterinburg. Take the Golden Ring route, visiting places like Vladimir, Suzdal, and Rostov where you’ll find white temples and monasteries dating back to the 12th century.
And for the outdoorsy adventure seekers: towering mountains, winding rivers, and wide-open spaces are plentiful. The River Volga is one of Russia’s most important landmarks, as river travel has always been important to Russians. It stretches 3700 kilometres long and is dotted with ancient towns and villages.
Places to Visit in Russia
- St. Petersburg
- River Volga
- Mount Elbrus
- Velikiy Novgorod
Unique Things to See and Do in Russia
- Learn about the dramatic history of Moscow and its Red Square on a walking tour
- Take a cruise down the River Volga
- Ride the Trans-Siberian Railway
- Drink Russian tea and eat traditional Russian pies
- Hike around Mount Elbrus, the highest peak in Europe
- Visit the traditional log houses in Suzdal
- Visit Moscow’s St Sergius monastery
- Go salmon fishing on the Kola Peninsula
- See the world’s deepest lake, Lake Baikal
While some may think of Russia as a stark and cold country, you’ll be surprised to learn how much the country has contributed to the world of arts, literature, and entertainment. Ballet, for example, is an important part of Russian culture. Ballet schools like the Bolshoi Ballet are world famous as is The Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. Then there are all the fine authors that have come from Russian, including Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky.
You may be familiar with Russia’s affinity for fine vodkas, and it’s likely at some point in your journey you’ll be tossing back shots of it with friendly locals at a small pub tucked into a hidden street somewhere. When it comes to food, Russia’s best-known food is borshch, a beet soup full of veggies and meat. Typically it’s served with sour cream. Pirozhkis are another must-try: small baked buns stuffed with potatoes, meat, cabbage, and cheese.
Russians are very family-oriented, and value a sense of “home.” While Russian is the dominant language, many Russians do speak English, making it easy to travel around the country. When it comes to architecture, the most common feature are the colourfully designed “onion domes” that sit atop churches, often in clusters of threes to represent the Holy Trinity. They came about during the reign of Ivan the Terrible, and although they look mosque-like, they’re actually Christian. Russia’s rich and vibrant culture is everywhere. To best learn about it, hire a local guide in Russia.
Getting Around Russia
The most obvious answer for how to get around Russia is by the Trans-Siberia Highway. However, this kind of journey requires some serious dedication (at least seven days for the Russian route), and not everyone has the time.
Did you know…?
Russia is bigger than Pluto, and covers an area of more than 17-million square kilometres. That’s nearly double the size of Canada.
Did you ALSO know…?
The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg has hired cats since 1964 to protect its artwork from rodents.
Russian Railways is great for inter-city travels, and includes a high-speed rail at extra cost. The bus system complements the rail system by reaching remote destinations where the rail system does not go. Keep in mind, however, that in many cases you’ll need to be able to decode some Cyrillic!
Best Time of Year to Travel to Russia
Russia tends to have very cold winters but warm springs and summers. While winter is beautiful with its snow-capped mountains, wildflower blooms make their debut in spring. In the summer months, you’ll have the same temperatures as you would in the rest of Europe – hot and sunny. Since Russia is such a large and non-touristy destination, you’ll find that summer is actually one of the best times to visit.
Autumn doesn’t last for long, just September to October. But the autumn colours are worth the journey. Although the winter months are freezing, winter sports lovers can take advantage of Russia’s many ski resorts. Mount Elbrus is just one example.
Ready to plan your visit to Russia? Check out these popular guides and trips.