The Ultimate Moscow & St. Petersburg
The finest cultural touring including an overnight on the Grand Express – The most elegant distance between two points®
* 3 nights at Le Royal Meridien National, Kremlin-view studio rooms
* 5 nights at Grand Hotel Europe, Belle Chambre rooms
* 1 night on board the Grand Express in a Grande Deluxe compartment
* 9 Buffet breakfasts & light breakfast on train
* 7 Lunches at fine restaurants
* 3 Dinners at top restaurants
* Special scheduled visits according to itinerary
* All entrances
* Cultural Performance in St. Petersburg
* Expert English-speaking guides
* Transfers with porterage
* Touring by deluxe vehicles
Day 1 Fri: Arrival Moscow
On arrival, you will be greeted and assisted by your guide and transferred into the heart of historic Moscow, steps from the Kremlin, to Le Royal Meridien National. You enjoy accommodations in Kremlin-view studio rooms. This evening savor a welcome dinner at one of Moscow’s top restaurants with round-trip transfers provided. (D)
Day 2 Sat:
Tretyakov Picture Gallery * Gorky House Museum * The Pushkin Museum of Fine Art
This morning you discover Russian Masters who are virtually unknown in the West at the Tretyakov Picture Gallery. These masterful paintings from the 17th through early 20th century will give you an insight into Russian life across the centuries and its sometimes turbulent history. You will appreciate works by Vrubel, Grabar, Surikov andSerov, considered one of Russia’s finest portrait artists of the late 19th to early 20th century. One of his most famous paintings, “Girl with Peaches”, will certainly enchant.
You will visit the Maxim Gorky House Museum, originally the Ryabushinsky house, a former mansion designed by Shekhtel, a renowned architect of the times. Its interior is considered one of the most beautiful in all Moscow and probably among the very finest. The Art Nouveau interior includes a remarkable marble staircase, and there are also some beautiful stained-glass panels. The curios that Gorky collected are also displayed and are of some interest. The exterior offers beautiful mosaics as well
After lunch, you will tour the Pushkin Museum of Fine Art, with its splendid collections of French Impressionists and Dutch Masters. The collections are vast and contain some of the most famous Matisse paintings of all, in addition to works by Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh and Picasso. There are also some very fine paintings by Poussin, Claude Lorrain, Caneletto, El Greco, Goya and Daumier. You will also view a small, but important, collection of Faiyum portraits from Alexandria. The evening is free, and depending on the cultural schedule, tickets for a performance at the Bolshoi or other prestige venue can be reserved on your behalf, or perhaps you wish to try another fine restaurant. (B, L)
Day 3, Sun:
The City, Novodevichy Convent, Choral Synagogue * Kolomenskoye Estate
After an early breakfast, you set off for a city sightseeing drive. You will drive along Tversakaya Street, passing Pushkin Square, as ‘famous’ for its McDonalds as for the illustrious poet whose statue dominates the square, then through the streets of Old Moscow. You will stop for an inside visit of the Choral Synagogue, Moscow’s largest and oldest, opened in 1891, but closed for a very long time after the Revolution. Since then, it has remained opened. The Synagogue has been a stop over the decades for many famous visitors including Eleanor Roosevelt, Golda Meir, the opera singer Jan Peerce – to name but a few of the many dignitaries who have visited here. You continue over to the other side of the Moskva River, through some of the attractive residential areas, and up to Sparrow Hillsfor a wonderful panoramic view of the city, second in size only to London! You will view some of the elegant old churches, and along the way, your guide will point out many other highlights.
Your tour includes a visit of the beautiful Novodevichy Convent, surrounded by white-washed brick walls and set in lovely grounds, with a lake. The Monastery was founded in 1524 to mark the recapture of the city of Smolensk by Russian forces and is one of the most beautiful building complexes in Moscow. You will visit the interior of its Cathedral and view the tombs of Peter the Great’s sisters, including Sofia who was accused of plotting against him in the revolt of 1698 and confined to the convent for the remainder of her days. The Novodevichy cemetery is a “who’s who” of Russia, and it was the choice place of burial for artistic luminaries, until the Revolution, when generals who did not ‘qualify’ to be laid to rest within the Kremlin walls were buried here. Some of the well-known personalities whose graves are found here include: Khrushchev, Gogol, Chekhov, Stanislavsky, Mayakovsky, Chaliapin, Scriabin, Eisenstein, and most recently Yeltsin.
After lunch, you travel into the near suburbs to Kolomenskoye Estate, set in a lovely woodland setting. This vast estate, dating from the 14th century, once belonged to the Grand Princes of Moscow. The estate was expanded during the 16th and 17th centuries, and used as a summer palace for the Czars until the capital was moved to St. Petersburg. On its grounds you will visit the remarkable Ascension Church, and view the 16th century Georgievsky Bell Tower and the Water Tower, which once brought water from the river to Kolomenskoye. The mechanism did not survive, and to this day, no one knows exactly how this water system worked. You view the Church of St. John the Baptist, commissioned by Ivan the Terrible, as well as Peter the Great’s House. This evening, depending on the cultural program and season for travel, you may wish to enjoy a cultural performance or dinner at another top restaurant. (B, L)
Day 4, Mon:
The Kremlin & Its Treasures * GUM, Metro & More * Grand Express to St. Petersburg
This morning, you enjoy a comprehensive walking tour of the fabulous Kremlin grounds with its wonderful monuments such as the Bell Tower of Ivan the Great, the Czar Cannon, which never fired a shot, and the Czar’s Bell, which never pealed, and learn about their fascinating histories. You will visit the most spectacular of the many elegant Cathedrals with their gleaming golden domes, and marvel at the rich icons and chandeliers within. Your tour includes a special scheduled entry to the Armory Museum, considered the richest museum in all Russia, with dazzling royal treasures – thrones, jeweled crowns, and even some of the Faberge eggs, as well as a special scheduled entry to view the Diamond Fund, where diamonds of all sizes and colors – from large to huge, are displayed along with ‘baubles’ that have been fashioned into jewelry and other types of trinkets that amused the Czars and nobles.
After lunch you tour GUM, notable for its architecture: an enormous glass-domed ceiling, beautiful arcades and a sparkling fountain. We go underground to see beautiful Metro stations, with mosaics, paintings and chandeliers. We stop to window-shop in Elisseyev, an astounding gourmet emporium with superb Art Nouveau architecture.
You enjoy some leisure time before you board the Grand Express, one of Europe’s most deluxe trains, that travels between Moscow and St. Petersburg, designed to please the discriminating and demanding tastes of Russia’s wealthy class. It therefore offers every amenity in the spacious Grand Deluxe compartments with complete private facilities. You depart close to midnight on the Grand Express – the most elegant distance between two points ®. (B, L)
Tue, Day 5: Arrival St. Petersburg * St. Isaac’s Cathedral * Peter & Paul Fortress
A light breakfast will be served on the train, and you arrive in early morning, feeling refreshed. You are greeted by your guide and enjoy a city sightseeing drive that takes you along Nevsky Prospekt, the city’s longest thoroughfare, lined with historic buildings such as the Kazan Cathedral, the Lutheran Church of Peter & Paul, and the former Stroganov Palace, designed by Rastrelli, Dom Knigi (House of Books), in what was once the Singer Sewing Machine Building, crossing over elegant bridges such as the Bank Bridge along the way. You view theAdmiralty, with its soaring spire that dominates the city skyline, topped off by a weathervane in the shape of a ship, the city’s symbol. At Decembrists’s Square you view the monumental equestrian statue of Peter the Great, known as the ‘Bronze Horseman’, and learn of its symbolic meaning. At St. Isaac’s Square, you tour the opulent interior of St. Isaac’s Cathedral, built between 1818 and 1849, and named for St. Isaac of Dalmatia, whose Saint’s Day coincided with Peter the Great’s birthday. The interior, all in marble and rare minerals, has columns of rare malachite, huge icons in elaborate gilt frames, gilded sculptures, mosaics and a painted domed ceiling with a skylight. You stop for an inside visit of the Great Synagogue or “Bolshaya Sinagoga”, restored through the generosity of the Safra family. Its interior is a blend of Byzantine, Turkish and Moorish architectural styles. The history of this synagogue is quite fascinating.
After a leisurely lunch, you drive along the Neva, and cross over to Vasilievsky Island to view the huge Rostral Columns, once lighthouses on the Neva, that represent the four great Russian rivers, before touring the Fortress of Peter and Paul, originally built as a look-out for ships on the Neva, but because of its massive walls and isolated position at the time, it was transformed into a prison for revolutionaries. You explore its cobbled streets and view some of the sparse rooms where prisoners were held. You visit the elegant Dutch-style Cathedral designed by the SwissTressini, where the tombs of Russian rulers, from Peter the Great to Czar Alexander II, are entombed in splendor of rare white marble, green jasper and pink quartz, and view the plaque commemorating the burial of the last Romanov family who were killed during the Revolution in Sverdlovsk, and brought here several years ago. You check in for five nights at the Grand Hotel Europe. Your evening is at leisure. (B, L)
Day 6, Wed: The Russian Museum * Yusupov Palace * Kazan Cathedral
After breakfast, you start on a short walking tour around Arts Square where the buildings, all designed by Rossi, harmonize with the former Mikhailov Palace, also designed by this Italian architect. Within the former palace you discover the extensive collections of the Russian Museum, with more works by Russian Masters from the 10th through the early 20th centuries, including great talents such as Repin, Kiprensky, Schedrin, and more paintings by Surikov, Serov, Grabar, and the list goes on. You will of course admire the wonderful gilded and painted woodwork, and the splendid frescoed ceiling, all cleaned from centuries of dust and soot from the candles that once burned in the chandeliers.
After lunch you continue to the historic Yusupov Palace, a pale neo-Classical building on the banks of the Moika canal, built for one of St. Petersburg’s richest noble families. The palace became notorious as the site of the assassination in 1916 of Grigory Rasputin who held great influence over the Czarina. You have a special scheduled visit not only of the ground-floor rooms but also of the special rooms which include ornate upper apartments, the splendid Italian white marble staircase, the Ottoman billiard room and the charming and elegant littleTheater, (provided there is no special event planned in it).
You will then explore some of the wonderful shops and arcades with your guide and view some of the interestingArt Nouveau Metro stations of St. Petersburg’s Metro system. This evening you enjoy a cultural performance at the city’s most famous venues: the Marinsky Theater, Mussorgsky Theater or Hermitage Theater, depending on the program and season, with best seats requested always. (B, L)
Day 7, Thu: Catherine Palace * Alexander Palace * Pavlovsk
You drive out to the suburbs to the town of Pushkin, once known as Tsarskoye Selo or “Czar’s Village” to have a comprehensive tour of Catherine Palace, begun in 1718 by Braunstein, for Peter’s wife, Catherine I, but later enlarged and embellished by Rastrelli. You discover rooms where color themes are carried out throughout: the White Vestibule, Green Dining Room, Blue Drawing Room and the fabled Amber Room, fully restored several years ago, with a fascinating history that you will learn. Palekh artists, worked for decades to restore the room, and today you enjoy the results. You view the Ballroom, designed after the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, as Peter the Great was obsessed by the magnificent French palaces he had seen in his travels, as well as the other wings of this huge palace.
Time Permitting you tour the Alexander Palace, on the same estate. This palace, not often visited by tourists, is important in the history of the Czars. This yellow and white palace was designed by Quarenghi in the 1790’s and is considered his finest creation. It was originally commissioned by Catherine II for her grandson, the future Alexander I, hence its name. Although Alexander did live here, it was most notably inhabited by the Czar Nicholas II and his family, the last Romanovs. The interior is very ‘cozy’ compared to the other palaces with a definite Victorian-style décor.
You enjoy lunch before touring Pavlovsk, the smallest of the summer palaces, designed for Czar Paul by the Scot Cameron. This palace is more ‘somber’ in style, in a buff color with white trim, and no gold domes. What makes this palace special is the fact that it was entirely destroyed during WW II, and subsequently reconstructed using paintings and drawings of the times. Within you will see the pictures of its destruction. You visit its many beautiful rooms, with original period pieces used by the Czars, exquisite porcelains, and elegant chandeliers. This was a palace that was lived in, and used a lot by Paul’s widow, and subsequent Czars. This evening is at your leisure. (B, L)
Fri, Day 8: A Day at the Hermitage * The Gold & Diamond Treasuries
You drive to the immense Palace Square, formed by the façade of the Winter Palace, by Rastrelli, and the curved façade of the former General Staff Headquarters, by Rossi, and in the middle is the huge Alexander Column, a monolithic piece of red Finnish marble, weighing over 700 tons! Then you enter the Hermitage Museum, one of the world’s greatest art treasure troves. You tour two most popular collections are those of the French Impressionists and the Dutch Masters, amassed by Catherine the Great. You view some of the fabulous rooms such as Malachite Hall, once the living room for the Czarina, with elaborate parquet floors, malachite columns, tables and fireplaces, and dazzling chandeliers, as well as the other family rooms. You will enjoy lunch at the cafeteria before a special scheduled entry to both the Gold Treasury, with the prehistoric Scythian gold pieces of incredible detail and beauty, discovered in what is now Ukraine, and the Diamond Treasury, which includes the miniatures of the crown, orb and scepter, all diamond-studded and to scale, created in the Faberge workshops, as well as other ‘baubles’ designed for the Czars and nobility. You will have time to explore other rooms with incredibly rare collections of all kinds. This evening you savor a fine dinner at a local restaurant, with round-trip transfers provided. (B, D)
Sat, Day 9: Petrodovrets: the Grand Palace & Monplaisir * Nevsky Monastery
You travel by hydrofoil or private car (depending on the season) to Petrodvorets, also called Peterhof, largest of the summer estates of the former Czars, to visit Peter the Great’s opulent Grand Palace, the largest of the summer estates of the former Czars. You will tour the Grand Palace, designed by Braunstein and LeBlond in the early 18th century, and later enlarged and embellished by Rastrelli. You pass through rooms of astounding beauty such as the Red Silk Drawing Room, the Green Silk Drawing Room, the Music Room and the Chinese Room, Chesme (silk) Hall, to name just a few. This palace was built to rival the splendor of Versailles, and it certainly does. You visit Monplaisir, the smallest of the palaces on this estate, and Peter’s favorite palace, with large windows looking out on the Neva, where Peter could watch the passing ships, which were his passion. The hallmarks of this palace are its marble checkerboard floors, carved ceilings and Dutch and Flemish paintings adorning the walls, in what was the first art gallery in Russia. You have time to delight in the golden fountains and the waterworks, and to have lunch at the Orangerie Restaurant.
You return to the city stopping to visit two of the most famous cemeteries within the lovely Nevsky Lavra – an honorific name bestowed on important monasteries. The Monastery, at the other end of the Nevsky Prospekt, was founded by Peter the Great in 1710, on the site where, it is said, that Alexander Nevsky conquered the Swedes in 1240. The monastery is in a beautiful setting along one of the canals, and many great Russians are buried here. You visit the Tikhvin section where you can view the graves of Dostoevsky, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Mussorgsky. You also visit the Lazarus section where the famous architects Rossi, Quarenghi, Voronikhin and Starov are laid to rest. This evening we enjoy a Farewell Dinner at a fine local restaurant. (B, L,D)
Day 10, Sun: Departure
After breakfast, a guided transfer is provided to the airport. (B)