Five reasons to visit Russia in winter
A&K travel specialist Mia Wood shares some of her favourite reasons for a winter break in Moscow and St Petersburg.
Moscow and St Petersburg have history, culture and personality in abundance. The majority of their attractions can be enjoyed year-round, but the flurries of snow and festive spirit of winter are sure to add a touch of fairy-tale magic to your holiday.
A&K travel specialist Mia Wood discovered these seasonal charms first-hand. Here are her five highlights for a winter visit to Moscow and St Petersburg.
Walking through Moscow and St Petersburg is a surreal experience. There are endless palaces, government buildings, universities, churches and cathedrals dotting each city. ‘Lavish’ is the perfect word to describe them; in every corner you can find gold-coated rooftops, candy-striped onion domes and architecture as colourful as it is bold.
Russia’s history is showcased in these buildings, from the Byzantine cathedrals of the Tsars, to the Stalinist buildings of the Soviet Union, to the towering skyscrapers of modern times. Architecture lovers will be spoilt by a tour in either of these two historic cities.
If the architecture isn’t enough to convince you, picture all of this in a light dusting of snow under a crisp pink sky – it really will make you feel as though you’re in a fairy tale.
In my opinion, there is nothing quite so magical as a walk around the grounds of Peterhof Palace in the snow. The sprawling estate forms part of St Petersburg’s historic centre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Take some seeds with you as you wander the gardens and woodland, and you may attract small birds, who will happily eat straight from your palm, as well as red squirrels who will eat at your feet.
The festive atmosphere
The atmosphere around the Christmas season is bound to get you in the festive mood, and Russians certainly know how to put on a show.
If you take a stroll through Moscow’s famous Red Square at this time of year, you’ll see white lights sparkling, markets bustling and women parading their warmest furs. You can’t miss GUM – the square’s impressive shopping centre – as it’s lit up in all its glory. There is an unmissable buzz across Moscow throughout the winter months, and the city’s display of lights remains up until March.
Another reason to visit St Petersburg and Moscow during the winter months is for the ease of getting around and sightseeing. Throughout the summer, some of the main palaces and galleries get extremely busy. But, from December to March, you are less likely to find yourself queuing, and will have a much better time when you can breeze through crowds. I was able to make my way through the main tourist sites in a relaxed manner, which is a rarity for most big cities.
Although temperatures drop in winter, there are plenty of hearty Russian dishes to keep you warm.
Russia’s cuisine has been influenced by its numerous neighbours throughout history, including Armenia and Georgia, where the strong flavours of dill and tarragon are prominent. My favourite dish during my visit was kachapuri – Georgia’s staple food. It consists of a perfectly baked bread stuffed with three different cheeses and a runny egg in the centre. Other dishes that won’t disappoint are the famous borscht soup and classic beef stroganoff.
If you’re feeling inspired to book a winter break in Russia, why not speak to one of our travel specialists to begin creating your tailor-made holiday? Alternatively, browse our suggested Russia itineraries for more inspiration.
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