Russia is a land that will never cease to amaze you! No matter how many times you have explored the country, there is still something that is left out to be seen, to be explored. And every time you leave the world’s largest country, you make a silent promise to come back for more. After all, it is hard to ignore the massive expanse of the unspoiled landscape filled with deep blue lakes, snow-capped mountains, scenic national parks and numerous rivers meandering through quaint villages and magnificent cities. Russia has been a source of inspiration for writers, artists and poets for centuries.
You are just on the right page if you are looking for the most popular cities that are not to be missed during your Russia vacation. Well, here are only a 10 of them:
- Moscow – A city of dramatic contrasts
As you explore the wonderful city of Moscow, Russia’s capital, you can feel the pulsating energy of the creative and the intellectuals. You will find the biggest community of billionaires here in the city, which also happens to be the political core of the country. Enjoy visiting some of the best-known landmarks of the world present in the city, like the St Basil’s Cathedral, Red Square and the Kremlin. It is simply hard to miss out on the colossal Kremlin, with its beautiful churches and redbrick towers. What may fascinate you about Moscow is how the ancient and the old are marking their place with the modern and the new. It is simply impossible to ignore the iconic and legendary character of these buildings. Among other recognisable landmarks, you will come across the GUM shopping mall, Lenin’s Mausoleum and some world-renowned museums and art galleries along with malls and boutiques. When you get hungry, there is a wide array of restaurants and cafes ready to serve you a fantastic range of cuisine. You will simply fall in love with the sophisticated and intriguing capital of Russia. While here in Moscow, it would be a mistake to miss those world-class performances at Bolshoi Theater. Get aware of the fantastic literary heritage of the country at its prestigious galleries and museums, like the Dostoevsky House Museum, the Tolstoy House Museum, Pushkin Memorial Museum and many more.
- Yekaterinburg- A city with vibrant cultural scene
Yekaterinburg, located in the Ural Mountains, is mostly remembered as the place where the last tsar of Russia and his family were executed during the Russian Revolution. It has earned a reputation of being a bit quirky. The industrial city, bordered between Europe and Asia, is home to several libraries, dance companies, and theatres, and thus boasts of a vibrant cultural scene. There are more than thirty museums in this fourth largest city of Russia. It is indeed a must to stop here in the city, which lies on the Trans-Siberian Railway and boasts of many riverside attractions. Today, Yekaterinburg has come up as an important economic centre in Russia because of the steady economic and population growth it has witnessed in recent times. The skyline of the city is getting more and more impressive with several tall and sophisticated buildings coming up. Explore the raw nature around the city that is surrounded by lush green hills and agricultural areas as well as several bodies of water. Lake Shartash and Lake Shuvakish are the two must-see lakes in the city. It is no surprise to see a steady rise of tourists in the city during the past couple of decades. Today, it is the third most popular Russian city among foreign tourists.
- Kazan – A city with melting pot of cultures
Kazan is the capital of Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan, and well famous because of its multicultural mix of different ethnic groups with various religions, customs, and languages. Thus, the culture here is entirely different when one compares them to the Slavic customs commonly followed in Russia. So, don’t be surprised to see Russian Christians and Tatar Muslims living side by side in complete peace and harmony. It is common to see those glorious minarets alongside onion domes together, and it reflects the multi-ethnic and peaceful blend of Muslims and Christians. Kazan Kremlin is the most famous historical sight listed by UNESCO. Here you can explore the ancient churches, imposing watchtowers, and some great museums. The lively pedestrian Bauman Street is bustling with locals and tourists. Kazan has been in the limelight over the recent years because of the frequent world-class events held here, like World Aquatics Championships, World Fencing Championships and FIFA World Cup. Enjoy dining out at its excellent range of cafés, restaurants, and bars. Other prominent sights include the Kul-Sharif Mosque. Today, it is referred to as the third capital of Russia because of its strategic location and rich history.
- St Petersburg- A city with a grandiose past
St Petersburg is the second-largest Russian city that carries a rich and fascinating history. Considered as a Jewel in Russia’s Imperial Crown, the aristocrat tsars ruled over Russia from this very city for two centuries. It is no surprise to see the city brimming with art, culture and history that remind one of the magnificent past of the city. Visit the home of the tsars, the marvellous Winter Palace and enjoy looking at the famous Hermitage collection. The Hermitage Museum boasts a display of more than three million artefacts from all across the world. The city is dotted with remarkable palaces with astonishing rococo architecture as well as those stylish baroque bridges. Other famous buildings to explore are the Peter and Paul Fortress, St Isaac’s Cathedral and Summer Gardens. When in Saint Petersburg, you will never run out of options for things to do and see. There are several other historical monuments, and once you have explored those, you can take boat tours of the canals or go for the opera and ballet shows.
- Altay- A city for adventure-seekers
Altay is located in the West Siberia region and is the largest town of the Altai Republic. The indigenous population belongs to Turkic ethnic groups and tribal Russians. The city extends into China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and Russia as well. The Altay Mountains are located deep within the southern Siberia and is a perfect playground for those who love adventure. One can enjoy mountain trekking, glacier climbing, horseback riding, white water rafting and other such activities. Those looking for a more laid back experience can go for the traditional Russian steam bath or merely drive through the picturesque scenic lands. One can go camping or stay overnight in a yurt. Altay tourism industry is expanding at a steady pace, as an increasing number of local and foreign tourists head towards this region. Some of the most popular tourist spots include the picturesque Chemal region, Lake Aiya, Mount Belukha and Lake Teletskoye. These popular tourist destinations are more accessible and located on the Chuiskiy highway.
- Sochi – A city with countless natural attractions
Sochi is a Russian city that is fast emerging on the world tourism map. Already famous as the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic games centre, it has come up as the largest resort in Russia. It has already become a great winter sports destination and has also hosted Russian Formula 1 Grand Prix and FIFA World Cup. It is no wonder to see it as the leading destination for both summer and winter holidays among tourists. Located on the Black Sea coast, Sochi is not just about sports and winter snow. One can also enjoy fabulous beaches and subtropical climate here. It is indeed a pleasant experience to explore the tea plantations or stroll on the sea beach. Caucasus Biosphere Reserve is frequented by the environmentally conscious foreign and domestic tourists. It is hard to ignore the heavy mix of vibrant nightlife, sunny beaches and countless natural attractions. Don’t forget to explore Stalinist-period buildings as well as museums, monuments or the beautiful Sochi National Park.
- Vladivostok – A city port with charming attractions
Located on Russia’s eastern side, there is no doubt that Vladivostok is one of the most attractive cities of Russia. The scenic port on the Pacific Ocean is tucked between the Far East and the sandy bays of the Pacific, and is much closer to China, Korea, and Japan. You are sure to fall in love with the city because of those never-ending sea views and scenic locations. Today, the city is prospering with modern architecture and contemporary buildings. There is plenty to do and see here, apart from endless entertainment or the lovely range of cuisine. Visitors head for the Sportivnaya Harbor, the amusement park which happens to be the liveliest place in town. Another place of interest may be the city’s main square, Ploschad Bortsov Revolutsy. You must visit the Russky Island Bridge that links the city with the small island as well as the Primorsky State Art Gallery and the Arseniev Regional History Museum. The commercial port and naval base have plenty of great beaches that are perfect for swimming. There are lovely parks, beautiful trails and many cultural attractions like theatres and museums.
- Novgorod – A city of historical importance
Novgorod happens to be one of the oldest towns in the country. It is believed to be the birthplace of Russians, as its early residents dated back to more than 750 years. The ancient city is mentioned in manuscripts as old as 859. Thus, the pretty ancient town holds great historical interest and charm, as it was once a major political centre of Russia and held greater importance than Moscow. Top sights include the Cathedral of St Sophia, the Church of Our Saviour-at-Ilino, Bell Tower and the 12th-century Yurev Monastery. Apart from that, some museums focus on iron, porcelain, and history. For those interested in bio-honey and want to eat borscht, they can head for Veliky Novgorod which is located on Lake Ilmen. You can take a beautiful boat trip down the Volkhov River. There are plenty of monuments and buildings that have been here for hundreds of years and are part of the city’s major attractions.
- Barnaul – A city to explore in Altay Mountains
Barnaul is located at the union of the Barnaulka and Ob Rivers, and is an important administrative centre of Altai Krai. The small town was established during the 18th century and what makes it popular among tourists is that it is just a small distance away from the Altay Mountains. Thus, those interested in exploring the mountains can base themselves in the city. It is also a great way to enjoy life in a Siberian town and get familiar with the local culture. There are several hotels, restaurants and cafes that make for a comfortable stay and food. The locals are very warm, friendly and hospitable. Other attractions include the Museum of Military History, Altai Museum of Art, Izumrudny Park, Pokrovsky Cathedral, Demidov Square and many other monuments related to architecture and history. Lenin Avenue is another favourite location among the locals and the tourists.
- Irkutsk – A city of rich geology and history
Irkutsk makes for a popular stop on the Trans-Siberian Railway and is famously known as the Paris of Siberia. The fabulous Lake Baikal is very close to this exciting city, which is loaded with historic churches, amazing museums and grand theatres. You will love the beautiful wooden houses in the city that carry hand-carved decorations. Major attractions of the city include City History Museum and the Old Town. Enjoy looking at the fascinating display of gems and minerals at the Geology Museum. Explore the Old Town noted for its 19th-century architecture and pavement cafés. What adds to the relaxed atmosphere are the jubilant street artists. The world-famous Lake Baikal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and boasts of a variety of flora and fauna. It is no wonder to see this region of natural beauty carrying unquestionable geological importance. There are many churches and history museums of interest here in Irkutsk that was once a location of clashes between Russian groups in numerous revolutions. The city served as a site of exile for intellectuals, artists, and others. Today, the city is a popular destination for travellers who look forward to visiting the Baikal Lake and explore the Sayan mountains.