Selected departures from April to September 2019
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.
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.
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, visit to the Moscow Voska Museum, 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.
A Russian visa is not included, please see visa section below for details.
A night at the ballet is surely something not to be missed when in Russia, the home of classical ballet. Performances at some of the top theatres in both Moscow and St Petersburg can sell out within hours of going on sale, and ticket prices can be eye watering. The small and intricately decorated Hermitage Theatre (part of the Hermitage Complex) was commissioned by Catherine the Great as her own private theatre, where she frequently enjoyed performances with a small and select crowd of invitees. Nowadays the theatre hosts frequent performances of the popular ballet, Swan Lake, with a view to opening ballet up to a wider audience. A free seating policy is operated, as there is no such thing as a bad or restricted view in this small venue. What could be better than following in the steps of Catherine the Great for an evening of sophisticated entertainment?
Please contact us to pre-book this experience.
Visas and Passports
All UK citizens must obtain a tourist visa to visit Russia.
In order to apply for a visa, applicants will require an invitation letter (also known as the ‘tourist voucher’) from each hotel which will be sent to you, from Riviera Travel, approximately four to six weeks prior to departure. No charge applies for issuing these vouchers, however, a fee of £55 is charged by the hotels should the reservation be cancelled.
Please ensure you have at least two empty pages in your passport, and that it is valid for a minimum of six months after the visa’s expiration.
Complete the application forms electronically at http://ru.vfsglobal.co.uk and print and sign accordingly. All applications must then be made in person at the Application Centres in London, Manchester or Edinburgh, where biometric data (fingerprints) will be collected. This is a simple five to ten-minute process. You will need one recent passport photo and the tourist vouchers from the shipping company.
Visa costs are from £63 plus a service charge of £38.40. with the option to return by post at a cost of £13.80. All payments made towards visa fees and service charges are non-refundable and do not guarantee the issuance of a visa should your application be declined.
Whilst care has been taken to ensure that the information provided relating to visa requirements is true and correct at time of publication, changes in requirements after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information. Therefore, whilst we strive to provide the most up-to-date information, we strongly suggest that you re-confirm requirements with the relevant embassy prior to application.
We want to ensure you make the correct choice before you book your holiday with us. If you have any concerns regarding the suitabilty of the holiday due to reduced mobility we would encourage you to call us to discuss these concerns. General information on mobility in connection with our tours can be found here.
All other flights are direct. Please contact us if you would like timings and/or further information on the connecting flights. All flight details will be listed in your booking confirmation.
All transfer times listed here are approximate, and dependent on traffic. If you have a question regarding transfer times please don't hesitate to contact us.
|Arrival airport||First hotel location||Transfer time||Final hotel location||Departure airport||Transfer time|
|Moscow Domodedovo Airport||Moscow||2 hrs||St Petersburg||Pulkovo Airport, St Petersburg||40 mins|
Miss (FAO: Judith Roberts)
Our week spent in Moscow/St Petersburg was a wonderful holiday, itinerary was well organised but still left us with time to do our own exploring. Both hotels were of a very good standard and ideally situated, staff in both hotels ...
Vincent Wilson / Peter Hodge
We took the Riviera trip to Moscow and St Petersburg and stayed in very comfortable hotels close to all the sights. What a mind expanding experience! Wonderful cities both and so very different to each other making this a great tr...