Those who travel to Russia quickly choose the cities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Good idea, but Russia is huge and has many more beautiful cities for you to visit. From Kaliningrad to Vladivostok, here our guide to the 10 most beautiful places to visit in Russia.
The most beautiful city in Russia is also called Saint Petersburg. We don’t take sides, but the city can compete 100% with the splendor, sights and cultural history of Moscow. St. Petersburg – once called Leningrad and then Petrograd – has the Hermitage, one of the largest museums in the world. In addition to neoclassical buildings reminiscent of Paris, canals reminiscent of Venice, one of the most beautiful libraries you’ll see inside (the Dom Knigi, spread over three floors) and opulent cathedrals. But why actually choose between Moscow and Saint Petersburg? The two cities are 635 kilometers apart and are well connected by cheap flights (just over an hour’s flight) and high-speed trains (just under four hours’ travel).
Around 1283, Moscow was founded by the Grand Principality of Moscow. The city has since grown into a fascinating metropolis and the capital of Russia. Many tourists mainly go to Moscow because of the fairytale Kremlin with the four cathedrals or the famous St. Basil’s Cathedral on Red Square, which can certainly compete with the most colorful churches in the world. But Moscow, like other world cities, offers much more! Start with the famous metro with the richly decorated stations and alternate your days with museums, restaurants and trendy fashion shops. Moscow is one of the best places to visit in Russia.
At the confluence between the Volga and the Kazanka is the Russian city of Kazan. Kazan is mainly the capital of Tartar culture and the republic of Tatarstan or Tartaria. The Tatars or Tartars are a people originally from Turkey, descended from the Mongols and the Bulgars of the Volga who settled there in the eighth century. Kazan has the largest Tatar community in the world. You can recognize their cultural pride in the city, you also hear the special Tartar language in addition to Russian. The main landmark of Kazan, in addition to the beautiful old town with characteristic wooden mosques, is the Kremlin (City Hall), built by Ivan the Terrible and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It houses the Cathedral of the Annunciation from the 16th century, the Söyembikä Tower – one of the most famous.
We go to the south of Russia, to the Caucasus and the Black Sea and arrive in the lively Russian city of Sochi (or Sochi). Located at the mouth of the Russian Federation on the Black Sea, it is a favorite tourist destination, also because it is one of the few places in Russia where you can swim without freezing! Many people go to Soči in the summer to enjoy the beautiful beaches, the pleasant climate, the nightlife and the buildings. In winter, the proximity of the Caucasus Mountains makes Sochi an important winter sports resort. In fact, the Russian city hosted the twenty-second edition of the 2014 Winter Olympics just like during the 2018 World Cup. Later in the year, it confirms its image as a sports city:
This is the fourth city in Russia, looking at the population: Yekaterinburg. A city that takes you back to the great Russian and recent history. On the night of July 16-17, 1918, Tsar Nicholas II was shot dead in Ekaterinburg together with his family, including the famous Anastasia. After the end of the Soviet Union, the great Cathedral of the Blood was built on the site of the massacre. Today, Yekaterinburg is a thriving Russian metropolis that hosted the 2018 World Cup and is considered the gateway to Asia.
If you want to travel deeper into Russia and finding the best places to visit in Russia, consider Vladivostok where Russia actually hits the Pacific. Vladivostok is not far from the border with China and Korea and is one of the most important ports of the Russian Federation. It is best known as the arrival station and endpoint of the mythical Trans-Siberia Express, the ultimate train journey that takes you through Russia, among others. The Moscow-Vladivostok ride is one of the most fascinating and longest in the world. If you get off in Vladivostok, especially take the cable car to admire the city and the bay from above. It is said to be somewhat similar to San Francisco.
If you want to get an idea of how big Russia is, check out the distance between Vladivostok (we said, near the Pacific) to Kaliningrad: 7300 kilometers. In fact one-sixth of the Earth’s circumference. Kaliningrad is one of the most European-looking cities in Russia and very fascinating. It is located in an exclave or part of Russian territory that is isolated from the rest, enclosed between Poland and Lithuania with a view of the Baltic Sea. This area was once under German rule and belonged to the Prussia region and was named Königsberg, birthplace of the famous philosopher Kant. After the war it was largely rebuilt, showing a mix of Soviet architecture and new buildings that exude a Russian-European atmosphere. The 2018 World Cup was played in Kaliningrad in the new Arena Baltika.
One of the most beautiful places to visit in Russia and Siberia is Irkutsk, which has grown into an important cultural center with many museums since its foundation in the 17th century. If you’re not into the museums, head there for the natural wonder of Lake Baikal. This gigantic water, 600 kilometers in length from north to south, is one of the most extensive lakes in the world and the second deepest with 1600 meters below the surface in some places. The Baikal is a paradise to explore or walk by boat.
Volgograd lies along the banks of the Volga, the longest river in Europe. Founded in the 16th century under the name of Caricyn, later known as Stalingrad, the city of Stalin. Stalingrad is a milestone in the history of the twentieth-century world; here the battle of Stalingrad took place for six long months between 1942 and 1943, with the Red Army of Stalin defeating Hitler’s army and forcing him to withdraw. It was Hitler’s first major defeat and one that marked the course of World War II. The city was largely destroyed and with that knowledge, a visit to the spectacular monument, the statue of Mother Russia, which recalls the battle, should not be missed. From the hill, you get a nice view of the city and the river.
We end our journey through Russia in Nižnij Novgorod also known as Gorki to the famous writer who was born here. Founded in 1221, Nižnij Novgorod retains many traces of the past making it an important city to visit if you are interested in history. The most important monument is certainly the Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin with 13 beautiful towers and several churches spread over an area of 23 hectares. Don’t miss the Pazzo della Banca Statale and the Maksim Gor’kij museum, dedicated to the city’s most famous residents. Nižnij Novgorod is 420 kilometers from Moscow: so close by Russian standards!
If you are interested in tourism the also read 10 best places to visit in Europe.