Winter has a special place in Russian culture, permeating its literature, performing arts and national story of triumph through hardship. This 15-day tour explores the incredible wealth of culture, history and art in St Petersburg and Moscow at a time of year that brings quintessential elements of Russian culture to the fore. Experience Russia at its most magnificent, from the palaces of Catherine the Great, to superb fine and decorative art collections, including the Hermitage, Faberge Museum and Tretyakov Gallery, and its cutting-edge contemporary and performing arts scene.
The essence and beauty of Russia in winter
The joy of the Russian Orthodox festive season and delight of Moscow’s amazing Christmas lights
Cathedrals of the Kremlin, sites of the coronation and funeral processions of the tsars
The treasures housed in the State Armoury and Diamond Fund
Masterpieces of Russian and European art at the Tretyakov Gallery
Art and architecture in St Petersburg, including the Hermitage, Fabergé Museum and the Yusupov Palace
The magnificent palaces of Catherine the Great
Days 1–3: Arrive into Moscow. Tour Red Square. Admire the Christmas decorations and see the Tretyakov collections.
Day 4: Day trip to Kuskovo Park and Estate and Pushkin Galleries.
Days 5–7: Tour the Bolshoi, Kremlin, State Armoury and Diamond Fund. Visit the Tolstoy House Museum and Russian Icon Museum.
Day 8: Travel by fast train to St Petersburg.
Days 9–11: Explore St Petersburg’s extraordinary landmarks, cathedrals, palaces and museums, including a full day at the Hermitage.
Days 12–15: Day trips to Catherine’s palaces at Pushkin, Pavlovsk Park and the surprising collection at the Hermitage Storage Facility.
The tour begins at our hotel in Moscow and ends at our hotel in St Petersburg. Emirates and Qatar Airways offer the best connections 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.
Thursday 9 January: Arrive
The tour commences at our Moscow Hotel. After meeting Michael for introductions, we enjoy a light dinner in the hotel. Overnight Moscow (D)
Friday 10 January: Red Square
Our touring commences with a visit to the iconic Red Square, a vast cobbled area that plays host to a large Christmas tree and ice-skating rink over the festive period. Flanked by some of Moscow’s most famous sites, we visit St Basil’s Cathedral with its brightly coloured onion domes, Lenin’s Mausoleum and GUM department store with its elaborate façade – designer stores having replaced the queues of the Soviet era. After our welcome dinner at Café Pushkin we take a night tour to view Moscow’s stunning Christmas illuminations. Overnight Moscow. (B, D)
Saturday 11 January: Tretyakov Galleries
We visit the Tretyakov Gallery, home of the world’s greatest collection of Russian art. Works in the gallery range from pre-Mongolian icons and mosaics to landscapes, portraits and masterpieces of the 20th century. Among the exhibits are The Trinity by Andrei Rublev and Russia’s most revered icon, the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God. The galleries of the New Tretyakov house a diverse collection of modern art trends, including avant-garde artists such as Kandinsky and Chagall and Russian socialist-realist styles depicting the glories of communist values. Overnight Moscow. (B)
Sunday 12 January: Kuskovo Estate
This morning we travel to Kuskovo Estate, a unique example of a great aristocratic country house on the outskirts of Moscow. The salmon pink and white neo-classical structure operates as a museum housing the private Sheremetev collection, perhaps the finest in Imperial Russia, and uniquely retains its original interiors dating from 1779. Overnight Moscow. (B)
Monday 13 January: 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)
Tuesday 14 January: Russian Icon and Tolstoy Museums
This morning we visit the Museum of the Russian Icon, a unique private collection housing some 600 icons, representing all schools of Russian iconography. We continue to the Tolstoy House Museum, the writer’s winter abode in central Moscow dedicated to his home life. The wooden house and extensive gardens provided Tolstoy with a place to write in the city while still remaining close to nature. Inside, the 16 rooms have been carefully preserved with many of the family’s personal effects in situ. Dinner this evening is in the restaurant at the stylish Café Vogue. Overnight Moscow. (B, D)
Wednesday 15 January: Metro and 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 advance technologies employed in the productions today. 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 declared that ‘the whole country will build the metro’ and employed some of the Soviet Union’s finest artists to decorate the stations. In the afternoon we visit the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, which houses a large selection of European works from the Italian Renaissance, the Dutch Golden Age and complete collections of 19th and 20th-century masters donated by individual collectors. Overnight Moscow. (B)
Thursday 16 January: To St Petersburg
After check out we make our way to Leningradsky railway station to board the fast train for the journey to St Petersburg. After settling into our accommodation, we have dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight St Petersburg. (B, L on the train, D)
Friday 17 January: Touring St Petersburg
Our coach tour of St Petersburg this morning takes us past Vasilievsky Island with views to the Winter Palace and St Petersburg’s bridges, and on to Tauride Palace and the Smolny Complex, alighting 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 also stop at Kazan Cathedral which stands as a monument to Russia’s victory over Napoleon and is modelled on St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Overnight St Petersburg. (B)
Saturday 18 January: 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. Our day is spent uncovering the many galleries and exploring the amazing collection housed in the museum. Overnight St Petersburg. (B)
Sunday 19 January: At Leisure
Today is at leisure, with no shortage of attractions in St Petersburg to explore at your own pace. Depending on scheduling we will attend a concert or ballet performance at the Mariinsky Theatre. Overnight St Petersburg. (B)
Monday 20 January: Catherine’s Palace
We depart for Tsarskoe Selo, formerly Pushkin, where we visit the magnificent Catherine Palace. Built for Tsarina 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, leaving only a hollow shell behind, 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. We take a sleigh ride through the snow-laden snow in Pavlovsk Park and enjoy the palace grounds in mid-winter. Overnight St Petersburg. (B)
Our day commences at the Hermitage Storage Facility, a vast repository of historic and artistic artefacts undergoing restoration or simply too large to be kept in the main Hermitage buildings. This afternoon we visit the 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. (B)
Wednesday 22 January: Fabergé Museum
We continue to the Carl Fabergé museum in the afternoon. 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 we visit 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 depicting scenes from Holy Scripture and the patron saints of the Romanovs. This evening, we gather for a farewell dinner at the Russian Vodka Room. Overnight St Petersburg. (B, D)
Thursday 23 January: Depart
The tour concludes after breakfast. We have organised a late checkout with rooms available until 6pm. (B)
Dr Michael Adcock
An historian who specialises in 18th to 20th century Europe and the political role of art in times of rapid social change.
Dr Michael Adcock is a social and cultural historian with over ten years’ experience in leading residential study tours in Paris and France. He has a strong interest in the interpretation of the arts in the context of the political and social moment in which they were created.
Michael holds a Bachelor of Arts (Combined First-Class Honours in French and History), a Master of Arts (French History) and a Doctor of Philosophy (French History), all from the University of Melbourne. He has held a post as lecturer-in-charge at the University of Melbourne, where he presented courses on the French Revolution and on French society and culture in the 19th and 20th centuries. He is currently Head of History and Head of Humanities at Melbourne Grammar School. In 2013, he was awarded the prestigious History Teachers’ Association of Victoria award for Excellence in the Teaching of History.
Michael led his first Academy Travel tour to Paris in 2006, although this had been preceded by some ten visits, many of them residential trips for the purposes of academic research. During this time, Michael came to know the city in depth, and has since found great intellectual satisfaction in introducing people to its treasures and, perhaps more importantly, in teaching them how to navigate the city so that they may return to travel independently on a future occasion.
We asked Michael what he enjoys most about leading tours?
“I love the feeling of a tour that unfolds with the regularity of clockwork. I like to see people swept along effortlessly on a seamless unfolding of vivid travel experiences. For me, tour leading is not hard work, but a real professional joy. I sometimes feel rather like the operators who provide the New Year’s Eve fireworks display on Sydney Harbour, in the sense that I carefully plan the sequence of spectacles, and then orchestrate them one by one until the whole makes up a dazzling display of French history.”
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
You will be asked to sign an acknowledgement of these conditions when you book a place on a tour.
A deposit of $500 per person is required to confirm your booking on a tour. Final payment of the tour fee, insurance and any additional travel will be due 60 days before departure.
If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:
More than 60 days before departure: $500*
60-45 days before tour start: 25% of total amount due
44-15 days before tour start: 75% of total amount due
14 days or less before departure: 100% of total amount due
*This amount may be credited to another Academy Travel tour within 12 months of the original tour you booked.
Unused Portions of the tour
We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.
Academy Travel requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. We offer a comprehensive policy with a reputable insurer if required.
Passport and Visa
A valid passport is required for all international travel. If you do not hold an Australian passport you may require a re-entry permit. Some countries require a visa to be issued before you depart Australia. We will advise you of all passport and visa requirements, but it is your responsibility to ensure that you meet passport and visa requirements before you depart.
Will the tour price change?
If the number of participants in a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates Academy Travel reserves the right to amend the advertised price. If this occurs you will be given the option of cancelling your booking and obtaining a full refund. If an Academy Travel tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all monies paid.
Will the itinerary change?
Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of Academy Travel make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make slight amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes as soon as they occur.
Full and final payment for the tour, airfare travel, insurance and any additional travel you book is due 60 days before departure. Payment may be made by bank deposit, cheque, cash or credit card. Please note there is a surcharge for payments made by credit card.
Academy Travel reserves the right to decline the booking or terminate the holiday of any traveller. We aim to be fair and reasonable in all our dealings with our clients. We aim to provide full and accurate information about our tours and promptly provide information of any changes or alterations that take place before departure.