Five sights to see in Russia
With plenty of international visitors heading to Russia to enjoy the action at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the question is what to do when the final whistle blows? The historic and curious country of Russia offers so many cultural delights it would be a travesty to not take the opportunity to see at least some of its world-famous attractions.
From the brilliance of Saint Basil’s Cathedral to the Hermitage Museum complex in St Petersburg, its many wonders make it a key place to soak up Eastern European culture – even without the vodka.
If you’re heading along, or even if you’re tempted to take a trip at a quieter time, the Citybond team give the lowdown on just some of the delights that await.
Saint Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow
The most recognisable attraction in Russia, Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it welcomes hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. Located in the Red Square – an 800,000 square foot plaza dating back to the 15th century — Saint Basil’s Cathedral was originally a plainer building, with its bright colours and distinctive tower added later. Having survived the Communist regime (though only just), it’s now a museum and visitors can step in to admire the beautiful paintwork of its interior. There’s a £6 entry fee, though it’s free during the Sunday service.
Lake Baikal, Siberia
Located in southern Russia near the Mongolian border, Lake Baikal is the oldest and deepest freshwater lake in the world – a fifth of the world’s running fresh water can be found in the gigantic lake. The biodiversity here is rich and varied, making it a special attraction for those interested in fish, plants and birds – check out Barguzin Nature Reserve to see the highlights. The rest of us can admire its Instagrammable views and calm atmosphere, or even go dog sledding when it’s frozen over. The lake is easily accessed by flying into the towns of Irkutsk or Ulan-Ude, or via the Trans-Siberian train route.
The Kremlin, Moscow
Like Saint Basil’s Cathedral, the Kremlin (meaning fortress inside a city) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site inside the Red Square. Considered a symbol of Russian statehood, it houses the Russian government and its important gatherings. The complex also includes a museum open to the public with various exhibitions throughout the year – at the time of writing, there’s one about the Ming Dynasty. In the Kremlin Garden don’t miss out on a selfie next to a maple tree planted by Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, two days after returning from his expedition in April 1961.
Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg
The most famous attraction in St. Petersburg, the Hermitage Museum is one of the world’s largest and most distinguished museums. Inside the complex, there’s over three million significant items including Michelangelo's Crouching Boy (an unfinished marble statue by the Italian sculptor), Madonna Litta and the Benois Madonna by Leonardo Da Vinci, and The Treasure Gallery: rooms with significant jewellery pieces belonging to the Romanov Royal Family. It can take a full day to see all its wonders, but don’t leave without seeing the Jordan Staircase of the Winter Palace, a grand, sweeping staircase and one of the last original sections of the palace.
Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow
Moscow’s historical and world-famous performance venue, the Bolshoi Theatre traces its roots back to 1776 when Catherine II allowed Prince Pyotr Urusov to oversee performances and masquerades. The theatre was then used for private training and wasn’t officially opened to the public until 1856. Today, tourists can visit the theatre to watch a ballet or opera performance in its impressive surrounds (it’s recommended you book tickets at least two months in advance) or to take a guided tour, which is available in English. Just make sure you visit before 29 July as the Theatre closes and then reopens for its 243rd season on 12 September.
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