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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, 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. 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. You'll emerge from this subterranean wonder at the entrance to Red Square. Enclosed on all four sides by impressive Tsarist architecture, Red Square is Moscow's spiritual, historical and geographical heart and its skyline is so well known you'll swear you've been here before. Clearly visible from the square is the magnificent St Basils 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 has been compared to that of the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan. Your tour guide will then take you into the heart of the Kremlin. Built as a fortress in the 11th Century, it's 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.
This morning you'll visit 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 rest of the day is at leisure to explore this captivating city at your own pace. Barter for Soviet memorabilia at Izmaylovo Market; admire the red-brick palace of the State Historical Museum; 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.
After a morning at leisure, you'll 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, 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.
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 remarkable imperial architecture, wonder at vivid onion-domed cathedrals or wander the fountains, pavilions and sculptures of Peter the Great's delightful Summer Garden. Before your farewell dinner enjoy a trip to the Vodka Museum where you can sample three vodkas and three snacks of your choice.
After breakfast you'll be transferred to the airport for your return flight to London.
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.
If booking more than 10 weeks before departure a deposit of £250pp 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.
British Airways flights depart from London Heathrow (LHR) and arrive at Moscow Domodevovo airport (DME). offering passengers award-winning service and a generous checked baggage allowance of 23kg. Your Direct British Airways flight with depart London Heathrow (Terminal 5)
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. Tipping is at your discretion; however we would recommend approximately £3 per person, per day for the guide and £2 per person, per day for the driver. Tips are accepted in the local currency, however it is asked that if you do not tip in the local currency that you only pay with notes, as coins cannot be exchanged.
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