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Moscow & St. Petersburg

Hey so I’m currently planning the European portion of my world trip and I was considering Russia as a possible place to visit. I have never been and I would be coming from Paris and going onward to Venice. I do not care about travel times and covering long distances. I’ll be seeing Athens in this same trip haha.

My question is what could someone with 3 nights in Moscow and 3 nights in St. Petersburg do for a first timer? Accounting for travel days, it’s really 2 full days in each place.

I know I want to see the Red Square in Moscow and the Winter Palace & Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. I definitely want to walk around both at night. Also my trip will be in mid June of 2022. I don’t even know if travel into and out of Russia will even be plausible by then :/

Posted by
27352 posts

I haven't been to Russia recently enough to be helpful, but are you aware that you'll like need a visa for Russia? I've read the application process is rather laborious, and the fee is $160. There's a way to make a visa-free visit to St. Petersburg by taking an overnight ferry from Finland and spending two nights in St. Petersburg, then taking another overnight ferry back.

Posted by
6551 posts

Visa free cruises to St Petersburg also depart from Tallinn and Stockholm.

Posted by
1302 posts

The massive Russian visa application takes hours to complete and requires a huge amount of personal information, including questions on what conflict zones you’ve been in and your experience of fissionable materials. We failed our initial application because neither of us had been to university, having had the audacity to be gainfully employed on leaving school! A separate letter confirming our lack of further education, got us in. As noted, at a price. And if you are going (currently for political reasons, I probably wouldn’t) apply early for the visa. Very early.

Posted by
149 posts

Hey thanks for the responses :) I actually considered taking a cruise ship option but it’s only for 72 hours, and I don’t think you get the option of getting on a quick train from St. Petersburg to Moscow for the sake of seeing it. For a country where I’m not super fascinated with seeing 98% of the country (has nothing to do with Russian culture, just seems vast and empty, I’m NO Russian expert), I would really like to see these two cities bare minimum, especially because it seems like such a huge hassle to even get into the country to begin with hahaha.

In terms of visas, please correct my ignorance. It seems like the normal tourist visa is $160. I was looking at a company called and I think their fee is $99. I plan to use this company when I see places like India and China, so the extra 100 bucks per visa doesn’t phase me too much. BUT is that all there is to that process? Will it ultimately be around $260 or will other things make it start climbing closer to a number like $500?

I’m pretty sure my hotels can arrange invitation letters (I would only be going to two hostels/hotels). I was looking at Hostel World for cheaper accommodations. Are hostels effective with invitation letters like hotels?

And I plan to see ALL of that in Red Square :) I don’t know too much about Moscow yet but I figured the Red Square was a great place to start. Also is the Winter Palace and Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg, the same place or part of the same place? I know it’s a stupid question but I was researching and it sort of left me confused.

Posted by
4148 posts

The Winter Palace is the main building and the Hermitages are areas of that building . In accepted jargon , the whole complex is known by either name , On the side of the square facing The Winter Palace is The General Staff Building which contains a massive collection of modern art and well worth a visit . In Moscow , behind Red Square leading from behind St Basil Cathedral is Varvarka Street . This ancient trade route in Moscow is lined with a variety of Orthodox Churches , each different and stunning to see . The area was undergoing massive renovation when I visited , and is undoubtedly completed now . Sorry to hear that your time there is so short . Both cities really need much more time .

Posted by
149 posts

Thank you for the tips :)

I wish I could stay longer too. I’m covering a wide variety of cultures for my world trip in a small amount of time.

In terms of what my initial thoughts for a plan are, my idea was to automatically take off two days for both travel days....and then think of one really important thing to see and spend the day doing it. In Moscow, my idea was to do everything in the Red Square and come back again at night to see everything lit up. Then I have a whole day to just explore and take photographs.

Then in St. Petersburg, I figured I would spend a whole day between the Hermitage Museum/Winter Palace, and then spend another day just exploring again. I’ll probably take time in both days to come back to the hotel for a mid day nap so I can go back out again to these same places for night photos.

Photography is a huge inspiration here and both of these cities are just gems.

Does anyone know what the odds of making Russia a reality by June 2022?

Posted by
6551 posts

Does anyone know what the odds of making Russia a reality by June

I don't think anyone knows, but we can at least guess. And my guess would be that the odds are not great. Russia has been hit hard by the pandemic and I would not be surprised if the real situation is even worse than the official figures shows. And vaccination rates are still very low. But things might change, June 2022 is still far away.

Posted by
3025 posts

Moscow – Red Square, especially at night. Armory Chamber (15-minute walk from Red Square), Sundunovsky Baths, take in a ballet at the Bolshoi Theater, Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts and the State Tretyakov Gallery.
St. Petersburg – Winter Palace, Strelka, State Museum of Russian Art, State Hermitage Museum and spend an evening at the Mariinsky Theater.
Do try to be in St. Petersburg during the last two weeks in June to experience the “white nights”. If you are there then, make sure you watch the draw bridges open along the Neva River on the quay at 2a. Make sure you’re on the same side of the river as your hotel. If not, you’ll spend the entire night on the opposite side of the Neva and won’t be able to return to your hotel until the bridges close.
Moscow & St. Petersburg – have tea at a luxury hotel where you can munch on bliny’s, pirozhki’s and caviar. Eat wild mushrooms at restaurants that have been approved to serve them (very important).

Posted by
32 posts

St. Petersburg definitely deserves a few days. (1) Stroll the bustling Nevsky Prospect, stopping into gourmet food shops for Georgian wine & Russian delicacies. (2) Visit the Winter Palace & Hermitage Museum. (3) See a performance of the Russian Imperial Ballet at Mariinsky Theater I or II. (4) Study the gorgeous mosaics & interiors of the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood &/or St. Issac's Cathedral. (5) Visit the burial site of the Romanovs at St. Peter & Paul Cathedral (more a military complex). (6) Have iced vodka & Russian caviar at a recommended restaurant. (7) If you're a history/military buff: visit the Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad (with underground mini-museum). (8) Watch the all-night June parade/ "street fair" of graduating students in city streets (think prom + after party + graduation party rolled into one). When I was there a few years ago: visa fee + facilitator fee totalled $300-$400. Rick Steves provided recommendation of a reliable facilitator (since you will be handing over your passport/personal data to a 3rd party).

Posted by
7822 posts

We did Russia in 2011 and loved the trip. We did 4 nights in Moscow and 4 in St. Petersburg as well as a Russian River Cruise. It was a great trip.

There is a lot to see in both major cities. I would suggest taking a long tour, not just a stop for a few days in one city.

Yes, as others have noted, the Russian visa process is a bit of a pain in the rear.

Posted by
975 posts

St. P is the ' Venice of the North" and a canal cruise may sound kitschy but it is pleasant, locals sit on the banks of some of the canals and enjoy like a park. See the city from a different angle.
Faberge museum?
skip the Yusupov Palace where Rasputin was murdered.
The subway stations are remarkable and worth a ride- not like any you have seen before- but lock up your hidden wallet or do not carry it as there are skilled pickpockets ( inside a zipped pocket inside a zipped jacket with no feeling by the victim at all!) in the crowded subways.
If you have another day, you might take a hydrofoil ( if still operating) and go to Peterhof for the gardens and fountains, and then Catherine Palace ( Amber room ) for a few minutes.