- The Grand Capitals of Russia
Experience the twin-figureheads of the world's largest country with an in-depth tour of its two most famous cities. Discover Moscow's rich history through its Tsarist architecture and monuments to the Soviet state and get a glimpse inside the fabled Kremlin, home to the Russian government. As a contrast, explore the imperial opulence of stunning St Petersburg, seemingly frozen in time on the banks of the Neva River. Wander its princely streets, elegant canals and riverside promenades for a glimpse of luxuriant palaces and cathedrals, as well as priceless works of art at one of the largest and oldest museums in the world.
Depart London on your scheduled flight to Moscow, via Frankfurt, where you will be met by a local guide and transferred to your hotel.
After breakfast, embark on a fascinating guided tour of some of the highlights of Russia's bustling and colourful capital. Starting with a tour of Red Square, enclosed on all four sides by impressive Tsarist architecture, this is Moscow's spiritual, historical and geographical heart and has a skyline so famous you'll swear you've been here before. The immense walls of the Kremlin loom over one side with the squat, granite pyramid of Vladimir Lenin's mausoleum sat just below and the prominent, star-topped Spasskaya Tower jutting upwards to mark the former entrance gate. Your tour guide will next take you into the heart of the Kremlin. Built as a fortress in the 11th century, its current fortifications were built in the late 15th century and housed dukes, grand princes and queens until the Russian revolution in 1918 when Lenin made it his headquarters. Today it is still the official residence of the President and the Russian government. Despite its prominence in more recent history it still houses a fine collection of historic monuments including four cathedrals, five palaces and the largest bell in the world. Beyond this at the far end of the square sits the magnificent St Basil's Cathedral with its brightly coloured onion domes, commissioned by Ivan the Terrible in the 16th century. On the north-eastern side of the square, opposite the Kremlin, you'll find the GUM. Built as a neoclassical shopping arcade in the time of Catherine the Great, it became the State Department Store for the former Soviet Union. Nowadays it houses a variety of designer boutiques and its glass roof and classical style have been compared to that of the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan. At the final end of the square sits the red-brick palace of the State Historical Museum, built to commemorate national history.
Breakfast & Dinner
Embark on a fascinating guided tour of some of the highlights of Russia's bustling and colourful capital. You'll start with an enchanting tour of the 'Palaces of the People', also know as Moscow's metro system. Built in the 1930s as a tribute to the Soviet state, you'll find stations that have more in common with museums and art galleries than train stations. Chandeliers hang from exquisitely painted ceilings, beautiful mosaics and paintings trimmed in gold adorn station walls and intricately carved statues guard walkways between trains. Your trip would not be complete without a visit to the world-famous Tretyakov Gallery, home to an outstanding collection of Russian art from the last thousand years, encompassing more than 170,000 works by Russian artists. The afternoon is at leisure to explore the city at your own pace. Barter for Soviet memorabilia at Izmaylovsky Market, explore Moscow's green spaces with a stroll in Gorky Park or Patriarch's Ponds or take in some high culture at the Bolshoi Ballet.
Breakfast & Dinner
Enjoy the morning at leisure. Later, depart for Leningradsky rail station where you'll board the high-speed Sapsan train to St Petersburg. Train travel is a way of life in Russia and its newest player was built with comfort in mind, allowing you to sit back, relax and watch the green, Russian landscape fly past your window. You'll be met on arrival at Moskovsky railway station and transferred to your hotel.
Built from nothing on reclaimed swampland, St Petersburg was constructed by 18th Century tsar Peter the Great in an attempt to emulate Western European elegance in a display of Russia's growing status in the world. Today, you'll take a tour of the city and experience its imperial grandeur first hand, with an up-close look at its opulent palaces and remarkable cathedrals. One of the artistic and cultural highlights of St Petersburg, and arguably Europe, is the Hermitage. Set in the Winter Palace, the lavish former royal residence, the Hermitage houses an outstanding collection of treasures and works of art encompassing everything from Picassos to ancient Scythian gold. Afterwards, you'll make the short hop across the Neva River to the Peter and Paul Fortress on Zayachy Island. St Petersburg's first structure and thus considered the birthplace of the city, this fortress never served in its defensive function, regardless it has a rich history as a military base, the burial ground of the Russian Imperial family and forbidding jail for Russia's political prisoners. Today it lives on as a fascinating history museum and is home to the stunning Peter and Paul Cathedral and the tombs of every Romanov monarch from Peter the Great onwards, excluding a few. The Panorama roof walk gives excellent views across the river to the Winter Palace and the city beyond. Your evening is at leisure to explore this beautiful city by twilight.
Breakfast & Dinner
This morning you'll leave St Petersburg for the small, leafy town of Pushkin, home to the prized Catherine Palace, built for Catherine the Great in the 18th Century. Modelled on the palaces of Versailles and Vienna it screams opulence with its vast manicured gardens and intricate gold leaf decor. After returning from Pushkin the rest of your day is at leisure. Take a stroll down Nevsky Prospekt, the city's backbone and heart for three hundred years to admire the remarkable imperial architecture, wonder at vivid onion-domed cathedrals or wander the fountains, pavilions and sculptures of Peter the Great's delightful Summer Garden. This evening, take a trip to the Vodka Museum where you can sample three vodkas and three snacks, before a farewell dinner at a local restaurant. After dinner, an optional night-time cruise down the Volga River is available (at a fee, payable locally).
After breakfast, you'll be transferred to the airport for your return flight to London, via Frankfurt.
Yvonne Harris28 Aug 19
Facilities very good. Staff very helpful. Good standard of food. Both our guides were excellent. Very knowledgeable and spoke good English. Igor was especially helpful.
Janice Wood24 Jun 19
Good standard in both cities. Conveniently situated for access to city centres in both cities. English spoken by polite and friendly staff. I would strongly recommend the add-on in St. Petersburg as most members of our group who had not done so regretted their decision.
Teresa Atkinson29 May 19
Preferred Moscow hotel, both hotels very clean, good food and pleasant staff. Moscow hotel was in a more scenic setting enabling my husband and I to enjoy evening walks around a lake in a park and also enjoy birds in woodlands.
Anthony Cockbain13 Nov 18
Excellent locations in the centre of all the cities visited. We were able to walk and explore each night.
Alan Evans23 Sep 18
The Hotel in Moscow very good.
George Orr21 May 18
The Hotel in Moscow was excellent and the food wonderful but the Dostoevsky in St Petersburg was not a 4 star hotel, the food and service was fine but it was small and crammed and not of Mercury Standard.
To enter Russia you'll need a visa before travel - make sure you apply for the correct type and duration of the visa. During periods of high demand, you should apply for your visa well in advance. Russian diplomatic missions and the visa application centres in London and Edinburgh will collect biometric data (scanned fingerprints) from visa applicants above the age of 12. This applies to each Russian entry or transit visa application. It is mandatory to visit the Visa application centre in person to apply for Russian visa. Visa applications for UK residents are to be submitted at the Russia Visa Application Centre in London, Manchester or Edinburgh (UK). For further information see the Russian Embassy website and the website of VFS Global who manage Russian visa applications on behalf of the Embassy. Tourist visa applications can take 10 working days to be processed however may take longer during busy periods. Please see https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/russia/entry-requirements for more information. We can help towards application via a Visa Support Letter (VSL). You will need to send us the all of the required passport information within the API form we will send to you. Shortly after we will send you your signed VSL. Upon receiving an authorised VSL you will need to go to your nearest UK based Russian embassy to apply. Please note that only you can acquire a Russian entry Visa due to the collection of biometric data (scanned fingerprints). Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months after the expiry date of your visa. Visa requirements are subject to change and obtaining a visa is the responsibility of the traveller and not Sunspot Tours. We recommend you check with your destinations' Tourist Board or Embassy prior to departure for the most up to date guidelines regarding visa application.
We strongly recommend that you and all members of your party are suitably insured as soon as you book your holiday. It is a condition of booking that you must have suitable travel insurance. It is important that you purchase travel insurance that suitably covers your participation in whatever activities you may undertake at the time that you make your booking. To assist you with this, we have arranged travel insurance in partnership with Holiday Extras. To arrange your travel insurance with Holiday Extras, please call 0800 781 4237 and quote 'WK830' for preferential rates. Please ensure you provide us with the name of your insurer, policy number and their 24-hour emergency contact number as soon as possible. Mercury Holidays will not be liable for any costs incurred by you due to your failure to take out suitable travel insurance from the date of booking.
If booking more than 10 weeks before departure a deposit of £49pp will need to be paid at the time of booking with the full amount payable at 10 weeks prior to departure. The deposit applies to adults and children. If you are within 10 weeks of travel then the full balance of the holiday will be payable.
Your flight is to Moscow via Frankfurt, and return home from St Petersburg via Frankfurt, with Lufthansa. Each passenger is entitled to 23kg of hold luggage plus 1 item of hand luggage not exceeding in size and 8kg. Weight restrictions will be finalized on E-ticket receipt. Should you wish to take additional luggage you will need to pay extra at check-in. Check-In should be at least 3 hours before departure. If you wish to arrange Airport car parking, lounges or accommodation at preferential rates, we recommend you book this in advance with Holiday Extra Tel. 0871 360 2000, quoting HX313.
It is your responsibility to check any health and vaccination requirements applicable to your booked arrangements. We can only provide general information about this. Health and hygiene facilities and disease risks vary from country to country. You should take health advice about your own needs as early as possible and in good time before your departure. Sources of information include; www.fco.gov.uk, www.travelhealthpro.org.uk/, www.hpa.org.uk, your General Practitioner or a specialist clinic.
This tour is accessible to most people with an average level of fitness and normal mobility. It involves moderate days of walking on uneven paths and small hills, and getting on and off coaches and boats. This tour is not suitable for anyone with walking difficulties.
The minimum number of travellers in your group will be 10, and the maximum will be 35. If in the unlikely event there are less than 10 people booked on your tour date, we will endeavour to reduce any disruption to your holiday and try to operate your tour with lower passenger numbers. If we are not able to operate your departure date then you may be asked to change to a different date and a full refund will be made available to you should this alternative not be suitable
This is an escorted tour, meaning the you will have the services of an English speaking guide during each excursion ensuring that you have first-hand knowledge at all times.
The currency in Russia is the Rouble (RUB). It may be more convenient to exchange Euros or US Dollars cash when you arrive in Russia. Sterling is not as easy to exchange. ATM machines are widely available.
You will need to take some extra money with you to cover any meals where these are not mentioned on your itinerary and personal purchases, such as souvenirs, drinks and snacks. Approximately Rub 30,000/£400 per person should be sufficient for the duration of your tour. Please also bear in mind that there will be several shopping opportunities throughout your tour.
The metro systems in both cities are easy to use. In Moscow, there is a metro station (Partizanskaya) close to the hotel, which takes you to the very centre of Moscow in 5 stops. Tickets may be bought at tickets offices in each station and are very cheap (55 roubles); they are magnetic cards which you hold against the card reader and the barrier opens. In St Petersburg, the system is less extensive, but there is a stop very close to the hotel (Vladimirskaya/Dostoevskaya), which can take you quickly to the centre with one change. Tickets may be bought at tickets offices in each station and are very cheap (45 roubles) - they are either tokens which you drop into the slot or magnetic cards which you hold against the reader, and the barrier opens. In both cities signs are mainly in Russian but lines are colour-coordinated; your guide will explain how to use the system in more detail.