Moscow and Saint Petersburg

the Two Capital Cities of Russia

Every year Russia welcomes tens of millions of tourists. Visitors from abroad are attracted by the country's undisturbed nature, natural reserves, mountains, rivers, and lakes. Though not all the tourists visit Russia in search of its natural sites. About half of inbound tourist traffic is received by either Moscow or St. Petersburg where travelers are attracted by cultural sites and other places of interest located in the country's major cities. Thus, in 2016 about 4.5 million foreign tourists visited Moscow and about 3 million tourists visited St. Petersburg.

Those who come here by train will dive into the Russian culture right from the moment they dismount. Most of the railway stations in Moscow and St. Petersburg are architectural sites constructed in the 19th century.

Remarkably, Leningradsky railway station in Moscow and Moskovsky Rail Terminal are twin buildings. Both the railway stations were constructed in the 1840s after the one and the same plan by architect Konstantin Thon. Pay attention to this fact when visiting Russia. Moreover, initially both the stations were known under the name of Nikolaevsky railway station as the railway connecting Moscow and St. Petersburg bore the name of Nikolaevskaya.

Museums and Art Galleries

Moscow and Saint Petersburg are Europe's major cultural centers. These cities host world-famous museums, theaters, performance halls and universities. These institutions establish a close link between the Russian culture and the world culture. Your impression of Russia will not be complete unless your visit at least some of these.

The State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg is one of the world's largest art museums. It was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, who placed her newly-acquired collection of paintings in a side wing of the Winter Palace. Today, the collection of this museum consists of about 3 million items varying from the world-famous paintings to pieces of arts and crafts. This collection is hosted by the 365 rooms of the Palace and other buildings of this architectural complex.

The gems in the crown of this collection include Madonna Litta by Leonardo da Vinci, Judith by Giorgione, The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt and many other masterpieces by Raphael, Peter Paul Rubens, Titian, Veronese, Caravaggio and others. The richly decorated Winter Palace is by itself a place of tremendous interest to the visitors. Last year it received more than 4 million of admired visitors.

The State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg is one of the world’s largest art museums

The Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg is dedicated to the Russian fine art. Just like the State Hermitage, it is located in the rooms of palaces formerly owned by emperors and princes. Today, the collection of this museum comprises more than 400,000 items varying from the old Russian icons to pieces created during the Soviet period.

Founded in 1703, Saint Petersburg almost at once became the capital city of Russia, so during 18th and 19th centuries it was in many aspects ahead of Moscow. Thus, it took about 100 years after the foundation of the Hermitage Museum for Moscow to have its own big art museum open. In 1856, Pavel Tretyakov, a famous merchant and art patron started acquiring paintings for a gallery of his own that he opened for general public some 10 years later. After 150 years, Tretyakov’s personal collection expanded to a big museum complex named after its founder. The Tretyakov Gallery comprises several buildings, but the principal one is still the historic buildings located in the very center of Moscow. This is here that you will see the famous Black Square by Kazimir Malevich, the founder of Suprematism. Apart from its complete collection of Russian art of the late 19th century, the Gallery is also famous for a rich collection of early Russian art, including the legendary Trinity by Andrei Rublev, the greatest medieval Russian icon-painter. Foreign art is mainly represented in the Pushkin Museum of Moscow that was open in the beginning of the 20th century. The main building of this museum exhibits items of Ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian art. Across from the main building there is the Gallery of Art from the Countries of Western Europe and America of the 19th and 20th centuries. Here you will see the famous Girl on the Ball by Pablo Picasso as well as masterpieces by Edgar Degas, Vincent van Gogh and Rembrandt.

Theaters

It is hard to imagine a visit to Moscow or Saint Petersburg without a trip to one of the numerous theaters located there. Saint Petersburg, the Capital of Culture, has more than 100 theaters of different sizes and styles. The most eminent, the most expensive and probably the best of them is the Mariinsky Theatre, where tickets for the first night performances are sold out within just a few hours. Here you may see both opera and ballet. To discover the Mariinsky Theatre you'd better start by seeing a performance at the Main Stage at the Theatre Square.

Moscow has almost two hundred theaters. The main one is, of course, the Bolshoi Theatre located near the Kremlin. It is world-famous for its best dancers and singers. Just like the Mariinsky Theatre, this is an opera and ballet theater. For the first time the Bolshoi Theatre was opened for the public in 1780, but since then it was damaged by fire several times. The building it is located in now was opened for public in 1856 and since then it was rebuilt and renovated several times. The last reconstruction was finished in 2011.

Located near the Kremlin, the Bolshoi Theatre is world-famous for its best dancers and singers.

Churches and Architectural Sites

The world-famous Red Square in Moscow is the country's main square. This is here that the Kremlin, the Lenin's Mausoleum and the Saint Basil's Cathedral are located. Though the Kremlin is the actual residence of the Russian President, sightseeing tours are available here that include visiting the splendid churches and the tsars chambers. Saint Basil's Cathedral is also open for visitors. It was constructed in the 16th century as a steepled church and, just like the whole architectural ensemble of the Kremlin is included by UNESCO in its World Heritage List. This list includes two more sites located in Moscow. These are the imperial estate of Kolomenskoe and the Novodevichy Convent.

Moscow has more than a thousand of monasteries and churches and many of these are quite worth attention just like the numerous architectural sites created before the Revolution of 1917, including the estates of Izmailovo and Tsaritsyno.

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As for Saint Petersburg, the whole historic center of the city (and its sites) is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. This means that all the historic buildings, including the majestic Palace (Dvortsovaya) Square by the Winter Palace, Saint Isaac's Cathedral and all the palaces within the city and even outside its boundaries. The Church of the Savior on Blood built on the site where Emperor Alexander II was fatally wounded in the late 19th century is quite similar to Saint Basil's Cathedral.

Subway

You may take a taxi to go to theater or a museum, but subway is really worth of descending there at least once. Every day, the residents of both the cities have a chance to feast their eyes with the genuine works of art. Unlike most subways in Europe with stations quite ascetic in terms of design, in the Soviet metro every station was designed individually by the country’s best architects. In Moscow subway, 44 central stations are listed as cultural heritage sites. Subway in Saint Petersburg is 20 years younger than the Moscow one, but it also has 6 of its stations listed as cultural heritage sites. Besides, The Guardian listed Avtovo station as one of the World’s Most Beautiful Metro Stations.

The Guardian listed Avtovo station as one of the World’s Most Beautiful Metro Stations

Shopping

The two capital cities of Russia are a real godsend for those who are fond of trendy clothes and accessories. Shoppers will find here almost every famous global brand. Besides, Moscow and Saint Petersburg offer almost every thing that Russia is famous for, i.e. caviar and seafood from the Far East, diamonds from Sakha (Yakutia), wool shawls from Orenburg, all sorts of souvenirs, arts and crafts as well as many other things.

GUM is one of the most famous and large department stores of Moscow. This is an architectural site by itself and it faces the Red Square. Another popular department store also located in the city center is TsUM. It is one of the Europe's largest department stores. This luxury store is an example of Neo-Gothic architecture. The tourists will also be delighted to walk along the Stoleshnikov Lane hosting boutiques of Dior, Cartier, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and other top brands.

Shoppers of Saint Petersburg normally buy themselves clothes and accessories in the huge Galeria shopping mall located just two steps away from the Moskovsky Rail Terminal. A wide choice of Russian-style souvenirs is available in the historic building of Gostiny Dvor on the Nevsky Prospect.

Entertainments

They say that Moscow is a city that never sleeps. This is quite true. Things are humming here 24/7: bars and restaurants are crowded, and traffic jams may last until the early hours. The central districts are beautifully illuminated and the tourists are astonished by the number of shops and dining places that are open around the clock. The same applies to Saint Petersburg. Both the cities will offer you entertainments of all sorts at any time of the day or night.

During the daytime, you may diversify your tourist agenda by visiting any of the numerous dining places that offer Russian, European or Chinese cuisine or by shopping. A perfect place for such pastime in Moscow is Okhotny Ryad Shopping Center. As for Saint Petersburg, the best shopping and dining place is Bolshoy Gostiny Dvor.

In the evening, it is time for a theater performance or a concert, like visiting Moscow Conservatory or the Grand Concert Hall Oktyabrsky in Saint Petersburg. Night is the right time for an escape quest and after that it is great to relax in a disco club or drink some cocktails in a bar.

During the summer season, the city parks (like Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure in Moscow) are a special kind of delight. During the fresh evening hours people go outside. Sitting on the lawn grass by a pond, you will hardly believe that you are in the center of a metropolitan city. People come here on their own or in companies, sit on the grass or go to coffee bars, play table tennis or other games.

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