Don your finest faux furs, wrap up warm and head for Russia’s imperial cities this winter. From its illustrious Tsarist palaces and opulent museums to its enchanting Christmas spirit, there’s no finer time to visit this mesmerising country. Here are just some of the best reasons to visit Russia in winter.
It’s a real winter wonderland
Consider sprinklings of glistening snow carpeting the colourful domes of grandiose cathedrals and sprawling parks; in winter, Russia’s palatial buildings look as though they’re sitting atop a wedding cake. In St Petersburg, the River Neva freezes over – at times, fully – transforming into an icy causeway allowing you to walk from the Hermitage Museum to the St Peter and Paul Fortress.
Al fresco ice-skating
The scene of military parades, historical political rallies and even sprawling markets, in winter, in Moscow’s majestic Red Square turns into an outdoor ice rink. It’s a vast rink spanning 3,000 square metres. Even bigger, however, is the record breaking VDNH rink, located at Moscow’s Mira Avenue. With a capacity of 4,500, it’s the country’s largest outdoor ice rink.
Culture comes alive
For culture vultures, winter is the time to visit Russia. It’s between November and March that theatres launch their new programme of events. Indulge in some world-class opera or ballet at St Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre, where you could catch a performance of classics like Swan Lake or the Nutcracker. In Moscow, visit the famous, recently renovated Bolshoi Theatre. At this impressive venue, you can witness iconic shows such as La Traviata and Giselle.
Christmas is celebrated in January in Russia, so you’ll find enchanting Christmas markets well into the New Year as well as in December. Fragrant mulled wine fills the air and twinkling stalls sell decorations, sweets and handcrafted toys. In Moscow, head to Red Square for the city’s main Christmas market, where you’ll find colourful wooden cabins selling all manner of treats alongside traditional fairground rides. In St Petersburg, there’s an abundance of Christmas markets, though the one on Pioneer Square is the most celebrated.
Take sanctuary indoors
After a brisk, outdoor excursion, warm up indoors. Take in the gorgeous murals and frescoes of palaces and churches like St Basil’s and St Isaac’s Cathedrals, and jaw-dropping art at the legendary Hermitage Museum. A piping hot bowl of delicious borsch (a rich beetroot soup), or pelmeni (dumplings) is the perfect warming meal, while another surefire way to banish the cold is at a Russian banya: a type of bathhouse including a sauna and steam room. An integral part of Russian culture, a trip to the banya is as social as it is restorative.
If you’re inspired to visit Russia in winter, our Festive St Petersburg and Moscow trip will whisk you away to a real life winter wonderland. Where’s your favourite place to visit at winter? Comment below!