The state coat of arms of Russia is a double eagle, one head of which looks to the west while the other one looks to the east. This reflects Russia’s everlasting duality and a question the Russian people are facing to: “which way to go?” Politicians, journalists and just simple people are discussing what is better for Russia.
On the other hand, in the spiritual sphere, this duality enriches the cultural wealth of the country and gives a broader spectrum of creative competition. The visitors will see for themselves the difference between the two approaches on the example of the two Russian capitals: Moscow and St. Petersburg. They will feel clear distinction in architecture, in arts and even in the mentality of their residents.
Even if I would like to, I would not dare to rate and rank these historical, architectural and cultural sites. So, I will just describe 27 highlights of Moscow and Saint Petersburg in geographical sequence.
Exploring Russia starts, of course, from its heart – the #1 Red Square in Moscow. The domes of the colorful #2 St. Basil Cathedral, an outstanding masterpiece of Russian Orthodox architecture, remind the flames rising to the sky. Despite the collapse of the communist system #3 Vladimir Lenin’s mausoleum still stands on the Red Square.
#4 Kremlin – the former residence of Russian Tsars and today’s office of the president of Russian Federation is open for the visits to its museums, first of all, the fabulous #5 Armory Museum and Palace of Facets, both home to a vast array of priceless Imperial Treasures of Russia.
One of the main cultural values in Moscow is the #6 State Tretyakov Gallery, an art museum housing the greatest collection of Russian national fine art in the world. It contains over 130.000 exhibits ranging from the icons of Andrey Rubliov to the masterpieces of the modern art such as Wassily Kandinsky and Kazimir Malevich.
Undoubted interest among tourists causes the famous #7 Novodevichy cemetery the most prestigious resting place of great writers, poets, composers, artists and politicians, among them Chekhov, Gogol, Bulgakov, Mayakovsky, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Khrushchev, Yeltsin, and others.
Drive to #8 Sergiev Posad to visit one of the holiest places of Russia, the stunning Holy Trinity St. Sergius Lavra, founded by St. Sergey Radoniezhsky in the 14th century. For centuries, this monastery has been one of the main places of pilgrimage for Russian Orthodox believers. The best to use the free time in Moscow is to stroll along the famous pedestrian street #9 Arbat with its variety of handiworks, coffee shops, and street artists.
You cannot miss in Moscow the high-rise buildings, located at the corners of the Soviet five-pointed star, a vivid example of the Stalinist “Empire” style architecture. Another symbol of the so-called, Socialist Realism is #10 Moscow Metro, the unique subway, most of the stations decorated in the style of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.
In the evening visit to another pride of Russia – #11 Bolshoi Theatre, to enjoy the famous Russian ballet performance.
Explore the canals and avenues of St. Petersburg, also called the “Venice of the North”. #12 Peter and Paul fortress built by Peter the Great in 1703. Fortress cathedral whose spire of 122.5 m seen from elsewhere in the city and has become a symbol of St. Petersburg.
The crypts of all Russian tsars after Peter the Great in Petropavlovskaya Cathedral tell the history of Russian Empire throughout 200 years. #13 Vassilyevsky Island, its layout designed by Tsar Peter himself, houses the first University in Russia, the Academy of the Fine Arts, #14 “Kunstkamera” – the first museum in Russia.
On the left bank of Neva river you will admire the #15 Bronze Horseman monument to Peter the Great, stroll along the famous Nevsky avenue, visit impressive #16 Kazan Cathedral, see spectacular Anichkov bridge with its four Horse Tamers sculptures, enter the historic #17 Yeliseyevsky store, one of St. Petersburg’s oldest food stores designed in Art Nouveau style.
Finally, #18 Yusupov Palace that belonged to one of the wealthiest noble families in Russia. Today it houses a museum reflecting the 19-20 c. Russian nobility mode of life and tells the mysterious story of Rasputin’s murder.
#19 Peterhof Palace and Gardens Ensemble one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. Grand Palace of “Russian Versailles”, Monplaisir and Marly palaces and especially the Great Cascade of gorgeous fountains decorated with gilded statues of biblical subjects attract numerous tourists from all over the world.
#20 Saint Isaac’s Cathedral the fourth largest domed cathedral in the world. Its interior richly decorated with paintings of the leading Russian artists and mosaics that one can hardly tell them from a painting. Fourteen types of different colors of Italian marble used for the interior decoration.
Visit #21 Smolny Convent of the Resurrection, its Cathedral a stunning blue-and-white building is undoubtedly one of the architectural masterpieces of the Italian architect F.B.Rastrelli who has built many of the constructions in the city, including the Winter Palace.
#22 Alexander Nevsky Lavra (resting place). It contains a monastery and two cemeteries, which are the reason for your visit. They hold the remains of many Russia’s outstanding cultural figures; their gravestones are pieces of art themselves. You will pay tribute to Dostoyevsky and Tchaikovsky; fellow composers Rimsky-Korsakov, Glinka, and Mussorgsky; founder of Russia’s first university Mikhail Lomonosov and mathematician Leonhard Euler, architects Quarenghi, Rossi and Voronikhin and many others.
#23 Winter Palace and one of the greatest world art museums Hermitage. Spend few hours admiring the masterpieces of Leonardo, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Rubens, Titian, El Greco, Velázquez, Monet, Renoir Van Gogh, Gauguin, Matisse and many, many others.
In the evening, visit the famous #24 Mariinsky Theatre to enjoy its musical performances.
#25 brand new Fabergé eggs’ museum. Next will be the extremely colorful #26 “Church of Our Savoir on the Spilt Blood” – a memorial church, which built on the spot where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated in 1881. Finish your stay in St.Petersburg by another glance on the city – #27 a cruise along the rivers and numerous canals of the area.
In the next posts, I am going to detail some of the most interesting and exciting experiences of this route.
You can find above mentions places in one of these tours:Treasures of Russia Stars of the White Nights in Saint Petersburg
By Yulik Gurvitch