History Museum, Moscow St. Isaac's Cathedral - St. Petersburg, Russia Catherine's Palace - St. Petersburg, Russia

Essential Russia (8 Days)

Sail down the beautiful rivers
Sail down the beautiful rivers

Highlights:

  • Private Tour of the Dome of Christ the Holy Redeemer Cathedral
  • VIP Entrance into Catherine Palace
  • Private Tour of the Amber Room Workshop at Catherine Palace

For custom luxury travel and tours to Russia, please contact one of our travel experts.

Download a PDF itinerary here.

ITINERARY

PRICING FROM

From $6,525 per person, based on two guests traveling together.  Please contact Exeter International for exact pricing and specific availability. 

Day 1
Arrival | Moscow

Arrive in Moscow. Please note this flight is not included in program cost. On arrival your private driver will be waiting for you outside of customs and baggage claim.

You will be transferred to your centrally located hotel, just steps from Red Square and the Kremlin and across the street from the Bolshoi Theater. The rest of the day and evening is at leisure.

If you feel like stretching your legs this afternoon you may want to walk over to the nearby Zaryadye park for sweeping views of the Red Square and St. Basil Cathedral. With 32 acres of recreation space right in the very centre of the city, the park is located steps from Red Square. Designed by Diller, Scofido & Renfro, architects who created the New York Highline, the concept is described as ‘wild urban’ – with the park merging historical streets with nature. For many years the area was the site of the largest hotel in the world (the Hotel Rossiya) however the area then remained vacant for many years since the hotel was demolished over a decade ago.

Exeter Services: Arrival transfer (one included)

Hotel: Ararat Park Hyatt

Day 2
Moscow | Moscow

This morning you will meet your guide in your hotel lobby and enjoy a short walk to the Kremlin and through its expansive grounds. Here you will see the largest bell in the world – as well as the largest cannon. Neither was ever used due to their enormous size! Also on the grounds of the Kremlin are three very important churches and your guide will take you through all that are of interest. We suggest you don’t miss the Assumption Cathedral, where all Russian tsars were crowned.

While here your guide will take you to the famed Armory Museum, including its vast collection of Imperial Russian artwork. You will have the opportunity to see the Kremlin’s unique and intimate collection of Imperial Faberge Easter Eggs. In the Armory you will find many of the most important Imperial thrones and crowns, including the most historic, Cap of Monomachus. Note: An appointment is required for visits to the Armory Museum. Once confirmed, these are not able to be changed.

Also included in your Kremlin visit today is entry into the Diamond Vaults. You will see Catherine the Great’s scepter with its famous Orlov Diamond and one of the largest collections of diamonds and gem stones in the world!

After a break for lunch, payable locally, you can explore some of the surrounding neighborhood with your guide. In Red Square, be sure not to miss the rebuilt church and Imperial Gates at the south end of the square; they were both destroyed under Stalin and are now rebuilt in their original splendor. Your guide will also show you the stunning St. Basil’s Cathedral, an iconic symbol of Moscow. This magnificent church-museum was commissioned by Ivan the Terrible and was completed in 1561. Rumor has it that Ivan had the architect blinded so he would never be able to design anything as exquisite again!

To end your day, you will want to experience the fascinating interiors of the Moscow Metro stations, ornately decorated with beautiful paintings, carvings, and chandeliers! The Moscow Metro was created as a complex of monumental structures featuring designs of the very best Soviet architects. The stations, most built between 1930 and 1960 are underground palaces, featuring exquisite frescoes, statues, mosaics and stained glass. Each station has its own special theme- our favorite is Teatralnaya.

Today this massive public transportation system is one of the largest in the world, carrying over 9 million passengers per day (twice as many as London or Paris!). Your guide will be delighted to show you as many stations as you like before escorting you back to your hotel where you then have the remainder of your evening at leisure.

Special Note: All of today’s touring today is on foot and involves both walking and standing. Please wear comfortable footwear.

Exeter Services: Full-Day Guide (8 Hours)

Hotel: Ararat Park Hyatt

Day 3
Moscow | Moscow

This morning you will meet your private driver and guide in your hotel lobby and enjoy a short drive to the grand Christ the Holy Redeemer Cathedral, which towers over historic Moscow. The cathedral was demolished under Stalin’s reign for a planned Lenin skyscraper, but eventually became an enormous outdoor swimming pool after construction failed repeatedly. After the fall of Communism, it was decided to reconstruct the cathedral and so Christ the Holy Redeemer was completely rebuilt by Mayor Luzhkov of Moscow in 2001- at the budget of over 350 million dollars! It is a beautiful cathedral and it now stands as it did at the turn of the 20th Century. Of particular note are the stunning frescoes that fill the interiors.

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After touring the cathedral, a very special guide from the cathedral will join you for a private visit to the dome of the church. After ascending to the top via elevator, you will have the opportunity to view the city of Moscow at 360 degrees, from all four sides of the dome. Standing at 300 feet above the city, the dome provides a fantastic view of the city’s most significant sites including the Kremlin, St. Basil’s, Pushkin Museum, Red October Chocolate Factory and the Moskva River. Turn a corner and you are awarded with views of several of the Seven Sisters buildings. You may even witness the ringing of the bells in the Bell towers located just above your head! It's the ultimate Moscow city tour from the top of the highest peak of central Moscow.

Next you will stroll across the bridge to the other side of the river where you will walk through the Graveyard of Fallen Monuments – a collection of some of the sculptures removed from Moscow after the fall of the Soviet era. Your guide will then take you to the New Tretyakov Gallery, an annex of the Tretyakov Gallery. This huge museum is dedicated to Russian art from the early 1900’s to the present. To end your afternoon touring you will visit the famous Gorky Park where you will board the Radisson River Boat for a cruise down the Moskva River. This cruise offers a great opportunity to see and photograph the city from a different angle. Following your days touring you will be transferred back to your hotel where you have the remainder of your day at leisure.

Exeter Services: Guide, Vehicle & Driver (8 Hours)

Hotel: Ararat Park Hyatt

Day 4
Moscow to St. Petersburg | Moscow to St. Petersburg

Enjoy a morning at leisure in Moscow. Later today you will depart on the luxury, high-speed Sapsan train from Moscow to St. Petersburg. Business Class tickets or better have been included.

Upon arrival in St. Petersburg you will be met by your private driver and transferred to your hotel. You then have the evening at leisure in St. Petersburg.

Exeter Services: Transfer (Moscow); Transfer (St. Petersburg)

Hotel: Rocco Forte Hotel Astoria

Day 5
St. Petersburg | St. Petersburg

This morning you will meet your guide in the hotel lobby for a short walk to Palace Square. The focal point of this ensemble is the Winter Palace - an architectural masterpiece of the Russian Baroque and the royal residence of all the Russian Emperors (except Paul) until the 1917 Revolution. The existing Winter Palace is based on three earlier versions, the first two of which were rather modest and were erected under Peter the Great. After his death, the palace was repeatedly expanded and redesigned, most notably by the famous architects Domenico Trezzini and Bartolomeo Rastrelli. Here you will find and explore the Hermitage museum with its largest collection of art in the word.

You will then visit the nearby St. Isaac’s Cathedral. Its malachite and lapis lazuli columns are not to be missed! St. Isaac’s was built between 1818 and 1858, by the French-born architect Auguste Montferrand, to be one of the most impressive landmarks of the Russian Imperial capital. During World War II, the golden dome was painted gray to avoid its being targeted by Nazi fire. You then have the remainder of the afternoon to explore the city with your guide. You may enjoy a walk along the famous Nevsky Prospect – St. Petersburg’s main thoroughfare. Some of the main sights lining the Nevsky Prospekt include the Stroganoff Palace, the huge neoclassical Kazan Cathedral, the Art Nouveau Book House (Dom Knigi), some 18th-century churches, a monument to Catherine the Great, the Russian National Library, and the Anichkov Bridge with its horse statues.

You will then be escorted back to your hotel where you have the remainder of your evening at leisure.

Exeter Services: Guide (8 Hours)

Hotel: Rocco Forte Hotel Astoria

Day 6
St. Petersburg | St. Petersburg

This morning you will meet your driver and guide in your hotel lobby and depart for a visit to the Shuvalov Palace’s Faberge Museum. This is the most formidable collection in the world of works by this great Russian master craftsman, best known for his celebrated million-dollar Imperial Easter Eggs.

Following a break for lunch, payable locally in the small village of Pushkin, you will set off for an exploration of Catherine Palace and its fabled Amber Room. This palace was originally designed in the 1750s in the Rococo style by the famous architect Rastrelli (who also designed many of St. Petersburg’s grandest buildings like the Winter Palace, parts of Peterhof, the Stroganoff Palace, and the Smolny Cathedral) for the Tsarina (Princess) Elizabeth, who named it after her mother Catherine I—Peter the Great’s second wife. Later, Catherine II (the Great) commissioned the Scottish architect Charles Cameron to re-design the palace’s interiors in the then- fashionable Neo-Classical style. After Catherine the Great’s death, the palace remained largely unchanged for over a century until the Second World War when the Nazi army, retreating after the unsuccessful siege of Leningrad, destroyed the palace almost completely. After the war, the magnificent palace and its interiors were thoroughly and painstakingly rebuilt, but renovations at some parts continue.

Exeter International Extraordinary Experience

During the busy summer months, we highly advise to arrange VIP entrance to Catherine Palace. Historically, our guides could skip the lines with groups of two or less, but we are finding this to be increasingly difficult.With the included VIP entrance, you will enter through the main Golden Gates of the palace with your guide avoiding lines that can have a wait time of well over 2 hours. You’ll be met by a palace representative and taken through the main gates to a private reception area before beginning your tour.

Exeter International Extraordinary Experience

While visiting Catherine Palace, you will also be invited into the Amber Room workshops where craftsmen rebuilt the famous amber panels lost in World War II.

Exeter Services: Vehicle, Driver & Guide (8 Hours)

Hotel: Rocco Forte Hotel Astoria

Day 7
St. Petersburg | St. Petersburg

This morning you will meet your private driver and guide in your hotel lobby and depart for the nearby Peter Paul Fortress: the birthplace of St. Petersburg. After walking through the many gates and across the bridges and moats, you will begin to get a feel the late 18th century era that required such fortification. As Peter’s original outpost against the Swedes, St. Petersburg was born from this fortress and its historical significance is felt to this day by the presence of every Romanov tomb from Peter the Great.

Afterward you will visit Peterhof, to see first-hand the palace’s countless fountains and gardens.

Peterhof Palace (or Petrodvorets in Russian) is often called the Russian Versailles due to the prominence of the gardens and fountains. While walking through the gardens watch out for Peterhof’s most enchanting treat- the trick fountains that randomly squirt water and unsuspecting visitors! While strolling through the lower gardens of Peterhof, you will come to one of Peter the Great’s favorite buildings, including his very personal residence, Mon Plaisir (“my pleasure). This tiny palace has low ceilings (which Peter preferred) and sits directly on the banks of the sea. This was his summer palace and was often used on his way coming and going to Europe through the harbor at Kronstadt.

Before leaving today you will want to visit the Grottos of Peterhof. The tremendous variety of fountains is one of the principal features of Peterhof, where their extravagance and playfulness indicate the atmosphere of early 18th century Russia. You will journey underneath the fountains and learn of their remarkable engineering and history. Please note todays visit will focus on the palace grounds and fountains and does not include entrance into the palace.

When the weather cooperates in the summertime, a special treat is to take the express hydrofoil either to or from Peterhof. The thirty-minute ride takes you out of the city traffic and into the Baltic Sea! Your guide will go with you on the hydrofoil and your driver will meet you at the palace. Cost of hydrofoil is included in your tour.

Exeter Services: Full-Day Vehicle, Driver & Guide (8 Hours)

Hotel: Rocco Forte Hotel Astoria

Day 8
Departure | St. Petersburg

Today you will be met in your hotel lobby to be transferred to the airport to catch your onward flight. Please note this flight is not included in program cost.

Exeter Services: Departure transfer

Meet a ballerina in St Petersburg
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