Since I set foot on Eastern Europe and the Baltic states, I got at taste of the remnants of the Soviet Union era. Its culture and influence remains in these former Soviet union territories and many of the architectures mainly the Orthodox cathedrals were all Russian inspired. Since then, I’ve been curious about Russia and I started planned my trip to one of the most intriguing countries in the world. I’m sharing you all the details and the best tips that can help you plan your trip as well in this Russia DIY Travel Guide.
Russia has 4 seasons and is always cold except during the summer months. The entire country is covered with snow during winter and temperatures could drop as low as -15 degrees Celsius. Plan your visit depending on the season you want to experience. I went during Spring (early May) but it feels like winter still. It was snowing on the day I arrived.
If you’re coming from Asia, there are direct flights from Bangkok through Thai Airways. I was fortunate to get my roundtrip ticket from Singapore for only $590 with layovers in Bangkok. Watch out for seat sales and booking your ticket.
Prior to this travel guide, I’ve already publish the Visa Application guide for Russian visa. Check it out on this link.
Ruble is Russia’s local currency. USD and Euro are the most exchanged currency in Russia. I recommend to buy these currencies before your trip. There are plenty of money changers around the Kremlin area in Moscow and Nevsky Prospect in St. Petersburg. Major credit cards are accepted everywhere including Museums.
Current rate is 1 USD = 60 Rubles
I stayed in the world famous Fasol Hostel in Moscow which is located near Chistye Prudy metro station. It’s location is perfect, close to many shops, cafes, restaurants and bars. Red square is 20 minutes walk from the hostel or 2 metro stations away.
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In St. Petersburg, there’s no other place to be than Soul Kitchen Hostel. Soul Kitchen is a multi-awarded hostel and probably the best hostel I’ve ever been. Aside from whole place is cozy the location is unbeatable in front of a canal close to St. Isaac’s Cathedral and 5 minutes walk to Palace Square.
Check these latest deals of hotels in St. Petersburg:
The Red Square – this famous city square in Russia’s capital separates the Kremlin, the former royal citadel and currently the official residence of Russia’s president. This place gives you a complete introduction of Russian culture and architecture. The cobbled stones on the entire city square surrounded by architectural wonders is an ultimate selfie spot.
Moscow Kremlin – this fortress and the entire Red Square has been included into the UNESCO List of World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Inside are the beautiful Cathedrals of the Assumption, Archangel and Annunciation. the Church of Laying Our Lady’s Holy Robe, the Patriarch’s Palace with the Twelve Apostles’ Church and the Ivan the Great Bell-Tower complex. The Armory chamber is among the museums you can find inside.
St. Basil’s Cathedral – Russia’s most famous icon. This colorful cathedral in Moscow’s Red Square built in 155 is now a Museum. It’s not as big as it looked like in the pictures but its architecture is really marvelous.
Moscow Metro – One of the amazing sites in Moscow can be found underground. Walking into many of Moscow’s metro stations are like walking inside a museum. Each of the station is unique and has its own charm.
You can also check these affordable tours in Moscow.
Hermitage Museum – One of the largest and oldest museums in the world, it was founded in 1754 by Catherine the Great and has been open to the public since 1852. It’s a huge complex of different collections which includes the halls of the Winter Palace.
Peterhof Palace – it’s a series of palaces and gardens outside the main city of Saint Petersburg. It was laid out on the orders of Peter the Great. These palaces and gardens are sometimes referred as the Russian Versailles. It’s a huge complex and could consume more than half of a half day’s tour.
Church of the Saviour on Blood – This marvelous Russian-style church was built on the spot where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated in March 1881. The actual spot is preserved inside the church.
You can also check these affordable tours in St. Petersburg
This is my actual itinerary when I visited Russia which you can use as your reference for your trip.
Day 1 – I arrived in the afternoon and took the AEROEXPRESS train from Moscow’s Domodedovo International Aiport to the city. The journey took 45 minutes and I arrived at Belorusskiy train station. From there I made transfers to different lines to reach my hostel. I wasn’t able to go around after check in since it was snowing and I don’t have proper shoes to walk around in slippery roads. Since the hostel is nearby to several shops and restaurants, I was able to have dinner at an Asian restaurant nearby and by some supplies from the nearby supermarket.
Day 2 – After breakfast, I immediately started walking towards Red Square. I wanted to go early to capture pictures with less crowds. I spent my whole day in Red Square visiting the Kremlin and St. Basil’s Cathedral. Inside the fortress are several Orthodox cathedrals, I skipped visiting the armory inside the Kremlin since I already had enough of museums for the day.
Day 3 – This day, the hostel offered a free off the beaten path tour in a Novodevichy Cemetery where some of the most prominent Russians are buried. It’s next right to 16th-century Novodevichy Convent another UNESCO World Heritage site in Moscow. From here cemetery we walked towards the Sparrow Hill, a huge park with an overlooking view of the city and ended our tour in the amazing Moscow University. It’s past the afternoon and I explored more of the city and found the famous Cafe Pushkin. A classy restaurant in a Baroque mansion on Tverskoy Boulevard. I ordered one of Russia’s most famous dish, beef stroganoff and it’s simply the best. From here, I walked towards the historic Bolshoi Theatre. I never let the night passed without trying the clubbing scene in Moscow and found myself dancing in beats at Propaganda.
Day 4 – Early in the morning at 7am I went to the train station to catch Sapsan (high speed train) to St. Petersburg. After checking in to my hostel I immediately explored the city and walked around Nevsky Prospect. It’s like the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, surrounded by European and colonial architecture with fabulous cafes, shops and restaurants. Again, I was mesmerized by the beauty of Russian Orthodox churches when I saw the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. Inside is a collection of mosaics depicting many of the scenes from the bible and the biggest mosaic collection I’ve ever scene inside a church. I finished my sight seeing admiring the Russian cruiser Aurora, a 19th century naval ship that survived the war and is now a museum.
Day 5 – St. Isaac’s Cathedral is nearby Soul Kitchen Hostel so I took my time enjoying the canal view from my window before visiting one of St. Peterburg’s most iconic landmark. From the dome of the Cathedral is a panoramic view of the city which is best for viewing the sunset. I visited the Palace Square but I couldn’t go inside the Hermitage Museum because it’s closed on this day so I just explored other parts of the city. Kazan cathedral is the city’s mother cathedral and still a place of worship in St. Petersburg. I finished the day with a canal cruise admiring the city’s massive waterways which connects every part of it, you must do this when you visit.
Day 6 – This day is museum day, one of my readers and an avid follower in Instagram happen to live in St. Petersburg, she was kind enough to bring me to Peterhof which is outside the city. Since we were very early and the Palace is still closed, we stopped by and explored Alexandria Park, it’s a romantic places surrounded by Oak trees and small Gothic architectures. It’s facing the gulf of Finland where you can also view St. Petersburg from afar. You cannot miss the elegant Fountains at Peterhof, they are the main attraction in this place. The Peterhof Palace or the Summer Palace is Russia’s answer to Versailles of France. Peter the Great built this palace for the pleasure of Catherine the Great. Taking pictures inside is not allowed, each of exhibit/rooms inside the palace (now a museum) is glamorous.
Back in the St. Petersburg, I never had enough of museums so I went to the main attraction of the city, the Hermitage Museum. The main attraction here are the halls of the Winter Palace and the Grand Staircase. There’s a huge collection of paintings including Leonardo Da Vinci‘s compositions of Madonna and Child.
During sunset, I found my spot in chill cafe at Solaris Lab, a hidden spot in the city. I went to Stroganoff Steakhouse for a fancy dinner.
Day 7 – I planned to visit the Peter and Paul Fortress on this day but to my disappointment the complex is closed on this day. I just walked around and took pictures on this other side of the Neva River. Inside is St. Peter and Paul’s Cathedral, the first cathedral in St. Petersburg. I took the Sapsan train back to Moscow in the afternoon.
Day 8 – I went to the glamorous Gum, a historic and luxurious shopping mall right at the heart of the city and bought some sweets and Russian vodkas that I can bring back home. Izmailovsky Market has it all when you’re looking for souvenirs from Russia. I brought some beautifully crafter Russian dolls which some are really quite expensive, depending on the amount of artwork done by the artist.
Departure from Moscow to Singapore.
** This Russia DIY Travel Guide is purely based from my personal trip to Russia.
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Great DIY guide! 🙂 Russia is definitely on the top of my list! I really want to visit Ryazan. One day I will! thanks for sharing this, Kuya!
Thanks ate! One day you will go back to your own city! haha