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The Best 2 Week Russia Itinerary: What To See & Do In Russia
Written by Campbell & Alya of Stingy Nomads. They’ve traveled together to over 30 countries globally, including Africa, Latin America, Asia & Europe.
For many travelers visiting Russia is an adventure on its own; with huge countries like Russia, it’s often difficult to decide where to go, how to move around. This two-week Russia itinerary allows you to visit both must-see places and more off-the-beaten paths destinations in Russia.
Best Ways To Move Around Russia
Russia is a vast country for long-distance travel. We’d suggest flying, but budget airline options are quite limited in Russia – so be prepared to shell out some serious Russian Ruble. Also, if you are flying with a local airline, check for their luggage allowance, as it can vary.
For many tourists taking a train in Russia is a must-have experience, especially the Transsiberian or an overnight train from Moscow to St Petersburg. The train system is quite good in general for moving around Russia.
Taking a bus in Russia is also an option, but the costs for a coach are the same as for traveling by train for the same distance and the travel time might be a lot longer and buses, as you know, are much less comfortable.
Renting a car is not very popular for travelers to Russia, as it tends to be a bit of a hassle. There are always lengthy traffic jams, poor road maintenance, and random police inspections. So instead, look to get a private transfer service.
The Best Two Week Russia Itinerary
Day 1 – 3: St.Petersburg
Russia’s most beautiful and romantic city has a lot to offer, from top world art museums and stunning royal residences to nightlife and shopping.
The best time to visit St.Petersburg is in the summer months of June and July to witness famous White Nights when the city literally doesn’t sleep, and neither do you.
Public transport works quite well in the city with the Metro being the fastest and the easiest way of moving around. One metro trip costs 0,5 Euro. There are hundreds of accommodation options in the city, from hostels to B&Bs and fancy hotels.
- The Hermitage Museum/Winter Palace: One of the top art museums in the world. It says if you stop at every item (painting, sculpture, or artifact) for 1 second, you’ll need years to finish. In summer, it gets hectic with thousands of people surrounding the main art treasures; Da Vinci, Raphael, Rembrandt’s paintings. Buy your ticket online; it’ll save you a lot of time staying in a long queue outside.
- St. Isaac’s Cathedral: A stunning building crowned with a massive golden dome, inside it’s even more impressive. Not to miss the view from its colonnade, especially at night time.
- Church Of The Savior On Spilled Blood: Probably the most famous and photographed building in the city. Built in the traditional Russian style with many, very similar to the famous St.Basil cathedral on the Red Square in Moscow. Do yourself a favor and go inside; you won’t be disappointed; the interior is impressive, richly decorated in gold, with many fresque paintings.
- The Russian Museum: A great collection of Russian art from old icons to modern painting.
- The Mariinsky Theatre: The main city theatre has three stages; the original one (Old Stage), the Concert Hall, and the Second (modern) stage. All three give performances; ballet, opera, Philharmonic orchestra almost every day.
- Peterhof: The fountain residence and ex-summer royal residence built as a repetition of Versaille. An impressive palace with golden, hundreds of small and big fountains, a beautiful park, it’s a must-visit place. If you travel with children, they will enjoy a visit there are many joke fountains where they can get soaking wet. Just be sure to bring extra clothes and a towel with you.
- The Catherine Palace and Park: Another ex-royal summer residence in the southern suburb of St.Petersburg. Catherine Palace is probably the most beautiful palace in the city. The main highlights are the famous restored Amber Room and the Grand Hall.
- White Nights and Drawing Bridges: These two are strongly associated with each other. White Nights is a fascinating phenomenon when the daylight is basically 24 hours. The shortest night, June 21, in St.Petersburg is less than 2 hours, but in fact, it never gets really dark. Summer is navigation season in the city, the Neva river gets quite busy, but it starts only at night when all the bridges are closed for traffic. The show of opening bridges begins with music and lights between 1 am, and 2 am; thousands of people, locals, and tourists watch it every day.
- St.Petersburg Metro: Named one of the most beautiful metro systems in the world, and it deserves two hours of your time to explore. The most beautiful metro stations; Admiralteiskaya (the second deepest metro station in the world, 102m), Avtovo, Bukharestskaya, Kirovsky Zavod, Mezhdunarodnaya.
Day 4: Veliky Novgorod
Distance from St.Petersburg 195km takes 2h50min to get here by train.
Located between St.Petersburg and Moscow, the oldest Russian city, founded in 859, is definitely worthy of a day stop, especially for those who like history.
Veliky Novgorod is not a usual stop on any Russia itinerary, but it has many old churches and monasteries. The city is relatively small you can move on foot between the main attractions. To get from the train station take a bus, there is a bus stop in front of it.
You’ll notice that everything here is cheaper than in the capital cities; food, accommodation, souvenirs, and entrance fees. There are three of four hostels and quite a few hotels, both budget, and luxury, in the city.
Veliky Novgorod Highlights
- Novgorod Kremlin (Detinets): The oldest Kremlin in Russia.
- St.Sophia Cathedral
- Yuriev Monastery
- The Millenium of Russia Monument
- Vitoslavlitsy Museum Of Wooden Architecture
Day 5 – 7: Moscow
Distance from Novgorod 537km takes 8 hours to arrive by night train.
Crazy and bustling Russian capital city is a strange mix of everything; old-style Russian churches neighboring with skyscrapers of Moscow City. Moscow is famous for the terrible traffic; the Metro is the best way to move around the city, it’s cheap, 0,6 Euro per trip, and fast in the rush hours it gets hectic.
There are many hostels, B&Bs and hotels in the city for any budget, the most important thing is to find a place in the city center, or as close to it as possible otherwise you risk spending quite a lot of time commuting.
Like any capital city, there are many things to do and places to see, to explore Moscow you’ll need a lot of time, but you’ll be able to visit its highlights in three days.
- Moscow Kremlin: The most iconic building in Russia and one of the most famous in the world. The complex is big with a lot to see; Armoury museum, Diamond Fund, the Grand Kremlin Palace, Patriarch Palace, Ivan the Great Bell Tower, Assumption Cathedral, and more.
- Red Square: Its name doesn’t come from the color as many people think; in old Russian, “red” (Rus. “Krasny”) meant “beautiful.” Most of the central city sights are located on the square. Tip. Come here early morning, at 6 am, and you’ll get the square all to yourself without the crowds.
- St. Basil’s Cathedral: A favorite tourist attraction, its colorful domes and strange, vivid decoration contrast with traditional Russian churches found all over the city. It was built in the 16th century during the reign of Ivan the Terrible. City legend says that the cathedral architects were blinded to make sure they would not be able to build anything similar ever again.
- The Tretyakov Gallery: The most significant collection of Russian art from to XX century. The building itself is fascinating.
- The Novodevichy Convent and Cemetery: The convent was founded in 1524 by Vasili III; during its history hosted many ladies from the Russian royal family who were forced to take the veil.
- Kolomenskoye: Located 12km from Moscow, this complex consists of many buildings representing different eras of traditional Russian architecture; the White Column of Kolomenskoye, the Wooden Palace, Church of John the Baptist, Church of Our Lady of Kazan, etc. This trip takes half of a day.
- Moscow Metro: 212 stations with a total route length of 360km; it is the sixth-longest metro system in the world. But it is not just the size that is most impressive – it is also about its beauty. Some stations look like palaces. The most spectacular stations are Komsomolskaya, Kievskaya, Novoslobodskaya, and Ploshchad’ Revolyutsii. The best time to explore the Moscow metro is Saturday and Sunday morning.
Day 8 – 9: Kazan
Distance from Moscow 825km takes 11 hours to get by night train.
Kazan is very different from St.Petersburg and Moscow, and visiting it will give you a more complete picture of Russia.
The city is becoming a new tourist attraction in Russia; in the last years, its infrastructure was improved significantly with FIFA World Cup games taking place here, the city got a new stadium and even a new metro. However, it’s relatively small and has only ten stations.
Kazan has the largest Muslim population in Russia, an interesting place to come, a unique mix of European and Asian traditions and culture. Due to recent significant sports events, many hostels and budget hotels were recently opened in the city.
- Kazan Kremlin: Don’t be surprised, there is a Kremlin in every old Russian town. In fact, the Moscow Kremlin is one of the youngest out of all of them, although the most famous one.
- Kul Sharif Mosque: The biggest mosque in Russia.
- Millenium Park of Kazan
- Epiphany Cathedral and The Bell Tower
- Syuyumbike Leaning Tower
Day 10 – 12: Sochi
Distance from Kazan 2000km, there are three flights per week, duration 2h40min.
A subtropical sea city might be the last most people imagine when thinking of Russia.
The city is busy all year round; in summer, many locals come here seeking sea and sun; in winter, it welcomes ski and snowboard enthusiasts, mainly from the capital cities. The local infrastructure and hospitality service was improved quite a lot for the Winter Olympic Games.
There are many hotels and resorts in the city for holiday travelers, but it’s possible to find a hostel, price from 5 Euro per dorm bed. Chilling on the beach (though it’s rocky), swimming in warm water, hiking to the waterfalls, or exploring the nearby subtropical forest, all these you can do here.
- Sochi Botanical Garden
- Olympic Sochi Park
- Krasnaya Polyana
- Aquapark Amphibius
- Caucasian Biosphere Reserve
Day 13: Sochi to St.Petersburg, Train/Flight
The longest distance traveled on this trip, 2339km. A train journey takes almost two days, usually two nights and one full day. For a comfortable ride, take the Severnaya Palmira train; it has AC, wi-fi, personal power outlets, showers, hot water boiler, and includes a hot meal. A flight is a better option if you have some extra cash; there are three daily flights between two cities, duration 3h10min.
Day 14: St.Petersburg
On the last day, you can relax, do souvenir shopping, wander around the city or maybe visit more city attractions. As an alternative to the standard sights and tours, you can do a roof tour or visit one of the modern art museums, e.g., Street Art museum, Erarta.
Russia Travel Planning Tips
To move around the country take night trains this way you save time by traveling at night and save money on accommodation. Night trains have bunk beds and are comfortable enough for sleeping.
In big cities Moscow, St.Petersburg, Kazan, Couchsurfing is quite popular if you’d like to get some insider tips and meet locals, it’s a great way to do it.
Buy train tickets online on the official Russian Railways website – it’s easy you can choose your seats and best price range, it’s easier than trying to explain all these at a ticket office.
Download Google Translator as it works well with Russian – English language combination and translates even written text if you scan it.
Getting A Russian Visa
For many foreigners, it’s the main reason for not visiting Russia as it requires a lot of paperwork and time. Good news for those who need a visa to visit Russia. In 2018 for the FIFA World Cup, citizens of any country with a Fan ID card and a valid passport can enter Russia from June 4 to July 25, 2018, can stay for the specified period without a visa.
If you fall out of that category, you will need to follow this process.
How To Get To Russia
Flying To Russia
This is the fastest way to get the most out of any Russia itinerary.
More than likely, your flight will arrive in Moscow as it has the best air connection with international destinations. If you have a connecting flight to catch in Moscow: make sure your arrival and departure airport are not the same. There are three airports in the city, and sometimes all operate local and international flights, and to commute between them is a nightmare even at night.
Your second option is to fly into St.Petersburg. Numerous international airlines arrive and depart there. If you have a choice, choose this one, as it’s an easier option. There is only one airport and to get to the city center by public transport only takes 30-40min.
Taking A Train To Russia
Several train routes connect St.Petersburg and Moscow with some European capitals; Helsinki, Berlin, Warsaw, Vienna, Prague, Tallinn; most of them depart once a week, except Helsinki and Tallinn, these go every day. Prices are between 30 Euro and 250 Euro, depending on the distance.
Russia By Bus
It’s an option if you come from one of the nearby countries; many buses connect St.Petersburg with Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Belarus. Bus tickets are usually relatively cheap, from 10 Euro.
Arriving To Russia By Sea
This option is basically limited to St.Petersburg; several cruises go to Scandinavian countries, Finland and Estonia, and make a stop here; ferries passengers are allowed to stay within St.Petersburg without a visa for 72 hours.