Things to see and do in Russia
Attractions in Russia
Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre (www.bolshoi.ru) holds regular performances of opera, as well as being home to the world-famous Bolshoi Ballet Company, among the oldest and most prestigious of its kind anywhere.
Sitting 29km (18 miles) outside of St Petersburg, the Catherine Palace acted as a summer residence for a succession of different tsars. It’s perhaps best known for being home to the Amber Room – a stunning array of amber panels looted by Nazis and since recreated.
Experience ‘White Nights’
If you're in St Petersburg at the height of summer, don't expect too much kip. By dint of its northerly location, the city experiences some three weeks of 24-hour daylight from mid-June, a time at which the streets and riverbanks never sleep.
In the Western Caucusus, Krasnaya Polyana (also known as Red Valley) has 25km (16 miles) of runs, making it a magnet for the country’s skiers and snowboarders. Elsewhere in the country, the Kamchatka Peninsula has the potential for a dramatic heli-skiing trip, and Sochi, the home of the 2014 Winter Olympics, offers vast slopes with a huge variety of skiing available for all abilities.
A common stop-off for those tackling the Trans-Siberian Railway, Irkutsk is worthy of a day or two's exploration, particularly for those interested in learning more about Siberian culture. Try and catch a bandy match – a kind of al fresco ice hockey.
The Kola Peninsula offers exceptional salmon-fishing – 18kg (40lb) catches are almost a regular occurrence – while Siberia and the Far East also provide a rich variety of angling options, catering for everyone from beginners to experts.
Set close to the Mongolian border, the world's deepest lake is also one of the clearest, and a trip around some, or all, of its 2,000km (1,242 miles) coastline makes for an awe-inspiring wilderness encounter. Unless snowmobiling's your thing, the summer months are best.
The embalmed body of revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin has been on public display almost continuously since his death in 1924. Filing past the regularly moisturised corpse – still in a smart dark suit – is an odd experience, but one not easily forgotten.
The Russian capital has a famously wild nightlife. You may have to shell out to get into the trendier spots – this is one city where luxury means luxury – but there's also no shortage of lively places where the emphasis is more on partying than profits.
Mount Elbrus is the tallest mountain in the Caucasus and, indeed, Europe itself. Standing 5,642m (18,510 ft) high, it makes for a strenuous but not overly technical climb. Six-day trekking circuits are available for those who fancy looking down on the rest of the continent.
St Isaac’s Cathedral
An impressive reminder of St Petersburg's tsarist-era design, St Issac's Cathedral was 40 years in its construction, eventually being unveiled in 1858. The bright golden dome was actually repainted grey during the war to avoid undue attention – it's now back to its former glory.
St Petersburg’s Canals
The size and grandeur of imperial city of St Petersburg has a tendency to amaze first-time visitors, and there are few better ways of appreciating the architecture of the centre than in the comfort of a leisurely canal cruise through its heart.
Some visitors are surprised that there's any access at all to the Kremlin – there's actually enough to see to warrant more than one visit. Most famous of its attractions is the Armoury Museum, a treasure-trove of Fabergé eggs and imperial bling.
The Trans-Siberian railway is perhaps the single most iconic rail journey in the world. The week-long voyage from Moscow to Beijing is the most popular route, and takes you through some of the planet’s most remote wilderness. The sheer length of the trip gives you an idea of the scale of the area you’re covering – over 9,000km (5,600 miles).
If you've made it this far east, congratulations. Fringed by hills and overlooking the Golden Horn Bay, Vladivostok is actually one of the country's most attractive cities. There's a number of diverting historical sights, as well as good access to beaches.
Renamed Stalingrad during the socialist era, Volgograd has the dubious honour of being the site of one of WWII's most infamous battles. The city was levelled by the conflict, but has recovered to become an interesting destination for history buffs.
Your jaw will no doubt drop at St Petersburg's gorgeously decorated Yusupov Palace (www.yusupov-palace.ru). Its rooms are sumptuously decorated in 19th-century style and include a gorgeous mini-theatre. A waxwork exhibition also commemorates Rasputin, who was murdered here.
Ever wanted to experience complete weightlessness? Join a zero-gravity flight at Star City, part of the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre (http://www.gctc.su), 40km (25 miles) from Moscow. Guests can in a modified cargo plane, which rises to 6000m (19685 ft) before a further steep ascent allows passengers to float weightlessly around the plane. It’s not cheap, but then, this isn’t your average tourist activity.
Russian National Tourist Office in the UKAddress: 202 Kensington Church Street, London, W8 4DP
Telephone: (020) 7985 1234.
Russian National Tourist Office in the USATelephone: (877) 221 7120.