Delve into an incredible wealth of culture, history and art on this comprehensive 17-day tour. The tour begins by exploring Russia’s medieval heart – Vladimir, Suzdal and Sergiev Posad – in the Golden Ring, before travelling to its modern capitals, Moscow and St Petersburg. The remarkable history of these cities, immortalised in iconic landmarks such as the Kremlin, is equalled by their extraordinary collections of art, at the Hermitage and the Tretyakov Gallery, and leading cultural institutions, such as the Bolshoi. The tour is rounded out with a day trip to Catherine the Great’s palaces and select performances.
Evocative Red Square and the treasures of the State Armoury in Moscow
Explore the Kremlin, seat of the tsars, headquarters of the USSR and residence of Vladimir Putin
Russian Masterpieces at the Tretyakov Gallery
Visits to St Petersburg’s cultural highlights, including the Hermitage and Faberge Museums, Yusupov Palace and the Church of the Spilled Blood
Wander through the magnificent palaces of Catherine the Great
Historic Suzdal, with its wooden architecture and churches of the Golden Ring
Day 1: Arrive into Moscow Domodedovo Airport.
Days 2–4: Travel to Sergiev Posad and visit the Trinity Monastery of St Sergius. Continue to the charming Golden Ring town of Suzdal for three nights; visit historic Vladimir.
Days 5–10: Explore Moscow, from revolutionary history at Red Square, to the churches and museums of the Kremlin, the Tretyakov Gallery, and legendary Bolshoi Theatre.
Day 11: Travel by fast train to St Petersburg.
Days 12–17: Marvel at St Petersburg’s extraordinary landmarks, galleries, churches, palaces and museums, including a day trip to Catherine’s palaces at Pushkin.
The tour begins at the Airhotel Domodedovo Airport, Moscow, and ends at our hotel in St Petersburg. Emirates and Qatar Airways offer direct flights into Moscow and out of St Petersburg from most Australian cities. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.
Friday September 17: Arrive Moscow
The tour begins at the Armega Hotel Domodedovo. There is a light dinner available in the hotel this evening. Overnight Moscow Domodedovo Airport (D)
Saturday September 18: Sergiev Posad
We depart Moscow early this morning for Sergiev Posad, Russia’s holiest of holies, the beautiful Trinity Monastery of St Sergius. Founded by St Sergius, Russia’s patron saint, it is a glorious ensemble of blue and golden cupolas. It was closed by the Bolsheviks after the 1917 Revolution but re-opened after World War II as a museum, working monastery and the residence of the patriarch. From Sergiev Posad we travel to Suzdal, our base for the next three nights. This evening we gather for a welcome dinner. Overnight Suzdal (B, L, D)
Sunday September 19: Suzdal
Suzdal is one of the best-preserved towns of the Golden Ring, a group of ancient towns that preceded Moscow as the political and cultural heart of Russia. With its clusters of 17th- and 18th-century whitewashed churches and its streets of low wooden houses with traditional carved eaves and windows, Suzdal is a living museum protected against any industrial development. We explore it at leisure today and enjoy lunch prepared by a local in their home. Overnight Suzdal (B, L)
Monday September 20: Vladimir
Today we visit Vladimir, founded by Vladimir Monomakh in 1108; it became the capital of all Kievan Rus after Kiev was sacked in 1169. Although Vladimir eventually gave way to Moscow as the capital of Russia, the Tsars continued to be crowned here until the 15th century. We visit the Golden Gate of Vladimir and the Crystal Museum. On our way back to Suzdal we visit the Church of Intercession of Nerl, a symbol of medieval Russia situated on a lake in an isolated meadow. This evening we gather for dinner and a folk performance. Overnight Suzdal (B, D)
Tuesday September 21: To Moscow
We depart Suzdal this morning for Moscow, arriving in the afternoon. After settling into our accommodation, Matthew will lead a brief orientation walk around the vicinity of the hotel. Overnight Moscow (B, D)
Wednesday September 22: Red Square
Our tour commences with a visit to the iconic Red Square, a vast cobbled area flanked by some of Moscow’s most famous sites, including St Basil’s Cathedral with its brightly coloured onion domes. Also in Red Square is Lenin’s Mausoleum, where the former leader’s body remains on display to the public, and GUM department store with its elaborate façade – designer stores having replaced the queues of the Soviet era. This afternoon we visit the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour on the Moskva River for wonderful views to the Kremlin. Overnight Moscow (B)
Thursday September 23: The Old Tretyakov Gallery
No visit to Moscow is complete without a ride on the metro, and this morning we see some of the elegant stations decorated in frescoes and lined with marble. Stalin employed some of the Soviet Union’s finest artists to decorate the stations. We visit the Tretyakov Gallery, home of the world’s greatest collection of Russian art. Among the exhibits are The Trinity by Andrei Rublev and the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God. This afternoon there is an optional visit to the Tolstoy Estate Museum dedicated to the writer’s home life. Overnight Moscow (B)
Friday September 24: The Kremlin
Today we visit the Kremlin, seat of the Tsars, headquarters of the Soviet Union and now the residence of President Vladimir Putin. Since its foundation in 1156, the Kremlin has been a symbol of power of the State. We visit the churches in Cathedral Square, among them the most important church in Moscow, the Cathedral of the Assumption. Also in the Kremlin complex is the State Armoury, which showcases the wealth accumulated by Russian tsars over many centuries and the Diamond Fund, which boasts among its jewels the famous Orlov diamond presented to Catherine the Great by her lover Count Grigory Orlov. Overnight Moscow (B, L)
Saturday September 25: Bolshoi & Pushkin Museum
This morning we enjoy a tour of the iconic Bolshoi Theatre and discover the theatre’s history, view the 19th-century interiors and learn about the advanced technologies employed in the productions today. In the afternoon we visit the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, which houses a large collection of works by 19th- and 20th-century masters and impressionists. Tonight we enjoy a performance at the legendary Bolshoi Theatre. Overnight Moscow (B)
Sunday September 26: New Tretyakov & Gorky Park
The ten years either side of the Russian Revolution was, artistically, the exciting era of the Russian avant-garde, when artists such as Malevich, Chagall, and Kandinsky were working. Today, we tour the New Tretyakov Museum, which houses a superb collection of the works of all these artists (as well as a large collection of Soviet Realism). A short walk from here brings us to Gorky Park – a vast pleasure ground that is Moscow’s answer to Central Park. Spend the afternoon people watching or join an optional tour of the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, one of the world’s foremost contemporary art venues. Dinner this evening is aboard a cruise on the Moskva River. Overnight Moscow (B)
Monday September 27: To St Petersburg
After check-out we make our way to Leningrad railway station to board the fast train for the journey to St Petersburg. After settling into our accommodation and dinner in a local restaurant, Matthew will lead us on a walk to view some of the sights in the local area. Overnight St Petersburg (B, L on the train, D)
Tuesday September 28: Touring St Petersburg
This morning we depart by coach on a city tour of St Petersburg commencing at the Peter and Paul Fortress. Several buildings are contained within the fortress, the Peter and Paul Cathedral being the most notable as it contains the tombs of almost all the Russian rulers since Peter the Great. This afternoon we visit St Isaac’s Cathedral, whose gilded dome dominates the St Petersburg skyline while its facades are decorated in sculpture and red granite columns. We stop at the Bronze Horseman in Senate Square commissioned by Catherine the Great. The statue’s name comes from the eponymous poem by Aleksander Pushkin. Overnight St Petersburg (B)
Wednesday September 29: The Hermitage Museum
For most people St Petersburg is inexorably connected with its great art museum, the Hermitage, housed in the former residence of the Tsars, the Winter Palace. In July 1917, the Provisional Government took over the palace as its headquarters, and this led in turn to its storming by the Bolsheviks who nationalised the collection. The first part of our day is spent uncovering the many galleries and exploring the amazing collection housed in the museum. In the afternoon, we visit the Hermitage’s collection of impressionist and post-impressionist art, housed across the square in the modernist interiors of the General Staff Museum. Overnight St Petersburg (B)
Thursday September 30: A tale of two murders
Today we visit Yusupov Palace, one of the most beautiful palaces in St Petersburg, which contains a series of sumptuously decorated rooms. It was here that Rasputin was murdered in 1916 in disputed circumstances by Prince Felix Yusupov. Shortly after Rasputin’s murder, the Soviets came to power and confiscated the palace from the nobles. This afternoon we explore the canals of St Petersburg by boat before visiting the distinctive Church of the Spilled Blood. The elaborately decorated church was erected on the site where Alexander II was mortally wounded in 1881. The interior is covered with an outstanding array of mosaics. Tonight we enjoy a performance at the old Imperial ballet, St Petersburg’s renowned Mariinsky Theatre. Overnight St Petersburg (B)
Friday October 1: Catherine Palace
We depart for Tsarskoe Selo, formerly Pushkin, where we visit the magnificent Catherine Palace. Built for Empress Elizabeth by Rastrelli in 1752, it was named Catherine in honour of her mother, Catherine l, wife of Peter the Great. The palace was badly damaged during the German occupation of World War ll, but it has since been restored. Inside the palace, our tour takes us through the gentlemen-in-waiting’s dining room, the Great Hall, State Dining Room, Crimson and Green Pilaster rooms and the portrait room. We also visit the legendary Amber Room which was restored largely with German funds and re-opened in 2004. After a picnic lunch, we explore Palace gardens designed by Charles Cameron as a classic English landscaped garden, and one of the most beautiful park ensembles in Europe. Returning to St Petersburg, we visit the Leningrad Blockade Memorial which poignantly evokes the 900-day siege of Leningrad (1941-1944) and acts as an important reminder of great hardships endured by its people during World War II. This afternoon we take tea in the elegant Rotunda Lounge at the historic Astoria Hotel. Overnight St Petersburg (B, AT)
Saturday October 2: Fabergé
Our day commences at the Carl Fabergé museum. Located in the Shuvalov Palace, the museum houses the world’s largest collection of works by Fabergé including nine of his famous imperial Easter eggs. This afternoon there is an optional visit to the St Petersburg’s Russian Museum, with its outstanding collection of Russian avant-garde art. This evening we gather for our farewell dinner including a vodka tasting. Overnight St Petersburg (B, D)
Sunday October 3: Departure
A late check out is available for passengers departing on flights leaving later tonight. Matthew will be happy to advise on optional activities during the day including an excursion to Peterhof with a local guide. Overnight St Petersburg (B)
Dr Matthew Dal Santo
A writer, historian and foreign affairs commentator, with Honours degrees from both Sydney and Cambridge Universities.
Dr Matthew Dal Santo is a writer, historian and foreign affairs commentator who currently resides in Copenhagen, Denmark. Born in Sydney, Matthew lived most of the past fifteen years in Europe. The current focus of his interest is Russia. From 2014 to 2017, Matthew was Danish Research Council Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Saxo Institute, University of Copenhagen, with a grant to study how Russians think of themselves in the light of their history 25 years after the collapse of Communism and 100 since the 1917 revolution. He is particularly interested in how the revival of Orthodoxy has encouraged the return of the age-old idea of ‘Holy Rus’ as well as rehabilitation of the culture and achievements of Imperial Russia, as for example in the canonisation in 2000 of the last tsar, Nicholas II, and his family as saints. Matthew has travelled extensively in the Russian-speaking world, from Moldova, Ukraine, and Belarus to Siberia and the Russian Far East. He is currently writing a book called The Romanovs and the Redemption of Putin’s Russia: Remaking Holy Rus. Before returning to academic work, Matthew was briefly a policy officer with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Matthew has a PhD in Ecclesiastical History from the University of Cambridge, where from 2005 to 2008 he held the Lightfoot Scholarship. In 2007 he was elected Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge’s leading college, and was appointed Associate Lecturer in the award-winning Faculty of History. Matthew also has an MPhil from Cambridge and a BA (Hons I) from the University of Sydney, where he won the University Medal in 2004.
In addition to English, Matthew speaks Danish, French, Italian and Russian.
We asked Matthew, what motivates him to lead a tour to Russia?
“I lead Academy Travel’s annual Russia tour. This is something I really enjoy. My aim with the tour is not only to provide people the opportunity to visit Russia’s famous historical sights and great collections of art in St Petersburg and Moscow, but also a chance to engage first-hand with the way the identity and world view of this most perplexing of countries has been transformed in the two and half decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union. My lectures take a close look at Russian history and politics, with the aim of showing how ‘Putin’s Russia’ (so-called) is still grappling with processes set in motion hundreds of years ago, often in ways that have a deep effect on Russia’s often difficult relations with the West.
Coming from a long line of teachers, I also find the training and development tours that I lead for the NSW History Teachers’ Association a great source of pleasure and inspiration. Of course, Russia is a very big country and my view is that too few people ever get to its vast reaches east of the Urals.”
Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Where appropriate, taxis or public transport are also used for short distance travel on some tours
All accommodation in hotels or apartments as stated in the itinerary
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners specifically stated as included in the itinerary
Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
Tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required and when stated as included
Tours begin either at the arrival airport or the first hotel, depending on the itinerary. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel and arrive before the tour commences, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers.
What is not included in the tour price?
Our tours do not include the following:
Return international/domestic air travel unless those flights take place during the tour
Special taxes and airport levies that can only be paid in cash at the destination. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Travel insurance. We require all participants to have comprehensive travel insurance. A typical policy for one of our tours will cost from $160 upwards, depending on your age, pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the overall length of your trip
Lunches and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity