Moscow and St Petersburg couldn't be more different. Modern Moscow is buzzing, cosmopolitan and assured, while genteel St Petersburg has a more refined air. Connected by the high speed Sapsan train, both cities are a delight to explore and make for a fascinating and varied trip.
This morning, board your direct flight for the four-hour flight to the Russian capital, Moscow.
On arrival this afternoon one of our team will be waiting to drive you to your city centre hotel. Check in and once you're settled, enjoy a relaxed dinner in this cosmopolitan city at a restaurant recommended in our detailed destination Dossier.
With the services of an English-speaking guide and driver at your disposal, begin in Red Square, in front of the most iconic of Moscow's famous landmarks: St Basil's Cathedral. Built in the 16th century, its colourful domes make this a prime Insta-spot.
Nearby, check out the waxy corpse of Lenin in his final resting place and the now well-stocked GUM department store. Next, explore the Kremlin with its courtyard cathedrals and presidential quarters before stepping into the Armoury Chamber, home to a wonderful collection of Tsarist treasures. Next, you'll visit the UNESCO-listed, Baroque-style New Maiden Convent. The likes of Chekhov, Shostakovich, Khrushchev and Yeltsin are interred there. Your last stop will be at Sparrow Hills, for a view of Moscow laid out before you.
Today, you'll enjoy another full day tour of the Russian capital. First stop will be the Tretyakov Gallery. Moscow's answer to the Hermitage, it is home to a vast collection of fine art. It takes its name from the wealthy merchant who founded the gallery.
Later, visit the Moscow metro. No ordinary transit system, the stations on this network are adorned with beautiful mosaics, glittering chandeliers, bronze sculptures and stained glass panels. End the day with a stroll along pedestrianised Arbat Street, one of Moscow's oldest.
The introduction of the high speed Sapsan train revolutionised journeys between Russia's current capital and its predecessor.
Named after the fastest bird in the world, the peregrine falcon, the train has a top speed of around 155mph. Incidentally, the bird reaches 200mph in its fastest dives! In around four hours, you'll travel north to elegant St Petersburg, the most European of all Russia's cities. The city's many waterways explain the nickname of 'Venice of the North" and it's a delightful place to explore on foot or by boat. You'll be escorted from your hotel in Moscow to the train station and met on arrival in St Petersburg for a private transfer to your centrally located hotel.
Refined St Petersburg has a long history and today, in the company of an English-speaking guide, you'll get to grips with its heritage.
Start with a visit to the Peter and Paul Fortress. Founded by Peter the Great in 1703, it was a fortress and later a prison before being converted into a museum. Next, step inside St Isaac's Cathedral whose golden dome dominates the St Petersburg skyline. It's well worth climbing the 262 steps to the kolonnada for the incredible views over the city. The rest of the day is devoted to the Hermitage. Once the Tsar's Winter Palace, its dazzling state rooms are now home to a vast collection comprising over three million works of art representing pretty much every great painter of the past centuries.
As you'd expect from a former capital, St Petersburg is blessed with a liberal scattering of palaces both in and around the city.
In nearby Pushkin, Baroque-style Catherine Palace once housed the Romanovs and its regal state rooms are an impressive sight. Its sprawling landscaped grounds and those of nearby Alexander Park are at their finest in summer. Peterhof, built by Peter the Great and known as 'the Russian Versailles', is the most impressive of the suburban imperial estates. The fountains at Peterhof make this, too, a popular spot in the height of the season.
This morning, enjoy some last minute sightseeing and shopping in elegant St Petersburg. Around lunchtime, it's time to check out of your hotel.
A driver will take you to the airport for your flight home. The direct flight leaves in mid-afternoon and takes three-and-a-half-hours, arriving back in London in the late afternoon.