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TOP Places to Visit in Russia Before You Die

Updated on October 8, 2014

TOP Places to Visit in Russia Before You Die

Russia is amazing country covering vast territory of 12 million sq km. For most westerners, Russia is associated with its European cities--Moscow, St. Petersburg and Murmansk. This is the heartland of Imperial Russia, and these great and ancient cities often become the focus for most tourists. However there is much more to Russia, a country that spans eleven time zones and two continents, ending less than 50 miles from North America. Within this vast expanse lie the largest freshwater lake in the world, rivers and forests teeming with fish and wildlife, awe inspiring volcanoes, and towering mountains. Russia is the largest country on earth, with enormous tracts of land that have been opened to travelers only in the last few years. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union visitors have a fresh opportunity to explore a vast array of exciting and ancient cultures, from the glittering imperial Russia of St. Petersburg to the timeless village life of Siberia and Irkutsk. One of the most notable features of present day Russia is a renewed celebration of the wealth of its past and its potential for the future. There are so many beautiful places which you can visit, and here are some ideas of which are the places which you have to visit in Russia.

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#1. Red Square, Moscow


Moscow's famous Red Square earned its name not from the red walls of the Kremlin, nor from the traditional symbol of Communism, but from the Russian word for "red", which many centuries ago also meant "beautiful". The square's vast cobbled expanse is flanked by some of Moscow's most famous tourist attractions. Along one side stands the eastern wall of the Kremlin, on the next - the brightly-colored spiraling onion domes of St. Basil's Cathedral, to the north - the elegant turn of the century arcades of the GUM department store and to the west - Russia's imposing National Historical Museum and the 1990s replica of the Resurrection Gate. The square first came into being at the end of the 15th century during the reign of Ivan III. It was initially called Trinity Square after the Trinity Cathedral, which stood on the site of the later St. Basil's Cathedral. The name by which we all know the square today originated much later, possibly as late as the 17th century. Located on the site of the city's old market place, Red Square served as Moscow's equivalent of ancient Rome's Forum - a meeting place for the people. It served as a place for public gatherings, government announcements and executions, the later becoming particularly commonplace during the reigns of Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great and during the anarchic Time of Troubles in the early 17th century. Red Square was also the site of frequent Soviet military parades and demonstrations on major national holidays, such as May 1st (International Worker's Solidarity Day) and November 7th (the Anniversary of the October Revolution). Perhaps the most dramatic and impressive military parade that the square has witnessed took place on November 7th 1941, when Nazi troops were advancing on Moscow and fought just a few miles away from the capital. On that day thousands of Russian soldiers marched directly to the front line and many of them died bravely defending the Soviet capital. The brief parade boosted the confidence and fighting spirit of the Soviet people at the height of their battle with the Nazi forces. Today, Red Square is a popular attraction for both Russian and foreign visitors alike. It provides plenty of photographic opportunities, while the area between St. Basil's and the Moskva River is often used for rock and pop concerts.

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Grand Kremlin Palace
Grand Kremlin Palace

#2. The Kremlin

This fortress is located in the old part of Moscow dating back to the time of the city's foundation in 1147. It takes strategic place in the very heart of the city, set of a top of a hill. The Kremlin fortress is surrounded by a thick red wall interspersed with 20 towers. The complex consists of a number of glittering, golden-domed churches and palaces, museums, residences, offices, assembly halls and monuments. It was the royal regime during the Tsarist rule and from 1918, the seat of the Communist government. Cathedral Square is the center of Moscow and the historical heart of Kremlin. It is also home to numerous churches. . The attractive Annunciation Cathedral was set aside for the private use of royalty and contains beautifully painted murals and icons on the interior walls. The throne of Ivan the Terrible can be found in the Cathedral of the Assumption. Most of the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church were buried there their tombs line the walls of the spacious, richly colored interior. The Belfry of Ivan the Great is the tallest structure within the walls and a visible city landmark. At its foot lies the world's biggest bell, broken in a fall from its bell tower in 1701, and nearby is the world's largest cannon, the Tsar Cannon. Also within the Kremlin is the Armoury Palace, the richest and oldest museum housing a staggering collection of treasures gathered over the years by the church and Russian state, including jewel-studded coronation capes, thrones encrusted with diamonds, royal coaches and sleighs and the renowned jeweled Fabergé Easter eggs, each containing an exquisitely detailed miniature object of precious metal inside. The Diamond Fund Exhibition in the same building contains the 180-carat diamond given to Catherine the Great by Count Orlov.

#3. Bolshoi Theatre

The foundation of Bolshoi Theater traditionally dates back to the 6th of January of 1825, when a fine classical building with 8-columned portico crowned by the carriage of Apollon appeared in the Theater's Square. The new theatre is considered to be the second largest of Europe after the famous "La Scala" Theater of Milan. However, the theatrical company had already existed for a half of century. And in honor of the inauguration of the theatre this company performed "The triumph of Muses". The company was created by a province public prosecutor Petr Vasilievich Ursov in 1772. Later the company was headed by his partner energetic and enterprising Englishman Michael Medox. Thanks to him on the abandoned ground regularly flooded by Neglinka River the new theatre was built. The second half of the 19th century is a period of national originality of Russian Art and Moscow Theater. The creative activity of such composers and directors as Alexis Verstovsky and Alexander Varlamov contributed to the unusual raising of the theatre. They formed Russian Opera repertoire. The most favorite operas of that time were works by Michael Glinka "The Life for the Czar" and "Ruslan and Lioudmila". Until nowadays traditionally every Theater season begins one of the operas of Glinka. The season usually began in September and lasted till the end of May. However, the performances used to be presented twice a week. In the middle of the winter when all the nobility came back to Moscow, the operas and ballets were put on the stage more often. That was also a time of masked balls. Today the ballet and opera fans attend the theatre every night. The radical turn of the tastes of public happened in 1870, when gradually appeared the Russian operas "Demon" by Rubenstein (1881), "Eugeny Onegin" by Chaikovsky (1881), "Boris Godunov" by Mysorgsky (1888), "The Prince Igor" by Borodin (1893) and other. Trainees' group of Bolshoi Theater is still performing to crown the joy of young singers, conductors, directors, leaders of a chorus. It is situated on two territories, separated from each other by several city districts. It gives the opportunity to represent the whole history of Russian art from the ancient period to our contemporaries. If you think of visiting the Bolshoi Theater keep in mind that official clothing is mandatory.

#4. The Golden Ring

The so called "Golden Ring of Russia" is a symbolical ring connecting historical towns and cities to the North-West of Moscow. They represent 1,000 years of rich Russian history written in stone and wood, from an 850-year old church in Rostov to a 19th-century log house in the Suzdal's open air museum. Each of the "golden" Russian towns once played an important role in the history of Russia and was connected in one way or another with famous historical figures such as Alexander Nevsky, Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great and many others. If you would like to see true, patriarchal Russia, to experience the grandeur of nature and the magnificence of ancient towns then a Golden Ring of Russia tour is well worth taking. It is one of the most popular routes among Russian and foreign lovers of old Russian history and architecture. The towns' churches, monasteries, kremlins (city forts) and museums make an incredibly picturesque port-folio of early Russian craftwork. Another attraction of the region is that some of the towns are really little more than villages, providing a peaceful glimpse of country life as it is lived all over European Russia. Best known is little Suzdal officially protected against industrial development and littered with so many protected buildings that it's almost one big museum. The other towns are more lived-in but are equally rich in old buildings such as churches, monasteries or kremlins. Made from stone, these buildings have outlived most wooden structures. Other interesting places which you can visit during your Golden Ring Tour are Sergiev Posal, Vladimir, Bogolyubovo, Plyos, Kostroma, Yaroslavl, Rostov-Veliki, and Pereslavl- Zaiessky. Most places in the Golden Ring can be visited individually on day or overnight trips from Moscow, but a better way to absorb the region's beauties and history, if you have time, is to devote a few days to taking in a combination of places. Transport and accommodation are easy enough to find as you go along. One or two-day excursions are also available from Moscow, and Golden Ring visits are a standard item on many package tours to Russia.

#5. Baikal Lake

Baikal is world’s oldest and deepest lake, created more than 30 million years ago. Its average depth is 744 meters. In Russia the name if the lake is spelled “Ozero Baykal”. The word “Baikal” came from Turk language. The word “bai” means “wealthy” and “kul” means “lake”. So “Baikal” originally means “wealthy lake”. And it can really be considered as a wealthy. The lake contains 20% of the world surface fresh water while the flora and fauna of the lake are mostly endemic. The lake is so huge and enormous that locals call it sea. This “sea” is rapidly growing with the average speed of 2 cm per year. According to some researches, Baikal is considered to be a future ocean. In several million years there will be a new great ocean all over Asia and Baikal is a starting point for this ocean. This remarkable lake is a one of Asia’s holy places. Peoples through over the centuries prayed to the lake and believed in its power. You can still see at the lake the unique carvings and parts of the ritual buildings of the tribes that gone thousands years ago. Baikal serves as a boundary for two Russian provinces – Buryatia Republic and Irkutskaya oblast. The south-western part of Baikal is more touristic, however north-eastern part is almost deserted – few inhabitants and almost no tourists. There are several interesting facts for the lake, which you may want to know. Its deepest point is 1637 meters below the sea level. There are 26 islands across the lake and the biggest of them is Olkhon Island. There are 336 rivers which flow in the lake. There are numerous reasons to visit the lake and experience the way of life over there. There you will find plenty of fresh air, as well as rocky mountains and beautiful forests for people who want to be close to the nature. The usual tourist activities like trekking, biking, camping, kayaking, fishing occur to be unusual if it’s done at this magic lake.

#6. St.Basil's Cathedral

Saint Basil's Cathedral is the most recognizable symbol of Russia. Its colorful domes are instantly recognizable around the world as emblems of Moscow and the Russian Orthodox Church. The church is actually the Cathedral of the Protection of the Mother of God, known as "Theotokos" or "Bogoroditsa" in the Orthodox Church. But most know it just as Saint Basil's Cathedral, named after the man who roamed the streets of Moscow trying to win converts during the reign of Ivan the Terrible. The structure of the domes of the church makes Russian Orthodox architecture unique. Saint Basil's has a total of ten towers sporting domes. The largest is at the center of the cathedral known as the Church of the Feast of the Pokhrov. There are four more, each set on top of the church located on cardinal point, north, south, east, and west. Then an additional four at the northeast, southeast, northwest, and southwest points. Each of these eight churches represents an important historical event in Russian history. Then there is one that does not stand on a rose point. It was built in 1555 and is located over the grave of Saint Basil. It became part of the Cathedral in 1588. The cathedral may have been designed by Russian architects Posnik and Barma. But the early records are confusing, and they may be a single person. There is also a legend that the cathedral was designed by an Italian architect who was blinded so he could never create a more beautiful building. The root of this legend may lie in the fact that between 1475 and 1510 Italian architects were employed to restore the Kremlin and two of its churches. In some ways, it is amazing that the cathedral has survived as long as it has. Two of the world's most ruthless leaders,Napoleon and Stalin, tried to destroy it. Napoleon tried to burn it down with little success. Stalin wanted to have it razed so his military parades would have more room. Another Moscow legend has it that the demolition was stopped by an architect who threatened to slit his own throat on the cathedral steps in protest.

#7. The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

The Hermitage Museum is Russia’s is among the best galleries of world art, one of the most prominent art museums in the world and definitely the main tourist attraction of St. Petersburg. Magnificent works of art embracing prehistoric culture, Egyptian art, the art of Antiquity, Scythian gold, and great collections of Western-European paintings and sculptures are displayed in 400 halls of the museum. The State Hermitage is one of the oldest and largest museums in the world. The museum is located in 5 historical buildings of St. Petersburg, including the Winter Palace – the former residence of Russian tsars. The buildings of the museum, by themselves, are architectural chef d’oeuvres. The collections of the Hermitage number over 3 million items from prehistoric to modern times. The date of the Hermitage founding is believed to be 1764 when the Emperor Ekaterina II bought a big collection of West European painting. The Hermitage was once the palace of Catherine the Great, who used it as a private place of retreat and solitude, or an Hermitage. Tours enter through the Winter Palace on the ground floor and walk up the magnificent Jordan Staircase to the first floor. The rooms on the first floor are breathtaking, with many of the rooms restored as they were during Imperial times. The bulk of the Hermitage collection is housed in the Winter Palace, formerly the official residence of the Romanov Tsars, and its several annexes. However, there are a number of other sites that constitute part of the Hermitage, including the recently opened Storage Facility in the north of St. Petersburg, which offers guided tours through some of the museum's vast stocks.

#8. Peterhof Palace

Peterhof Palace or Petrodvorets is a place which is better to visit during the summer when the fountains are operating. In good weather it will be a pleasure for you to spend an entire day here, enjoying the various palaces, the parks, and the sea view. The history of Petrodvorets that was called Peterhof until 1944, begins in 1704 when Peter I built a wooden house on the Gulf while overseeing the construction of the nearby Kronstadt Fortress. In 1713 he began transforming the area into an imperial residence. The palace was inaugurated in 1723 and later expanded by Empress Elizabeth. Petrodvorets is also a monument to Soviet reconstruction as the place was looted and practically razed to the ground by Nazi troops. The Grand Palace dominates the estate. Similar in scale to Catherine's Palace in Pushkin, it is filled with lavish rooms and galleries. Most of the palace was built during Elizabeth's time - note her big bed. After Elizabeth, most of the emperors and empresses used the palace for functions and official purposes, choosing to live elsewhere. The rooms are standard palace material: gilt and mirrors, Chinese rooms, decorated in the neo-Asiatic style fashionable in 18th century high society, thematic rooms like the Chesma Hall, with its endless artistic renditions of the Russian victory over the Turks at Chesma Bay in 1770, a room filled with portraits of little girls, fancy drawing rooms and bedrooms, and so on. In theory you must have the palace shown to you by a museum guide, so if you're on your own you'll end up getting hooked with a group that you can ditch as soon as you get inside. The exit is craftily laid out so that you have to pass through about five gift shops to get back to the park. The estate includes several other mini-museums of interest. The outwardly-modest Monplaisir Palace, which Peter I preferred to the Grand Palace, has a nice sea view and several interesting rooms, such as the State Hall where Peter would force his guests to drink huge quantities of wine until they passed out. The western wing of Monplaisir is known as the Catherine Wing and it was here that Catherine the Great bided her time while conspirators removed her husband from the throne in 1762.

#9. Nevski Prospekt, St. Petersburg

This is the most famous avenue in Russia. It is renowned for its fine architecture and popular residents. There you can see a great variety of buildings - palaces, shops, churches and monuments, as well as cozy restaurants line the boulevard. Originally known as the Great Perspective Road, Nevsky Prospekt was designed circa 1718 by French architect Alexandre Jean Baptiste LeBlond, who was employed by Peter the Great and given the task of creating a number of buildings and thoroughfares throughout the city. This grand boulevard was cut through acres of woods where packs of wolves once roamed. The street was named after Alexander Nevsky, who was a patriotic 13th century hero who defeated the Swedish and German invading armies. The main shops and businesses of St. Petersburg are located on and around Nevsky Prospekt, which has been compared to Paris’ Champs Elysees. Besides amazing shops and restaurants, here you can see also several amazing buildings, most attractive of which are located in the area between Admirality and the Anichkov Bridge. Admirality is the first building that you will face in Nevski Prospekt. A bit further across the street is a Lutheran church with a classical, twin-towered facade. Across the church is the imposing Kazan Cathedral. Built in a semi-circle with 96 gigantic columns, this ornate Orthodox Church was once home to the Museum of Religion and Atheism. Located at nr 18, Literaturnaya Café is a delightful example of pre-Revolutionary St. Petersburg architecture and was a favorite hang out of Pushkin during the years it served as a confectionery company. Adjacent to Gostiny Dvor is the Russian National Library, the second largest in the country. The majestic statue of Catherine the Great graces the bordering square. The statue is placed in front of the Alexandrinsky Theater, designed in neo-Classicist style by Carlo Rossi. At the end of the street is located Alexander Nevski Monastery, famous for its acropolis.

#10. SS Peter and Paul Cathedral, St. Petersburg

The Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul is the oldest church in St. Petersburg, and also the second-tallest building in the city. It is strong linked to both the history of the city and to the Romanov dynasty, and it is also a home to the graves of nearly all the rulers of Russia since Peter the Great. Work began on the first, wooden church to be erected on the site just one month after St. Petersburg was officially founded, and the church was consecrated on April 1, 1704. In 1712, the current, stone Peter and Paul Cathedral started to be built, to a design by Domenico Trezzini. This one took slightly longer to build - 20 years, in fact - and was consecrated on June 29, 1733. The Peter and Paul Cathedral marked a radical departure from traditional Orthodox churches, being built in early Baroque style. Its rectangular shape, bell-tower, and landmark needle are all features borrowed from the protestant churches of Western Europe - the influence of Dutch architecture is particularly visible - all of which was in accordance with Peter's wishes. The cathedral's rectangular base stretches from southwest to northeast, and its walls are formed with decorative pilasters and ornate cherub heads on the windows. The multi-tiered cathedral bell tower is crowned with a landmark needle, upholstered with copper gilded sheets. The needle, built by Dutchman German von Bolis, is topped off by the figure of a flying angel bearing a cross. The clock for the bell tower was delivered in 1720 from Holland where it was purchased for 45,000 rubles - a huge sum for the time. The inside of the cathedral holds a fantastic iconostasis, completed by a group of more than forty Moscow architects under Ivan Zarudny from 1722-1727. Whereas the architectural style of the cathedral is similar in style to the Lutheran church, the painting of the iconostasis is more in the spirit of Catholic Church icons. The walls of the cathedral are also embellished with paintings of various bible themes, including many paintings of gospel stories by artists of the early and mid 18th century.

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    • Alenkita1 profile image


      6 years ago from Slovenia

      My life wish, to visit these places. Just love Russia!


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