I am just back from a trip to Russia. Mostly St. Petersburg with a touch of Moscow.
I had so much on my mind when dreaming of the trip. Visiting the Hermitage and seeing Red Square. Trying borscht. Vodka and caviar. Doctor Zhivago. 18th and 19th century neoclassical buildings. Dostoevsky. Tolstoy. Tchaikovsky. The list goes on and on.
I have put together my TOP 10 LIST for Russia. Naturally, there are so many more things that one could add to this list, but I am trying for an edited version!
10. Hire a great guide. Olga Bycheck in St. Petersburg and Lana Maximova in Moscow. Both came highly recommended by several friends who had toured with them. This will save you time standing in lines, worrying about details and you won’t end up getting lost! Feel free to email me to for their contacts!
9. Take a boat trip around the canals and Niva river of St. Petersburg. There are many tour type boats to choose from, or you can hire your own private boat. Seeing the city from this vantage point is definite worth your while.
8. Eat and drink. Check out the view from the rooftop bar at the W Hotel, Mansarda (also a great view), Tarkhun, Probka and also the sister restaurant Jerome, and – last but not to be forgotten – check out Duo. Try caviar, vodka and borscht. I learned that there were two types of borscht- hot and cold. I tried the both. Both interesting in their own way.
7. Allocate enough time to see all of the Hermitage…and wear some walking shoes. By the end of the day, I had walked over 10 miles! The buildings go on and on (as do the collections.) They have a special opening one hour before general opening – opt for this and you will avoid the lines. The museum is also open late on Wednesday nights. Another great way to avoid the crowds. Wednesday nights the golden peacock clock is in operation (but make sure to check the schedule online as I think that it changes in winter).
6. Go during the White Nights (from around June to July). St. Petersburg is the northernmost city with a population over 1 million. St. Petersburg is located at 59 degrees 57′ North. (roughly on the same latitude the southern tip of Greenland). Due to such a high latitude the sun does not descend below the horizon deep enough for the sky to darken.
5. A day trip to Peterhof. You can take the hydrofoil here. Explore the gardens. Make a point to book and see the grotto (this is an extra ticket) from this area you get the best view of The Grand Cascade. Go to Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin) to see Catherine’s Palace and the Great Hall – I have never seen so much gold in my life! Walk around the Chinese gardens and see The Cameron Gallery.
4. See a ballet. I booked months ahead of time online. Swan Lake. Seemed apropos while in Russia. It was absolute perfection. Quite honestly the best I have ever seen. A tip: there is a small cafe inside. You can enjoy a light snack before or during intermission and book a table to have a glass of champagne ready for you.
3. My trip to Moscow was very short – but be sure to see the Kremlin, Red Square and St. Basil’s Cathedral. Have lunch at Gum department store and walk around the shopping area. The new Rem Koolhaas-designed Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Gorky Park is worth checking out as well as the Muzeon Park (where you will find a sculpture garden with Soviet era works). I took the The Sapsan high-speed train between the two cities.
2. Seeing the subway stations in St. Petersburg and Moscow. This is a must. It might sound strange, but just jump on a subway and get off at the next stop to admire the interiors. Each is a unique museum in itself. Note: try to avoid this subway tour during rush hour so you can really get a good view.
1. Make sure to spend some time walking through the Summer Gardens in St. Petersburg. The garden is one of the oldest, dating back to the early 18th century. You can stroll with a cup of tea or ice cream cone. Situated on the southern bank of the Neva at the head of the Fontanka, it is famous for its cast iron railings and marble sculptures.