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Excursions in different Russian cities
Express to Russia can arrange the following individual guided excursions with translator/guide and driver. We only use professional, local guides who are extremely knowledgeable on the area that you will be visiting. Our guided excursions are the best way to get to know the following cities.
Irkutsk is one of the largest cities in Siberia and is located on the Angara River. It is the starting point for many who adventure to the Lake Baikal area because it is a main transit point on the Trans-Siberian/Trans-Mongolian train route. Lake Baikal is situated just an hour away from Irkutsk by train. Founded by Russians in 1652 as a major fort beyond the Ural Mountains, it was populated by exiled political prisoners sent by the tsars and communists. Due to the number of exiled intellectuals the city’s culture developed richly. Irkutsk is definitely a place where the old meets the new as 19th century wooden houses are next to multi-storey buildings. Today, the city is a university students’ town due to the large number of universities there.
There are direct flights from Moscow and St. Petersburg but most people arrive in Irkutsk by the Trans-Siberian railway, before they visit Lake Baikal – a definite must if you have travelled all this distance.
There are several beautiful churches and museums on the history of the area, but the more notable destinations are described below.
»» See Irkutsk Excursions
Khabarovsk is the industrial, transport, administrative and cultural centre of the Khabarovsk region. The city was founded in 1858 as a military outpost. It is located 8532km east of Moscow and 30km from the Chinese border. After passing through the isolated Siberian towns on the Trans-Siberian railway, tourists often find Khabarovsk an unexpected surprise with its numerous green parks, riverside paths and historic downtown area. If you do get to spend a day in Khabarovsk then a definite must is to visit the Far East Regional Museum, which is extremely well laid out and gives detailed historical examples. Also worth a visit if you have time, is the beautifully restored Fine Arts Museum overlooking the Amur River, which includes Russian masterpieces, early Slavic icons and a collection of Western European art.
If you happen to visit in summer then you may not want to spend any time inside and there are plenty of places to relax outside. One option is Dynamo Park, which is extremely popular with the locals. A 30 hectare park featuring several water ponds to dip your feet in when it gets too hot! Another outside spot to relax is the city ‘beach’. Although it’s over 300km from the nearest coastline, the river bank does give a feeling of relaxing on a beach somewhere in the Mediterranean.
The best way to get to Khabarovsk is on the Trans-Siberian railroad but there is also a well-served airport connecting to most of the major cities in Russia.
»» See Khabarovsk Excursions
Krasnoyarsk is located on the Yenisei River and is the 3rd largest city in Siberia. It was founded in 1628 as a Russian border fort to protect the frontier from attacks of native people who lived along the Yenisei. An intensive growth of Krasnoyarsk began with the arrival of the Siberian Road (nowadays the M53) in 1735 which connected Krasnoyarsk with the rest of Russia. Growth continued with the discovery of gold and the arrival of the railroad in 1895. In the 19th century Krasnoyarsk was the centre of the Siberian Cossack movement. During the time of the Russian Empire, Krasnoyarsk was one of the places to which political exiles were banished. Eight of the Decembrists were exiled to Krasnoyarsk after the failed revolt. During Soviet times the city became a large industrial centre, but it was also a region that was the centre for lots of gulag camps. Unfortunately during the change to democracy, Krasnoyarsk suffered and there were many strikes over the high unemployment rate.
Nowadays Krasnoyarsk is a modern, lively and vibrant city, mainly due to the large number of education centres situated in the city. Although it’s not beautiful architecturally speaking, the city is different to other flat Siberian cities. Krasnoyarsk is located on the Trans-Siberian railway, and this is by far the most popular way to get to the city, although some do choose to fly into one of the 2 airports which serve the main Russian cities.
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Novgorod the Great, referred to simply as Novgorod, was the first official capital of Russia and is one of Russia’s most interesting towns containing some of Russia’s greatest jewels of architecture and steeped in history. Although the name of the city translates as ‘New Town’ it is one of the oldest settlements in Russia. The Kremlin of Novgorod is the oldest in Russia dating back to 864. The Cathedral of St. Sophia dominates the structure of the Kremlin. It was built between 1045 and 1050 under the patronage of Vladimir Yaroslavich, the son of Yaroslav the Wise. It is the best preserved of 11th century churches, probably the oldest structure still in use in Russia and the first one to represent original features of Russian architecture (austere stone walls, five helmet-like cupolas). It is adorned with beautiful frescoes from the 12th century and icons. Also inside the Kremlin is the oldest palace in Russia, the oldest bell tower and the oldest Russian clock tower. Just outside of the Cathedral of St. Sophia is the bronze monument ‘Millennium of Russia’ which was revealed in 1862. It features the most important figures from the history of the country, tsars, patriarchs and cultural figures too.
Another notable monument is the Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Yaroslav’s Court. This cathedral was built to store an icon, believed to have magical powers. Novgorod is also home to the Yuriev Monastery, a medieval religious complex built in 1030 along the Volkov River. Just outside of the main city is the Museum of Wooden Architecture. It is in one of the most picturesque areas of the region and it really gives you a feel as to how people lived all those years ago. Folk and trade festivals are often held at the sight of the museum.
Getting to Novgorod is straight forward from either St. Petersburg or Moscow. There are overnight trains to Moscow daily and during the summer months you can get a coach, but this is a very long journey. From St. Petersburg there are 3 trains daily which take approximately 2-3 hours. It is an easy day trip from St. Petersburg, but if you don’t want to rush around then it may be advisable to spend the night there.
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Novosibirsk is the third largest city in Russia after Moscow and St. Petersburg and the largest Siberian city, often referred to as the capital of Siberia. The city is young in comparison with other Russian cities as it was only founded in 1893, at the future site of a Trans-Siberian Railway bridge crossing the great Ob River. During Stalin’s industrialization of Russia, the city experienced rapid growth and became one of the major seats of industry in the Soviet Union. In the 1950s, the scientific research complex of Akademgorodok was constructed about 30 km south of the city centre. The Siberian Branch of the Academy of Sciences is headquartered in Akademgorodok and the town hosts a total of fourteen research institutions and universities making it one of the most important centres for science research in the world.
In 1962, Novosibirsk reached a population of one million. At that time, it was the youngest city in the world with over a million people. Novosibirsk took fewer than seventy years to achieve this milestone, mainly due to the rapid industrialisation and the installation of the Scientific Research Centre. The first line of the Novosibirsk metro was completed in 1985 and the city has continued to grow in recent years.
Arriving in Novosibirsk isn’t difficult. There are direct flights from Moscow and most other large Russian cities daily. Most people arrive in Novosibirsk as a stopover on the Trans-Siberian railway. It is the largest station on this rail route.
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St. PetersburgSt. Petersburg is really impossible to describe in a few words. The city was founded on May 27th (according to the old calendar) 1703, when a fortress named Sanktpietrbuch in honor of Saint Peter was constructed on Zayachy (Rabbit) island. This marked the beginning of this unique city. One of the most interesting facts concerning the birth of St. Petersburg was that it was founded by Tsar Peter the Great three centuries ago on a strange territory of swamps, inhabited by mosquitoes, frogs and evil magicians. St. Petersburg is Russia´s second largest and second most important city - the Northern capital of the country, Russia´s cultural center, and considered the world´s "Northern Venice" due to its extensive system of canals. Today, the city has a relatively healthy economy (as far as Russia is concerned), has the country´s largest and busiest port and a very high level of cultural life.
»» See St. Petersburg Excursions
Ulan-Ude is the capital city of the Buryat Republic of Russia and is located about 100 km (66 miles) south-east of Lake Baikal in Eastern Siberia. One of the main attractions of Ulan-Ude is the mix between the east and west. The city was initially founded in 1666 by Russian Cossacks as a fortress. Due to its favourable geographical position, the city grew rapidly and became a large trade centre which connected Russia with China and Mongolia. The Trans-Siberian Railway reached the city in 1900 causing an explosion in the growth of the city; the population which was 3,500 in 1880 reached 126,000 in 1939. Today the city has a population of about 360,000.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the city is that unlike in most other Russian cities the major religion isn’t Russian Orthodox, but Buddhism. In the tab below you can see the main sties to visit whilst in Ulan-Ude including Buddhist temple. In addition to these places of interest you literally can’t miss the massive statue of the head of Lenin in Ploshchad Sovietov.
The best way to get to Ulan-Ude is on the Trans-Siberian or Trans-Mongolian railway. Alternatively there are overnight flights to Moscow every day or from Ulaanbaatar, a 12 hour bus journey! Ulan-Ude serves as a perfect starting place for any trip to Lake Baikal.
»» See Ulan-Ude Excursions
Vladivostok which means the Lord of the East is Russia’s largest port city on the Pacific Ocean situated at the head of the Golden Horn Bay and near the border of China and North Korea. The city has recently been renovated and updated, and pedestrianized streets and the harbour promenade are really beautiful spaces. The city is famously home to the Russian Pacific Fleet. Because of this, the city was closed to any foreigners and even Soviets had to be granted permission to enter the city during the time of the Soviet Union.
The territory on which modern Vladivostok is located had been part of many nations, including the Mongol Empire and China and in the past was populated by many Chinese, Manchu and Koreans. Russia acquired the region in 1858. The city’s economy was given a boost in 1903, with the completion of the Trans-Siberian Railway. The city was fiercely fought over during the Russian Civil War but finally taken by the Red Army in October of 1922. This battle marked the end of the Russian Civil War and consolidation of power by the Soviets. Since that time, Vladivostok has been Russia’s main cultural, trade and militarily important city on the Pacific Coast.
In the tab below there are some of the most important places to visit whilst in Vladivostok, but a trip to Russky Island on the ferry shouldn’t be missed, as you will get fantastic views of the harbours for a far smaller fee than you pay for a harbour boat cruise! The bridge to Russky Island is the tallest cable-stayed bridge in the world and is an architectural feat!
There are a few options regarding transport to Vladivostok. Obviously the main, and most famous way of travelling is by train on the Trans-Siberian railway. Alternatively, the airport is served by domestic flights to most major cities, and also international flights from Tokyo, Beijing, South Korea, Thailand and even Vietnam. The final option does depend on where you start your journey but there are ferries to Japan and South Korea.
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Founded in 1723, Ekaterinburg is the 4th largest city in Russia. It is probably most famous for the assassinations of the last tsar of Russia, Nicholas II and his family on 17th July 1918. The Ipatiev House, where they were murdered was destroyed in the 1970s and in its place now stands the Church on Blood, a beautiful church which is dedicated to the Romanov family.
Before the dreadful events of 1918, Ekaterinburg was famed for being a busy industrial city, located on the border between Europe and Asia. It became even more significant when it became a main station on the Trans-Siberian railway. Ekaterinburg isn’t only limited to commemorating the lives of Nicholas II and his family, as it has expanded culturally in the last century. There are over 30 museums to be visited, some not as good as others but the Museum of Fine Arts is definitely worth a visit. There are also several theatres- most prominently the Opera and Ballet Theatre which opened in 1912.
Other sites which are on the to-do list of Ekaterinburg include the QWERTY monument, consisting of white stones laid out in the format of a keyboard, the Mafia Cemetery, with life-size stone images of former mafia members, Antei Tower lookout (lying 273m above Ekaterinburg this is where you’ll get those panoramic views), and the monument which marks the border between Europe and Asia.
There are flights from Moscow to Ekaterinburg, but in all honesty the best way to get there is on the Trans-Siberian railroad.
»» See Yekaterinburg Excursions