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Russian Culture To Do in Moscow To Do in Saint-Petersburg Top Travelers Advices Traveling in Russia

3 reasons why to do dog-trekking in Russia (in Moscow and in Saint-Petersburg)

What is dog-trekking?

Dog-trekking in Moscow
Dog-trekking in Moscow

 

Dog-trekking becomes more popular every year amongst nature and animal lovers especially, who want to combine their passions for fresh air, natural landscapes and interaction with animals together. So, basically dog-trekking is an activity when a dog is strapped to one’s back with a rope and together with a dog you go for a walk in the nature – to the forest or alongside the river bank. The dogs are taking people for a walk actually as they are the ones guiding trough the nature. Hereunder you may find 3 good reasons why to do dog-trekking in Russia this summer or every other summer possible:

Trekking in the Nature in Moscow
Trekking in the Nature in Moscow

 

  • To enjoy natural landscapes

For more than anything else, dog-trekking is famous for the opportunity it gives to enjoy the nature. Dog-trekking is usually done in the most beautiful and picturesque places of an area. In Moscow, for instance, where we do our Tsar Visit dog-trekking + kayaking tour, people walk alongside the Moscow River and they can see the unique rope bridge and enjoy cool summer winds from the river. Also, people go through the forest with different fresh water streams and flower fields.

Dog-trekking in Saint-Petersburg
Dog-trekking in Saint-Petersburg

 

  • To meet husky dogs of 4 northern breeds

Dog-trekking is an activity that is focused on dogs – main protagonists. In Russia the dogs’ breed is naturally husky – Siberian huskies, Alaskan huskies, Laikas and Malamuts. These dogs have an absolute love for humans and they are happy to play and hug with you. Tsar Visit dog-trekking tour usually begins with meeting all the dogs and playing with them. After this unforgettable moment with all the huskies, you will be able to choose one dog with who you would like to go trekking in the forest!

 

Kayaking on Moscow River after dog-trekking
Kayaking on Moscow River after dog-trekking

 

  • To do sports while trekking with husky dogs

What you should know about dog-trekking is that it is more than just a walk – it is a sports activity. Although it requires no special preparation and no special abilities, you still have to be prepared for doing sports. 5-km route that we propose on Tsar Visit in Moscow and in St. Petersburg contains various parts that require some speed and balance. Moreover, huskies are a strong and extremely active breed, so you must be very focused during the trip. Also, in Moscow you may add kayaking to your tour and your route will be 6-km of dog-trekking and 6-km back on kayaks with professional instructors. In Saint Petersburg after the dog-trekking tour you will be able to do some rowboat riding on a wonderful lake!

Rowboat riding on the lake in St. Petersburg
Rowboat riding on the lake in St. Petersburg

 

To sum up, dog-trekking is a very new, but already extremely popular activity in Russia. Both in Moscow and in St. Petersburg it is famous for being a great opportunity to spend time on fresh air observing beautiful natural landscapes, reuniting with animals, studying about husky breed and doing sports at the same time!

Dog-Trekking in Russia
Dog-Trekking in Russia

 

We definitely recommend you to go for it and if you do, you will cherish those memories forever!

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Did you know? Russian Culture To Do in Moscow To Do in Saint-Petersburg

5 reasons to visit and try famous Russian Sauna in 2020

It is probable that at least once in your lifetime you have heard about Russian Sauna, or so called “banya” and its traditions. It was created long time ago and converted into a real cultural phenomenon with its own rules. Let us give 5 good reasons to try genuine Russian Banya in 2020:

1. Try an activity that has 2500 y.o. How was the banya created?

The origins of the banya date back to the 5th century BC. We trace its birth in Ukraine, where the banya was made of pieces of wood used as a structure to hold a felt cloth. At the middle of this space was a kettle filled with water where heated rocks were plunged.  Slowly, this sauna culture became a part of the Slavic life. It was celebrating religious events and family traditional holidays such as birthdays and weddings.

Banya was accessible for the richest and the poorest. The richest had their own banya area allowing them to have more comfort and privacy. The poorest who did not own a banya, heated their ovens and wet the walls of their houses to create a slight sensation of humidity.

The access to the banya became widely democratized thereafter. Common and public spaces were created to bring the entire population together in one place. Luxury banyas were opened for the richest, such as Sanduny Baths in Moscow, for example. These spaces offered to their customers exceptional furniture and more comfort as well as better customer services.

Sanduny Baths - Moscow
Spectacular Sanduny Baths – Moscow

2. Learn how to do the Russian Sauna and teach your friends!

As Russian Sauna is a real tradition, it has to be done the good way. Today the banya is composed of a wooden space with a wood-burning stove. It is important to prepare the banya in advance so that it can be very hot. When the temperature reaches between 80-100 C degrees, you can begin the activity.

Put on your bathing suit and sit on one of the benches along the wall of the banya. Watch out! The higher you sit, the hotter you’ll get! So, if you’re not sure you can stand the heat, start by sitting on the lower bench. Once on your bench, you can sprinkle water with essential oils on the hot stones placed above the stove to warm and humidify the room.

Shake your towel over your head if you want the heat to circulate in the banya.

A session lasts between 5 and 15 minutes, depending on your resistance to heat. As the banya is much hotter, the sessions are shorter than those in a classic sauna.

The goal at the end of the session is to cause a thermal shock to your body. You can jump in the cold pool, or spill the bucket with cold water on your head or, if you are in winter, roll in the snow or jump into a frozen lake.

Cold jump after banya
Jump into a frozen lake after Banya session in winter

3. The benefits of Russian Sauna

The advantages of the banya are worldwide known and confirmed by specialists:

  • From inside: it cleans the body by eliminating toxins
  • From outside: it removes dead skin and cleans pores
  • Russian Sauna is the best cure to insomnia and daily anxiety
  • Banya helps human lungs to recharge and work better

The extreme change in temperature also allows the body to gain strength and develops the immune system. There’s no doubt that after a banya session you’ll sleep like a baby!

Russian Banya with friends in winter
Russian Banya with friends in winter

4. The reason why Russian Banya should be done in groups of friends or with family

Visiting Russian Sauna is highly recommended to do with closest friends or family. Banya is, all in all, a limited space where you are almost naked.

Between each session, it is common to get together to drink tea and eat some fruits or to drink cold beer with snacks while playing cards or just chatting.

According to lots of stories, in business, many contracts are discussed and signed in banya and the agreement is usually concluded by drinking one shot of vodka! In Russia businessmen and political figures are usually going to the Russian Sauna together, in order to discuss important matters in complete privacy.

If you travel to Russia, it’s a legendary activity to organize with your family or friends! Don’t hesitate to check our traditional banya tour !

5. Russian Sauna = connection with Nature. Why is Russian banya so priceless?

If Russians regularly practice banya, it is also because it allows them to reconnect with nature and put everyday worries aside. In St. Petersburg, we can organize for you a traditional banya in the forest, after a dog-trekking hike!

Banya is practiced naked and people are surrounded by the simplest elements of nature: wood, heat, water, snow, stones… Banya is considered to be a way to enjoy the wonders that nature offers to recharge one’s batteries.

Russians also have a tradition of whipping themselves with bouquets made of birch or oak branches. This bouquet is called “Venik”. It is plunged in a bucket of cold water and then used to whip itself. This process has many benefits:

  • Reactivates blood circulation: because of the heat, the vessels are “asleep”. Whipping them with the Venik – reactivates.
  • Accelerates sweating: the contact of the Venik on the skin activates perspiration.
  • Removes dead skin: the contact of the leaves and branches will allow the dead skin to peel off.
  • Venik process is not painful. Vice versa, it feels amazing – especially after!
Banya Tour - Russia
Doing Russian Sauna with Venik

You want to try banya when travelling to Russia? Book your tour with us on www.tsarvisit.com !

 

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Russian Culture To Do in Moscow To Do in Saint-Petersburg Traveling in Russia

SIBERIAN HUSKIES: dogs or wolves?

The belief that Siberian Huskies are a breed of wolves is widely spread. But is this theory a myth that has passed down through the centuries or is it a reality?

Where are Siberian Huskies coming from ?

To find the origins of Siberian Huskies, we have to travel back in time in a legendary Russian region: Siberia.

We found the track of the first huskies thanks to the Chukchi, inhabitants of the extreme Russian East, who used huskies for many purposes:

  • To haul the heavy sleds of the inhabitants: strapped together, huskies are physically strong and able to carry heavy loads such as blocks of ice or people on sleds
  • Alert the inhabitants: in case of danger or intrusion in the village, the huskies had a role of warning the population
  • Look after children: as they are a loving animal, huskies had to watch over children while they were playing and sleep with them to warm them up during cold winters 

For the Chukchi people, the true origin of huskies is related to an ancestral legend. Siberian Huskies would be the result of the union between a wolf and the moon. To them, it explains the close appearance between huskies and wolves and their tail with a moon crescent shape.

A Siberian shaman performing – Russia

Siberian huskies became famous thanks to the mythical All Alaska Sweepstake, a sledding competition that was taking place from 1908 to 1917. In 1910, a Siberian Husky crew reached the third place for the first time, competing with crews traditionally composed of Alaskan Malamute only. After that, sled leaders begun to compose their sleds only with Siberian huskies… and their efficiency didn’t have to be proven anymore as they were always winning the competition.

What makes Siberian huskies unique ?

The appearance of Siberian Huskies may be often misleading. Indeed, many breeds look similar and we can confuse them with Alaskan Huskies. The Siberian Husky is also considered as a “dog-wolf” as he shares many features with his cousin, but it is easy to recognise a true Siberian Husky thanks to some details. 

Firstly, the Siberian Husky has a large fur, which can go from black to white or brown. As the dog sheds his fur twice a year, it is possible to follow him thanks to his lost hair!

Secondly, Siberian huskies are recognisable thanks to some distinctive features:

  • Eyes: they are almond shaped, they can be blue, brown or both colors !
  • Body: the body is slim, well proportioned and has a sporty look
  • Face: He has a round face that gets sharpened to the level of the nose.
Russia - Huskies
Siberian Huskies – Russia

Where to meet Siberian Huskies in Russia ?

Nowadays, it’s very easy to meet Siberian Huskies! We mostly find them in specialized farms (kennels) where they are correctly fed and trained. In these farms, they receive all the care they need, and many visitors are coming to meet them. Such farms are located all around Russia, near main cities, like Moscow or St. Petersburg.

This dog needs to move and to live in large spaces in which he can let off steam. He is not a dog that tolerates confinement and requires at least two hours of activity per day! Sporty by nature, he likes to hike in summer in the wild plains, mountains or forest. 

Because of this, dog-trekking is gaining popularity in Russia. The concept: a dog is strapped to you through a special belt, and you go hiking together. The dog is the guide and leads the way! This is a fantastic experience for dog and nature lovers. If you spend summer in Russia and want to try it, do not hesitate to check our dog-trekking tours in Moscow or St. Petersburg.

Russia - Huskies
Dog-trekking with Siberian Huskies in summer – Russia

Siberian Huskies are mostly famous for surviving to very diverse temperatures. With their thick fur, they are used to run in the snow by very low temperatures (sometimes below – 40° C!), and feel better in winter than during hot summers. Their fur protects them from the cold, which is needed for dog-sledding runs. Although they are very resistant to the snow, mushers are more and more equipping them with booties to protect their paws. In Russia, you may find a lot of farms to practice dogsledding, a must-do when traveling in Russia in winter! You can check our dog-sledding tours in Moscow or St. Petersburg here.

Russia - Huskies
Dog-sledding with Siberian Huskies

So, are Siberian huskies closer to the dog or the wolf ?

Siberian Huskies are definitely not wolves! They are a unique dog breed which shares a true love for human. They have a huge loyalty towards their master. They are very sensitive and perceive their owner feelings. They are very attached to their team and their strength make them the perfect fellow traveller.

If you want to meet Siberian Huskies while traveling in Russia : do not hesitate to contact us!

 

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Top 4: Unusual Things To Do in Saint Petersburg

Are you bored to see tourists everywhere you wanna go? Do you feel like you want to explore areas others haven’t? You can unearth places like that even in Peter! (yeah, that’s another way to call Saint-Petersburg, way more popular in real life than “The Venice of North”) Thanks to this top 4, you’ll bring back home unique pictures and memories, and everybody’s gonna tell you: wow, where have been? where have you seen that?… Now you’re wondering what exactly, I’m gonna tell you.

In Moscow? Check this unusual top 3!

  • Saint Petersburg Secret Roofs

Many people have already seen outstanding videos and pictures on St-Petersburg from its roof. But few had the opportunity to actually go there, and pretend to be one of the Hermitage’s cats. Several locals started “mini-businesses” and let you access the roofs through their stairs. For the view, the feeling of breaking the rules, the adrenaline and for the likes on Instagram, take the stairs and explore another side of this surprising city! But careful when roofs are wet or icy, you wouldn’t let your annoying step-sister fall…

Picture: View from Saint-Petersburg's roofs © Dreamstime
View from Saint-Petersburg’s roofs
  • St-Anne’s Church-Theater (Annenkirche)

Building shared by a lutheran congregation and a liberal theater company, St-Anne’s Church Theater is the doorstep of Peter’s underground. Hidden in a small street, the building had a long history, built as a church it became a theater and a nightclub that burnt in 2002. Restored on popular initiatives it remains a strange and amazing building half-burnt but slowly rising again. There you’ll meet interesting people and will be able to explore the whole building (including the mysterious and very scary undergrounds) by yourself. This place is actually great for photo shoots (especially if you like to pretend that you’re so “out of the tracks”) or if you want to appear as a muzhik by protecting your so… but don’t bring your kids, they’ll have nightmares.

Picture: Gloomy Interior of St. Anne's Lutheran Church (Annenkirche), Saint-Petersburg
Gloomy Interior of St. Anne’s Lutheran Church (Annenkirche), Saint-Petersburg

If you like this kind of original, non-touristic places, try our tour “like a local” of St Petersburg.

  • Loft Project ETAGI

This surprising building in the heart of St Petersburg is a center of cultural life for many artists, hipsters and all curious people. There, you’ll find progressive exhibitions, workshops and original events. For example, you may meet real huskies and play with them while sitting on a swing on the 4th floor of the building. While your new-made Petersburgian friends may enjoy a meal in the food-court in the basement, you might head up to the rooftop and enjoy the rays of sun while sipping mulled-wine or a milkshake. Across the different floors, you’ll probably pop into one of the shops selling all sorts of things from clothes to graffiti equipment, nail bars and green cafes. You’ll even find a container alley and a sock vending machine (yes, yes, a machine that sells socks, some with pikachus, some with unicorns, and many others).

Picture: Main entrance to Loft Proyekt Etazhi © Eva Delaunay
Picture: Main entrance to Loft Proyekt Etazhi
  • «Pushkinskaya-10» Art Center

This is the only non-governmental, self-regulated and independent art center of St Petersburg, and probably even of Russia. In this creative place, you may try yourself at painting by taking drawing classes, or simply discover contemporary art from local and international artists. If you fell like you want to keep concrete memories from this unique place, you may buy paintings or books, and even music! An since St Petersburg underground is a vibrant and fashionable topic, people there will be pleased to inform you about its history.

«Pushkinskaya-10» Art-Center © Eva Delaunay
«Pushkinskaya-10» Art-Center

If you’re really fond of art and prefer to see real Russian art across all ages, then the State Russian museum was made for you.

 

Want to know more about Russia? Read more on our Travel Blog!

Want to book a guided-tour? Check out Tsar Visit!

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To Do in Saint-Petersburg Traveling in Russia

Yusupov Palace

The Yusupov Palace or Moika Palace was the house of the Yusupov family. One of the richest family of Russia at the verge of the Revolution. Its princes were well-known philanthropists and art collector. Preserved and transformed into a museum, it now tells us about the life of the nobility in the Russian Empire.

Dreamstime © - Saint-Pétersbourg - Palais Youssoupov (5)

Build in 1776 by the French architect Jean-Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe, the Yusupov Palace stands on the Moika river in St Petersburg. In 1830 it was acquired by the Yusupov family. This family, well known for its philanthropy and its art collections, transformed it into a splendid residence, a real piece of art. Many different artists contributed to this palace and you can still admire this variety of styles nowadays. The luxury of this place, its art gallery, the charm of its private chambers and even a private theater, will make you travel to the time when emperors and empresses were governing Russia.

Dreamstime © - Saint-Pétersbourg - Palais Youssoupov (4)

This Palace holds a very important place in Russian history. It was one of the finest demonstrations of Russian art and a nest for future talents. But most importantly, it was between these walls that the murder of Grigory Rasputin took place, more precisely in the cave that can be visited nowadays!!!. The murder was organized by a group of monarchists led by Felix Yusupov, the last owner of this palace. The exact way the murder occurred is still obscure, many parts are still unclear. Here is one of the most famous version (and my favorite). After inviting the monk to this palace, the conspirators offered him wine and pastries with enough poison to kill 5 men. Since he didn’t seem to be affected by the poison, they shot him with pistols and beat him, then they wrapped him into a broadcloth and threw him into the Moika river. A doctor that examined the body said Rasputin didn’t die because of the poison, nor the pistols, but out of hypothermia (it happened in December).

Dreamstime © - Saint-Pétersbourg - Palais Youssoupov (6)

The Russian revolution turned it into a museum, one of the most visited of St Petersburg. It also hosts different diplomatic or artistic events. It is probably one of the finest and most beautiful palaces of the Imperial area that you can visit in Saint Petersburg.

Visit this palace with a guide right now! Check out Tsar Visit!

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Top 10: Activities for Children in Russia

Children are nice and cute when they’re not yours (some people say), but they can be real monsters (when not a mortal plague to be honest). As we don’t want to ostracize parents, and help you in raising smart kids, here is a top of things to do in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg. Go for these and you’ll enjoy good quality time with your children away from the cold and the overcrowded antic museums!

Picture: Chair Swing Ride in Moscow
Let’s enjoy attractions for children in Moscow, have a chair swing ride for example!
  • Moskvarium ‒ The Largest Oceanarium in Moscow

This one will entertain you and your kids at least for a day, away from the cold, and keep them smart. The Moskvarium aims at presenting Russian aquatic inhabitants but also species from all over the world. This oceanarium, located in VDNKh in Moscow, is a living encyclopedia of the underwater world which was thought both for children and grown-ups with shows of killer whales, dolphins belugas and walruses. Perfect to entertain your children and let them know more about marine animals… and don’t tell them but you can also swim with dolphins!

Picture: The Moskvarium ‒ the largest and the best oceanarium in Moscow
The Moskvarium ‒ the largest and the best oceanarium in Moscow
  • Ice-Skating at VDNKh (Moscow)

One of the top Russian activities, ice-skating is a traditional, children-friendly and fairly cheap outdoor activity. You’ll surely be ashamed when you’ll realise that even a 4yo kiddo is ice-skating better than you, but don’t let it stop you from expressing your very personal style. In winter there are many ice-skating rinks inside Moscow but the best (and biggest) one is definitely the ice-skating rink of VDNKh! You can also skate at the 354 (divine) but it’s a bit less children-friendly.

Picture: Ice-Skating in Moscow: on the largest ice-rink in Russia & Europe at VDNKh
Ice-Skating in Moscow: on the largest ice-rink in Russia & Europe at VDNKh
  • Izmaylovo Kremlin & Market (Moscow)

Izmaylovo Kremlin is something between Wonderland and a Russian Disneyland. This colorful wooden kremlin is a good way to spend a half-day with your children, you may also want to have a walk in the Izmaylovo forest just nearby. In Izmaylovo Market, you’ll be protected from the wind while discovering the Russian craft & antiques (and also many mainstream souvenirs). Kids are always hungry, and always when it’s not time to eat, but this is not a problem as you’ll find delicious shashliks (meat skewers) and many different Russian meals. Though Izmaylovo Market entrance is free, you’ll face much temptation to treat yourself and your family!

Picture: Izmaylovo Kremlin ‒ The Best Craft & Souvenir Market in Moscow
Izmaylovo Kremlin ‒ The Best Craft & Souvenir Market in Moscow

NB: don’t hesitate to negotiate prices, this is part of the game and an interesting experience for your children!

If you feel like this is not enough to keep your kids busy, think about visiting majestic Moscow’s metro stations on your way to Izmaylovo Kremlin.

  • The Backstages of the Bolshoi Theatre (Moscow)

Tickets for the Bolshoi are expensive and kids can’t cope with opera, ballet or theater for more than 5 minutes (if so, how the hell did you manage to do that?). If you still want to enter this world-known cultural house but can’t handle the embarrassment that would cause your own blood, you have another option! Indeed, it’s possible to visit the Bolshoi backstages and historic scene with a guide. Lucky you! Cherry on the cake you may have the chance to watch some rehearsals.

Picture: The Bolshoi Theater Backstages in Moscow
The Bolshoi Theater Backstages in Moscow
  • Cruises in the Venice of the North and on the Moskva River (Saint-Petersburg & Moscow)

Children have small legs, energy when they should be sleeping, and interest for things they can’t have. Based on that, visiting the city center of a Russian city can become “Mission: Impossible”. Hopefully, there is another way. A way that would blow your kids’ mind and offer you some peace and time to discover Russia. This secret transmitted generations after generations is called cruises. While cruises in Saint-Petersburg’s are very famous for the canals and the Neva River (that’s one of the reasons why it’s also called the Venice of the North), cruises in Moscow are famous for the Moskva River from where you can admire the most beautiful places in the city!

Picture: The Radisson Cruise on the Moskva River ‒ a unique experience in Moscow
The Radisson Cruise on the Moskva River ‒ a unique experience in Moscow
  • Submarine Museum (Moscow & Saint-Petersburg)

In the same way, children can’t cope with museums. Seriously, why? We all try to improve their knowledge and prepare them for the future, but no, they simply don’t care. Anyway, be ready to appear as a super-parent. Bring them to the Submarine Museum in Moscow and they will be amazed, feeling like a real sailor under the USSR.  On the plus side they, and you, will learn a lot on the Russian Navy, submarines and Soviet times! Are you in Saint-Petersburg? Then, the C-189 Submarine Floating Museum is made for you!

Picture: Inside the Submarine Museum in Moscow
Inside the Submarine Museum in Moscow
  • Nikulin Circus (Moscow)

Another Russian tradition, often forgotten, is the circus. Animals, clowns (not the scary American ones), magicians and acrobats are all part of the Russian circus. Of course, children are more than welcomed and everyone will be amazed. But to be sure to enjoy the show, you have to pick the good one, which means Nikulin’s Circus.  

Picture: Nikulin Circus ‒ one of the oldest circuses in Moscow & Russia
Nikulin Circus ‒ one of the oldest circuses in Moscow & Russia
  • The Bunker 42 of Taganka (Moscow)

As for the Submarine Museum, and even if it’s is a real labyrinth, the Bunker 42 of Taganka is a great museum, aka the Cold War Museum. As you’ll stroll down the steps and floors into the depth of the earth, you’ll dive into the Soviet era and learn how the USSR was preparing itself for a nuclear conflict. It’s an exceptional opportunity to observe old objects, movies, documentaries, weapons, bots… that all come from Stalin’s ruling of the Union, and which will please everyone!

Picture: Inside the Bunker 42 on Taganka in Moscow, aka the Cold War Museum
Inside the Bunker 42 on Taganka in Moscow, aka the Cold War Museum
  • Babayevsky Chocolate Factory (Moscow) 

No matter if your child is an Augustus, Violet, Veruca, Mike or a Charlie, you can go and discover the Babayevsky Chocolate Factory, it’s gonna be safer than in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and the most important: tastier. Clearly, kids will be amazed by all the tasty konfety or konfetki produced over there, everyone will love these lil chocolate candies, and also learn about the chocolate-making process. And best of all, you can try Babayevsky konfety at any time during your visit which means your kids will stay calm and you probably won’t have to struggle finding a meal to please them for dinner.

Picture: Babayevsky Chocolate Factory in Moscow ‒ the secrets of the konfetki production
Babayevsky Chocolate Factory in Moscow ‒ the secrets of the konfetki production
  • Sokolniki Park: Sledding Race and Ice-Sculpting (Moscow)

Once a year, always on the Defender of the Fatherland Day, i.e. 23rd February, Moscow organizes a sledding race in Sokolniki Park. But this isn’t just a race. Indeed, what matters the most is the originality of the sledge and the final fall! Each year a new theme is settled for the greatest pleasure of all. Lucky you, it’s often held at the same time than the ice-sculpting competition. Don’t miss these two events, your kids will love them!

Picture: Ice-Sculpting in Sokolniki Park in Moscow
Ice-Sculpting in Sokolniki Park in Moscow

Want to discover more parks where to bring your kids in Moscow & Saint-Petersburg? Check out our Top 10: Natural Capitals!

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Top 10: What to Do in Winter in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg?

It’s no secret, Russia, even in its Western part, can be coldish in winter. Well sometimes so cold that you can’t stay outside for more than 1 hour… which is kinda annoying when your goals are to visit big and stunning cities such as Moscow and Saint-Petersburg. But, hopefully for you, life isn’t stopping in Russia with the cold. Although, more than giving you the impression of walking in a snowy-end-of-the-world American movie, Moscow and Saint-Petersburg can offer you many opportunities to discover, experience and above all enjoy the Russian winter!

Picture: Russian Winter in Snow-Covered Saint-Petersburg
Russian Winter in Snow-Covered Saint-Petersburg
  • Ice-Skating in VDNKh (Moscow)

One of the best Russian way to deal with the cold is to fight it with sport. Wondering how? Well running in streets or parks on 10cm of ice is something that Russians keep the secret of. But you surely can give it a try, fall (maybe) but still enjoy it. Ice-skating is fun, it warms you up and you’ll be with Russians while discovering another side of the city. Why in VDNKh you say? Simply because VDNKh’s ice skating rink is the biggest and most popular of Russia (which is not a small deal). So everything is well organised and above all you have as much place as you want to do your acrobatic and artistic figures on ice!

Picture: The VDNKh Ice-Rink in Moscow ‒ The Largest Ice-Rink in Europe
The VDNKh Ice-Rink in Moscow ‒ The Largest Ice-Rink in Europe

Also, if you want to make the most of VDNKh Park, you may want to visit the Museum of Cosmonautics, located just next the VDNKh metro station, and that would be another great way to get warmer and to discover the great history of Russian space conquest!

  • The Hermitage Museum (Saint-Petersburg)

The State Hermitage Museum is the most important museum in the world, presenting treasures in around 1000 rooms. But the Hermitage, also known as the Winter Palace, was the Tsars’ main residence and represents a crucial aspect of the Russian history. Going there in winter is the best option for two reasons:

  1. First (and for me the most important reason) you’ll visit this pearl away from the crowd, allowing you to take time and pleasure.
  2. Second because, as a sumptuous palace of the Neva, you’ll discover stunning views of wintery Petersburg from every room, giving you the opportunity of visiting the city while staying warm!
Picture: The State Hermitage Museum in Saint-Petersburg ‒ Home to the Largest Collection of Paintings in the World
The Hermitage in Saint-Petersburg ‒ Home to the Largest Collection of Paintings in the World

You could literally spend days in the numerous rooms of this wonderful palace, I remember that my first time in there, I stayed until the closing time to gaze at every single piece of art, rushing through all the rooms to have a glimpse of them… Maybe I would have enjoyed it better if I had taken guided tour of the Hermitage Museum earlier that day to admire the most important masterpieces and learn interesting facts about them, and then continue the visit by myself.

  • Dog-Sledding in the Countryside (Moscow & Saint-Petersburg)

Another great and sporty activity to do in winter is to enjoy a day outside the city center, doing dog-sledding surrounded by the magic Russian nature. Who doesn’t love dogs? You may be more of a cat-person, but I’m sure you have a thing for huskies, we all do, don’t we? Personally, I also have a thing for Russian food, sometimes I wonder if I should treat myself a little less, but you know what? I may not stay here forever, so I want to enjoy every delight I can find in Russia. Take the shashlik or the oladushki for example, the first ones are delicious skewered, marinated and grilled cubes of meat, while the second ones are some mouthwatering small thick pancakes. These are a great treat after a good ride in the snow with the huskies and a good way to get warmer, not only because you’ll be inside or near a fireplace, but because this is one way to discover the Russian soul, the warmer soul you’ll find on Earth in my mind! 

(then go for it, treat yourself, you deserve it too)

Picture: The Huskies ‒ Lovers & Explorers of Russian North
The Huskies ‒ Lovers & Explorers of the Russian North

Wait a second, did I tell you that if you’re in Saint-Petersburg it’s better to enjoy the Husky experience with shashliks? While in Moscow, huskies prefer oladushki!

  • Having a Goûter or Teatime at Café Singer (Saint-Petersburg)

Close your eyes and imagine: you’ve been walking in Petersburg for two hours, you’re freaking cold and wet (because, well, it’s Petersburg) and the only thing that could cheer you up is a good cake and a hot chocolate (let your inner child live). Open your eyes: here it is. In Saint-Petersburg’s heart, in front of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan, stands with its magnificent glass roof the Café Singer. More than a café, this is a true institution that will warm you up thanks to delicious hot drinks and tasty cakes served while admiring the Kazan Cathedral. And once you got warmer, and maybe by the time it got a little bit sunny, you may be up for a guided tour by walk from cathedral to cathedral?

Picture: Singer House in Saint-Petersburg ‒ home both to the House of Books and Café Singer
Singer House in Saint-Petersburg ‒ home both to the House of Books and Café Singer

I think another good way to enjoy Saint-Petersburg on a rainy day, or on any cold day, is to visit its main sights in a private vehicle and listen to the incomparable history of Saint-Petersburg. By the way, do you know the history of Singer House? It was initially designed as a skyscraper for the Singer Sewing Machine Company, yet the building code in Saint Petersburg didn’t allow buildings taller than the Winter Palace, so the architect got round this law to build an elegant six-floor Art Nouveau structure crowned with a glass tower, overtopped by a glass globe sculpture.

  • The Tretyakov Gallery (Moscow)

If we apply the famous “In Rome do as Romans do”, then being in Russia in winter, you’d better go to the museum. Museums are always a good place to be during a fierce winter: it’s warm, big and full of masterpieces. What are you waiting for? In Moscow, you must visit the Tretyakov Gallery, this is surely the best museum in town. In an afternoon, you cross the centuries of Russian and European arts, looking at masterpieces, from icons to sculptures and paintings. It’s definitely a must do that doesn’t require further explanations. (Seriously, you have to go).

Picture: Monument to the merchant Pavel Tretyakov in front of the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow
Monument to the merchant Pavel Tretyakov in front of the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow

Also, if you want to discover more about Moscow without getting cold or soaked to the skin, a good idea is to visit Moscow in a private vehicle, stopping here and there to admire its majestic monuments. On a sunny day you may prefer to have a walk in the city center, though by car you can see more of the city and go further than the city core.

  • Enjoy a Traditional Banya ‒ The Russian Sauna (anywhere in Russia)

Of course Russians aren’t spending their winters only in museums, they’re also, and maybe even more, going to banyas. Midway between the Scandinavian sauna and the Arabic hammam, the Slavic banya is perfect to find warmer temperatures, recover from stressing daily life (or stressing tourists’ imperatives) and stay in good health. Start with one of Moscow or Saint-Petersburg’s baths and dive into a new Russian traditional art and experience!

Picture: Inside the banya: fresh veniks, a felt hat, and a wooden bucket to add water on the wood stove and have a real steam bath!
Inside the banya: fresh veniks, a felt hat, and a wooden bucket to add water on the wood stove and have a real steam bath!

If you don’t know how to enjoy a proper banya, Tsar Visit masters this for you, have a look, here we propose a 2-in-1 experience with Russian banya and the visit of the Trinity Lavra of Saint Sergius in Sergiyev Posad.

  • Izmaylovo Kremlin (Moscow)

You’re probably wondering why I advise you to visit Izmaylovo Kremlin in the heart of winter? Indeed, why going to a place where there is wind, snow and where you can’t walk fast to warm you up? Because the Izmaylovo Kremlin, aka “Moscow’s Disneyland”, is a great place to buy furs, Russian winter clothes, souvenirs and to eat shashliks! (No, I’m not obsessed with food…)

Picture: The Izmaylovo Market in Moscow ‒ a cultural and entertainment complex in a reconstructed Russian-style wooden Kremlin
The Izmaylovo Market in Moscow ‒ a cultural and entertainment complex in a reconstructed Russian-style wooden Kremlin

If you’ve got some spare time, I would highly recommend you to visit the palatial Moscow metro stations before heading to Izmaylovo Market.

  • Have a Walk and a Hot Chocolate in Gorky Park (Moscow)

In winter, Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure may be a bit empty (except around the ice skating rink and when there is a public holiday) but this uphold all its beauty. The snow gives Gorky Park a new face, and add some mystery to the green heart of Moscow. Plus, while walking in Gorky Park you’ll enjoy stunning views on the frozen Moskva River, always impressive and beautifully dangerous. Happily, Gorky Park hosts the Garage Museum of Contemporary Arts, and several delicious restaurants and cafés. My advice would definitely be to sit in one of these and drink a hot chocolate! (Ok, maybe slightly obsessed with food…)

Picture: View on Andreyevsky Bridge in Moscow, relying Gorky Park to Luzhniki, across the frozen Moskva River
View on Andreyevsky Bridge in Moscow, relying Gorky Park to Luzhniki, across the frozen Moskva River

And to enjoy fully your walk and learn some cultural facts, I think it’s worth visiting Gorky Park with Leo, a French expat in Moscow!

  • Embark on the Radisson Yacht for a Cruise on the Moskva River (Moscow)

Going on a cruise in winter is quite surprising. Especially when we know that the Moskva River turns into a big ice skating rink. But thankfully, the Radisson cruises are running all year round by using ice-breaker-cruise-boats (what great century to live in) keeping you warm behind super-clean glasses. You’ll be able to discover Moscow under the snow by boat, while drinking a glass of wine and being seated in comfortable sofas!

Picture: The Radisson Cruise on the Moskva River
The Radisson Cruise on the Moskva River

And there’s so much to see from the Radisson Royal Flotilla Yacht, it may be a good idea to have a guide to accompany you on your cruise on the Moskva River.

  • Take a Dip in Icy Water for Kreshenye (anywhere in Russia)

This one is for the tough ones. For women, men, children that have the inner strength of dealing with fears and primitive instincts. Happening the night between the 18th and the 19th of January, Kreshenye is a traditional celebration during which people immerse themselves 3 times under water to honor the Holy Trinity. This Orthodox tradition, known as the Great Blessing of the Waters, celebrates Epiphany and marks the baptism of Jesus. Securised and well-organised, you’ll gather with Russians from all ages and backgrounds to dive, one by one, in the iced water. Having celebrated it, I can tell you that this is wonderful. Not only because you’re being part of the Russian society, but also because you find that fear is the only obstacle to achieve this. Trust me, take a dive and you’ll be another person, what’s more you won’t be ill for the whole winter!

Picture: People diving in a ice hole for Kreshenye, also known as the rite of the Great Blessing of the Waters
People diving in a ice hole for Kreshenye, also known as the rite of the Great Blessing of the Waters

Have you missed the Epiphany this year? No worries, you still can wash away your sins and have the experience of a spiritual rebirth by diving in a hole in the ice, and get warm in the banya again!

Want to know more about Russia? Read more on our Tsar Visit Travel Blog!