Ultimate Russia Experience (10 days)

On this 10-day trip, experience VIP tours and services as we take you to unique sites in Moscow and St. Petersburg. You will be deeply immersed in the country’s culture and history, with backstage access at world famous theaters, and access to some of Russia’s most exclusive exhibits and buildings. This is a trip you will not want to miss!

Daily Itinerary

Day 1

Details for Today

Arrive: Moscow, Russia

Accommodation: Four Seasons Moscow

Welcome to Russia!

Special V.I.P. arrival services have been arranged for you. They will take you to the V.I.P. Lounge, where your passport control, customs and luggage will be handled for you.  Your private international guide or driver will be waiting for you in the V.I.P. arrival area to bring you to your hotel. The rest of the day is at your leisure!

Day 2

Details for Today

Moscow:

  • Guided Tour of the renowned Tretyakov Gallery and Tretyakov Chapel
  • Visit Christ the Holy Redeemer Cathedral
  • Experience a 360 degree view of Moscow with a private tour of Christ the Holy Redeemer Cathedral Dome
  • Walk through Novodevichy Convent’s Cemetery
  • Rare Backstage Tour of the Bolshoi Theatre

Accommodation: Four Seasons Moscow

Meals: B

This morning your guide will meet you in the lobby of your hotel for your visit to the vast Tretyakov Gallery. The Tretyakov is located in one of Moscow’s most interesting neighborhoods. This area, called Zamoskvoreche (“beyond the Moscow River”) was originally settled in the 13th century.  The small winding streets give this area an almost old-fashioned atmosphere, with historic churches and the mansions of 19th century wealthy merchants. The Tretyakov Gallery is situated in the former home of Pavel Tretyakov. Your guide will take you through the museum, which houses only Russian artists, from Andrei Rublev’s icons to famous 20th Century Russian painters.  Here you can see a timeline progression of Russian icons starting from the 16th century through to the 20th century.  Each century of icons is arranged in separate halls to convey a clear insight into the development of Russian Icon painting.

After your tour of the gallery, visit the adjoining private chapel of the Tretyakov family, the Church of St. Nicholas. This small, intimate chapel is where the entire family of the wealthy Russian merchants and art collectors would attend private services. Here, you will have the chance to see Russia’s most venerated icon, The Theotokos of Vladimir.  This icon was a gift of the patriarch of Constantinople to the Grand Prince of Russia in 1132. Next you will visit the grand Christ the Holy Redeemer Cathedral, which towers over historic Moscow.  The cathedral was demolished under Stalin’s reign for a planned Lenin skyscraper, but eventually became an enormous outdoor swimming pool after construction failed repeatedly.  After the fall of Communism, it was decided to reconstruct the cathedral and so Christ the Holy Redeemer was completely rebuilt by Mayor Luzhkov of Moscow in 2001, at a budget of over 350 million dollars! It is a beautiful cathedral and it now stands as it did at the turn of the 20th Century.  Of particular note are the stunning frescoes that fill the interiors.

After touring the cathedral, a very special guide from the cathedral will join you for a private visit to the dome of the church.  After ascending to the top via elevator, you will have the opportunity to view the city of Moscow at 360 degrees, from all four sides of the dome.  Standing at 300 feet above the city, the dome provides a fantastic view of the city’s most significant sites including the Kremlin, St. Basil’s, Pushkin Museum, and the Moskva River. Turn a corner and you are awarded with views of several of the Seven Sisters buildings.  You may even witness the ringing of the bells in the bell towers just above your head!  It’s the ultimate Moscow city tour from the top of the highest peak of central Moscow.

Later you will visit Novodevichy Convent’s fascinating cemetery, located adjacent to the convent.  It houses the graves of many famous Russians, from cultural figures to political and military dignitaries. Each tombstone is wrought with symbolism and makes for a very interesting and worthwhile visit. You will also be invited backstage for an exclusive and rare tour of the Historic Stage of the Bolshoi Theatre that has just recently been reopened in October 2011 after 6 years of renovations.

 

Day 3

Details for Today

Moscow:

  • Explore the vast Kremlin grounds
  • Stop by the Armory Museum
  • Special tour of the Diamond Vaults, one of the largest collections of diamonds and gem stones in the world
  • Stroll through Red Square
  • Visit St. Basil’s Cathedral

 Accommodation: Four Seasons Moscow

Meals: B

Today, your guide will take you into the Kremlin and through its expansive grounds. Here you will see the largest bell in the world –as well as the largest cannon. Neither was ever used due to their enormous size! Your guide will also take you through some very important churches, located on the grounds of the Kremlin. We suggest you don’t miss the Assumption Cathedral, where all Russian tsars were crowned. Later, your guide will take you to the famed Armory Museum, including its vast collection of Imperial Russian artwork. You will have the opportunity to see the Kremlin’s unique and intimate collection of Imperial Faberge Easter Eggs. Also in the Armory are many of the most important Imperial thrones and crowns, including the most historic, Cap of Monomachus. Special arrangements will be made to take you into the Diamond Vaults inside the Kremlin. You will see Catherine the Great’s scepter with its famous Orlov Diamond and one of the largest collections of diamonds and gem stones in the world!

Next, your guide will take you on a stroll through Red Square. Be sure not to miss the newly rebuilt church and Imperial Gates at the south end of Red Square –they were both destroyed under Stalin and only recently have been rebuilt in their original splendor. Your guide will also show you the stunning St. Basil’s Cathedral. This magnificent church-museum was commissioned by Ivan the Terrible and was completed in 1561.  Rumor has it that Ivan had the architect blinded so he would never be able to design anything as exquisite again! The cathedral is at its most awesome when viewed from the outside and your guide will be happy to explain its history and the significance of each of the domes, each of which contains a separate chapel.

Later today you will have the opportunity to experience the fascinating interiors of the Moscow Metro stations, ornately decorated with beautiful paintings, carvings and chandeliers! The Moscow Metro was created as complex of monumental structures featuring designs of the very best Soviet architects.The stations, most built between 1930 and 1960, are underground palaces, featuring exquisite frescoes, statues, mosaics and stained glass.

Day 4

Details for Today

Moscow: 

  • VIP Tour of the Grand Kremlin Palace
  • Experience the New Tretyakov Gallery
  • Visit the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture

Accommodation: Four Seasons Moscow

Meals: B

Today, you will return to the Kremlin as VIP guests! We will be among the few ever allowed into the Grand Kremlin Palace to see the Grand Kremlin Palace proper, the Faceted Chamber, and the Terem. The ancient Terem was home to the very earliest tsars, and was the official residence of the Romanovs. The Faceted Chamber, the oldest building in the complex, was constructed in the fifteenth century by the order of Ivan the Terrible. Today, these palaces have been completely renovated at the cost of over $300 million dollars in the 1990’s and are now used by the Russian President for entertaining and hosting State visits and meetings. Some of the rooms, including the Romanov’s Throne Hall and St. Alexander’s Room are unique in the world. Please note that special permission and security clearance is required for this visit. Your passport details have been sent to Kremlin authorities and your passport will be required to enter the palace.

Afterward your guide will take you to the New Tretyakov Gallery, an annex of the Tretyakov Gallery. This huge museum is dedicated to Russian art from the early 1900’s to the present. You will find that most paintings are of the Socialist Realism movement. You may also want to visit the Modernist paintings, which include pictures by many previously outlawed artists. Outside the museum, be sure to walk through the Graveyard of Fallen Monuments –a collection of some of the sculptures removed from Moscow after the fall of the Soviet era. Located in a small garden next to the New Tretyakov Museum, you may visit the Graveyard of Fallen Monuments –a collection of some of the sculptures removed from Moscow after the fall of the Soviet era.

Next, you will visit Garage Center for Contemporary Culture. Located in Gorky Park, it is a major non-profit international arts space dedicated to exploring and developing contemporary culture. Garage features exhibitions by international and Russian artists and serves as a catalyst and meeting point for Moscow’s emerging arts scene

Day 5

Details for Today

Moscow:

  • Day Leisure

Transfer: From Moscow to St. Petersburg

Accommodation: Astoria

Meals: B

This morning is at leisure. Later today you will be transferred to the station to take the high-speed Sapsan train to St. Petersburg. Upon arrival in St. Petersburg, your driver and private guide will meet you on the station platform for your transfer to your hotel.

Day 6

Details for Today

St. Petersburg: 

  • Explore Pavlovsk Palace
  • Visit Catherine’s Palace
  • Exclusive tour of the world- famous Amber Room

Accommodation: Astoria

Meals: B, L

Today your driver and guide will take you out into the Russian countryside to see the city’s most elegant and beautiful palaces –Pavlovsk Palace, Catherine Palace and its fabled Amber Room. Your first stop will be Pavlovsk Palace, built by Paul I and his wife Maria.  This is the understated summer palace of the tsars. Started by Catherine the Great’s favorite architect, Cameron (a Scot), the palace was later finished by Paul’s and his wife Maria’s preferred architect, Andrei Voronykhin-a Russian serf who later became one of the greatest architects ever to work in Russia.

You may wish to have lunch today in the village of Pavlovsk at the restaurant, Podvorye. This charming restaurant is made of wood and features lively folk entertainment at lunch. Next you will see the Catherine’s palace. This palace was originally designed in the 1750s in the Rococo style by the famous architect Rastrelli for the Tsarina (Princess) Elizabeth, who named it after her mother Catherine I –Peter the Great’s second wife. Later, Catherine II (the Great) commissioned the Scottish architect Charles Cameron to re-design the palace’s interiors in the then-fashionable Neo-Classical style.  After Catherine the Great’s death, the palace remained largely unchanged for over a century until the Second World War when the Nazi army, retreating after the unsuccessful siege of Leningrad, destroyed the palace almost completely.  After the war, the magnificent palace and its interiors were thoroughly and painstakingly rebuilt, but renovations at some parts still continue. While visiting Catherine Palace, you will be invited into the Amber Room workshops where craftsmen rebuilt the famous amber panels lost in World War II.

Day 7

Details for Today

St. Petersburg:

  • Tour Peter and Paul Fortress
  • Visit St. Isaac’s Cathedral
  • Explore Nevsky Prospect
  • VIP, after hours, tour of the Hermitage

Accommodation: Astoria

Meals: B

Today you will visit the Peter and Paul Fortress: the birthplace of St. Petersburg. After walking through the many gates and across the bridges and moats, you will begin to feel the late 18th century era that required such fortification. As Peter’s original outpost against the Swedes, St. Petersburg was born from this fortress and its historical significance is felt to this day by the presence of every Romanov tomb from Peter the Great. Later your guide will take you into the stately St. Isaac’s Cathedral. Its malachite and lapis lazuli columns are not to be missed! St. Isaac’s was built between 1818 and 1858, by the French-born architect Auguste Montferrand, to be one of the most impressive landmarks of the Russian Imperial capital.  During World War II, the golden dome was painted gray to avoid its being targeted by Nazi fire.  For those with strong legs, you can climb to the top of the cathedral’s dome for the finest views over St. Petersburg’s historic neighborhood.

Afterward, enjoy a walk along the famous Nevsky Prospect –St. Petersburg’s main thoroughfare. The 3 mile-long Nevsky prospect was laid out in 1710, making it one of the city’s first streets connecting different bends of the Neva River. St. Petersburg’s most famed street starts at the foot of the Admiralty building and runs all the way to the Alexander Nevsky Lavra. Some of the main sights lining the Nevsky Prospekt include the Stroganoff Palace, the huge neoclassical Kazan Cathedral, the Art Nouveau Book House (Dom Knigi), some 18th- century churches, a monument to Catherine the Great, the Russian National Library, and the Anichkov Bridge with its horse statues. Your guide will be happy to provide information on any of the buildings you are interested in along the way.

This afternoon your visit to the Hermitage will start with the General Staff Building, the Eastern Wing of which is now a part of the Hermitage. Designed by Carlo Rossi, one of the central architects that conceived St Petersburg, the General staff building was the headquarters of the army in Imperial times. At just under 2,000 feet it is the longest building in Europe. The triumphal arch in the centre is topped by a spectacular statue of a chariot of Glory to commemorate the victory of Russia over Napoleon in 1812.During your Hermitage visit, you will be met by one of the Hermitage’s top curators for a personal tour of the collection. This is a VIP art experience of a lifetime.

Later, you will have a private late entrance to the Hermitage after it closes at with a special winding of the Peacock clock. Today’s visit to the Hermitage Museum will take you to another world; a time when Catherine the Great commissioned whole buildings to house an ever growing collection of the world’s finest art. The former Winter Palace now spans just about every artistic period from Greek and Roman collections to Matisse.  This museum holds the largest collection of art in the world.  Your guide will escort you through the entire museum, from its collection of Rubens to its da Vincis and beyond!  Be sure not to miss the recently unveiled collection of French Impressionists that was thought lost after WWII.

Day 8

Details for Today

St. Petersburg: 

  • Explore the famous Dostoyevsky’s Apartment
  • See the Fabergé Museum’s beautiful collections
  • Exclusive Backstage Tour of the Mariinsky Theatre

Accommodation: Astoria

Meals: B

Today your guide will take you to Dostoyevsky’s apartment, which is also now a museum. This museum almost feels as though Dostoyevsky just stepped out for a few minutes and will soon return! Nearby is the Haymarket that Dostoyevsky wrote about in several of his novels.

Later today you will visit St. Petersburg’s first Fabergé Museum, a must see, that has opened at the Shuvalov Palace on the Fontanka Canal, close to the Imperial Anichkov Palace and just a short block from Nevsky Prospect. The palace houses the celebrated Fabergé collection of the Link of Times Foundation owned by Russian Entrepreneur Viktor Vekselberg, which, with it’s over 1500 choice pieces, now easily outranks the comparatively small collection of the Kremlin Armory Museum. Mr. Vekselberg has assembled the most formidable collection in the world of works by this great, Russian master craftsman, best known for his celebrated million dollar Imperial Easter Eggs. “Egg-less” St. Petersburg, deprived in 1917 of the Imperial family’s extensive Fabergé collections, has come back into its own, making pilgrimages to Moscow for Fabergé fans no longer quite as indispensable.

You will also be invited backstage for an exclusive and rare tour of the historic Mariinsky Theater. Starting from the Tsar’s Box, you will explore the sets, costumes and technology of the theater. You may also see firsthand the backstage preparations for an upcoming performance.  This tour is by appointment only and cannot be moved to another time or day. All theater visits are based on the approval of Maestro Gergiev.

Day 9

Details for Today

St. Petersburg:

  • Tour the Russian Museum
  • Visit the historic Church on Spilled Blood
  • Rare tour of the Russian Ballet School

Accommodation: Astoria

Meals: B

Today, your guide will take you to see one of the largest collections of purely Russian art at the Russian Museum (the former palace of Grand Duke Michael). We suggest you start at the ancient Russian icons (including a tremendous collection of Rublevs) and end with some of the most famous 20th Century Russians-including Kandinsky. One of the most note-worthy is the rarely-seen Repin collection. This includes Imperial portraits that were hidden during the Communist period. Repin paintings have the feel of French Impressionists, but are uniquely Russian.

Afterward, you will see the ornate Church on Spilled Blood on Canal Griboyedova. The Church on Spilled Blood is so named because it stands on the spot where the Emperor Alexander II was assassinated on March 1, 1881. Its unique design was actually inspired by St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. This is the only church in the world covered completely inside and out by mosaics of tiles and precious and semi-precious stones. This is one of the most extraordinary buildings in St. Petersburg and is well worth the visit. During the Bolshevik revolution the church fell into a state of decline, and only recently has it been fully restored to its former glory.

Later you will be among the few ever invited into the Russian Ballet School (originally the Imperial Ballet School of the tsars and under the Soviets, the Vaganova School). This was the original dance school of Baryshnikov, Rudolf Nuriev, Nijinsky, Pavlova, Karsavina, as well as George Balanchine, Galina Ulanova, Natalia Makarova, Mikhail Baryshnikov and many other famous Russian dancers! Here you will visit the ballet museum and if available, sit in for a few minutes on a rehearsal or class in session. You may even be greeted by some of the young dancers and their instructors!

Day 10

Details for Today

Depart: Russia

Meals: B

Today, you will be met in your hotel lobby and transferred to the airport to catch your flight home.

Accommodation

Four Seasons Moscow

Overlooking Red Square and the Kremlin, the Four Seasons Moscow features Stalin era architecture and design & 21st century comforts with intuitive Four Seasons service. Four Seasons Moscow offers 180 spacious and comfortable guest rooms and suites, with many featuring one-of-a kind room layouts, inspired by the unique design of this historic building. There are nearly 40 room variations, starting at a spacious 431 square feet. Four Seasons Moscow décor includes elements of the 1930s Russian constructivist design of the original Hotel Moskva –in spaces that are bright, airy and contemporary.  Modern bathrooms feature large panels of richly grained marble.  Details include a double vanity, private water closet, separate shower and deep soaking bathtub.

 


Astoria

Commissioned in 1910, the hotel was conceived as a celebration of the tercentenary of the Romanov dynasty and opened in December 1912. Built by one of St Petersburg’s most famous architects, Fyodor Lidval, who had his own style that some have termed ‘Northern Modern’ and is almost Art Nouveau. Today the Astoria still plays host to celebrities and politicians, and the 172 rooms and suites have virtually all been renovated in the last 12 months as part of the hotel’s 100th anniversary celebrations which also of course coincide with the 400th Anniversary of the Romanov dynasty in 2013. The décor is light and airy and gives a sense of place that is more Chekhov’s Russia than opulent Oligarch, with oak parquet floors and pristine Russian Volga linen curtains and bedspreads.

Ultimate Russia Experience (10 days)