On arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel. You will stay for three nights on bed and breakfast in a centrally located four-star hotel, the Courtyard By Marriott City Centre, within easy reach of Red Square with all of the comforts you would expect of an international standard hotel.
This morning is a true revelation where news broadcasts, political speeches, books and films just come alive. The sense of history is overpowering as one great building after another, plus fascinating facts and stories hold you spellbound on our guided tour. We see the 16th century Novodevichy Convent where Russian noblewomen would retire whilst the adjacent cemetery reads like a Russian ‘who’s who’.... Chekhov, Prokofiev, Gogol, Khrushchev and Yeltsin to name but a few. We’ll also visit the enormous riverside Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, built to mark the victory over the French in 1812. Other highlights include the world famous Bolshoi Theatre, Lubyanka Square - erstwhile home of the KGB!, Tverskaya, Moscow’s main thoroughfare and the legendary Red Square, home to the GUM, renowned in Soviet times as a place to queue for one’s paltry allocation of pots and plates, now however a thoroughly modern and upmarket department store! None is more iconic than the 16th century St Basil’s Cathedral with its multicoloured domes, whose architects were blinded by Ivan the Terrible to prevent them from creating anything to compare. This afternoon you are free to explore.
This morning is dedicated to a guided visit of the massive Kremlin complex - the awe inspiring heart of Russian power. Commissioned in the 15th century by Ivan the Great with walls and towers built by Italian master stonemasons, it was the world’s largest medieval fortress. You’ll learn about its fascinating history seeing a staggering three cathedrals and the royal residence Terem Palace whose great Bell Tower so dominates this iconic skyline. As the USSR’s power base during Soviet times, the imposing Palace of the Congresses was added and you can still see red stars lingering atop some of the towers. The most imposing though is the Great Kremlin Palace, a 700 room former home of the Tsars with its splendid Armoury collection dating from 1511 with a complete room displaying the jewellery and ‘eggs’ of the legendary designer Fabergé. This afternoon is free to perhaps visit the history museum dedicated to the Chief Administration of Corrective Labour Camps and Colonies (better known as GULAG!), the Tretyakov State Gallery, Pushkin Museum plus much more.
Moscow is immensely proud of its underground railway, the Metro, perhaps Stalin’s one truly welcome legacy. It features some of the city’s most momentous architectural works, making extensive use of reflective marble walls, glittering chandeliers and grandiose halls. The central stations boast grand columns, stunning mosaics and statues with our tour featuring visits to some of the most striking and fascinating stations. This afternoon we bid farewell to magnificent Moscow taking the Sapsan, (high speed train) across the Russian plains to the stunning home of Peter and Catherine the Great, St Petersburg, staying three nights at the four-star Novotel, ideally located just off Nevsky Prospekt one of the city’s finest shopping streets, within walking distance to most of the sights.
This morning we have a sightseeing tour, experiencing the sheer splendour of imperial buildings like the Iconic winter Palace or Hermitage, The Peter and Paul Fortress, once the hub of imperial military power renowned for its glittering golden spire, it later became a prison, with Dostoyevsky, Trotsky and Gorky amongst its inmates. Its austere 12 metre walls must have been truly soul-destroying for the incarcerated. The gleaming cathedral is the final resting place of Peter the Great and the Romanovs. Close by is Peter’s Cabin, one of St Petersburg’s original buildings and once the Emperor’s residence We see religious icons such as the Alexander Nevsky Monastery, the golden dome of St Isaac’s Cathedral and the extraordinary towers of the Church of the Holy Blood. You will also see grand and busy boulevards like Nevsky Prospekt, and discover the canals and arched bridges affording the city its unique sobriquet ‘The Venice of the North’, the River Neva and Palace Square occluding with the Admiralty. This afternoon we visit the Hermitage with a guided tour of some of the highlights, the immense building complex including the marble, fine glassware and gilt of the Tsar's winter palace, now displaying one of the world’s finest museum collections. The statistics are staggering - over three million artefacts - European paintings alone occupy 120 rooms including masterpieces by Da Vinci, Raphael, Rembrandt, Monet and Michelangelo.
This morning we explore Peterhof, with its amazing gardens, fountains and palaces, magnificently finished by Catherine the Great. The lavishly decorated baroque Grand Palace is packed with fine art highlighted by the Throne Room. Outside the beautiful 1,500 acres of landscaped formal parkland display English and French design with bronze sculptures and summerhouses with geometrically arranged flowerbeds in complete harmony with their surroundings. And the final spectacle, flowing towards the sea, is the incredible Grand Cascade of 176 fountains emitting a staggering 30,000 litres per second! This afternoon you are free to explore as you desire amongst the city’s remarkable attractions - perhaps a boat trip observing the stunning waterfront, the huge golden dome of St Isaac’s Cathedral, or alternatively just stroll along the river lined by attractive 19th century merchants’ houses. Russia is a remarkable country and especially for first time visitors is a true eye-opener. Many leave with more questions than answers, but more than anything else you will be truly fascinated.
Today at the appropriate time, you will be transferred to the airport for your return flight.