Russia might not be renowned for its cuisine but in actual fact, the country boasts some truly inventive – and delicious – delicacies. As well as the traditional staples, you’ll find many restaurants in the bigger cities that take refreshingly innovative and modern approach to food, serving everything from street-style snacks to high-end tasting menus. Typical breakfast options include kasha (buckwheat porridge), bliny (small, light pancakes with sweet or savoury fillings), and syrniki (fritters made with cottage cheese and served with jam, berries and icing sugar).
Literature, architecture, art and design, music and dance – whatever you’re in the mood for, Russia has it in spades. Visit grandiose museums, marvel at works by the Old Masters, or embark on a literary trail for an insight into the lives of Tolstoy, Pushkin and Dostoevsky – and that could be just in one day. When it comes to culture, St Petersburg and Moscow are two must-see destinations, but be sure to leave time for some of the lesser-known towns and villages. A far cry from the bright lights and awe-inspiring architecture of the big cities, places like Veliky and Suzdal offer a charm all of their own.
Away from the bustle of the cities, witness majestic mountains, glistening lakes and miles upon miles of picturesque countryside. Winston Churchill once described Russia as an enigmatic riddle and this is especially true when it comes to rural landscapes as there are some fantastic places to lose yourself in an adventure. One such place is Karelia in the north west of the country, an area home to rugged mountain parks, a marble canyon and an impressive underground lake. Perfect for hiking, swimming or simply enjoying a picnic during the summer.
Designed in the 1920s by Konstantin Menikov, Gorky Park is a testament to Moscow’s impressive architectural transformation. Its full name is Maxim Gorky’s Central Park of Culture and Leisure and as attractions go, this one really does what it says on the tin. All around the park, you can try your hand at everything from cycling and rollerblading to petanque, table tennis and beach volley ball. During the winter, you can ice skate across the ponds or hire a bike to explore the surroundings at any time of year. Contemporary displays of art and design are often dotted around the whole park as part of local events and festivals but the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art is a permanent fixture, so you’ll be able to visit at any time of year. If you get peckish, head to the Gorky Park Food Row for a bite to eat on the go.
The Hermitage Museum is one of Russia’s most iconic attractions and when you visit, you’ll certainly understand why. Its extensive collection includes some three million items, displayed across a mesmerising 360 rooms although unsurprisingly, even this much space isn’t enough to accommodate it all. When you visit, the best thing to do is to allow yourself a day or two to explore but if time doesn’t permit, it’s still worth having some sort of plan laid out. There are five buildings in the State Hermitage complex including the Winter Palace, the Hermitage Theatre and the New Hermitage, not forgetting the vaults.
One of the country’s best-loved dishes, no visit to Russia would be complete without trying at least one bowl of traditional soup. From the iconic varieties such as borscht (beetroot soup made with vegetable or beef stock and served with dill and soured cream) and shchi (cabbage soup renowned for its distinctive sour taste), to the lesser-known botvinya (combining rye bread stock, sorrel, cucumber and fish) and solyanka (capers, pickled cucumbers, sauerkraut, mushrooms, offal, potatoes and tomato), there really is a soup for every occasion. Although most varieties contain some form of meat, many of the soups can be easily made vegetarian and can be served hot or cold depending on the time of year.
During the peak of summer, Russia can get very busy with tourists, so the best time to visit is in the spring or autumn, when the main cities will be much less crowded. In the winter time, temperatures can fall as low as -20 degrees, but if you can brave the cold, the views are truly spectacular.
As well as a valid UK passport, British Citizens will need to obtain a visa from the Russian Embassy. Processing can take up to 20 business days, so be sure to factor this in when planning your trip. For full details please visit: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/russia/entry-requirements.
The currency in Russia is the Russian Ruble (RUB).
In Russia, the main languague spoken is Russian.