The sheer size of Russia is hard to imagine, it takes up more than an eighth of the world's inhabited land, spans nine time zones and holds around a quarter of the world's freshwater in its lakes. However, the northern tundra is largely inhospitable for anything without hooves or paws, so most visitors focus their travels on the captivating cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg, or take the Trans-Siberian railway east to experience this vast country in all its (accessible) glory.
There are about 120 different ethic groups in Russia that speak over 100 languages.
What to see
A sprawling, diverse city with 860 years of history, Moscow is a veritable melting pot of old and new. Hop on a city tour bus on your first day to get your bearings then head straight to St. Basil's Cathedral in Red Square, it'll take your breath away.
Expect to be amazed every day you spend in St. Petersburg – one of the world's most beautiful cities. The list of sights to discover goes on and on, but taking the top spots are the State Hermitage Museum, Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood and Catherine Palace and Park.
Step from the medieval streets of Novgorod behind the imposing walls of the Kremlin and find the Monument of the Millenium of Russia and St. Sophia Cathedral.
Visit a few of the historic towns that make up the Golden Ring for truly enchanting architecture and an insight into Pre-Soviet Russia.
Top experiences / sites of particular interest
State Hermitage Museum
No visit to Russia is complete without a visit to the former home of the tsars of Russia, now a stunning collection of over three million items.
The traditional Russian sauna experience includes hitting your friends, and being hit, with branches. Not only will you improve your circulation, you'll have a great story to take home with you.
St. Basil's Cathedral
An awe-inspiring muddle of colours, patterns and onion-dome shapes, St. Basil's Cathedral is the must-see icon of Russia.
When to go
Weather and Seasons: The best time to visit west Russia is during May, June, September and October as July and August can be quite wet. The winter (November to March) can be unbearably cold, with temperatures as low as -25°C, but if you brave it you'll be richly rewarded with magical snow scenes.
Important Dates and Festivals: The Russians embrace their chilly winter between 25th December and 5th January with traditional activities such as music, dance, sleigh rides, folk shows. The Victory Day Parade on 9th May is marked with an impressive military procession and June welcomes the White Nights arts festival in St. Petersburg.
Getting there / around
Flights and Train to Russia: If you fancy getting the train to Russia, the quickest goes via Brussels and Cologne. It takes three days and costs around £380 return. Flights to Moscow from London cost around £200 return and takes three hours, 40 minutes.
Local Transport: Due to the immense size of the country the best way to get around is by train. For long journeys you'll need overnight trains.
Short Trip: It is possible to visit the top destinations in Russia in just one week. Start in Moscow and include a visit to the Golden Ring, then head north to St. Petersburg stopping off at Novgorod on your way.
Longer Trip (Backpacker Trip): If you want to spend a few weeks in Russia, start off with St. Petersburg then pick up the Trans-Siberian railway in Moscow and travel right on over to Mongolia.
Cheaper Trip: Moscow is an expensive city but hostels are plentiful and the metro system is quite cheap. In St. Petersburg your money will go further.
More expensive Trip: The standard Trans-Siberian trains don't provide the most comfortable ride, but look up the more luxurious options and you'll have the en-suite journey of a lifetime. Activities can be included along the way such as jeep safaris and snowmobile adventures.
Traditional Russian cuisine is designed to keep you warm through the winter months so tends to be rich and heavy. Expect meat and dumplings, cabbage soup with sour cream, borscht (beetroot soup) and caviar. In the summer you'll find lighter soups and salads. Vodka is the typical Russian tipple.
Head to Moscow for the best clubs and to St. Petersburg for den-like bars, jazz and live rock music.
Russian Rubles, made up of 100 kopek.
British nationals must have a visa to enter and leave Russia.
It is recommended that you are vaccinated against Hepatitis A, Typhiod, Tetanus, Polio and Diphtheria. Your doctor can advise you.
Safety, FO travel advice
Pickpocketing and theft from hotel rooms. Make sure you check the safety of the area you want to travel to with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office before you travel too.
Useful Telephone Numbers
Russian country representativescan be found
in the UK at6/7 Kensington Palace Gardens, London, W8 4QP. Tel:- 0207 727 8625 .
and in the US at 2650 Wisconsin Avenue, NW 20007 Washington DC District of Columbia. Tel:- 202 298 5700.
For more information visit: www.rusemb.org.uk, www.russianembassy.org and www.visitrussia.org.uk.
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