Moscow and St. Petersburg
If you want to have a taste of the most iconic Russia, try the romantic trip from Moscow to St.Petersburg. Both cities are stunning and the Red Arrow overnight train is unique.
During my short stay in Moscow I was impressed by the beauty of its architecture. Of course I had seen a lot online, but watching it for real does make a difference. I was also impressed by and style and beauty of ladies: I felt like being in Italy!
Food can be very expensive but really top class. My absolute favourite restaurant was White Rabbit. The atmosphere is pure glamour, the quality extremely high.
After our short stay in Moscow, my husband and I decided to catch the Red Arrow to St. Petersburg.
The Red Arrow
This sleeper train will steal your heart.
When you arrive, you’ll feel like in a movie: music will start and I bet you’ll go emotional. The whole station too, because it’s so loud! The soundtrack is The Hymn to the Great City and has been playing since 1965. It gives s a sense of awe to the foreign and a sense of pride to the Russian passenger.
The Red Arrow is an icon of the Russian Rails and started its first regular service in 1931.
The train interior is deliciously old fashioned and similar to a movie set. The staff stands rigidly in line in front of each door and doesn’t utter a word (also for a language issue, I guess?), and the exterior is such a bright red that it’s impossible to miss.
Even with its retro charm, though, this one-of-a-kind luxury train is as up-to-date and modern as any sleeper carriage found in about any country. A wonderful experience especially in first class, where you are alone or with your traveling partner, and can enjoy a bedroom with a great, and moving, view.
Off to St.Petersburg.
A very impressive city. Even the Zara shop (strategically located in the Nevsky Prospect – a must see street), with its beautiful high ceiling covered in frescos and antique interior is more special than any other one I have seen.
Pass the Church of the Saviour on Blood if you don’t have time to see it inside: already a quick look will take your breath away.
The Peterhof Palace is also worth a visit. A bit outside of the center, it’s famous for its gorgeous gardens, its Sea Channel (one of the most extensive waterworks of the baroque period), fountains (operated without the use of pumps – a great technological achievement for the time it was built) and its series of stunning palaces.
You Need 5 Years to See Everything at the Hermitage
If you have time for only one thing to do in St.Petersburg, make it a visit to the Hermitage Museum.
I can’t say that the Hermitage is the number one museum in the world, but it’s certainly not the second
Mikhail Borisovic, its director, once famously said.
And he has a point. The Hermitage would be worth a visit even without any single work of art displayed in it – the palace itself is amazing – and it has been calculated that, if you spend 30 seconds in front of every item of the museum, it would take you five years to see it all. The museum is a combination of everything: the greatest paintings by the greatest painters selected as far back as Catherine the Great, luxury items like daggers of Persian shahs and Faberge articles, opulent costumes (there are even original Luis Vuitton trunks for the traveling Czars), amazing views from the windows (the natural light from the windows is one of the special features of the museum), the grandeur of the halls, amazing parquet floors. In the museum you are hardly allowed to touch anything, but you can sit on the floor and it is splendid when tourists or children do it. The materials are superb, marble and false marble combined in a sort of plasterwork which is remarkable art in itself represent diverse levels of luxury.
The other experience I would recommend for anyone who wishes to have a look at one of the best Russian traditions is a ballet at the Mariinsky Theatre.
I am not an expert of ballet at all, but if you expect anything from classical ballet, the Mariinsky will sure deliver it. I am also not a big fan of modern ballet and that’s why, during my stay in St.Petersburg, I enjoyed the Mariinsky so much. The choreography, costumes, colours, rapid change of scenes, virtuoso pieces, passionate or very serene and calm scenes are simply amazing. World class.
Most impressive Palace – St.Petershof
There are many more palaces worth a visit in the city and Peterhof Palace is one of them. A bit outside of the center, it’s famous for its gorgeous gardens, its Sea Channel (one of the most extensive waterworks of the baroque period), its fountains (operated without the use of pumps – a great technological achievement for the time it was built) and its series of stunning palaces.
A Fake City?
Critics have observed that St Petersburg is a beautiful stage. Austrian writer J. Wechsberg has written
Old St Petesburg is not what Rome is to Italians or Paris to French. The decisions are made in the Kremlin. The city of Peter remains a museum, open from 8 am to 5 pm
Personally, I have been jogging through the city and seen some disappointing parts too, and I was told it wasn’t allowed to run in a beautiful park (the Summer Park, founded by Peter the Great for courtly life outside the Palace) full of tourists and locals enjoying a (not too sporty) stroll. So like every other city, St. Petersburg also has a negative side to it. But its remarkable beauty, culture and mix of modern and antique are an unforgettable experience for anyone who likes traveling, and I would no doubt recommend it.