Winter has a special place in Russian culture, permeating its literature, performing arts and national story of triumph through hardship. This new 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, Fabergé Museum and Tretyakov Gallery, and its cutting-edge contemporary and performing arts scene.
The significance of winter in Russian culture, from Orthodox Christmas to cityscapes immortalised by Russia’s literary giants
Russia’s incredible history from imperial power, to revolution and beyond
Vast repositories of fine and decorative arts in Russia’s incredible array of museums and galleries
Rivalry with the West: from the tsars to distinctively Russian movements in modern and contemporary art
The art of the palace: from the might of the Kremlin to Catherine the Great’s country retreats
Marvel at the treasures housed in the State Armoury and Diamond Fund
Orthodox Christmas and the joy of the festive season
The frescoed cathedrals of the Kremlin, site of the coronation and funeral processions of the Tsars
A private tour with a curator through exhibitions at the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art
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
Day 1: Arrive into Moscow.
Days 2–3: Tour Red Square. Admire the decorated Metro stations and wander through Gorky Park.
Day 4: Day trip to Kuskovo Park and Estate and Pushkin Galleries.
Days 5–7: See the Tretyakov collections, Kremlin, State Armoury and Diamond Fund. Visit the Tolstoy House Museum and Novodevichy Convent.
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 Oranienbaum.
A limited number of places remain on this tour and as such, internet bookings are not taken. Please contact our travel consultant listed above if you wish to make a booking.
Emirates has daily flights to Moscow and returning from St Petersburg. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.
Sunday 6 January: Arrive
The tour commences at our Moscow Hotel. After meeting Michael Carr for introductions, we enjoy a light dinner in the hotel. Overnight Moscow (D)
Monday 7 January: Red Square
A majority of Russians identify as members of the Russian Orthodox Church which marks today as Christmas day according to the Julian calendar. 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. This evening we celebrate Russian Christmas with dinner at Café Pushkin. Overnight Moscow. (B, D)
Tuesday 8 January: Metro and Gorky Park
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. Emerging form the subway, we wander through the snow-covered woodlands and Graveyard of Fallen Monuments of Gorky Park, made famous by the novel and film it inspired. This afternoon a curator from the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art takes us through the collection which is dedicated to the development of Russian art from the 1950’s to the present. Overnight Moscow. (B)
Wednesday 9 January: Kuskovo Estate and Pushkin Museum
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 neoclassical structure operates as a museum housing the private Sheremtev collection, perhaps the finest in Imperial Russia, and uniquely retains its original interiors dating from 1779. 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 10 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)
Friday 11 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)
Saturday 12 January: Tolstoy Museum and Novodevichy Convent
This morning we visit 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 yet still remaining close to nature. Inside, the 16 rooms have been carefully preserved with many of the family’s personal effects in situ. This afternoon we visit Novodevichy Monastery and cemetery situated behind turreted walls on the Moscow River. The convent grounds contain the Smolensk Cathedral (modelled on the Cathedral of the Assumption in the Kremlin), several churches, a fine bell tower and a gallery with a permanent exhibition of religious icons and embroidery. The cemetery adjacent to the convent is among Moscow’s most prestigious resting places containing the tombs of such luminaries as Chekov, Gogol and Prokofiev to name only a few. Dinner this evening is in the restaurant at the stylish Sanduny Bath House. Overnight Moscow. (B, D)
Sunday 13 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)
Monday 14 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 Peters Basilica in Rome. Overnight St Petersburg. (B)
Tuesday 15 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. Today, we take a private tour with one of the curators from the museum before uncovering the many other galleries and exploring the amazing variety of collections housed in the museum. Depending on scheduling we will attend a concert or ballet performance at the Mariinsky Theatre. Overnight St Petersburg. (B)
Wednesday 16 January: Yusupov Palace and Fabergé Museum
Our day commences at 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. 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. Overnight St Petersburg. (B, L, D)
Thursday 17 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 explore Pavlovsk Park Palace gardens designed by Charles Cameron as a classic English landscaped garden, and one of the most beautiful park ensembles in Europe. Although it will be mid-winter, the snow-laden tree branches, rolling countryside, winding streams and garden architecture provide a pleasant backdrop to the Palace itself. Overnight St Petersburg. (B, L, D)
Friday 18 January: At Leisure
Today is at leisure with no shortage of attractions in St Petersburg to explore at your own pace. Michael will be on hand to help with options on how to spend your day. Overnight St Petersburg. (B)
Saturday 19 January: Peterhof
We depart by coach to Peterhof, often referred to as the Russian Versailles, on the Gulf of Finland built by Peter the Great. Like many of St Petersburg’s outlying palaces, Peterhof was occupied and subsequently ravaged by the Germans during World War II. The Palace was restored in 1952 with the help of over 1000 volunteers and military engineers. Our guided tour takes us through the lavish interiors of the Grand Palace which are richly detailed with frescoes, gilded furnishings and detailed parquetry floors. Although the Grand Cascade is not operational during winter, we can imagine the magnificent sense of grandeur they add to the landscape. Returning to St Petersburg this evening, we gather for a farewell dinner at the Russian Vodka Room. Overnight St Petersburg. (B, D)
Sunday 20 January: Depart
The tour concludes after breakfast. We have organised a late checkout with rooms available until 6pm (B)
Is an art dealer and historian with over 20 years’ experience in handling major Australian and international paintings and sculptures.
Michael Carr is an art dealer and historian with over 20 years’ experience in handling major Australian and international paintings and sculptures, including Old Masters and contemporary works.
He is a graduate in Arts and Law from the ANU and has an LL.M from Cambridge University. After working as a diplomat and commercial lawyer, Michael opened his first gallery in Sydney, Olsen Carr, in 1994.
In 1999 he opened Michael Carr Art Dealer, which operated until late 2007 when he moved to Moscow to open CarrVesey Art Dealers, the first Western style art consultancy to be based in Moscow since 1917.
He has also lectured extensively over the years to numerous audiences including the AGNSW Society, corporate groups and societies and more recently at the NGA, Canberra and the David Roche Foundation, Adelaide.
What is included in the tour price? 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 public transport is 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
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? Open-age 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
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required
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.