The Kremlin, St Basils, the finest ballet, the Winter Palace, Chekov, Tolstoy, Stravinsky, Catherine the Great and Tchaikovsky. There are many facets to Russia, so undeniably influential and tantalisingly fascinating.
Selected departures May to September 2017
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 Hermitage and the Peter and Paul Fortress, 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 visit grand and busy boulevards like Nevsky Prospekt, plus 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.
We see Peter’s Cabin, one of St Petersburg’s original buildings and once the Emperor’s residence. Close by is 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.
This afternoon we visit the Hermitage, 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.
Moscow and St Petersburg have always remained pivotal to Eastern Europe’s culture and unsurprisingly harbour some of the world’s most influential history, finest architecture, most stunning art and artefact collections, and thus almost always feature on today’s travellers’ wish lists of ‘must see’ destinations.
First to Moscow – for many steeped in mystery, the grand “Cold War” Soviet parades are long gone now, yet the city still retains a tantalising, almost remoteness from Europe’s other great capitals. Top of any visitor’s list is the extraordinary Kremlin complex, three cathedrals, great palaces, the Senate, the remarkable Treasury plus several grand squares and towers. Equally recognisable are St Basil’s Cathedral with its amazing multi-coloured domes, plus the monumental Red Square – home to Lenin’s tomb, whose worldwide influence like Stalin’s, remains undeniable if somewhat tainted.
Yet there is so much more to Moscow than the awe inspiring sights and politics. See the city’s fine university where famous writers like Chekhov, Sakharov and Pasternak studied and the stunning Bolshoi, arguably the world’s finest ballet. Shopping takes on a refreshing novelty in the grand arcades of Tverskaya Street and bohemian Arbat Street. Gorky Park, Stalin’s Bunker, the Gulag Museum, Victory Park and Tolstoy’s house…. the list of fascinating places goes on, and all linked by the legendary metro with its cathedral – like stations and grand designs – Moscow is utterly unique.
Next, one of the world’s most beautiful cities, St Petersburg, Imperial capital of the Tsars, founded in 1703 by Peter the Great and truly worthy of an emperor! The majestic boulevards and splendid baroque buildings, threaded by winding canals and set amongst great parks are so redolent of the classical Italy which inspired Peter’s great vision.
A magnificent monument of old Russia, the Tsar’s winter palace, the Hermitage houses one of the world’s finest art collections; the magnificent St Isaac’s Cathedral is simply inspiring and the waterfront’s grandeur has to be seen to be believed. The Peter and Paul Fortress with its ornate cathedral featuring marbled columns and glittering chandeliers is the Romanovs’ final resting place. St Petersburg though has another face too: lose yourself in the parks, take a stroll along the canals criss-crossing the city or window shop in the city’s department stores and markets. Then there is the Kirov (now known as the Mariinsky), one of the world’s most famous ballet companies where Nureyev, Nijinsky and Anna Pavlova gained worldwide recognition. Other famous St Petersburgers include Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Stravinsky and Pushkin whose wonderful cultural legacies still endure.
The city was founded by an emperor and was home to Catherine the Great and the Romanovs. Subsequently the Revolution radically changed the course of 20th century world history and then came a change of name to Leningrad; the arrival of Stalin the Second World War’s brutal three year siege followed by the ‘Cold War’. Recently it has been time for two more St Petersburgers to take centre stage: Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin. Today St Petersburg has emerged wonderfully from this turbulent past, reclaiming its rightful place amongst the world’s most beautiful and fascinating cities.
The price of this holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a twin room. Single rooms are subject to availability at the relevant supplement per person, date dependent.
The price includes six night bed and breakfast accommodation in four star hotels, return flights, airport departure taxes, return transfers, all tours and entrance fees as mentioned, guided visits of Moscow & St Petersburg, guided tour of the Kremlin including entrance into the Armoury museum, guided tour of Moscow Metro, second class high speed Sapsan train from Moscow to St Petersburg with reserved seat, entrance to Hermitage museum, entrance to Peterhof, services of a Riviera Tour manager.
Not included: Russian Visa
Application forms must initially be completed electronically at http://ru.vfsglobal.co.uk then printed and be signed by the applicants. All applications for UK citizens must then be made in person at the Application Centres in London, Manchester or Edinburgh in order for biometric data (fingerprints - a simple process taking 5 - 10 minutes) to be collected. In order to apply for a visa, applicants will require an invitation letter from each hotel which will be sent from us approximately four to six weeks prior to departure.