Russia Plus (Start Helsinki)
Check-in to your hotel and meet up with your fellow travellers and Tour Manager. A blend of Finnish and Russian influences, Helsinki is a 21st century city with a lot of quirky aspects. Your Tour Manager will take you to check out Temppeliaukio, a church cut out of solid rock, and to see the famous Sibelius Monument, a gravity-defying sculpture made out of 600 steel pipes. Round off your Helsinki introduction with a drive past the Olympic Stadium and the historical heart of Senate square. Helsinki is all about location, so with free time on your hands, head harbour side to soak up the great views and mingle with the locals at South Harbour Market. Rummage through stalls selling flowers and local foods, handicrafts, fresh fish and tasty baked goods. You could visit Suomenlinna, the fantastic and impressive sea fortress where Swedes and Russians once fought.
Helsinki to St. Petersburg
Leaving Helsinki today, the coach travels through pine forests and Finland’s vast wilderness, before crossing over the border into Russia, the world’s biggest country. Get ready for arrival at the imperial city of St. Petersburg, sitting right at the crossroads of Europe and Russia. Built by Italians, dreamt up by Peter the Great, St. Petersburg has been the home town to many original thinkers. With its fantastic cultural heritage, Venice-like canals, wide avenues and phenomenal buildings, this grand city will give you goose bumps.
Get a feel for the city’s UNESCO World Heritage centre and a look into Peter the Great’s imagination as our Local Guide uncovers many of St. Petersburg’s best-known sites. You’ll see the Admiralty and the stunning Church on the Spilled Blood, where Alexander II was killed Make a visit to Petrodvorets, Peter the Great’s summer palace. This place is breathtaking! Explore the spectacularly manicured grounds, cottages, fountains and palace. Choose to visit St. Peter and St. Paul Fortress in our fascinating optional, where the remains of many Tsars are held. The group takes a once in a lifetime opportunity to visit one of the world’s top art collections at the Hermitage gallery. The Hermitage itself is a gorgeous palace and was once home to Tsar Royalty. It makes a scene-stealing backdrop for the priceless works inside, which are the remains of Catherine the Great’s personal collection. There’s free time to walk along St. Petersburg’s main street, Nevsky Prospekt. There’s a bit of everything along this street: palaces, lavish shops, museums, churches and buildings from many different eras. Take off down Nevsky Prospekt for a slice of glitzy new Russia and see how the country is shaking off its past with style. Take advantage of an optional cruise on the Neva River and get another angle on the city from the water. There’s also a chance to get up close to St. Petersburg’s traditional art and romance in an evening excursion to the Russian ballet, where world-class dancers perform classics such as Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. Otherwise liven things up with your new friends and head to a bar or club to try out Russia’s national drink, vodka.
St. Petersburg to Novgorod
There’s a definite change of pace as we enter the peaceful, shady streets of Novgorod, an ancient fortress city. Filled with old churches and a Kremlin of its own, this lovely town once suffered terribly at both the hands of Ivan the Terrible and, more recently, the Nazis. Head into central Novgorod with the group and get an insider’s look into the old town, where Russian history is captured in a nutshell - or actually in a bell! The landmark Millennium Bell is a 300 tonne sculpture covered in 127 figures – all of them key players in Russia’s history which our Novgorod Local Guide brings to life with stories.
Novgorod to Moscow
En route to Moscow we make a stop in Klin, the former home of famous Russian composer Tchaikovsky, and see where the creator of Swan Lake and The Nutcracker worked. Later today, we arrive in Moscow, Russia’s economic powerhouse, political point of power and cultural core. As the country’s historical heart, this massive metropolis mixes up extravagance from the time of Tsar Royalty, relics from the Cold War and a new, progressive Russia. Moscow is a popular destination for travellers, its rich historical past makes it the perfect place to explore & get a serious learning fix on days gone by.
With two full days, there’s plenty of time to uncover Moscow. Chalk up a truly local experience with a ride on one of the planet’s busiest subway systems. The Metro is packed with art that was installed under Stalin, meaning that Moscow’s Metro stations double as fascinating historical art galleries. You can learn more about them in an included tour and get an insider’s look at the art with our expert Local Guide. Discover the city’s centre with our Local Guide, who’ll give you the background on the famous Red Square, St. Basil’s Cathedral with its iconic onion-shaped domes, and on Lenin’s Mausoleum, where the former leader of the Russian Revolution still lies, preserved in wax. Learn how Russia only came out from behind the Iron Curtain in 1991, and is still opening up. Walk through Russia’s political heart with a visit to the Kremlin, whose construction marked the birth of Moscow. Your Local Guide will reveal the inner workings of the Kremlin as the group explores the grounds of this stunning fortified complex, made up of cathedrals, palaces and treasures. The former home of grand princes as well as to Stalin and Gorbachev, the Kremlin is now the current Russian president’s place of residence. Learn more about it and see treasures up close by joining our fascinating optional through the Kremlin Armoury with our expert Local Guide. In your free time, get a feel for the old Communist regime by heading to the Garden Ring, where grey blocks, former ministry buildings and somber skyscrapers built by Stalin line the roads. For a taste of the Cold War and propaganda, head to the Central Museum of Armed Forces in an optional excursion with the group Otherwise, make the most of a beautiful shopping experience at GUM, once the favourite shopping mall for Soviet leaders and now a favourite spot for Russia’s elite. There are 150 shops to explore in this elegant turn-of-the-century building, selling anything from designer labels to local products and great souvenirs. If you’re after a market experience, head to the Izmailovo Market, where a massive choice of matryoshkas (Russian dolls), rugs, Soviet posters and local crafts are up for grabs. It’s a great spot to practice your bargaining skills! Food-wise, Moscow mixes it up. You could try out blinis (pancakes) or borshch (beetroot soup) at a street stand, caviar in a gourmet store, or grilled meats in one of the city’s many cafes. While you’re here, get a taste of local culture at the historic and world-famous Moscow Circus. Be amazed by highly-skilled artists, performers and clowns on this fun night out.
Moscow to Minsk
We pass by Borodino, where the bloodiest single day of battle took place during the Napoleon led invasion of Russia. Later, pull into the capital of Belarus, Minsk. Torn to the ground in World War II and then rebuilt by Stalin, Minsk became the model Communist city of the Soviet era with its wide avenues, monumental buildings and vast squares. You’ll get a good look into its grand style on our city tour. Check out the Leninsky Prospekt and Victory Square as you get the background on Minsk from our Local Guide.
Minsk to Warsaw
Start the day with a visit to the 19th century Brest Fortress, a stronghold of Russian resistance during the German invasion of Russia in World War II. Back on the coach, journey on to budding Warsaw. See how Poland’s capital started up again from scratch after World War II and see how it’s now looking to the future. Get a feel for the city’s buzzing café scene, relax with a drink, order some perogies (Polish dumplings) and soak up the vibes of this energetic city.
Go back in time as our Local Guide gives you a crash-course in Warsaw’s troubled history. You’ll see Warsaw’s Ghetto, Chopin’s park, as well as the old town. Hear how this town has been all about survival, being literally reduced to rubble, and how Warsaw then picked up the pieces, using these ruins to rebuild the city. Check out St. John’s Cathedral and the Royal Palace, which was blown-up during World War II. Free time means a chance to discover Warsaw’s modern, festive side. Relax in Lazienki Park, a favourite haunt with the locals, or dip into the city’s many museums, galleries and theatres. Get some hints on what to explore from your Tour Manager. Tonight, make your last night on tour one to remember and join the group for a final night dinner. Then hit Warsaw’s thriving nightlife. The choice of clubs, live music and bars here is mind-blowing, so be ready for a fun night out!
The tour ends after breakfast in Warsaw and it’s time to say farewell to your new friends. Otherwise catch a free transfer back to Berlin where your tour ends upon arrival.