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Classic Russia

Classic Russia

8 days & 7 nights, Escorted Discovery Group

Moscow & St. Petersburg

Russia's two greatest cities provide an ideal base from which to explore the country's rich and diverse cultural and historical heritage. Moscow is now the epicenter of the 'new Russia', while St. Petersburg is renowned for its magnificent palaces, world-class museums, elegant canals and grand architecture.

  • Day 1
    Arrive Moscow

    On arrival in Moscow, you will be met and taken to your hotel.

    Intercontinental Moscow Tverskaya - 3 Nights
  • Day 2
    Moscow

    The orientation tour of Moscow will show you the main sights of this fascinating city. Sights viewed include: Novodevichy Convent, a cluster of sparkling domes behind turreted walls that is rich with history and treasures; Luzhniki Sports stadium and the view of the city from Sparrow Hills, near Moscow State University; traditional examples of Stalinist 'wedding cake' architecture; Gorky Park, the White House, Russia's seat of government; the newly built Cathedral of Christ the Saviour with its gleaming golden domes and gigantic structure; the KGB headquarters at Lubyanka; the Bolshoi Theatre and Red Square home to GUM department store, Lenin's mausoleum, and St Basil's Cathedral, the ultimate symbol of Russia with its colorful domed, twisted, turreted design.

    Enjoy the afternoon at leisure.

    For your afternoon at leisure we recommend a visit to either the Pushkin Fine Arts Museum (Volkhonka Ulitsa, 12) or a return to Novodevichy Convent (Novodevichy Passage, 1)

    The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts was established in 1912 by the father of the famous Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva, who was renowned in Moscow as a Professor of Art History at Moscow State University. The museum houses an extensive collection of ancient art and artefacts, including Egyptian, Assyrian, Ancient Greek and Roman pieces. Particularly worth a look are the Treasures of Troy in Room 7, once believed to have come from the Troy of Homer's famous work Illiad and allegedly stolen from the Nazis during WWII, and the stunning Byzantine icons in Room 3. The museum's collection of Western European art extends from the Middle Ages right through to the mid-20th century. It features Gothic and Renaissance works from Italy, Germany and Holland, a selection of canvasses by Rubens and Rembrandt, the largest collection of French impressionist works in Russia and an impressive series of Post-Impressionist and Modernist works, including many notable Picassos and Matisses.

    The Novodevichy Convent now houses a museum in a beautiful setting by a lake outside the centre of Moscow. This is one of the finest examples of 16th-19th century architecture, located on the land of a former convent for ladies of noble birth. The convent is connected with major events in Russian history, including the Coronation of Boris Godunov, the fight over the Russian throne between Peter the Great and his troublesome sister Princess Sophia, and the events of the War of 1812.

    After this you will visit the adjacent cemetery that became the most prestigious in the city and the final resting place for a number of great cultural and political figures, including Chekhov and Shostakovich.

    Alternatively you can book an organized excursion.

    Optional Excursion: Afternoon tour of the Metro & Arbat (payable locally in Roubles or Euros. Credit cards are not accepted)
    Today you will visit the building of Moscow's underground metro. It was the centerpiece of Stalin's five year plan of industrialization and, like many projects of the 1930s, it was to show that socialism could achieve anything capitalism could. Built as 'Palaces for the People', the Moscow metro features an array of elaborately-designed stations decorated with magnificent chandeliers, mosaics, stained-glass panels, statues and polished marble surfaces. You will also visit the ancient Arbat district of the city, a cobbled pedestrian thoroughfare with bustling markets and shops.

    Intercontinental Moscow Tverskaya (B)
  • Day 3
    Moscow

    Day at leisure.

    Today, you have a full day at leisure in Moscow. There are a number of interesting attractions which are located within a mile of the Intercontinental Hotel.

    The nearest museum is the State Central Museum of Contemporary History of Russia (Tverskaya Ulitsa, 21), which contains over 2 million exhibits and looks at the country's political development over the last 150 years. Continue to Pushkin Square, which has an excellent monument to the renowned Russian writer. For readers of Russian literature, visit Maxim Gorky's Ryabushinsky mansion (Mal. Nikitskaya St., 6/2), one of Anton Chekhov's houses (Malaya Dmitrovka St., 29/4) or the Alexey Tolstoy Museum (Ulitsa Spiridonovka 2/6).

    For travellers looking for something unusual, visit the Museum of Russian Chocolate History (1st Brestskaya St., 2/3) or the Russian Harmonica Museum (Tverskaya-Yamskaya 2-Ya, 18). Lovers of modern Russian art should visit the Moscow Museum of Modern Art (Petrovka St., 25) or alternatively visit the Anglican Cathedral of St. Andrew the Apostle (Voznesenskiy Lane, 8) and the Vysoko-Petrovsky monastery (Petrovka St., 28/2) to view the difference in architectural styles between Orthodox and Anglican churches.

    A must for any visitor to Moscow looking for traditional Russian cuisine or just a coffee is a visit to the Yeliseevskiy Gastronom (Tverskaya Ulitsa, 14), the interior of which resembles a palace not a food hall.

    In the evening, visit one of over 13 theaters, concert and philharmonic halls, all located within easy walking distance of the hotel. Please speak to your guide or the hotel concierge to book tickets for these theaters. Unfortunately we cannot pre-book tickets for these theaters, only for the Bolshoi.

    K. Stanislavskiy Moscow Drama Theatre (Tverskaya Ulitsa, 21)
    M. Gorkiy Moscow Art Academic Theatre (Tverskaya Ulitsa, 22)
    Pushkin Theatre (Tverskaya Ulitsa, 23)
    Moscow Philharmonic (Tverskaya Ulitsa, 31)
    Bulgakov's House Museum-Theatre (Sadovaya Bolshaya St, 10)
    State Academical Theatre of Mossovet (Sadovaya Bolshaya ul, d. 16)
    Tchaikovsky Concert Hall (Triumfal'naya ploshchad, 4/31)
    Lenkom Theatre (Malaya Dmitrovka St, 6)
    Moscow Academic Satire Theatre (Triumfalnaya Sq, 2)
    Praktika Theatre (Bolshoi Kozikhinskiy pereulok, 30)
    The Moscow Academic Musical Theatre of Stanislavskiy and Nemirovich-Danchenko (Bolshaya Dmitrovka St, 17)
    Hermitage Moscow Theatre & Sphere Moscow Drama Theatre (Karetny Ryad St., 3)
    State Theatre of Nations (Petrovskiy Lane, 3)

    Alternatively you can book an organized excursion.

    Optional Excursion: Morning tour of Sergiev Posad (payable locally in Roubles or Euros. Credit cards are not accepted)

    Sergiev Posad, 37 miles from Moscow, is built around the Trinity Monastery of St Sergius, one of Russia's most important religious and historical landmarks. The monastery was founded in 1340 by Sergius Radonezh, now the patron saint of Russia, who was a monk who managed to unite the country against Tartar rule, blessing the army before it gave the Tartar's their first beating in 1380. As a 'lavra' (an exalted monastery) it grew very wealthy on the gifts of tsars, nobles and merchants who hoped for divine support. It was closed by the Bolsheviks and then re-opened after World War II as a museum, home of the patriarch and working monastery. Today it remains one of the most important spiritual sites in Russia.

    Female visitors must wear headscarves and men are required to remove hats in the churches.

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    Optional Excursion: Afternoon tour of Tretyakov Gallery (payable locally in Roubles or Euros. Credit cards are not accepted)

    In 1892, the Tretyakov brothers founded Russia's first public art gallery when they donated their extraordinary hoard of 3,500 paintings to the city of Moscow. Today the Tretyakov Gallery contains the largest and most valuable collection of Russian and Soviet art, from 11th century religious icons to 20th Century modern art. With over 50,000 paintings, this wonderful collection can be considered one of the highlights of any trip to Moscow.

    Intercontinental Moscow Tverskaya (B)
  • Day 4
    To St. Petersburg

    This morning, visit the imposing Kremlin complex. The Kremlin, meaning a town's fortified stronghold, is the apex of Russia's political power from where Ivan the Terrible and Stalin orchestrated their terrors; Napoleon watched Moscow burn; Lenin fashioned his proletariat dictatorship; Khrushchev fought the Cold War; Gorbachev unleashed perestroika and Yeltsin concocted the New Russia. The site was first settled in the 11th century, and today includes the Patriarch's Palace, the magnificent Assumption Cathedral, Church of the Deposition of the Robe, Ivan the Great Bell Tower, Tsar Bell - the world's largest, either the Archangel Cathedral or Annunciation Cathedral and the Hall of Facets and Terem Palace. Due to time limitations, you will only visit one cathedral at the Kremlin.

    The tour also includes a visit to the Armoury, which houses an opulent collection of treasures accumulated over centuries by the Russian State and Church, where highlights include the Faberge egg collection.

    This afternoon you will be collected at your hotel and taken to Leningradskiy train station to board your fast train to St. Petersburg. The journey will take approximately 4 hours. Food and refreshments are available to purchase during the journey, however you may wish to take bottled water and snacks with you. You will arrive at Moskovski station in St. Petersburg.

    You will be met at the station and taken to your hotel.

    The Taleon Imperial - 4 Nights (B)
  • Day 5
    St. Petersburg

    The tour begins on St. Petersburg's most famous street, Nevsky Prospekt, which runs for 2.5 miles through the heart of the city, taking in the gilded spire of Admiralty, headquarters' of the Russian Navy from 1711 to 1917 and today home of the city's largest naval college, the colonnaded Kazan Cathedral, and taking in the ornate architecture of the city's shops, churches and museums. Make a visit to the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, a glittering, domed church reminiscent of St. Basil's in Moscow, built between 1883 and 1097 on the spot where Alexander II, despite his reforms, was blown up by a terrorist group in 1881. The tour then takes in the sights of Vasilevsky Island, including Peter & Paul Fortress which, founded in 1703, is the oldest building in the city, and where there are tombs of almost all Russia's pre-revolutionary leaders from Peter the Great onwards.

    This afternoon, you have time at leisure in St. Petersburg; we would recommend a visit to either the Faberge Museum (21, Fontanka River Embankment, St), the Russian Museum (Inzhenernaya St, 4, St) or Alexander Nevsky monastery (naberezhnaya reki Monastyrki, 1).

    Opened at the end of 2013, the Faberge Museum in St. Petersburg is a privately owned museum, which houses the finest collection of Faberge artefacts outside of the Kremlin in Moscow. The museum is housed within the Neo-classical Shuvalov Palace, whose picturesque setting on the Fontanka river is the ideal location for this grand collection. The main highlight for any visitor is the group of nine Imperial Easter eggs which were produced for the Emperors Alexander III and Nicolas II. Apart from the Easter Eggs, there are many other items made by Peter Carl Faberge on display. In total, there are over 4,000 artefacts which are housed in the Palace ranging from paintings to gold and bronze statues.

    The Museum is open every day except Friday from 10:00 am until 9:00 pm. From 10:00 am until 6:00 pm the exhibition is available for viewing only with a guided tour. An English language guided tour is available at least once per day. The last tour starts at 5:00 PM. The duration of the tour is one hour. The cost of the entry ticket is 300 roubles including the guided tour. The maximum group size is 15.

    After 6:00 pm visitors may explore the Museum individually. To help explore the collection, visitors may rent an audio guide (Russian and English only) or use a free collection catalogue. The audio guide rental fee is 150 roubles and a refundable deposit of 2,000 rubles is required (cash only). A digital version of the catalogue is also available for smartphones and tablets through a QR code link in the Museum entry hall.

    Tickets for both the guided tours and individual visits may be purchased at the Museum's ticket office for the current day only. The ticket office is open from 9:30 am until 8:15 pm.

    Founded in 1898, the Russian Museum is the largest and most complete museum of Russian art. The museum's collection of art is housed in the Mikhailovsky Palace, which was built by famous Russian architect Carl Rossi from 1819-25. It houses works by great Russian artists including renowned painters Pavel Fedotov, Isaac Levitan, Orest Kiprensky, Ilya Repin and many others.

    Founded in 1710, the Alexander Nevsky monastery is a burial site for many of Russia's leading composers, writers and politicians. The ornate graves of luminary figures such as Dostoevsky, Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov can be found within the cemeteries.

    Alternatively you can book an organized excursion.

    Optional Excursion: Afternoon tour of St. Isaac's Cathedral (payable locally in Roubles or Euros. Credit cards are not accepted)

    St. Isaac's Cathedral was originally the city's main church and the largest cathedral in Russia. It was built between 1818 and 1858 to be one of the most impressive landmarks of the Russian Imperial capital and today the gilded dome of St. Isaac's still dominates the skyline of St. Petersburg. The cathedral's facades are decorated with sculptures and massive granite columns, while the interior is adorned with detailed mosaic icons, paintings, and columns made of malachite and lapis lazuli.

    The Taleon Imperial (B)
  • Day 6
    St. Petersburg

    The Winter Palace, now the Hermitage Museum, is Russia's best gallery of world art and one of the most prominent art museums in the world. The museum was founded in 1764 when Catherine the Great purchased a collection of 255 paintings from Berlin. Today, the Hermitage has over 2.7 million exhibits and displays a diverse range of art and artefacts from all over the world and throughout history.

    At the end of your guided tour of the main museum, free time will be allowed for further independent exploration. We recommend that you visit the General Staff Building, which is located opposite the Hermitage on Palace Square (entrance payable locally). The restored halls in the East Wing of the building hold a new museum complex featuring 19th century paintings, Impressionist and Postmodernist art works from famous collections of S.I. Shchukin and I.A. Morozov, as well as collections of Russian and European decorative and applied arts. The building also has exhibitions of modern European art, as well as the Museum of Guards Regiments and halls devoted to Carl Faberge.

    The authorities of the Russian State Hermitage Museum will only confirm the date and timing for group visits a few days beforehand in order to regulate the flow and number of people within the museum. The date of the visit and time of entrance may therefore be subject to change. Final details will be advised by your local guide in St. Petersburg.

    The Taleon Imperial (B)
  • Day 7
    St. Petersburg

    Pushkin is one of St. Petersburg's numerous imperial estates. Just 15 miles south of the city, the estate has a large landscaped park, dotted with architectural follies, and centered on the magnificent blue, white and gold Catherine's Palace. Named after its creator, Empress Catherine, the second wife of Peter the Great, the original palace was built between 1717 and 1723. The palace houses some beautiful baroque interiors, including the luxurious Grand Hall, a long, gold, mirrored ballroom. The Amber Room, whose priceless amber panels were stolen by German troops during the second world war, has now being painstakingly recreated by Russian craftsmen.

    After lunch in a local restaurant (under own arrangements), the tour continues to Petrodvorets or Peterhof to visit Peter the Great's Summer Palace, the spectacular imperial estate on the shore of the Gulf of Finland. Built between 1714 and 1725, the vast estate was intended to rival the famous gardens of Versailles. Latter in the 18th century, the palace was extended and redesigned by the court architect Francesco Bartholomeo Rastrelli, the creator of the Winter Palace, Catherine's Palace, Smolny cathedral and many more of St. Petersburg's major landmarks. View the exterior of the palace (you will not visit the interior), before taking a tour that includes the palace's park, adorned with the world's largest system of fountains, and statues, pavilions and small palaces.

    The landscaped gardens are divided between the lower and upper parks. The upper park is punctuated with ornamental ponds and framed with borders and hedges with the centerpiece of the Neptune fountain. This fountain is unusual in the park as it was originally built in Nuremburg to mark the end of the thirty year's war and was purchased for the park by Peter the First.

    A tour of the lower gardens, which are designed in a formal French style is often seen as the highlight of visit, with its Grand Cascade of fountains. Built in the early 17th century, it was created as a celebration of the triumph over Sweden. It contains 64 fountains incorporating 37 gilded bronze sculptures and 142 water jets which connect with the marine canal, which enabled the Tsars to sail from the Gulf of Finland up to the Great Palace. Other fountains of note to view in the lower garden are the Adam fountain, sculpted by Giovanni Bonazza, the Pyramid fountain and the two-tiered Roman fountains designed by Ivan Blank and Ivan Dvydov.

    The Taleon Imperial (B)
  • Day 8
    Depart St. Petersburg

    For your morning at leisure, we recommend a visit to the Menshikov Palace (University Embankment, 15).

    Part of the Hermitage museum and one of the oldest buildings in the city, the waterfront Menshikov Palace has a unique appearance combining traditionally Russian and imported methods and forms in its erection in the 17th century. Today the palace houses an impressive collection incorporating not only the former imperial property but also objects from Russian nobility.

    Optional Excursion: Morning tour of Yusupov Palace (payable locally in Roubles or Euros. Credit cards are not accepted)

    The Yusupov Palace is the former home of Russia's richest family, where the notorious Rasputin met his untimely death. The Palace's sumptuously rich rooms, decor and furniture give a fascinating insight into the life of Russia's pre-Revolutionary elite.

    You will be collected at your hotel and taken to the airport for your homebound flight.

    (B)
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