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.
Today begins with a city sightseeing tour, experiencing at first hand the unrivalled splendour of Saint Petersburg’s imperial buildings. We see the breathtaking Winter Palace, home to the Hermitage Museum which we visit later. We also pass the Peter and Paul Fortress, renowned for the glittering spire ascending from the cathedral’s bell tower. The fortress sits on an island in the Neva and was once the hub of Russia’s military power before later becoming a much-feared prison that counted Dostoyevsky, Trotsky and Gorky among its inmates. The gleaming cathedral is the final resting place of Peter the Great, while close by is the wooden Cabin of Peter the Great, one of the city’s original buildings and for a few years the summer residence of the tsars. We see handsome religious buildings like the gargantuan Saint Isaac’s Cathedral and the Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood with its ornate towers, and pass many fine houses and palaces that formerly belonged to the nobility. You’ll also discover grand boulevards like Nevsky Prospekt, the pretty canals and arched bridges that give the city its sobriquet, the ‘Venice of the North’ and the magnificent Admiralty building. We also see the enormous Palace Square, the city’s best-known open space. This afternoon we visit the Hermitage for a guided tour of some of its highlights. The scale of this complex is overwhelming as you’re surrounded by the grandeur of the former Winter Palace – enormous rooms, endless corridors, marble and gilt everywhere. The Hermitage houses an astonishing art collection, almost unmatched anywhere in the world. The statistics are staggering – its five buildings house over three million artefacts, with European paintings alone occupying 120 rooms that include masterpieces by Leonardo, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Monet and Matisse.
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.