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Russia is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. It has unique natural wonders, rich cultural heritage, exceptional Eastern Orthodox church architecture, and the famous Trans-Siberian train line. By being the largest country in the world, Russia holds other records as well, like having the tallest woman statue in the world, biggest national park in Europe or having the highest mountain peak in Europe.
It’s obvious that Russia has a lot to offer and that’s easily understandable looking at its size! But what are the best places to visit? From golden or colorful onion-shaped domes to dramatic untouched natural scenery, this list highlights TOP 20 places to visit in Russia.
Majestic. That’s probably one word that would describe Moscow the best. It’s the capital and the most populous (~13 million citizens within city limits) city in the country, located in the Western part of Russia. Moscow is an important cultural center and is extremely rich in history, art, extraordinary architecture, eccentric and sometimes obscure places. Even though it’s been ranked as one of the most expensive cities in the world, Moscow attracts thousands of tourists at any time of the year. Some of them dive into the fancy and luxurious life of the capital, stay at Le Royal Meridien National and eat cake with wild strawberries at Vogue Cafe, some of them enjoy many free things that this city offers. Best places to visit in Moscow would be Kremlin, St.Basil’s Cathedral, Lenin’s Mausoleum. If you`re looking for historical places to visit in Moscow, head to State historical museum, Kamergersky Lane, Old Arbat street or Kazan Cathedral. In general, the most popular places and historical places are in Red Square, so this area is number one in Moscow. But don`t forget all the museums and galleries, where you can find the most important masterpieces of world-known artists. Remember about being majestic? Just take a look at Moscow’s metro stations which are full of bronze and marble statues, stained glass, Byzantine decorations, historic and everyday-life paintings and you will understand everything.
St. Petersburg – the city-museum, which shines in gold and twists with canals. Alongside with great museums, galleries, and theatres, you can experience mysterious white nights, when the sun barely sets, for which you should go in June or July or admire real sparkling winter, which makes St. Petersburg the best place to visit in Russia in January. In this city, you can find Hermitage, which is one of the biggest and oldest museums in the world, the Winter Palace, which used to be the residence of Russian Emperors. Outside of the city center, there’s a Peterhof – imperial estate with sumptuous palaces and beautiful gardens, which might be the most iconic and one of the most beautiful places to visit in Russia. It’s a good idea to visit this place in May and attend the traditional opening festival of the fountains in Peterhof. If you want not only to admire the imperial 19th century but also experience it, go to restaurants in St. Petersburg. For example, VodkaRoom No.1, where you can dine in exceptionally decorated banquet halls and try dishes of Russian cuisine from different historical periods. This restaurant is also a part of the Vodka museum, where you can learn more and try the famous spirit of Russia.
If you`re searching for crazy places to visit in Russia, Fort Zverev in a small island of St. Petersburg might be the one. The mysterious building which used to be a fortress was built in 1870 and now is just a shadow of what it used to be. Nowadays this place is often described as hell on Earth, because of how it looks like. The place was destroyed by slashing fire in 1970. The flames started in a fort and then spread to all cellars below ground and those cellars were full of barrels of fuel. The blast was uncontrollable and the fire was so hot that brick walls and ceiling melted, leaving strange and spooky stalactite-like formations hanging from the ceiling. The former chamber is now a dark cave which attracts visitors and stimulates their imagination for its Soviet history and weird atmosphere.
Sochi is a resort city, located on a Black sea coast. Sochi was home of the 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics and has quality winter skiing resorts. But besides that, Sochi is definitely among the best places to visit in Russia in summer and it’s even called the summer capital of Russia. Sochi attracts tourists with its subtropical climate, excellent quality of air, mountainous coastline, endless sandy beaches, warm sunny days, palm trees, huge forests, modern infrastructure, and vibrant nightlife. Its dolphinarium, botanical garden and arboretum with rare and exotic species of tropical flora, as well as beautiful coastal promenades and trails make Sochi as one of the best places to visit in summer.
Vladivostok, listed among the ten most beautiful oceanfront cities in the world, is a good place to visit in Eastern Russia. Like most of the Russian cities, Vladivostok is full of historical places, which would take you back to the 19th century. Top places to visit here are Golden Horn Bay, Amur Bay, Vidovaya Ploshchadka, where you can see the whole city and its million lights from the highest point, or Vladivostok Catacombs, where you can explore the huge underground world of Vladivostok, which is as much exciting as the surface.
The city is located in the middle of the Eurasian continent(Asia side), on the Iset River east of the Ural Mountains. Ekaterinburg is the fourth biggest city in Russia, but often called the third capital of the country because of its recent significant growth, the size of tourism, culture, and economy. The city is an important cultural center with a lot of events all year round: Old New Rock Festival in January, Jazz festival in June, Mayak festival in July, Mekhanika festival in August (biggest electronic music festival in Russia and one of the most important in the area), birthday of the city in November. Also, its museums hold a lot of important treasures, the architecture is monumental and there’s a lot of exceptional art galleries. One of the most famous places here is memorial for the “The Beatles” (even though the music of the band was banned in USSR). You can find more interesting and offbeat places in vibrant and diverse Ekaterinburg.
Kazan is one of the largest economic, political, scientific and cultural centers of Russia and a magnificent city with complex palaces, towering churches, and a thriving cultural scene, but still an offbeat place for many travelers. Kazan is called the 3rd capital of Russia because of its cultural and historical background. It’s a unique place with two official languages and two different religions (Islam and Christianity) blended together. The main attraction of Kazan and one of the best places to visit in Russia is the Kul Sharif Mosque in Kazan Kremlin, which is also in the World Heritage Sites list.
The best places to visit near Moscow and meet Russia outside the buzzing metropolis is the Golden Ring. The golden ring is a popular tourist route and often include cities like Yaroslavl, Kostroma, Ivanovo, Suzdal, Vladimir, Sergiev Posad, Pereslavl-Zalessky, and Rostov Veliky. Golden Ring is full of historical places, breathtaking churches with golden domes and calming nature. All of the cities of Golden Ring are near Moscow and has a good infrastructure between them. Also, you can find a lot of tours there or one-day trips from the capital of Russia.
Veliky Novgorod or simply Novgorod is a birthplace of Russia and already counts more than 1150 years. This is the place where you can find the real soul of Russia and learn a lot about its history. Novgorod is also a popular pilgrim destination because of the sacred Christian places that were worshiped since old times. For example, one of the oldest – St. Sophia Cathedral, holds Novgorod’s sacred treasure, the icon of The Sign of Our Lady. Veliky Novgorod often called the city-museum because of its huge number of nice places to visit, monuments, great architecture, monumental paintings and sometimes it’s even hard to say when the city ends and museum starts. Visit Novgorod in June for favorite celebration – Novgorod City Day. After all, it’s an important day for the whole country.
Volgograd is located in Southwest of Russia by the river Volga. The Battle of Stalingrad in World War II, which happened here, was one of the largest and bloodiest battles in the history of warfare. Nowadays, Volgograd is a city – monument, with hard history and a lot of monuments to remind it, including 85 meters statue “The Motherland calls” – the tallest statue in Europe and the tallest woman statue in the world. Do you know how Eiffel Tower is visible from almost every part of Paris? Same with this statue in Volgograd. There are many more statues. monuments, squares, museums, shows with the re-enactment of battle and other good places to visit to learn more about the 19th-century history and see it from the Russian perspective.
Kizhi Island, a small island of the Kizhi Archipelago in Lake Onega, and the architectural ensemble of the Kizhi Pogost in it are truly extraordinary places to visit in Russia. Unique constructions of a wooden church, clock tower, and other wooden buildings create magical harmony with its natural surroundings. You can find much more wooden architecture in Russia, but Kizhi island holds some of the best and most beautiful examples. Also, some houses in the historical village that stood there for centuries are still inhabited and the traditional crafts are alive there. Whole Kizhi Archipelago is a great place to visit in Russia in winter – the views are amazing and the wooden village and especially the church looks like from a fairytale.
Besides historical, there are a lot of amazing natural places to visit in Russia. One of them is Baikal lake – the oldest (25 million years) and deepest (1,700 m) lake in the whole world! The Baikal lake is situated in the South-east of Siberia among the beautiful taiga forests and Nordic steppes. There are a lot of camping sites or more comfortable touristic spots along the 2000 km of shoreline. The water of Baikal lake is one of the clearest in the world and the visibility in winter can reach 40 m. Size of the sea, beautiful blue water, some sandy beaches, and mountain views make the Baikal one of the most beautiful landmarks on Earth. This is the place you have to visit in Russia.
Kamchatka is also among the best natural places to visit in Russia. It’s actually a huge area in the very North-east of the country. The Kamchatka peninsula contains the volcanoes of Kamchatka, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is recommended to visit this place in the summer from May to September for more comfortable weather. Traveling in Kamchatka peninsula will ask for time and extra effort, but the iconic views will definitely leave you breathless. And it is said, that “life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away”. Many moments of real life are guaranteed in this place. The pure wilderness with hot springs, dramatic scenery of volcanoes makes Kamchatka one of the best places to visit in Russia and probably in the whole world.
This region in Siberia and the huge mountain range is full of places to go hiking, rafting, caving, climbing, mountaineering, trekking, hunting. Five places to visit here: Katun river,
Teletskoye lake, Kucherla lake, Chuysky range, Ukok Plateau. Be aware that the region is not super popular among the tourists, but it’s a truly unique place: it was listed in UNESCO because it’s “an important and original center of biodiversity of montane plant and animal species in northern Asia, a number of which are rare and endemic”. It’s a remote area, but it’s a paradise on Earth for those who love outdoor activities and untouched nature.
The Komi Republic is a federal subject of Russia, located in Northwest of the country, to the west of the Ural mountains. It is definitely one of the best offbeat places to visit in Russia: it is not very popular among the tourists, but it’s full of unique and rare places to see. You should visit this region because of nature: 70% of land is in forests and it’s home for the largest National park in Europe – Yugyd Va National Park. Also, in the Komi Republic, you can find one of the Seven Wonders of Russia – Manpupuner rock formations – a set of 7 stone pillars, which height varies between 30 and 42 meters! It is an extraordinary place on Earth, which leaves you with the impression that you traveled to another planet. These rock formations are a popular place to visit in Russia by Russians, though relatively unspoiled by tourism.
If you`re wondering what are the best places to go hiking in Russia, Kaliningrad and Curonian Spit in it must be on your radar. In general, the Curonian Spit is situated in the Curonian Spit National Park in Lithuania and the Kurshskaya National Park of the Russian Federation. So only a part of this peninsula is in Russia, but it’s always nice to be able to visit several good places during one time, and this region allows you to do it. Curonian Spit is all about the peaceful environment, fragile nature, the most beautiful sand dunes and of course Baltic sea. Together with the rich history of the area, it makes Kaliningrad one of the best places to visit in Russia.
Are you looking for some cold places to visit in Russia and want to add some crazy places to your travel list and crazy moments to your head? Well, search no more, because we’re talking about Oymyakon. Just one thing, it’s not cold. It’s the coldest inhabited place on Earth! 1933 with its record temperature of -67 degrees Celsius was a long time ago, but following years haven`t brought much more of a heat. And yes, people still live here. To be precise around 600-700 hundred villagers. Russian spirit and extreme weather conditions attract adventurers from all around the world. Maybe you`re going to be one of those brave travelers and even catch the new record?
Continuing with list of crazy, sometimes even obscure places to visit in Russia, we can settle on ghost town Kadykchan, located in Magadan region in the Far East. Kadykchan was important coal town with 10 000 happy citizens but nowadays is completely depopulated, although travelers reported one or two hardy residents remaining in 2012, even if there`s no necessary infrastructure or services. Now, the famous ghost city attracts great interest with its abandoned buildings, destroyed monuments, rusty vehicles left in garages and is one of the most impressive abandoned cities in the world and one of the really cool places to visit in Russia. And even if it’s a little bit spooky here, it’s a relatively safe place for travelers to visit.
Samara is located in Southwestern part of European Russia, where the two rivers, Volga and Samara, meets and Zhiguli mountains stand. Samara is full of fun places to visit, like Cosmic museum, Zhiguli mountains, Stalin’s bunker (relatively fun), Samara Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre. Besides that you can always walk by the river Volga and enjoy riverfront of river Samara and Samara embankment. After the Soviet novelist Vasily Aksyonov visited Samara, he remarked: “I am not sure where in the West one can find such a long and beautiful embankment.” Samara used to be a closed city, which only makes the city more charming and mysterious, but now it’s an important cultural center and one of the popular places to visit in Russia.
Mount Elbrus is one of the best places to visit in Russia, because of one simple reason – it’s the highest peak in whole Europe! Yes, you heard right the highest mountain in the continent is in Russian Caucasus. The views and experiences are more than rewarding, but if you decided to go there, ask yourself if you`re fit and experienced enough: the trek is pretty challenging. The other way is to climb with guide and special tour. In this case, you would be under the supervision and wouldn’t need all the experience, you`ll be provided with tools, accommodation, mountain pass, and other important things.
Russia is home for many natural landmarks, great monuments, charming countryside and is extremely rich in history, especially from the mid-modern period. Even though it’s quite controversial, most of the sites in Russia are safe places to visit nowadays. Don`t forget to get your visa and have a great time, no matter which region of Russia would you choose.