Russia is the largest country in the world. It spans over 9 different time zones and neighbours 14 different countries by land, making it one of the globe’s most diverse countries. Unfortunately, many people are put off visiting Russia due to visa issues, remote locations, and generally by presumptions about how mysterious and bizarre the country seems. But if you’re looking for an adventure, you should definitely visit this magnificent country! Oh, and just so you know, with the strength of the Russian currency (the Ruble) currently at an all-time low, now is the best time to visit!
When people are reminded of Russia, thoughts immediately go to its two most iconic cities; Moscow and St Petersburg. Moscow is commonly known as the city of billionaires, with its decadent underground network, the magnificent Red Square and the brightly coloured onion-shaped domes of St Basil’s Cathedral; it really is a fascinating place. Whilst St Petersburg, on the other hand, is often described as the ‘Venice of the North,’ offering a slightly more relaxed European vibe. The city is networked with an abundance of picturesque canals that are perfect for taking a boat ride down on a warm summer’s day.
1 ) Art scene
St Petersburg lays claim to one of the world’s largest and oldest museums, the Hermitage. Home to over 3 million items, you could wander for hours and hours here and still not see everything. Additionally, the city has also recently gained a museum dedicated to the world-renowned Fabergé Eggs; embellished with gold and gemstones, these eggs were commissioned by Russian Tsars for their wives and mothers as Easter gifts. Not to be forgotten, Moscow also enjoys a multitude of Art Museums such as the Tretyakov Gallery and the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts.
2) Russian Cuisine
The Russians are known for certain delicacies that are not to be missed! You may want to try one of their many soups such as Okroshka (cold soup made from kvass – fermented rye break) or Schi (cabbage or sauerkraut soup). If soup doesn’t appeal to you, how about some Stroganov (beef sautéed with onions and mushrooms), or Shashlik (skewers of meat)?
Pelmeni are also highly recommended. These are dumplings stuffed with meat or mushrooms and are a very popular dish in both Russian homes and restaurants alike.
Last but not least, don’t forget to end your meal by washing it all down with a shot of vodka, just like the Russians do. Za vashe zdorovie! One shot not enough? Why not try out St Petersburgs’ Vodka Museum and participate in a tasting session, if you can handle it!
3) Architecture & Design
Russia is home to some of the most unique buildings in the world. Perhaps most well-known is St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. Towering over Red Square, this building was originally constructed in the 15th century, with its colourful onion domes being added in the late 16th century (originally the whole building was painted white). Looking like it came straight out of a fairy-tale, this Cathedral draws in visitors year-round from all over the world, and it’s not difficult to see why.
Not to be undermined, St Petersburg also has its own extravagant displays of wealth and architectural design. Examples of these are its solid bronze statues looking over the Fountains of Peterhof and Catherine’s Palace, home to the spectacular Amber Room; with every inch of its walls adorned in Gold or Amber it really is a sight to behold. It is commonly referred to as ‘the eighth wonder of the world’ and is suggested to be worth over a whopping £150 million!
With many of its major cities laying claim to cathedrals and palaces all hundreds of year old, visiting Russia really can be like stepping back in time, and the country is oozing with fascinating local history and culture waiting to be discovered!
If you fancy swotting up on your knowledge of Russia, try visiting one of the many Museums. The Hermitage, the Kremlin Armoury and the State Historical Museums are all great examples of the cultural highlights on offer.
Most people think of ballet when they think of Russian entertainment, with the world-famous Bolshoi, Mariinsky & Mikhailovski Theatres all putting on shows almost on a daily basis. However, you should not forget about the other great activities they offer too, such as awe-inspiring opera performances, circus acts, and a great selection of bars and restaurants to enjoy your evenings in. Oh, and they have some fantastic department stores too!
Jenny Aitken works in the Operations Department for Tucan Travel. She has travelled extensively through Central and South America, the Middle East, Europe and South East Asia.