19 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Russia

Jul 22, 2021

In an all-encompassing country like Russia, it's no surprise that there are so many fascinating and diverse attractions. Although Moscow and St. Petersburg are undeniably among the most popular tourist destinations, travelers never get bored in Russia. That's because the country's abundance of natural and man-made wonders is incomparable: from great wine and sophisticated cuisine to beautifully preserved historic architecture, from ancient temples and vibrant bazaars to picturesque monasteries, Russia is truly a special place to visit.

Whether you're seeking a lively bar city scene, a great spot for art and culture, or the most famous city in the world, here's a list of the top things to see and do in Russia.

Ready to begin your adventure in Russia? Start here.

Moscow Kremlin

Photo of Moscow Kremlin
Moscow Kremlin: en.wikipedia.org

An imposing collection of churches, palaces, monasteries, and city walls surrounds the Kremlin, which was once the Russian capital and the largest city in the world until its population reached 16 million. The spectacular St. Basil's Cathedral, constructed in the late 1700s as part of Catherine the Great's plan to rebuild Moscow, is a breathtaking display of Baroque architecture, while the World War II–era Treptower Park houses the Soviet Museum of the Great Patriotic War. To get an idea of what the Kremlin used to look like, visit the Kremlin Exhibition, which sets the scene with dramatic laser-scanned footage of what the Kremlin looked like over the years and how it has been changed. Staying close to the Kremlin gives travelers an exciting glimpse of a part of Russian history they may not find anywhere else. The Kremlin-Bicherikov Monastery was built by Czar Ivan the Terrible in the 15th century to commemorate his victory over the Lithuanian forces. Walking tours of the Kremlin and the city center start from outside the entrance. At the site, pass a huge church and a Baroque bell tower. Inside, see the golden domes of the sumptuous Christ Cathedral, built in the 1500s. Other spots to see in the Kremlin include the Grand Kremlin Palace, where Czar Vladimir Lenin lived until the Bolshevik Revolution, and a museum devoted to the history of Russia's Revolution of 1905.

Peterhof

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Peterhof Palace: en.wikipedia.org

Crowned at the mouth of the River Neva in Saint Petersburg, Peterhof, now a park and museum, was the favorite palace of Tsar Peter the Great. Dressed in simple garb for visits to the surrounding estates, the tsar would visit the palace, sometimes at breakfast, to go fishing or hunt the local wolf. Today the quiet lake and formal gardens remain and the palace has a number of rooms where paintings and furnishings survive from the 18th century. If you are willing to dress up for the visit, you can go into the drawing room or the royal andante dining room, which are still furnished in period style. At the palace museum, guides explain how it was reconstructed based on historical documents and personal recollections of Peter the Great's life. You can see the bedroom in which Peter stayed as a boy, the throne room and the library.

St. Basil's Cathedral, Moscow

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Saint Basil's Cathedral: en.wikipedia.org

St. Basil's Cathedral, built from wood in the 11th century, was later rebuilt in 1240 as the main cathedral of the Holy Trinity Lavra (kotlasskaya) monastery. Rebuilt in 1547, it served as a political centre of the Russian state between 1547 and 1612. In 1612, Tsar Michael Romanov took refuge in the cathedral during the Time of Troubles, where he became trapped. The cathedral was blown up in 1881. The main highlight of this "big rock" in the center of Moscow is the miraculous icon of the Mother of God, known for the healing power of its light. Visitors can climb the 246 steps of the bell tower to see it and the stately surroundings of the cathedral. St. Basil's is just north of the Kremlin on Red Square. The structure is covered by a red marble dome. Each pillar inside is a height of 43 meters, and together they are 25 meters high. There are some 60 smaller wooden pillars on the outside of the dome. The monument is the finest example of Moscow's style of cathedrals in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

Moscow

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Moscow: en.wikipedia.org

Moscow is an intimidating metropolis on the Russian east-west border. It was founded in 1147 and the Kremlin is a Unesco World Heritage site, as is the capital, built in the mid-17th century in the Kremlin-Russia style of St. Petersburg. The city's most famous site is the 16th century Red Square, in the heart of the Kremlin. Among other sites are the 14th-century Cathedral of Christ the Savior and the Kutuzov Museum, which chronicles the Russian victories in the Crimean War (1853-1856). Moscow can be seen in a day, but to see the full impact you must spend more time.

Read more 👉  Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Moscow

Nizhny Novgorod

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Nizhny Novgorod: en.wikipedia.org

Located on the Volga River, Nizhny Novgorod is the capital of the Nizhny Novgorod region. This area of Russia contains historic cities, castles, and stone churches and is home to interesting festivals throughout the year. Nizhny Novgorod offers a rich mix of ancient historical sites and vast modern cities with exciting city streets and large plazas. Nizhny Novgorod has a population of more than four million, and many architectural sights to see, including the famous Saint Sophia Cathedral and the Wooden Saint Sophia Cathedral. In addition to this, Nizhny Novgorod is known for a number of festivals and celebrations throughout the year. It is home to the city's most famous festival, "Cossack Days," which take place in October.

St. Petersburg

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Saint Petersburg: en.wikipedia.org

With its majestic, cobbled streets, artistic highlights and colorful summer festivals, St. Petersburg is a window into one of the most impressive Russian cultural melting pots. The city boasts opulent cathedrals, art museums and ancient palaces that recall the imperial Russian past. St. Petersburg lies on the Neva River, which empties into the Gulf of Finland. To reach the city center from the airport take the Aeroexpress or Aeroexpress Mini train to Ploshchad Vosstaniya (10 minutes) or a taxi (up to U.S. $22). In the center of St. Petersburg is the Hermitage and the Peter and Paul Fortress. Founded in 1564 to keep the Mongolian invasion of Russia at bay, the fortress still is an impressive architectural sight, with a gilded interior and a panoramic view of the Gulf of Finland and the blue sky. For classic Russian theater, check out the splendid Theater Museum of St. Petersburg, housed in the Nevsky Theater of 1812, the oldest in the city. The ticket price usually includes a guided tour, although if you are alone you can also enter and look around. Another highlight of the city is Pushkin Museum. Not only does the museum host the original manuscripts, letters and pictures of the 19th-century poet, but it also has a collection of 200 paintings by some of his contemporaries, as well as collections of Fabergé items, Russian inventions and a collection of the world's largest onyx statue.

Moscow State University

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Moscow State University: en.wikipedia.org

Russia's oldest university and the oldest public research university in Europe, Moscow State University was founded in 1424 in Novgorod. Today it is one of Russia's top three universities, offering courses to students from all over the country. Moscow State University is situated in the center of Moscow, next to the Kremlin and the GUM (Glavnoe upravlenie moshchnosti) shopping centre. A visit to the university takes students through the main buildings and pavilions, such as the classical library, first Russian book printing house, massive basement lecture halls, and science labs and lecture theatres. One of the most memorable stops is the official residence of the President of the Russian Federation, the house of a young tsarist general known as Alexander Pushkin. In order to keep up with the latest discoveries and events in Russia's leading educational institution, keep abreast of Russian news on Russia Today and the Moscow State University portal. The university website, as well as many popular Russian blogs, have a wealth of interesting facts and information about the university's history and faculty.

Vladivostok

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Vladivostok: en.wikipedia.org

One of Russia's main ports in the Pacific Ocean, Vladivostok, is home to more than 5 million residents. Although you can't visit the World War II-era city until after the fortieth anniversary of the outbreak of the war, a visit is a must during summer when Russia celebrates the Day of Friendship with its annual "Festival of Friendship and Accord." This occurs on July 28, the day on which Russia and Japan established diplomatic ties over 100 years ago, which both countries consider as the day of their friendship. The celebration consists of theater performances, parades and a boat procession from the fortress of the Peter and Paul Fortress.

Red Square

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Red Square: en.wikipedia.org

A broad, sweeping plaza, Red Square was named for the color of the chestnut and linden trees that once grew along its length. You'll need to book a hotel in advance if you want to stay in Moscow during New Year's Eve. Even so, one of the biggest parties in the world will be held in the heart of the city, attracting up to three million people.

Rostov-on-Don

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Rostov-on-Don: en.wikipedia.org

Rostov-on-Don is situated on the Volga, about 150 kilometers northeast of Moscow. The city features an abundance of early Renaissance buildings and has an old core of apartment blocks, with a few interesting churches and hotels dating from the late 19th century. There are also a number of notable monuments, including the historic White Kremlin. Other noteworthy buildings include the cathedral of the Ascension and the Maria Yurevich Pechersky Monastery, which was built in the mid-15th century. Like other cities of the Russian Federation, Rostov-on-Don suffers under the economic burden of the nearby Ukraine. Despite these shortages, the city has a number of restaurants serving steaming black-hole-hot, Russian cuisine. As you'd expect, the city is served by the airports Moscow and Kryvyi Rih.

Yaroslavl

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Yaroslavl: en.wikipedia.org

A beautiful town known for its stately churches, Yaroslavl was founded in the 11th century as a princely outpost of the Grand Duchy of Vladimir, a republic founded in Kiev. After the first World War, the city's name was changed to Yaroslavl to commemorate a Russian saint, but the word "princely" was quickly dropped. Today, it is home to around 150,000 people. The main attractions are the city's quaint houses, as well as the churches. There are five main cathedrals here, dating from the 11th and 14th centuries. Within these are the tombs of Prince Dmitry Donskoy and Tsar Ivan the Terrible, and the 18th century Preobrazhenskoe Sobor (Monastery of the Preobrazhensky Monks). Other points of interest include the Museum of Wooden Architecture and the Abode of the Grand Duke Ivan Il (literally, the house of a grand duke). Be sure to visit the Abode of the Grand Duke Ivan Il for its architecture and furnishings, which rival the most famous imperial residences in the city, the Tretyakov Gallery and Kremlin. Russian business visas are a process that takes weeks and is not cheap. Most nationals need a transit visa, which is obtained at the airport on arrival, and you need a visa before you depart for Russia.

Mariinsky Palace

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Mariinsky Palace: en.wikipedia.org

Mariinsky Palace was one of Imperial Russia's most magnificent palaces, stretching along the Neva River for more than a kilometer, running between the Moscow River and the Nevsky Prospekt. Constructed between 1895 and 1904, the building became the winter home of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra when the Royal family moved to Tsarskoye Selo, outside the city. Mariinsky Palace contains a number of incredible collections, including pictures, porcelain, glass and lacquerwork. The palace also contains the Mariinsky Ballet and Opera Theater, an art gallery and the small yet lavish Museum of Imperial Collections, which contains tapestries, antique furniture and other exquisite items. A notable point of interest in the Palace is the famous ballroom, the Marble Palace, where state celebrations and balls were held, along with the family's practice sessions. The elegant ballroom has walls lined with marble and decorated with hundreds of rare, hand-painted ceiling panels. Outside the Marble Palace is the Octagon Garden, surrounded by eight Doric columns, and fronted by an enormous fountain. Getting to the Palace is no problem, either. It's reachable by metro, with a station not far from the Kremlin, and also served by boat.

Tsarskoe Selo

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Tsarskoye Selo: en.wikipedia.org

Tsarskoe Selo is the best-preserved of the "Great Russian" royal residences. The previous home of Nicholas II, the last tsar and his wife, Alexandra, and their children, the Tsarskoe Selo estate consists of more than a dozen buildings, including a sprawling palace with a rich collection of art. Before entering the main building, take a moment to look at the Fountains of the Summer Palace, a series of five large pools connected by a beautifully landscaped garden, designed by Peter the Great's son, Peter II. The palace, built by the 18th-century architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli, contains a museum highlighting the main rooms and collections of the Russian royal family.

Pushkin Museum

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Pushkin Museum: en.wikipedia.org

Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts (Музей изобразительных искусств Пушкина) was named after the world-renowned 19th-century poet Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin, who spent his childhood in this sleepy town. It's located near Moscow's historic city center, just off the Moscow River on the Arbat Stret. Opened in 1912 by architect Fyodor Scheunemann and its first director Nikolai Fet, the museum collection is strong on Impressionist paintings, notably of the Barbizon School. Some of the best include John Everett Millais' opulent The Huntsman's Beauty (1866) and Sir Edward Burne-Jones' Isabella, Countess of Marsala (1881). The museum's holdings also include a number of Russian-origin paintings, such as two from Sergei Fedorov and Anna Komarova. In addition to temporary exhibitions, the museum has a program of home-stay activities. These include painting workshops and overnight trips to places such as the Grand Tourist Trampoline Center in Russia.

Novosibirsk

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Novosibirsk: en.wikipedia.org

Novosibirsk, known in Soviet days as Novosibirsk-24, is Siberia's capital and largest city. Founded in 1914 as the Siberian capital of the Russian Empire, it quickly became an administrative, cultural, and industrial hub. The city is the first stop in Siberia for most foreigners making the journey from Moscow to the Pacific Ocean. It's also home to the Novosibirsk Philharmonic Orchestra. There are plenty of museums and theaters to see, along with impressive ski resorts. The Soviet History Museum is one of the city's better attractions. Housed in a monumental fortress, it contains remarkable artefacts recovered from old Siberian fortresses. Novosibirsk also makes an excellent base for hiking in the Tengiz mountains. There are popular hikes to Kungur and Erdenie, the country's highest peak, and the mysterious cave tunnels of Puloga. Most of the city's budget hotels can be found in its west side. West of the river, in Novosibirsk's Altaysky District, is the district of Sennoye Sibirskoye, with a number of ethnic Russian neighborhoods.

Kaluga

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Kaluga: en.wikipedia.org

Just west of Moscow, Kaluga is a mid-sized city with a provincial feel, situated on the Chusovaya River just beyond the M1 motorway. St Peter's and St Paul's Cathedral can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. Kaluga is known as the wine capital of Russia and hosts its main wine festival every year in July. Kaluga has a lot to offer with museums, castles, parks and attractive old town that has been rated among the most beautiful old towns in Russia. There are many restaurants, coffee houses and bars as well as supermarkets. Kaluga is a big tourist destination, although things are very crowded in summer and the locals are probably not too friendly.

Lake Baikal

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Lake Baikal: en.wikipedia.org

Asia's deepest lake and the world's oldest, Lake Baikal is actually the northern section of the much larger Lake Balkhash. It stretches for 1,648 kilometers (about 1,000 miles), making it almost four times as large as the US's Great Lakes. Due to its depth, location and abundant species, the lake attracts some three million tourists a year. The World's End, the rocky shore at the west end of the lake, is considered one of the world's greatest sites for natural beauty and a dramatic setting for views. A suspension bridge allows visitors to walk across the water. However, the path is steep and there's a strong current. To see the wonder from beneath the water, take a boat tour of the lake. As for activities, diving, fishing, and ice skating on the lake are popular options, as is the cable car ride from the southeastern tourist village of Bezymetye to the World's End. Lake Baikal is also the birthplace of Pygmies, or Subsaharan Africa's indigenous pygmies. A handful of these indigenous people live in the forests near the shore, while others work as guides for tourists.

The Volga River

It's difficult to say which one is the most beautiful of Russia's two longest rivers: The Angara, which flows through a canyon of two-kilometer-long pillars; or the Volga, which curves through vast expanses of fertile land dotted with rustic villages. Which one, however, best represents the classic image of Russia? That would be the Volga, the source of the great Black Sea and great Caspian Sea, which is known for its history, culture, architecture, and very attractive towns and cities. The Volga runs from central Asia in Russia, where it begins its long journey to the Black Sea and Caspian Sea, all the way to Europe, where it empties into the Caspian Sea. The country the Volga passes through, Russia, is a vast and beautiful area filled with diverse natural features, deep forests, and lush plains dotted with medieval towns and beautiful churches, forts, and monasteries.

Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin

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Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin: en.wikipedia.org

The most well-known and interesting Russian monuments are the Kremlin and St. Basil's Cathedral, both in Nizhny Novgorod. Founded in 1146 by the Mongol leader Genghis Khan, the Kremlin's forbidding form with its vast towers and thousands of interlocking buildings is a monument to power and control. Around this monolith, the city's 12th century churches and convents survive, as well as buildings constructed in the 17th and 18th centuries. The State Museum of Local Lore and the Museum of the History of Nizhny Novgorod are also in the Kremlin grounds. Once inside the Kremlin, you can climb inside the buildings that are open to the public, including the Great Bell Tower, the Cathedral of St. Sophia, the Armory, the residence of the royal family, and the Tsar's Chamber. Also here is a vast and breathtaking Tsar Bell which is almost 25 feet in height. If you are looking for traditional Russian folklore and history, you will find it here. Near the Kremlin in Khoroshev Park is the impressive St. Basil's Cathedral. The original six-meter-thick walls and the red bricks of the cathedral have survived over four centuries of war and revolution and the Kremlin's expansion. The cathedral is the largest in Russia and is a popular place of pilgrimage.