Russia tops the ‘must-visit’ list of many holiday makers. It’s not surprising when you consider how vast and mysterious the country appears to those from the outside. Russia is steeped in history, tradition and boasts a thriving cultural scene. It can be a somewhat daunting idea to visit Russia as it can seem very different to the more traditional holiday destinations. ‘European Russia’ denotes the West of the country, obviously as it’s closest to Europe, and most visitors will head to European Russia’s famous cities of Moscow and St Petersburg.  So here’s a tiny guide to this huge country.

Moscow

Culture

For a country with such a long history, it’s no surprise that Russia has a very strong sense of culture. When we think of the country, we think of art, ballet and theatre and a visit to Moscow or St Petersburg is sure to impress any culture vulture. There’s the beautiful Bolshoi ballet company which still performs such classics as the Nutcracker and Swan Lake on a daily basis. For fine art, there are no better destinations than the Hermitage gallery which boasts one of the largest national collections anywhere on the planet. And the National Theatre in Moscow is one of the world’s most famous theatres which have calendars full of famous shows by Russian playwrights such as Chekhov.

Food

For a lot of Westerners, Russian food is somewhat of an oddity and in a lot of cases an acquired taste. There are typically Russian dishes such as blinis, borsch and stroganoff which are sure to tempt the gastronomically inclined. The range of Russian seafood and fish is famous too with dishes like caviar and pike on the menu in restaurants throughout the country. Food in Russia can range from the amazingly cheap, homemade-style meals to the extravagant gastronomy of Moscow’s top restaurants.

Landmarks

Russia’s history has not only been world-changing but it’s changed the skyline of its two major cities too. The most famous of these sites is the Kremlin which houses the Duma which is the parliament of the Russian government. The Winter Palace in St Petersburg was home of Catherine the Great and visitors can tour this grand palace which used to house a room made entirely of gold- poker blog– but it was somehow stolen! Just outside of St Petersburg one can visit the Piskaryovska Cemetery which pays tribute to the six hundred thousand inhabitants of Stalingrad who perished in the great siege. This profound monument to Russian history is a sobering but compelling site which is a must see on your trip.

The Winter Palace

Alexandor Shishov is a great lover of holidaying in Russia and thinks it is a much under-rated destination.