Awe-inspiriting architecture, free-flowing vodka, hearty cuisine and fairy-tale castles. Sprawling expanses of forest and icy planes. Hip bars, opulent cathedrals and high-end shopping precincts. There’s a reason travellers are becoming increasingly intrigued by a trip to Russia.
One of the world’s most mysterious destinations (thanks to that impenetrable Iron Curtain), Russia is starting to pop up on many a travel hot list.
The nation’s capital, Moscow is one of Europe’s great cultural destinations. Among the many drawcards are the magnificent historical and contemporary art galleries, the picturesque Red Square, The Kremlin and the Bolshoi Theatre. On top of that are the incredible parks and churches.
The variety of food on offer in Moscow is also worthy of note. Feast on traditional Russian soups, stews, pelmeni (dumplings), filled pancakes and caviar.
For more than 100 years Hotel National Moscow has witnessed the country’s political transformation, from imperial reign through to communist rule and the fall of the Soviet Union.
It’s a hotel that perfectly matches the city’s fascinating history.
St Petersburg is a culture capital as riddled with tales of Russia’s turbulent history as it is with artworks and canals.
Thanks to its extreme northerly position, from 11 June to 2 July St Petersburg becomes an insomniac’s dream as the sun never sets. Known as the season of the midnight sun, it’s celebrated with the White Nights Festival. This showcases classical ballet and opera and culminates in the traditional Scarlet Sails celebration.
St Petersburg’s legendary State Hermitage Museum or the Winter Palace, was historically the main residence of the Russian Tsars. Today it presents something of a quandary – do you view the three million (no, that’s not a typo) artworks spanning the Paleolithic to the present day, or the grand architecture housing the art – the splendid confection of the Winter Palace with swathes of gold on walls, columns and ceilings?
According to those in the know, if you spent a minute looking at each exhibit, you would need 11 years to see them all.
Part of the Golden Ring of quaint towns some 200km north-east of Moscow, Suzdal was the capital of the Rostov-Suzdal principality in the 12th century. It’s a quaint little town with a very rich history. Having avoided the industrialisation that blighted much of Russia during the Soviet era (it was bypassed by the Trans-Siberian railways in the 19th century despite lobbying by locals), the town is dotted with stunning historic Russian architecture, including blue-domed churches (the Nativity of the Virgin Cathedral), monasteries, and its very own 10th-century Kremlin.
You may like to venture further afield and explore the icy beauty and rambling forests of Siberia.
Perhaps a trip on the iconic Trans-Siberian railway appeals. It’s the longest railway line in the world (9289 kilometres of track) travelling through the wilds of Siberia taking six nights to travel from Moscow to Vladivostok, and also branching off along the way into the Trans-Mongolian and Trans-Manchurian railways from where you can travel to Beijing, China, and then by connecting train to Vietnam and even Singapore if you are patient.