Once upon a time in Russia
Russia, Russia, where do I start. When you’re thinking about visiting someplace new, Russia is not exactly the first choice that comes to your mind. That is not because it’s not pretty, but simply because it is not a close destination. When it comes to Russia, people are mostly skeptical about the weather, or what time of the year they should visit. To be honest, I’ve always wanted to visit Russia, but I never thought that I’d actually get a chance. I always admired it as a country, because it is one of the most powerful countries in the world at the moment.
From my own point of view, if you get the chance to visit it, I would recommend you to see Moscow and Saint Petersburg at once, not one or the other. I prefer this because they are both beautiful with full of things to see and places to visit, yet different from one another. So from my perspective, if you ever get the opportunity to visit a country as magnificent as this one, grab that chance.
Moscow is the capital city of Russia, and also the most populated one. I personally think that it is one of the most expensive cities in the world. With that being said, I was truly mesmerized by the wealth of the city. But that is not necessarily the case with other cities in Russia.
On the other hand, Saint Petersburg is the second – largest city in Russia, after Moscow. In history class we learned that the city had a few names before it was named Saint Petersburg. First, the city’s name was changed from Saint Petersburg to Petrograd, and then it was changed to Leningrad and at the end was switched back to Saint Petersburg.
The sightseeing in Moscow:
One of the first things you should visit in Moscow is the Kremlin. The Kremlin is basically the heart of Moscow. It is a cultural landmark as well as the center of the Russian state, and the residence of the Russian president. It is a fortified complex overlooking the Moscow River to the South, Red Square and St. Basil’s Cathedral to the East and Alexander Garden to the West. It consists of five palaces, four cathedrals and the enclosing Kremlin Wall with Kremlin towers.
In one word, it is a perfect snapshot of Russia’s imperial past, and also it shows the influence of the tsarist autocracy. Whereas, the Kremlin Palaces paint a perfect picture of the nation’s current position of power.
While you are inside of this complex, next thing you should see is the Tsar Bell, also called Royal Bell. It’s the largest bell in the world, weighing almost 202 tons, with a height of 6.14 meters. The bell is located between the Ivan the Great Bell Tower and the Kremlin Wall. It was commissioned by Empress Anna Ivanovna, the niece of Ivan the Great.
While you’re still here you should definitely spend some time on the Red Square. The red square is one of the most visited attractions in Moscow. It is the heart of Russia’s capital. Also, it is surrounded by other museums and attractions such as The Kremlin, The St. Basil Cathedral, and The Lenin’s Mausoleum etc.
Furthermore, the next thing on your ’’to do list, should be visiting the St. Basil Cathedral, which is one of the most famous and well-known attractions in Moscow. It is located on the opposite side of the Red Square.
Legend has it that it was built under the rule of Tsar Ivan IV the Terrible, and when the tsar saw the finished cathedral, he ordered the architects to be blinded and in that way they could never build such a beautiful building anywhere else in the world.
One of the most recognizable landmarks on the Red Square is Lenin’s Mausoleum. The Lenin’s Tomb houses a glass sarcophagus with the embalmed body of the famous Russian revolutionary, Vladimir Lenin. I’m highly recommending you to go inside and see it, even though for this particular landmark the waiting line is too long.
Besides all of the attractions above, the next thing that will catch your eye will be one of the most beautiful department stores called GUM (State department store). If you are a Shopaholic or you have a slight interest in shopping, this is definitely the place for you. This is an exclusive department store with many different designer boutiques and charming coffee shops. Also, it is probably one of the largest shopping malls in Europe. GUM is located on the Red Square and it is recognizable for its architecture.
In addition to this, moving on to the more central part of the city, is located one of the most famous theatres in Moscow called the Bolshoi Theatre. Approximately the theatre shows around 3-4 different operas and 2-3 ballets each year. The main focus of these shows is on classical masterpieces from composers such as Verdi, Mozart, Wagner, and last but not least Tchaikovsky. A most important part of Russian culture is ballet. The Bolshoi Theatre is also famous for performing the Swan Lake ballet. In my point of view, if you are a big fan of ballet and opera, and if you ever decide to visit Moscow, this theatre is a must-see.
Also, if you ever visit Moscow, you HAVE to take a ride on the Moscow metro. The metro paints a perfect picture of the diversity of the city. It is a huge attraction for tourists, especially because every station is decorated differently from the other stations. There are the old pre-war stations that symbolize the industrialization of Russia, whereas the post-war stations symbolize the victory and the pride of the country. Also, some of the stations are protected by the state as valuable cultural objects. The stations are decorated by monuments, statues and art such as mosaics, and paintings, etc. The idea of this is to give every station an individual appearance and shape.
And last but not least, it is also nice to visit the Church of Christ the Savior. The Church of Christ the Savior is the tallest Orthodox Christian church in the world. It is a definite must-see.
The sightseeing in Saint Petersburg:
One of the first things that you should visit it’s the famous Hermitage Museum. It is a museum of art and culture and also it is the second largest in the world. The museum has over three million items, including the largest collection of paintings in the world. The Hermitage is so big that you can’t see all of the exhibitions even if you wanted to. It would take almost 15 years to see every exhibition in this museum.
Furthermore, next thing you should go and see it’s the Winter Palace. This palace is the official residence of the Russian monarchs. Today the palace forms a part of a complex of buildings housing the Hermitage museum. In 1730 and 1837 the winter palace was severely damaged by fire, but was immediately rebuilt. For those people that love history, this is the place to be. Here you can learn about the great and unique history of the Russian Imperial family.
Moreover, the next place that you should see is the Catherine Palace. This palace is the summer residence of the Russian tsars and it is located only 30 km outside Saint Petersburg in a town called Pushkin. Also, it is one of the largest palaces in St. Petersburg. The architecture style of this building is Rococo. This palace has been renovated many times. First, it was commissioned by Catherine the I, and then it was expanded by Empress Anna, after that was renovated by Empress Elizabeth, and at the end its façade was once again changed by Catherine the Great. After the Revolution of 1917, the palace began to be used as a museum. During the World War II, it was severely damaged, but also was restored up again until the present.
Additionally, I would recommend you to visit the Peterhof Palace, which made a big impression on me. This palace is actually a series of palaces and gardens located in Petergof, St. Petersburg. The palace and park at Peterhof are also referred to as “the Russian Versailles”. However, Versailles was the actual inspiration for Peter the Great’s desire to build an imperial palace in the suburbs. This complex consists of the grand palace, many parks and gardens, fountains, Monoplaisir (small but charming summer palace), Marly palace (which is a charming baroque mansion), Hermitage pavilion, cottage palace, and much more.
After visiting the palaces, next thing you should do is go back to the city and continue with exploring. There is a church that is one of the main attractions and visited places in Saint Petersburg called Church of the Savior on Blood. It was built on the site where Emperor Alexander II was fatally wounded. In my opinion, this church, it’s a definite must-see.
And last but not least, you should definitely visit the Mariinsky theatre, even if you are not a big fan of ballet and opera. Here are some of the reasons why this place is a must-see. Mariinsky theatre is one of the most famous theatres in Saint Petersburg. It is a historic theatre of opera and ballet. Many masterpieces of Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and others got their first premiers on this very stage on this theatre. The Mariinsky theatre is consisted of: Mariinsky ballet, Mariinsky opera and Mariinsky orchestra. If you are into those types of performances I’m highly recommending you to visit it.
All in all, if you decide to visit both Moscow and Saint Petersburg at the same time, you will need approximately two weeks to see all of these attractions. You can definitely see them all in less time, but why hurry.