Russia

Russia

Things to do - general

Russian holidays never fail to enthral. Perfect for culture vultures, with its grandiose cities of Moscow and St Petersburg, Russophiles will also appreciate the Soviet history and landmarks. Lovers of the great outdoors will delight in a cruise on the legendary Volga River, gazing at shimmering forests of silver birch and pastoral countryside.

Our Russian holidays offer something for both those new to Russia and those returning to the country. Moscow’s Red Square with its Kremlin and psychedelic St Basil’s Cathedral is the iconic image of Russia, but contrast this with the small towns of the Golden Ring, with rural landscapes dotted with golden-domed Orthodox churches, for a glimpse of the real Russia. St Petersburg provides visitors with a wealth of imperial parks and palaces to explore and the city is home to the world-renowned State Hermitage Museum which celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2014, so this is the perfect year to enjoy a Russian holiday.

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Take an epic railroad journey and pause at Yekaterinburg, where the Romanovs met their end, before heading into Siberia with its endless steppe and taiga. Stop off at Trans – Siberian towns or head into the wilderness to stay in yurts and encounter shamans and throat singers.

For Russian holidays with a difference, consider visiting the enclave of Kaliningrad, squeezed between Poland and Lithuania, or for those with an interest in Soviet history, visit Stalingrad or one of the other Soviet Hero Cities which played their part in Russia’s WWII defence.

Moscow and St Petersburg are always the top two destinations to visit when on Russian holidays but be adventurous and include one or two other places be it either Volgograd, Ekaterinburg or even Novgorod. Top of our list are the Solovetsky Islands and perhaps venturing north to Murmansk, the largest city within the Arctic Circle.

This important port on the shores of Kola Bay is warmed by the waters of the Gulf Stream and is free of ice throughout the year. It was built with British assistance during World War I and the Northern Lights can be seen here during winter months.

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Country Russia
Visa requirements

You need a visa if your not from the CIS, Argentina, Bosnia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Fiji, Hong Kong, Israel, Macau, Macedonia, Montenegro, Nicaragua, Peru, Serbia, Thailand, Turkey, Uruguay and Venezuela. Others will need a visa and an invitation.

You will need to pay for the invitation, then pay the consulate and you will need to register when you arrive. Regulations are very painful, do not expect to travel very far without some sort of support. The visa regulations for Russia are costly, tedious and take a lot of time.

You may also need to supply proof of medical insurance, copies of bank statements, a letter from you employer and more.

If you wish to travel for longer than 30 days you may need establish some "contacts" who can help you arrange a business or special visa.

Transit visas can be arranged that are valid for 3 days. They may be a lot easier to arrange.

Languages spokenRussian
Currency usedRUB - Russian Ruble
Area (km2)17.098.242 km²

Sports & nature

Russia has made a priceless contribution to the world culture. It has given to the world not only great classics and fine arts masterpieces but entire schools. Russian drama school of Stanislavski and ballet school are the world-famous ones.

Alexander Pushkin Russian literature in known all over the world. The books by Leo Tolstoy and Feodor Dostoevsky are known the same as the works by Shakespeare and Dumas. “War and Peace”, “Anna Karenina”, Crime and Punishment” are translated into almost all languages. “Eugene Onegin” by the great Russian poet Pushkin is included into the list of world literature masterpieces of the 19th century, and many remarkable books appeared in the 20th century, for example “Master and Margarita” by Mikhail Bulgakov. The places where the most famous Russian writers lived and created their outstanding works have themselves become cultural monuments.

Leo Tolstoy Yasnaya Poliana Memorial Estate of Lev Tolstoy is located 200 kms to the south from Moscow. Cultural festivals and international literary meetings are held here. There are many places in Saint Petersburg related to Dostoevsky and Pushkin, as well as to the characters of their books. Pushkinskie Gory (Pushkin Hills) is a literary memorial museum placed in Pskov Region in the north-west of Russia. Every year the International Pushkin Poetry Festival is held there. Russian classical music is well-known too. The best orchestras in the world play the symphonies by Peter Tchaikovsky, Sergey Rachmaninoff and Alfred Schnittke.

Every staging of “Eugene Onegin” and “The Queen of Spades” by Tchaikovsky, “Boris Godunov” by Mussorgsky, “Tsar’s Bride” by Rimsky-Korsakov and “Prince Igor” by Borodin is a remarkable cultural event. Russian opera singers and musicians are world-famous. Opera fans of Paris, London, Berlin, Milan and New-York applauded to Feodor Chaliapin. Great Russian conductors Valery Gergiev and Vladimir Spivakov are today’s idols of classical music fans all over the world.

Feodor Dostoevsky Russian ballet, its rich traditions and famous names of the ballet dancers –are the most important cultural symbols of Russia. Russian school of classical ballet is considered to be the best in the world. Classical ballet came into Russia in the 18th century. By the end of the 19th century the national school of ballet had finally formed. It has concentrated achievements of the best ballet schools of the world and enriched their with Russian national dance traditions. Sergei Diaghilev’s “Russian Seasons” project of the early 20th century had a great significance for the Russian musical and dancing art. Russian opera and ballet actors’ performances organized in Europe by Sergei Diaghilev achieved much success in Paris, London, Rome, Berlin and other cities.

Swan Lake ballet One of the greatest ballet dancers – Anna Pavlova – was one of the “Russian Seasons” stars. Galina Ulanova, Maya Plisetskaya, Michail Baryshnikov, Rudolf Nuriev were included in the world ballet hall of fame in the 20th century. Nowadays Russian classical ballet traditions are supported and developed by dancers and choreographers not only from Russia but from all over the world. Visits to ballet or opera are included into many tourism programs in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

Great masters of Russian avant-garde of the 20th century have brought priceless contribution into the world art. They have generated new aesthetics of art, architecture and design. The works by Kazimir Malevitch and Vasily Kandinsky are being explored by critics of various countries. “The Black Square” by Malevitch (1915) is kept in Moscow, at the State Tretyakov Gallery.

A special place among the cultural symbols of Russian is occupied by its architectural monuments. The development of Russian culture is inseparably linked with religious tradition. The Orthodox Christianity came into Ancient Russia in the 10th century. Churches, cathedrals and monasteries constructed in different centuries reflect spirituality of Russia. It is possible to call cultural symbols of the country Basil’s Cathedral in the centre of Moscow, white-stone temple on the Nerl river, unique Church of Transfiguration in Kizhi. Russian folk crafts

The Hermitage, Russian Museum and Mariinski Theatre in Saint Petersburg, the Bolshoy Theatre and Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow are recognized as significant symbols of cultural Russia. Folk art is also very important for culture of Russia. Russian fine arts, literature, music and dancing art have incorporated centuries-old national cultural traditions and achievements. Originality and national peculiarity are reflected in folklore music and dances, in legends and tales, in traditions of national crafts. Having visited Russia one can get such remarkable souvenirs as samovar from Tula, Gzhel ceramics, Palekh caskets, trays from Zhostovo and many other things.

Sports and nature image

Nightlife info

Moscow, Russia

A weekend in Moscow

ARMA 17

Arma 17 is Moscow’s best techno club and the only Russian dance spot to have featured three times on the DJ Mag world’s top nightclubs list. Arma 17 stretches across the enormous territory of a decommissioned factory features a dance floor designed for 1,500 people.

It has witnessed performances by almost all international techno music stars, including Ricardo Villalobos, Sven Vath, Ellen Allien and Guy Gerber. A visit is a must for all fans of techno and huge underground raves. Concert and party tickets cost $16 and a beer starts at $4.

5 unit 3A, Nizhny Susalny (Metro station Kurskaya)

DARLING I'LL CALL YOU LATER

The Darling I'll Call You Later chain consists of three Moscow bars that combine rock-n-roll, delicious beer at $6 and a home-like atmosphere. Here you can enjoy a tasty breakfast or lunch while watching a cinema masterpiece or a music show.

In the evening, major sports events are broadcast and football tables are installed for those willing to play. On Fridays and Saturdays, the bars throw parties, where famous TV presenters, editors-in-chief of glamour magazines and next-door music fans can all spin the turntables. A typical lunch here costs $20.

10, 1st Tverskoi-Yamskoi Per. (Metro station Mayakovskaya)

9, Bolshoi Spasoglinishchevsky Per. (Metro station Kitay-Gorod)

7, Bolshoi Strochenovsky Per. (Metro station Paveletskaya)

KAMCHATKA

Kamchatka is a city centre pub in a prime location right in front of the city’s most luxurious department store, TSUM (the local version of London’s Selfridges or Milan’s Rinoscente).

This two-storey bar, meticulously decorated in Soviet style, is a must-see for any foreigner interested in the drinking and eating habits of Communist Russia: Kamchatka’s menu complements its interior quite harmoniously. 1980s and 1990s Soviet pop songs are played non-stop and the prices are quite affordable. The house specialty beer is called Kamchatka and costs $3.

7, Kuznetsky Most (Metro stations Kuznetsky Most or Okhotny Ryad)

PROPAGANDA

Propaganda has been an urban landmark for the last 16 years. This nightclub is the longest-lived of Moscow’s disco spots and is particularly favoured by Moscow expats. Main events take place every Thursday night, when DJ Sanches puts on his techno set for the coolest clubbers in town.

The dance floor is open to visitors daily: hip-hop and soul parties are held on Mondays and Tuesdays, while the rest of the week is dedicated to quality dance music, mostly techno and tech/deep house. On Sundays, the club hosts the best gay parties in Moscow. During the day, Propaganda operates as a restaurant renowned for its low prices and delicious food. The Caesar salad ($5) served here is rightfully considered the best in the city.

7, Bolshoi Zlatoustinsky Pereulok (Metro station Kitay-Gorod)

SIXTEEN TONS

Sixteen Tons is another veteran of the Moscow nightlife scene. The first floor of the building is occupied by a pub and a restaurant, whereas the second is reserved for parties and music shows.

As one of the best music venues in Moscow, it regularly hosts gigs by local musicians, as well as the likes of Mogwai, Crystal Castles, Husky Rescue and other international stars. Concerts are often followed by parties of the most diverse types, ranging from transvestite freak shows to dubstep and underground hip-hop jams. For $5 you can enjoy a glass of Sixteen Tons' signature beer.

6 unit 1, Presnensky Val (Metro station Ulitsa 1905 Goda)

SOLYANKA

Solyanka is widely believed to be Moscow’s central nightclub. The place is often called a “hipster stronghold” but this is not the case, if you know which party is right for you – and the choice here is enormous.

Solyanka is located in an antique mansion in the centre of Moscow. To enter the club, one has to climb up a marble spiral staircase leading to the first floor, which mostly resembles a three-unit Moscow apartment of the Russian Empire era. It largely owes this impression to the cosy interior and vintage leather armchairs.

The dance floor is the last of the rooms and also the most spacious. Parties are held from Thursday to Saturday (and sometimes on Sundays, too) and the music ranges from techno and house to funk and hip-hop. The club also hosts interesting guest performances on a weekly basis. Special mention should be given to the Love Boat party run by famous fashion blogger Vitaly Kozak.

During the day, Solyanka transforms into a trendy and quite affordable restaurant. Lunch here costs about $13 to $16 and a beer goes for $4 to $13.

11/6 unit 1, ul. Solyanka

KRASNY OKTYABR

Krasny Oktyabr, a “city within the city,” has been a key Moscow landmark for the last few years. This arts district located in the very heart of Moscow owes its name to the former chocolate factory it now occupies. Krasny Oktyabr represents the quintessence of bohemian Moscow, with trendy nightclubs, bars, restaurants, art galleries and exhibition halls. No matter where you come from, the place is definitely worth a visit.

We would recommend setting aside at least half a day, ideally starting around 5 p.m. and lasting until the morning. As mentioned above, Krasny Oktyabr features a number of cool places but, for the time being, we will focus on only three of them.

GIPSY

Thanks to its big summer terrace with a picturesque view of the Moscow River, Gipsy remains one of the most popular party locations in summertime Krasny Oktyabr. Not that it is any less fun in the wintertime: a big indoor dance floor with a bar in the middle, disco balls hanging from the ceiling and walls upholstered in fake cheetah skins help sustain the party atmosphere.

The Gipsy’s public is rather pleasant and includes plenty of gorgeous girls. Some of the city’s best techno jams take place here on Fridays, while Saturdays are reserved for mash-up and alco-dance music. During the day, Gipsy transforms into a good restaurant, which we highly recommend visiting in summer for lunch on the terrace. The meal will cost you $13; a Mojito is sold for $8.

3;4, Bolotnaya Nab.

ROLLING STONE BAR

Perhaps the best alco-dance spot in the city and Krasny Oktyabr. It is always jam-packed, noisy and very entertaining. The dance floor is dominated by a mash-up of British rock and old hits. Just like Gipsy, Rolling Stone boasts a spacious terrace, which is open throughout the summer and the winter, and beautiful scenery. One of the locations most favoured by Moscow expats. The prices of shots range from $4 to $9.

3 unit 1, Bolotnaya Nab.

STRELKA BAR

Strelka Bar has been Krasny Oktyabr’s centre of gravity since it opened. Its prime location and special ambience attract the hippest folks in town. In summer, the bar opens a rooftop terrace, which has a mesmerising view of the Moscow River. Concerts and dance parties are held regularly in the evenings. Cocktails cost about $13 and the starting price for wine is $9.

14 unit 5A, Bersenevskaya Nab.

Nightlife image

Culture and history info

Population and ethnic makeup

Russia is the largest country in the world in terms of territory, with a total area of 6,601,668 square miles (17,098,242 square kilometers). By comparison, the United States comprises 3,794,100 square miles (9,826,675 square km).

According to 2014 data by The World Bank, the population of Russia is 141,049,000, a decline since its peak of 148,689,000 in 1992.

Russia is home to at least 190 ethnic groups, according to the BBC. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that 77.7 percent of Russians are of Russian descent. The rest of the population consists of 3.7 percent Tatar, 1.4 percent Ukrainian, 1.1 percent Bashkir, 1 percent Chuvash, 1 percent Chechen and 10.2 percent other, while 3.9 percent are unspecified.

Languages

While Russian is the official language, many Russians also speak English as a second language. More than 100 minority languages are spoken in Russia today, according to the BBC. The most popular is Dolgang, spoken by more than 5.3 percent of the country's population, according to the CIA. Other minority languages include Tartar, Ukrainian, Chuvash, Bashir, Mordvin and Chechen. Although these minority populations account for a small percentage of the overall Russian population, these languages are prominent in regional areas.

Religions "Religion has always been a primary component of Russian life, even during times of oppression," Wagner said.

There are nearly 5,000 registered religious associations in Russia. More than half follow the Russian Orthodox Church, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. Islam is the second largest religion; about 10 percent to 15 percent of Russians practice Islam, according to the CIA World Factbook.

"The third most popular religion in Russia after Christianity and Islam is Tengrism, a form of pagan, animistic and shamanic religion," said Christina de Rossi, an anthropologist at Barnet and Southgate College in London. Tengrism originates from the Turk and Mongol populations of Central Asia and has enjoyed a revival in parts of Russia as it is seen as part of a certain Central Asian ethnic identity by some regional independence movements.

Culture and history image
Solo Sokos Hotel Palace Bridge

Solo Sokos Hotel Palace Bridge

Birzhevoy Pereulok 2-4, Vasileostrovskiy, 199044 Saint Petersburg, Russia
This 5-star hotel on Vasilyevsky Island is a 15-minute walk from St. Petersburg Hermitage Museum. It More info

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