Frequently Asked Questions... Russia
We help you to discover the answers to all the little questions you have about visiting Russia for the first time with our handy FAQ.
Swan Lake performed by the Russian Royal BalletWhat are the country's top destinations? For first-time visitors, Moscow and St Petersburg are the best destinations, being two of the country's most fascinating cities. Trips to Moscow are typically focused on the Kremlin, which sits on the founding site of the city. Built in the 15th century, this spectacular brick complex is the seat of Russia's political power, and is enclosed by 2.25 kilometre-long walls.
The Kremlin, MoscowSt Petersburg is very different. While Moscow has a lot of high-rise buildings, this isn't the case in St Petersburg where in historic areas, building height is often restricted. Often referred to as the Venice of the North, the city has a large canal network and has a reputation for its beauty – and particularly for its spectacular palaces.
The canals of St PetersburgWhen's the best time to visit Russia? Does this differ from destination to destination and if so, how? Generally speaking, the best time to visit Russia is between March and October, when the weather is milder. June is the most popular month, not only because of the weather, but also thanks to the White Nights Festival in St Petersburg. This arts festival takes place during the white nights – a natural phenomenon of 24-hour daylight, which occurs due to the city's northerly geographical position.
Winter Palace in winter, St PetersburgWinter is a much less popular time to visit due to plummeting temperatures and, while summer is definitely the best time to travel, there can be advantages to travelling during the colder months. There are fewer crowds, for instance, so if you're hoping to visit lots of museums, you should find you're competing with far fewer tourists for a good view. What's the climate like? The weather varies considerably across the year. Winters can be harsh – often having below freezing temperatures. But while this country is known for its cruel winters, it can actually get quite hot in the summer – in Moscow, the temperature averages in the mid-20s (and sometimes reaches above 30C) during this period. Do you need a visa to visit Russia? Yes, you do need a visa, and the process takes about three to four weeks. There's a long form to fill in, so it is a good idea to use a third party to help you with it. Do you need any vaccinations to visit Russia? No vaccinations are required to visit Russia, but it is always a good idea to speak to your GP to check whether there is anything that you, personally, may need. What is Russian cuisine like? Russian cuisine is largely vegetable-based, and is known for its hearty, heavy food – food that is good to eat during harsh winters. A particular highlight of traditional Russian cuisine is borscht, which is a must-try. This traditional soup is typically made with beets, cabbage, meat and potato to make a very hearty, warming meal. Of course, Russia is a vast country so the kinds of food you have will vary depending on where exactly you go. For instance, if you decide to cruise between St Petersburg and Moscow, you're likely to be able to try a lot of fish dishes. What are the country's top attractions? Many of Russia's finest attractions can be found in Moscow and St Petersburg. Looking at Moscow first, the sights you shouldn't miss include Red Square, St Basil's Cathedral and Gorky Park. Moscow's central square, Red Square, is also often said to be the centre of Russia. This Unesco World Heritage Site is surrounded by some of the nation's most important buildings, including the aforementioned Kremlin, St Basil's Cathedral and Lenin's Mausoleum.
Red Square, MoscowSt Basil's Cathedral is one of Russia's real icons. The colours and patterns of its architecture make it rank among the country's most instantly recognisable sights, but there's more to see than just the beautiful exterior – be sure to make your way inside to view its beautiful paintings too.
St Basil's Cathedral, MoscowGorky Park is a wonderful place to have a break from the bustle of the city streets and look out over its skyline – something that is well worth doing before you leave. In St Petersburg, the Hermitage should definitely feature on your itinerary. The largest museum in the world, it has an internationally renowned collection of art, including prehistoric paintings and Renaissance works, as well as an exceptional collection of historical and cultural artefacts. It is also worth bearing in mind that the building it is housed in, the Winter Palace, is spectacular and merits a visit in its own right.
The Hermitage, housed within the Winter Palace, St PetersburgThe Tsar's Village at Pushkin is another must-see – particularly Peterhof and St Catherine's Palace. At Peterhof, the main attraction is the gardens, so it is best to visit in summer. The Peter and Paul Fortress, which was the first place to be built in St Petersburg, is also very worthy of your attention.
Peterhof Palace, St PetersburgAnd are there any lesser-known attractions you'd recommend? If you are keen to discover some lesser-known attractions, consider taking a cruise between St Petersburg and Moscow, which will call in at some little-known gems, such as Kizhi Island, a Unesco World Heritage Site. A visit here will give you the chance to see The Church of the Transfiguration – a remarkable building that is made entirely of wood, but doesn't feature a single nail.
The Church of the Transfiguration, Kizhi IslandIs there anything else worth bearing in mind before visiting? It is always a good idea to travel with a guide – particularly due to the language barrier. This way, despite the different alphabet, you will be able to learn a lot about the places you visit – even if there is little information in English. While of course a guide is optional, there are some attractions where they are particularly invaluable – such as Pushkin and St Catherine's Palace. The Hermitage also merits the use of a guide, who will be able to point you in the right direction to the sections that interest you most, and perhaps even talk you through the displays, depending on how much assistance you would like. Cox & Kings offers a number of tours to Russia, including art tours. Alternatively, you can tailor-make your holiday to Russia by calling one of our Tour Consultants on 020 7873 5000. Share: