Nothing will ever quite prepare you for the imperial grandeur, glitz and glamour of Russia, the land of fur-lined hats, caviar, champagne, ballet, and the over-the-top capitals of modern Russia. First, there is Saint Petersburg, a feast for the senses and a treasure trove of art and architecture. From the world renowned art in the Hermitage, opulent architecture, elegant villas and palaces and the soaring, onion-domed cathedrals that lend the city its fairy tale charm, to an extraordinary history of resilience and rebirth written into every stone, this most beautiful city in Russia is full of romantic ambiance, bridges, museum-like streets and imperial spirit. Tsar Peter the Great’s “window on the West,” St. Petersburg was built in the early 1700s on 44 islands, a feat that took the lives of thousands of workers. Today it’s a stunning city, laced with canals, graceful bridges, and Empire-style buildings. Beginning in May, the summer brings long days and the famous "White Nights", when even at midnight the sun barely dips below the horizon, and the city's streets and gardens burst into life, celebrating the season with revelry all night long.
While St. Petersburg is reminiscent of European cities, Moscow is pure Russia. A vivid, exhilarating and vibrant metropolis, with streets filled with Art Nouveau and Russian Revival mansions, flowering courtyards and icon-filled churches which create mesmerizing contrasts and different textures. Moscow's illustrious Tretryakov and Pushkin Galleries are only the beginning of its contemporary art scene, liberal and dynamic, and the city's classical performing arts are still among the best in the world. Built on the Moskva river, Moscow is architecturally stunning. From the onion domes of St. Basil's to the precise exterior of the Monument to the Conquerors of Space to the dreary concrete Soviet apartment blocks, we'll be able to trace Russian history through Moscow’s fires, wars and disasters, and see how the destiny kept pushing it to rebuild and grow stronger. Having grown from a handful of medieval wooden structures along the river, survived the Mongol invasion, Moscow became the center of the Russian Orthodox Church, then Imperial Russia, then Soviet Russia, to the post-Soviet modern Russia. With one foot grounded in the glorious past and the other jumping into the future, Moscow has proved her mettle as a global capital.
The Imperial Russia tour will introduce us to some of the richest and most revered cultural and historical landmarks of both cities, as well as the Russian Orthodox pilgrimage site of Sergiev Posad with its swirly spires, vividly colored domes and streets lined with gingerbread cottages. In St. Petersburg, we'll see the famous Faberge Museum, the "Russian Versailles" of Peterhof Palace, the royal residence of Catherine Palace with its Gardens in Tsarskoe Selo, the incomparable Hermitage Museum and Winter Palace, as well as the infamous Yusupov Palce. We'll take a cruise on the canals that have earned Saint Petersburg the moniker "Venice of the North" and get in-depth insights into the soul of the city.
Our time in Moscow we will give us an unparalleled insight into the city allowing for a deep understanding of its past and present. We'll tour the Red Square with St. Basil’s Cathedral with its colorful domes, Alexander Garden, Lenin’s Mausoleum and the Kremlin Complex with its palaces, cathedrals, museums and administrative buildings. We'll stroll along the historical Arbat Street, take guided tours of Pushkin Museum, Tretyakov Gallery and Bolshoi Theater, take an underground tour of Moscow's most beautiful metro stations and see a classical Russian ballet performance. We'll also get to admire and learn about the Novedevichy Convent, the Stalinist architecture of Moscow's State University, Victory Park and Sparrow Hills. We'll conclude with a day trip to Sergiev Posad, in Moscow's Golden Ring of ancient towns, famous for its 14th-century Trinity Lavra St. Sergius Monastery complex with blue and gold onion domes and the exquisite interior frescoes.