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Things to Do in Russia - page 4

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Revolution Square (Ploshchad Revolyutsii)

Named after the 1917 revolutionaries who congregated here, this vast pedestrianized square still occasionally serves as a place of protest for Muscovites. On a regular day, however, you’re more likely to encounter sightseers who come to check out surrounding landmarks, such as the art nouveau-style Metropol Hotel.

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Valaam Monastery

With its striking powder-blue domes and looming cathedral spires, set against a backdrop of dense woodlands and glassy blue waters, the Valaam Monastery makes a suitably arresting centerpiece to Valaam Island. Marooned on Lake Ladoga’s largest island, reaching the historic monastery is an adventure in itself, with scenic ferry cruises running from the mainland and thrilling helicopter rides linking it to St Petersburg.

Dating back to the late 14th-century and rebuilt several times throughout history, the Valaam Monastery is one of Russia’s most significant religious sites, once regarded as the country’s spiritual and cultural center and completely self-sufficient. Today, the vast complex centers around the exquisite Cathedral of the Transfiguration, surrounded by monks cells, chapels, workshops and farmlands, and remains a working monastery, with resident monks hosting regular services and choir recitals.

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Senate Square (Senatskaya Ploshchad)

Originally named Decembrists’ Square after the December 1825 uprising, Senate Square (Senatskaya Ploshchad is one of St. Petersburg’s most famous public spaces, encircled by some of the city’s top attractions. The unforgettable centerpiece of Senate Square is its Bronze Horseman statue, one of the most iconic symbols of the city.

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Anichkov Palace

With an expansive façade facing the Fontanka River, this former Imperial palace was designed for the 18th-century Empress Elizabeth. The Bolsheviks turned it into first a museum, then a massive home for after-school clubs. Now, it’s officially the Saint Petersburg Palace of Youth Creativity, hosting activities from art to music and sports.

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Russian State Library (Rossiyskaya Gosudarstvennaya Biblioteka)

Overlooking the Kremlin in central Moscow, the Russian State Library is Russia’s—and one of the world’s—biggest public libraries. Spanning various 18th-and 20th-century buildings, this vast and grand complex hosts 47 million books and treasures; making it a fascinating place to explore for book, history, and architecture buffs.

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Tverskaya Street (Ulitsa Tverskaya)

Tverskaya Street has been one of Moscow’s main thoroughfares since medieval times. Once the stomping ground for Russian czars promenading to the Kremlin, it’s now a shopping hub, and hosts monuments of well-known Russian figures, such as Romantic poet Aleksandr Pushkin and 12th-century prince and Moscow founder Yuri Dolgorukiy.

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Gulag History Museum

Telling the story of the Gulag—the forced labor camps set up by Stalin in the early 20th century—the Gulag History Museum provides a harrowing look at one of the darkest periods in Soviet history. Founded by a former labor camp prisoner, it’s an emotional tribute to those held captive in the camps.

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Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius (Svyato-Troitskaya Sergieva Lavra)

The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius has been the spiritual center of the Russian Orthodox Church since the mid-14th century. In the small town of Sergiev Posad along Russia’s Golden Ring, the monastery complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an architectural marvel, capped with blue and gold onion domes and surrounded by castle-like walls.

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Diamond Fund (Almazny Fond)

Among the dazzling display of Russia’s Crown Jewels are a 195-carat sapphire that once belonged to Catherine the Great and the Great Imperial Crown, which glitters with almost 5,000 diamonds. Housed in the Armoury Chamber at the Kremlin—the Diamond Fund is among the most valuable collections of its kind in the world.

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Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre

Created in 1941, the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre may not be as well-known as the famous Bolshoi Theatre, but it has been staging world class opera and ballet performances for nearly a century. The theatre was formed by the combination of the Stanislavski Opera Theatre, originally founded in 1918, and the Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko Musical Theatre, which produced both musical comedy shows and opera from the 1920s.

Today, the theater is based in a building on Bolshaya Dmitrovka Street in the heart of Moscow and features one opera and two chamber music halls. The building was built on the site of Count Pyotr Saltykov’s estate and the lobby integrates remains of the estate dating from the mid-1800s.

While showing many classic operas and traditional Russian ballets, the theater is known for being bold and experimental. It was the first in Russia to perform ballets by Nacho Duato, Jiri Kylian and Jorma Elo and hosted the world premiere of Vladimir Kobekin’s Hamlet.

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More Things to Do in Russia

Fabergé Museum

Fabergé Museum

Housed in the suitably opulent Shuvalov Palace, the Fabergé Museum is a tribute to legendary Russian jeweler Peter Carl Fabergé. The St. Petersburg highlight showcases Russia’s treasured series of Fabergé eggs alongside a dazzling collection of Russian art, jewelry, and artifacts.

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Constantine Palace

Constantine Palace

Located in the seaside town of Strelna, the Constantine Palace today forms part of the National Congress Palace complex of St. Petersburg. Strelna was originally chosen by Peter the Great to be the site of his summer residence in 1714, but the palace stood unfinished until the early 19th century. It served as a residence for the Romanov grand dukes until falling into decay after the Russian Revolution. Later, all interior decorations were stripped during the German occupation of St. Petersburg.

In 2001, Vladimir Putin ordered the palace to be renovated and converted into a presidential residence. It hosted more than 50 heads of state during St. Petersburg’s tercentenary celebration in 2003 and recently held the qualifying draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Visitors to the palace today can see exhibitions of Russian painting, decorative and applied arts and the history of Russian glass production from the 1700s. The palace also boasts a thousand masterpieces of Russian art from the 17th to 20th centuries, based on collection of Russian musicians Rostropovich and Vishnevskaya.

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Pushkin Museum

Pushkin Museum

Alexander Pushkin was Russia’s most celebrated poet and the Pushkin Museum and Memorial Apartment is a lasting memorial to his life and work. Located in one of the oldest stone mansions in St Petersburg, the apartment museum is just two blocks from Nevsky Prospekt on the banks of the Moika River. A fine example of a nobleman’s apartment in the 1830s, it became a museum in 1925.

The carefully preserved apartment is where Pushkin lived in 1836 and 1837 and where he died after being wounded in a duel. The centerpiece of the museum is Pushkin’s study, where objects belonging to his family, friends and contemporaries are on display. Visitors can also see Pushkin’s writing desk, a death mask, a lock of his hair and other personal items. In the basement of the building are exhibits on the history of the house, Pushkin’s life in St Petersburg in 1836, and the duel that killed him.

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Russian Vodka Museum (Muzey Russkogo Natsional'nogo Napitka)

Russian Vodka Museum (Muzey Russkogo Natsional'nogo Napitka)

Fittingly for a drink that dates right back to the 12th century, the perfect place to sample Russian vodka is located in St Petersburg’s former military stables and is part of the Museum Quarter project to protect the historic buildings of the city center. Exhibitions at the Russian Vodka Museum (Muzey Russkogo Natsional'nogo Napitka) romp through the story of the spirit’s production and its cultural importance, detailing its rise in popularity and refinement from a drink for medieval peasants to the favorite tipple of the Russian aristocracy in the 19th century. Displays include shot glasses, an enormous collection of unusual vodka bottles, posters from previous advertising campaigns and ancient equipment used in distillation. All visits to the museum terminate with a tasting of several different flavored vodkas accompanied by Russian snacks known as zakuski – ‘little bites’ of caviar, salads, pickles, smoked meats or fish normally served with flatbread as hors d’oeuvres before dinner. Conveniently, the museum shares its home with a restaurant serving up specialty vodkas.

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Snowmaiden's Palace (Terem Snegurochki)

Snowmaiden's Palace (Terem Snegurochki)

The Snowmaiden's Palace (Terem Snegurochki) is the home of the Russian fairy tale character Snegurochka. It is located a few hours northeast of Moscow in the town of Kostroma on Russia's famous Ring Road. Though the story varies, the Snow Maiden is usually depicted as a daughter, granddaughter, or helper of Father Christmas or Father Frost. The palace in Kostroma is a place where visitors can learn about the Russian folklore in a fantastical setting. It is a fun place for children to explore, hold birthday parties, and make all sorts of crafts including dolls and holiday decorations.

Children will believe in magic at the Snow Maiden's Palace. Several different rooms and programs bring them into the fairy tale world with games and holiday traditions throughout the year. Visitors can also learn about traditional Russian dances and other aspects of Russian culture, and it is an entertaining place for adults as well as kids.

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Dostoevsky Museum

Dostoevsky Museum

Officially known as the F.M. Dostoevsky Literary Memorial Museum, this museum celebrates the life of Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky. It was opened in 1971 in the apartment where he lived first in 1846 and again from 1878 until his death in 1881. Notably, it is also where he penned his last novel, the Brothers Karamazov. The interior has been reconstructed based on recollections of Dostoevsky’s wife and friends and includes memorabilia donated by his grandson. A literary exhibit focuses on Dostoevsky’s life and work, while exhibit halls occasionally display contemporary art. The museum library holds about 24,000 volumes and museum collection also includes a large collection of graphic and applied art and a collection of photographs.

Every November, the museum hosts a conference on Dostoevsky and World Culture. It also hosts bus and walking tours of St Petersburg focused on Dostoevsky’s works and the city.

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Monument to Catherine II (Pamyatnik Ekaterina II)

Monument to Catherine II (Pamyatnik Ekaterina II)

Catherine the Great was loved by the people of Russia, and her reign is often referred to as the golden age of Russia. Alexander II wanted to honor the empress and had the Monument to Catherine II (Pamyatnik Ekaterina II) built. The sculpting began in 1862 and wasn't completed until 1873. The statue shows Catherine the Great wearing an ermine coat. She carries a laurel wreath in her left hand and a specter in her right hand. Around her neck she wears the order of St. Andrew.

There are nine other statues towards the base of the monument, and they represent the sphere of influence of the Empress, including Prince Griogory Potemkin and Field Marshall Alexander Suvorov. The only other female statue aside from Catherine is Princess Catherine Dashkov who was the founder of the Russian Academy of Science. The statue of Catherine the Great was replaced by a statue of Lenin after the 1917 Revolution, but it was put back again after the end of the Soviet regime.

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St. Petersburg Planetarium (Sankt-Peterburgskiy Planetariy)

St. Petersburg Planetarium (Sankt-Peterburgskiy Planetariy)

Spend a few hours at the St. Petersburg Planetarium (Sankt-Peterburgskiy Planetariy) and learn all about Russia’s long history of space exploration. Attend a talk or film screening, gaze through telescopes in the observatory, or visit the “star hall.”

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Piterland Aquapark

Piterland Aquapark

In St. Petersburg, it doesn’t really matter what the weather is doing outside, because it’s always warm inside Piterland Aquapark. Spend the day relaxing and having fun, taking full advantage of the park’s pools, waterslides, and saunas. Or, just lounge around under a palm tree on the artificial beach.

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Circus of Dancing Fountains

Circus of Dancing Fountains

At Aquamarine, The Dancing Fountains Circus, the show takes place with a backdrop of colorful water fountains that appear to dance. Both kids and adults enjoy this modern interpretation of a traditional circus, a fun complement to Moscow’s classical performing arts.

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Divo Ostrov

Divo Ostrov

Divo Ostrov is a family-friendly amusement park in the heart of St. Petersburg that entertains both adults and kids. Get your adrenaline pumping on the parks’ exciting roller coasters and carnival-style rides, and enjoy the spacious landscaped gardens and nearby lake.

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Central Naval Museum

Central Naval Museum

Housed in imposing red-brick barracks along the Kryukov Canal, the Central Naval Museum is one of the world’s largest maritime museums and dates back to 1805. More than 700,000 items make up the huge permanent collection, offering comprehensive insight into Russia’s maritime heritage and military prowess.

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Menshikov Palace

Menshikov Palace

The most luxurious house of its time in St Petersburg, the Menshikov Palace was also the first large stone building to be constructed in the city. Standing on Vasilievsky Island, it is the only surviving private structure from the early 18th century. Designed by Italian architects, the exterior combines a western Baroque style with traditional Russian architectures that has been dubbed “Petrine Baroque.” Inside, the rooms that hosted some of the first balls in the city have been restored to their original state, with parquet floors, Dutch tiles and marble accents. The exhibits likewise take visitors back to the 18th century, with collections of European and Russian applied art from the era, as well as sculptures, paintings, engravings and furniture.

The palace has functioned as a branch of the State Hermitage Museum since 1967.

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Russia My History - Historical Park

Russia My History - Historical Park

Part of Moscow’s vast All-Russian Exhibition Center (VDNK), the Russia – My History historical park chronicles some of the key moments in Russia’s history through an innovative series of interactive exhibits and multimedia installations. Organized throughout the country by the government and the Russian Orthodox Church, the exhibit offers a nationalistic view of historical events and figures.

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