Russia has always been a mysterious travel destination. Not everyone knows what to expect and what they should be including on their itineraries. We sat down and spoke with Bryce Crampton, General Manager Sales & Marketing for Beyond Travel. Bryce was in Adelaide to talk to some Peregrine Travel Centre guests about travel in Russia and so we picked his brain about the best things to do whilst visiting.
Having been a tour operator within the region and visiting multiple times – there’s no one better than Bryce to give us a unique insight into this historic and beautiful destination.
Why should people travel to Russia, what makes this country so unique?
Russia is incredibly diverse. It is the world’s largest country and there is just so much to explore. When we mention Russia often Moscow and St Petersburg are the two main cities that come to mind, these cities are of course a must see, but the truth is with over 14 states spanning across two continents, there is so much more for travellers to explore.
Let’s start with Russia’s Capital City Moscow. What are your tips when visiting this historic city?
Well the first thing to note is that Moscow is one of the 10 most expensive cities in the world, so be prepared to pay a little extra for your morning coffee and meals. Moscow is historic and exotic – a city of colour! I’d recommend you spend at least 3 days there, to give you the opportunity to take in all that this city has to offer. The locals are friendly and most speak English and will be willing to assist you if you make the effort and say Hello and approach them using some Russian.
Now we know there is so much to see and do in Moscow, but what would be your top 3 must visit spots?
In terms of sightseeing and things to do you cannot leave Moscow without seeing the Kremlin, St Basil’s Cathedral and the Moscow Metro.
The Kremlin consists of five palaces, four cathedrals and some amazing museums all enclosed by the Kremlin wall. The Kremlin contains the spectacular Crown Jewels of Catherine the Great and a wonderful Armoury Museum. Make sure you pre-book this tour with your travel agent before you go as they only allow a limited number of visitors each day, expect to spend a half a day exploring here.
The picturesque St Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square is stunning in its design and colour, although the inside is not quite as breathtaking, I highly recommend you taking in the delightful views from the outside.
The Moscow Metro is not only a cheap and convenient way to get around the city, but it is a fascinating and beautiful site. The stations are decorated in mosaics and intriguing décor and I highly recommend you do a metro tour to get the full history and background.
Now let’s make our way to another major city in Russia, St Petersburg. What’s the best way of getting between the two cities?
The SAPSAN high speed train from Moscow to St Petersburg is definitely the best option. The services run six times a day and it’s easy to navigate, comfortable and only takes 4 hours.
What can people expect when they get there?
St Petersburg is the complete opposite to Moscow, it’s a new city (only 312 years old) and it was purposely built to rival other big European Capital Cities. This port city is filled with monumental architecture, canals and is home to over 267 palaces, 200 museums and 100 theatres – so there is more than enough to keep people occupied. I would suggest giving yourself a minimum of four days here to take in this beautiful city.
What are some of the highlights that travellers should definitely include as part of their itinerary whilst visiting?
The Hermitage Museum was originally one of Catherine the Great’s Winter Palaces, however today it is home to over 7 million works of art! 3 million of these are on display and art lovers can spend a whole day exploring and taking in this magnificent palace.
Peterhof Palace is another beautiful location, the Palace grounds are filled with magnificent fountains. But beware, there are also trick fountains which may pop up and surprise you when you least expect it!
The magnificent Spilt Blood Cathedral was built on the site where Emperor Alexander ll was fatally wounded in 1881. Both the inside and outside of this cathedral is spectacular and it is a very different style of architecture compared to other structures in St Petersburg.
Kazan Cathedral, Admirality Square, St Isaacs Square and Catherine’s Palace are other must see sites.
If travellers have more time to spend in Russia where else would you recommend they visit?
If you have more time I would include Sergiev Posad, Suzdal, Vladmir, Norgorod and the Golden Ring on your itinerary. Beyond Travel have a range of land and river tours which take you through the highlights of Russia and surrounding countries. If you’re looking for something else to incorporate into your trip I would recommend beginning with the Trans-Mongolian Rail journey. Starting in Beiijing this classic 16-day train journey takes you up through magnificent Mongolia and into Russia, finishing in Moscow.
If you are interested to learn more about travel in Russia, you can contact the friendly consultants at Peregrine Travel Centre and they’ll be able to help you with further information and bookings.